Implications for the United States
Implications for Research
Implications for Science and Engineering Education
Implications for Science Assistance Programs
Research Approach

Overview


During the past decade, several European countries invested heavily in research and development (R&D), including building world class laboratories and other facilities and greatly expanding higher education in science and engineering. These accomplishments are an important part of, and the underpinnings for, a broader effort to maintain and enhance the economic vitality of Europe through the European Union (EU). The goal of the EU is to strengthen Europe by enhancing economic and social prosperity, while preserving cultural diversity (Delors, 1994). The EU (see sidebar for countries included) is attempting to integrate the science and engineering (S&E) research community and make the region's high concentration of science resources even more productive by encouraging greater cooperation and collaboration across borders. The R&D policy of the EU is to strengthen the S&T basis of European industry in order to increase competitiveness at the European level and the global level. A series of Framework Programs that fund pre-competitive research in strategic areas, some of which are congruent with U.S. national science policy and research interests, has been the major effort for achieving this policy. In addition, national programs and other multinational endeavors independent of the EU are expanding S&E education, strengthening doctoral programs, and enhancing R&D collaboration across Europe.

The countries covered in this report, mainly Western European, are those from which modern science, analytical methods, and inductive and deductive reasoning arose in the 17th and 18th centuries. These conceptual innovations and the model of a research university were transferred to other world regions. Europe's S&T contributions, from centuries of discoveries and long traditions of university education and doctoral research training, cannot be fully described by examining the past 17 years of data. However, data on those countries presented in this report, describing growth in academic degrees, R&D, and gross domestic product (GDP) indicate that a high concentration of the world's scientific resources continue to reside in the European region.

The increase in the awarding of natural science and engineering (NS&E) degrees by institutions in Western and Central European countries is particularly noteworthy. First university-level degrees in NS&E fields reached almost 300,000 in 1992, compared with 173,000 awarded in the United States. In that same year, doctoral degrees awarded in these fields in Europe numbered more than 25,000, compared with approximately 17,000 degrees awarded in the United States. Western European countries invested $103.5 billion [1] in overall R&D in 1993 compared with the $137.3 billion in the United States in that year. However, civilian research in Western Europe approaches that of the United States. In 1992, the non-defense R&D expenditures of Western European countries reached $95.8 billion; that of the United States reached $104.7. The combined GDP of Western European countries surpassed that of the United States in the late 1980s.

Implications for the United States

The current levels and projected growth of financial and human resources devoted to S&T in Europe pose some emerging issues that will be important in S&T policy discussions in the United States. One such issue relates to identifying opportunities from improved integration of European resources with U.S. resources, both through traditional scientist-to-scientist cooperation, as well as more substantial collaboration and cost-sharing. That issue revolves around how the United States could benefit both intellectually and financially from enhanced cooperation with Europeans in research, educational exchanges and in science assistance to developing countries. Another issue, closely related to the first, is how scientific and technological information flows among countries can be improved and expanded.

The European Union, begun in 1958 with a nucleus of six Western European countries (Belgium, France, Germany, the Netherlands, Italy, and Luxembourg) is a political and economic grouping of countries that are developing a common market and, eventually, a common currency. [2] Six more countries (the United Kingdom, Denmark, Spain, Portugal, Greece, and Ireland) became part of the European Union in the 1980s. Three more countries were added (Sweden, Austria, and Finland) in 1995. Leaders from 21 European countries were invited to the conclusion of the December 1994 Summit meeting on the European Union's future. There is no fixed entry timetable for extension into Central and Eastern Europe. Turkey, Poland, and Hungary have made formal applications for membership.

Implications for Research

The total R&D performed by the European and Asian regions (each approximately $100 billion) far exceeds the amount of R&D performed within the United States. As the capacity to perform research has expanded throughout the world, a decreasing fraction of new knowledge is found in U.S. laboratories, and an increasing fraction of new knowledge originates in other countries. European scientists in particular are conducting sophisticated basic research, and have increasingly sophisticated facilities. Some European countries are approaching 3 percent of their GDP devoted to R&D. This suggests that issues concerning research cooperation for enhancing the advancement of basic knowledge and quickening the pace of scientific discovery, as well as ways for improving information about the scientific and technological accomplishments of other world regions, could grow in importance in the near future.

Current U.S. science policy fosters international cost sharing and promoting access to the world's best science and technology. Europe, with its high concentration of science resources, well-trained PhDs, large facilities and impressive science budgets in non-defense R&D, provides the United States a primary region with which to vigorously pursue this policy. Several currently productive collaborations attest to the array of opportunities; expanding collaboration, however, requires improved science information flows.

