Introduction: Celebrating the Past, Anticipating the Futureup

This edition of Science and Engineering Indicators is being released in the year 2000-the 50th anniversary of the creation of the National Science Foundation (NSF). In recognition of this event, the National Science Board (NSB) resolved to adopt a special historical theme for Science and Engineering Indicators -- 2000 considering the objectives that characterized U.S. science and engineering 50 years ago as a context for examining the current state of the Nation's science and engineering (S&E) enterprise.

The National Science Foundation Act of 1950, which President Harry S Truman signed into law on May 10 of that year, gave NSF the mandate, " . . . to promote the progress of science; to advance the national health, prosperity, and welfare; and for other purposes."[1] From its creation, the collection, analysis, and dissemination of quantitative information on the status of science and technology in the United States were an integral component of NSF's responsibilities. As the Nation moves into the 21st century, information on science, engineering, research, and education is assuming an ever more important role in our economy and society.

The National Science Board is responsible, by law, for developing on a biennial basis, a report " . . . on indicators of the state of science and engineering in the United States."[2] The Science and Engineering Indicators series was designed to provide a broad base of quantitative information about U.S. science, engineering, and technology for use by public and private policymakers. The chapters that follow contain analyses of key trends that illuminate the scope, quality, and vitality of research and education in the Nation and in an international context. Understanding these trends helps to prepare decisionmakers, scientists and engineers, and the public to deal with their consequences and challenges.

In addition to an historical chapter, the report presents trends in U.S. and international research and development (R&D) funds and alliances, in the S&E workforce, in science and mathematics education from the elementary level through graduate school and beyond, and in public attitudes and understanding of science and engineering. Science and Engineering Indicators -- 2000 also devotes a chapter to the significance of information technologies for science and the daily lives of our citizens in schools, the workplace, home, and community.

NSF was created near the end of a period in which the country's science and engineering resources were mobilized for World War II. What emerged in peacetime was a system designed to facilitate partnerships in support of a broader set of national science and technology (S&T) objectives. Although the specific issues evident in documents from the late 1940s differ from those that are familiar today, several current policy concerns have antecedents from that period. The chapters of Science and Engineering Indicators -- 2000 recall notable themes, but their emphasis is on the current S&T enterprise, as has been the case for all earlier editions in the Science and Engineering Indicators series.

Enduring Themesup

A number of issues that were of concern prior to the founding of the NSF have continued to be of interest to decisionmakers. Indeed, they have been monitored in Science and Engineering Indicators reports over the years. Chapter 1 discusses these enduring themes in more detail. The following provides a brief summary of some of them and indicates where they are treated in the report:

Evolution of the Science and Engineering Indicators Reportsup

The form of the Board's first report, Science Indicators -- 1972, was suggested by Roger W. Heyns, a member of the National Science Board from 1967--76, who became the chairman of its first Science Indicators Committee. He suggested that for its mandated 1973 annual submission to the President and Congress, the Board might consider preparing a report analogous to periodic reports that assessed various economic and social trends in terms of quantitative data series known as social indicators. Preparation of such a report, he further suggested, could draw on the proven capabilities of the NSF staff in gathering and analyzing quantitative data on the U.S. and international science and engineering enterprise. The National Science Board accepted Heyns' suggestion, naming its fifth report to the Congress, Science Indicators -- 1972.[3] The positive reception accorded the first Indicators volume confirmed the wisdom of the statutory requirement that the Board issue these reports on a biennial basis.

On May 19, 1976, in testimony before the House of Representatives' Subcommittee on Domestic and International Scientific Planning, Heyns highlighted some of the main purposes and functions of the Indicators reports:[4]

Over the years the Board has continued to expand and refine the Science and Engineering Indicators reports. The current issue, Science and Engineering Indicators -- 2000, is the 14th in the biennial series. This important national and international data resource is part of the Board's larger responsibility in the area of national science and technology policy.

The Act further authorizes the Board to advise the President and Congress on matters of science and engineering policy (Sec. 4 [j][2]). In accordance with this broader obligation, the Board has issued a series of occasional papers commenting on selected trends in the Indicators report to focus attention on issues of particular current and long-term importance regarding the Nation's science and engineering enterprise.

