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Fact Sheet

Science and Engineering Indicators, 2006: Excerpts

February 23, 2006

The Global R&D Picture 

"Asian countries outside Japan are increasingly important in the global S&T community…China is growing at the most rapid pace…an important player in high-technology markets…its fast-growing manufacturing sector shift(ing) rapidly toward high-technology production (as is the United States), and in 2004 was the world's largest recipient of foreign direct investment."

"China has become the world's third largest research and development (R&D) performer (behind only the United States and Japan).  Chinese R&D spending reached $84.6 billion in 2003." (By comparison, U.S. total R&D in 2003 was nearly $292 billion). -- from Overview and Chapters 4 and 6.   

National R&D Trends

"U.S. R&D (in 2002) declined for the first time in almost 50 years…as a result of cutbacks in business R&D, but it has since recovered due to growth in all sectors of the economy."

"The decades-long trend of federal R&D funding shrinking as a share of the nation's total R&D reversed after 2000 (where the federal share fell to just 24.9 percent of the total)."  The federal share grew to nearly 30 percent in 2004 as "private investment slowed and federal spending expanded, particularly in the areas of defense, health and counterterrorism." -- from Chapter 4.

Trends in Research Article Output

Between 1992 and 2003, U.S. growth in article output "was markedly slower than in the other major S&E publishing regions and remained essentially flat…despite continued growth of research inputs."  (Fig. 5-36)

"As a result of nearly stagnant U.S. output and continued growth in other parts of the world, the U.S. share of all articles fell from 38 percent to 30 percent between 1988 and 2003."

In contrast, "U.S. academic scientists and engineers are collaborating extensively with international colleagues; in 2003, one U.S. journal article in four had at least one international coauthor." -- from Chapter 5.

K-12 Mathematics and Science Learning and Teaching

"Improvements in U.S. student performance in mathematics and science have been uneven.  In mathematics, average scores on national assessments rose from 1990-2003, and gains occurred in many demographic subgroups.  In contrast, performance in science has not improved…"

"On the 2003 Programme for International Student Assessment (PISA) tests, which measure students' ability to apply scientific and mathematical concepts and skills, U.S. 15-year-olds scored below the international average." 

"Certification rates for high school mathematics and science teachers declined from 1990-2002."  For middle-school teachers certification rates "increased in the mid-1990s, but subsequently declined."  -- from Chapter 1.

Trends in Collegiate Science and Engineering Education

"The number of science and engineering degrees awarded at all levels is rising…S&E doctoral degrees, after declining for four years, rose in 2003 (although modestly) for both U.S. citizens and temporary visa holders."

"S&E graduate enrollments in the United States reached a new peak of 566,800 in 2003…engineering and life sciences drove most of the recent growth…(and gains) occurred across all major demographic groups: women, minorities, white men and foreign students." -- from Chapter 2.

"Academic laboratory construction is booming, but (research) equipment spending is at a long-term low." 

"In 2002-03, almost half of all universities began construction projects…reflecting the growing prominence of institutional sources, private donations and sources of debt funding.  However, equipment spending, generally from operating funds…reached a long-term low of 4.5 percent of academic R&D expenditures in 2003." 

Science & Engineering Workforce

"S&E occupations have generally had low unemployment, but were unusually affected by the most recent recession (although 2004 was considered a rebound year for S&E employment)." 

"Unemployment in S&E occupations reached 4.6 percent in 2003, the highest level in the 22 years for which it has been calculated…" (differing from all U.S. workers by just 1.4 percent)…"compared with 6.9 percent in 1983." -- from Chapter 3.


"The number of (annual) student, exchange visitor and other high-skill-related visas…decreased sharply after September 11…because of increased difficulty in processing, higher cost and higher scrutiny of applicants.  The number of visas issued reached a low point in 2003…by 2005, the number had risen to their 2002 level."  

A similar downward trend in foreign graduate enrollment has reversed, showing "an increase of about 2.4 percent from 2003 to 2004."  -- from Overview and Chapter 5.    


The National Science Foundation (NSF) is an independent federal agency that supports fundamental research and education across all fields of science and engineering. In fiscal year (FY) 2016, its budget is $7.5 billion. NSF funds reach all 50 states through grants to nearly 2,000 colleges, universities and other institutions. Each year, NSF receives more than 48,000 competitive proposals for funding and makes about 12,000 new funding awards. NSF also awards about $626 million in professional and service contracts yearly.

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