U.S. scientists already collaborate in "big science" projects and in large international research programs. For example, the U.S. physicists who work in user groups at large European facilities such as the European Center for Nuclear Research (known by its French initials, CERN), with support from U.S. Government agencies, contribute both their knowledge and experience and financial resources to requisite instruments. Further opportunities are being explored for cooperative arrangements in using European state-of-the-art facilities and contributing to their development, such as CERN's proposed Large Hadron Collider (LHC) [3] and the European Synchrotron Research Facility. U.S. scientists are also active in international research efforts, such as the Human Genome Project and the Global Change and oceanographic science programs.

In addition, university scientists in the United States and Europe have traditionally cooperated with each other. Over a dozen Science and Technology Centers in the United States have collaborative research and formal research agreements with centers of excellence in Europe. For example, at the Center for Research on Parallel Computation, collaboration between the California Institute of Technology and the Aerodynamisches Institute in Aachen, Germany, is quickening the pace of new and important results in parallel computing. The Center for Ultrafast Optical Science at the University of Michigan strengthens its research through collaboration with several French scientists from national laboratories, the Commissariat L'Energie Atomique, Laboratoire pour l'utilisation des Lasers Intenses at the Ecole Polytechnique, and the Institut d'Optique in Orsay.

Beyond these opportunities for big science and large programs, however, new issues are likely to arise concerning the best ways to enhance awareness and intensify U.S. involvement and cooperation with scientists and engineers in other excellent facilities in Europe. For example, how might information flows be improved for the U.S. science community to identify promising candidates for further cooperation that would benefit both parties? There are two kinds of information involved: that directly from research laboratories (new discoveries and technologies), and that coming from science organizations (European science initiatives and changes in funding priorities). This raises the issue of to what degree practicing scientists have to be involved in science organizations to identify areas open to cooperation with the United States.

Besides identifying how alternative directions in European research may complement our own, and quicken the pace of, new discoveries, the issue of improving information about both the European and the U.S. science system is likely to grow in importance on both sides of the Atlantic. The historic character and structure of administering R&D in Europe are different from, and complementary to, that of the United States. Many European scientists and engineers work in stable national laboratories, in which sustained funding is not highly dependent on competitive grant proposals. U.S. scientists and engineers work mainly through competitive grant proposals where a competition of ideas often leads to key changes among research foci. While U.S. scientists can initiate a new research area quickly, they often do not have the stable "national laboratory type" environment which may promote long-term continuity. Both systems have different strengths related to continuity and change. New issues implied by these different research systems are how to best utilize the strengths of both systems in concert for the more rapid advancement of new knowledge and for the more timely resolution of problem areas such as global health and environmental concerns.

Implications for Science and Engineering Education

What kind of graduate student exchanges are common in Europe? There is considerable interaction between the U.S. and European research communities, often the result of student exchanges or post-doctoral training positions from decades ago. For example, many older U.S. scientists studied German in college because continuing graduate education in science or engineering often required studies in Europe. As U.S. research universities grew more prominent in the last few decades, American graduate students pursued their advanced degrees at home. But the dearth of U.S. doctoral and post-doctoral S&E students working in European laboratories tends to diminish the prospects for their pursuing collaborative arrangements as working scientists and engineers throughout their careers.

The number of European graduate students studying in the United States has become increasingly modest in recent years, compared, for example, with the number of students from Asia. Students from Western and Central European countries combined received 658 doctoral degrees in science and engineering from U.S. universities in 1992. The numbers of foreign doctoral recipients from European countries is very low compared to other regions. That same year, students from China earned over 1,900 doctoral degrees in science and engineering at U.S. universities.

Europe is, however, preparing NS&E students for international careers through European exchange programs such as ERASMUS, its successor programs, SOCRATES, and the new Framework Program on Training and Mobility of Researchers, aimed at post-graduate students. These programs are based on the assumption that an enabling phase for cooperative research or international careers is best achieved by earlier contact through educational exchanges. Programs such as ERASMUS reflect a cultural change in Europe in which foreign experience is not only seen as desirable but imperative. In many cases graduate students are expected to spend substantial time in another EU country as part of their training.

As science and engineering become more global in nature, international experience will become more important for new generations of scientists and engineers. The consideration of expanded international exchanges for U.S. science and engineering education raises issues of the feasibility of large numbers of American students and post-docs being received in European universities and research laboratories, as well as whether student exchanges would be impediments or enhancements to completion of currently extensive program requirements. This issue may be better understood through assessment of the costs and benefits from current U.S. science and engineering programs that include a period of study in Europe and Asia.