Today, the need for quantitative data to assist in decisionmaking is even stronger than it was when the Board first began this effort. The U.S. science and technology enterprise is in transition. The Nation is changing its priorities for R&D investment and faces a number of challenges in balancing the Federal budget. And, of course, science and engineering have always had a global dimension. As globalization intensifies, Science and Engineering Indicators -- 2000 emphasizes international comparisons in the data and analyses it presents.

New Features of this Reportup

Science and Engineering Indicators -- 2000 begins with a special historical chapter, with historical sidebars featured in many other chapters as well. The report ends with a chapter on the significance of information technologies for science and the daily lives of our citizens in schools, the workplace, home, and community. In between these chapters, the report updates the indicators on key topics and issues that have appeared in previous reports. For example, Science and Engineering Indicators -- 2000 provides new and enhanced indicators and analyses in the following areas:

A Continuing Responsibilityup

The Strategic Plan of the National Science Board recognizes the important role of the Science and Engineering Indicators series and pledges to continue to develop and improve the series.[5] The plan states:

As the Federal budget and policy processes have accentuated the demand for greater accountability and benchmarking, the data historically available through S&EI have become increasingly valuable for analyzing key trends that illuminate the scope, quality, and vitality of research and education. Thus, S&EI serves two critical purposes: first, as the report of record on the health of the enterprise; and second, as the basis for further analysis by all users generally and by the Board in particular. To insure that S&EI effectively supports these goals, the National Science Board reviews the report's effectiveness with each biennial cycle. The policy and planning demands of the coming years make this task more compelling than ever.

To position Science and Engineering Indicators for the 21st century, the Board committed to conducting a comprehensive review of Science and Engineering Indicators, including the utility, timeliness, and accessibility of the data for users; and reviewing the effectiveness of the report as a basis for decision making on major policy issues related to science and engineering.

Each of the chapters of Science and Engineering Indicators -- 2000 received extensive external technical peer review. The Board believes that this process has greatly improved the report, and wishes to thank those reviewers who contributed their time and efforts. Their names are listed in "Contributors and Reviewers."

To make the data and analyses more accessible, the report is available in hardcopy, on CD-ROM, and on the World Wide Web ( http://www.nsf.gov/statistics/). This website also contains new data on the reported indicators, as they become available.

An innovation with this edition is dividing the report into two volumes. Volume 1 contains the text and the index, and Volume 2 contains the appendix tables. This year's edition takes advantage of widespread access to computer CD-ROM readers by including Volumes 1 and 2 in PDF format and the appendix tables in Volume 2, also in Excel format, on the CD attached to the back cover of Volume 1. For readers who might prefer to access the appendix tables in printed form, Volume 2 is available on request from NSF (see the back inside cover for ordering information).

Other innovations in the form, content, and accessibility of Science and Engineering Indicators will be examined in the coming decade. The Board welcomes the opportunity and challenge to develop new and refined indicators that capture and document changes in the national and global science and engineering enterprise.

In the last Science and Engineering Indicators report of the century, the Board would like to recognize the partnership it has had not only with the Executive Branch but also with the Congress. The science and technology policy to be forged in the next millennium will be better informed by data. The National Science Board hopes that members of the Congress will find Science and Engineering Indicators -- 2000 of assistance as they grapple with the many issues related to science, technology, and the knowledge-based economies of the 21st Century.

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Footnotes


[1] National Science Foundation Act of 1950, Public Law 81-507 (Stat. 149).

[2] The National Science Foundation Act of 1950, as amended, states that the Board is responsible for "rendering to the President for submission to the Congress in each even-numbered year a report on indicators of the state of science and engineering in the United States" NSF Statutory Authority, Section I, Sec.4[j][1], 6.

[3] Science Indicators - 1972 (NSB-73-1).

[4] Science and Engineering Indicators - 1993, pg. xi, Washington, DC: US Government Printing Office, 1993. (NSB 93-1).

[5] National Science Board, National Science Board Strategic Plan, November 19, 1998, NSB 98-215, 18-19.



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