The United States is undergoing systemic reform to improve all levels of education, particularly to strengthen math and science education in secondary schools. Part of this systemic reform is examining the poor qualifications of secondary math and science teachers. The large majority of U.S. high school science and mathematics teachers do not have a college major or minor in the science they are teaching. A large percentage of European first university degree holders in natural science and engineering go into secondary teaching. This raises an issue regarding how new systemic reforms in the U.S. system might best learn from the European experience.

Implications for Science Assistance Programs

The proportion of foreign students from particular regions will affect the focus of major European countries in training scientists and engineers and in building S&E infrastructure in developing countries. Several European countries are building scientific centers of excellence in North Africa, Eastern Europe, Latin America and Pacific Rim countries, thereby establishing scientific ties as well as commercial ties. Based on their training of foreign students, it would appear that France is intensifying its scientific cooperation with Africa, and Germany with Eastern Europe. For example, French scientists are assisting the Association Ifriqya to establish institutes of molecular biology in Africa. The first center of excellence will be for genetic research in Tunisia, the Institute for Genome Research for Developing Countries (IGRDC), to complete the map of the genome of one of the parasites that causes malaria. (Nowak,1994). Past trends would indicate that the United Kingdom will also be expected to further educational and commercial interactions with her former colonies in the Pacific Rim as well as increasing interaction with the EU countries.

Capacity-building in science and education is a current approach to international assistance. One issue regarding U.S. international assistance for such capacity-building in developing countries in Asia, Africa, and Latin America is how best to take into account the science and equipment assistance being received from Germany, France and the United Kingdom to enhance complementary and to most effectively leverage typically modest program funds.

Research Approach

Differences in economic growth among countries are leading to shifts in R&D capabilities among major regions of the world. In particular, the integration of the regional economies of Western Europe and the Pacific Rim is facilitating growth rates in their civilian research programs superior to the growth rate for U.S. civilian research programs (NAS, 1990). Between 1981 and 1992, civilian R&D in Europe grew at an annual rate of 4.9 percent. Non-defense R&D in the United States in that same period grew 4.2 percent annually. Civilian R&D expenditures grew more than 7 percent annually in some Asian countries [4] in this same time period.

This report examines R&D resources of selected European countries, particularly in their human resources. (A previous volume in this series has examined recent trends among selected countries of the Asian Region). Data series were available for 16 European countries, those of the EU and the European Free Trade Association (EFTA), with some limited data for six Central and Eastern European countries. Because of data limitations, the trend data presented on human resources, R&D investments, and GDP growth are for Western European countries only. European trends are compared with trends in the United States to illustrate potential similarities and differences in the area of human S&E resources. However, the human resources section contains S&E degree data for 1 year (1992) for some Central and Eastern European countries in order to approach a measure of the overall level of S&E degrees in Europe.

It should be noted that this report uses a narrower definition of social science degrees than many Nordic and Germanic European countries. In this report, social sciences include social and behavioral sciences, but do not include humanities. [5]

This report has been prepared to provide as consistent a database as possible on human resources for science in the specified European countries. In addition to data on population, education, and S&T personnel, 17-year time series also are included on GDP and R&D expenditures (both in purchasing power parity dollars). These data also provide the basis for key indicators of future growth and demand for scientists and engineers. A concluding section of the report discusses prospects for the future based on trends in the growth and integration of European science and technology.

Several caveats are in order. First, data are compiled from numerous national and international sources and are not strictly comparable. In addition, degree categories in different countries are not academically equivalent. [6] Finally, some data series do not cover complete periods; therefore, a European regional total on all data is not possible. This is especially true for doctoral degrees in science and engineering. Although these data problems are not trivial, every attempt has been made to develop trends that are approximately equivalent at the broad aggregate level. The degree data were verified on a country by country basis through national education statistics (see References and Contacts). Education statistics for each country were categorized by broad fields of science and, when possible, re-configured to the universally accepted classification scheme, the International Standard Classification of Education.


[1] All dollar amounts in this report are in 1987 constant purchasing power parity dollars (PPP$). PPPs are used to convert a country's national currency expenditures to a common currency unit that allows real international quantity comparisons to be made. PPPs are based on "market basket" pricing exercises. See Notes on Data Series, for details on why PPP$ conversions are preferable to official exchange rates.

[2] The Maastricht Treaty of 1992

[3] For example, U.S. collaboration in CERN's plan to build the LHC could reduce the delays caused by the severe cuts in its budget (Curien, 1995).

[4] Among six Asian countries studied, only Japan and India publish defense and non-defense R&D expenditures. China, Taiwan, South Korea, and Singapore do not publish defense expenditures.

[5] Most European countries include humanities in their reporting of social science degrees.

[6] This report does not deal with the quality of education in U.S. or European universities or equivalency of degrees across countries.