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News Release 08-005

National Science Board Releases Science and Engineering Indicators 2008

Greater funding for basic research and new metrics for better assessment are critical to sustaining U.S. international competitive edge

The cover of Science and Engineering Indicators 2008 celebrates International Polar Year.

The cover of Science and Engineering Indicators 2008 celebrates International Polar Year.

January 15, 2008

This material is available primarily for archival purposes. Telephone numbers or other contact information may be out of date; please see current contact information at media contacts.

Members of the National Science Board today delivered to the President and the Congress Science and Engineering Indicators 2008 (SEI'08), the Board's biennial report on the state of science and engineering research and education in the United States.

Called the "gold standard," it is the most comprehensive source of information on research and development conducted by universities, industry, the federal government and the international science and engineering enterprise.

Today was the earliest release date for any issue of the Science and Engineering Indicators (SEI) series.

The Board also introduced its new publication, Digest of Key Science and Engineering Indicators 2008, another policy neutral document, containing a selected set of indicators electronically linked with detailed data tables and discussions in the main volumes of SEI.

In addition to SEI'08, the Board, concerned that the data revealed disturbing trends with serious policy implications, published a companion piece, Research and Development: Essential Foundation for U.S. Competitiveness in a Global Economy. In this policy statement and in presentations in the U.S. House of Representatives, National Science Board Chairman Steven Beering, Subcommittee Chairman on SEI'08 Louis Lanzerotti and SEI'08 Subcommittee Member Arthur Reilly stressed the need for increased government and industry sharing of funding for basic research.

"These indicators come at an important time," said Chairman Beering. "The confluence of a range of indicators raises key questions about future U.S. high-technology industry's competitiveness in international markets and implications for highly skilled jobs at home."

The Board made three major recommendations:

  1. The federal government should take action to enhance the level of funding for, and the transformational nature of, basic research;
  2. Industry, government, the academic sector and professional organizations should take action to encourage greater intellectual interchange or synergy between industry and academia, with industry reserachers encouraged to also participate as authors and reviewers for articles in open, peer-reviewed publications.
  3. New data are critically needed, and this need should be expeditiously addressed by relevant federal agencies to track the implications for the U.S. economy of the globalization of manufacturing and services in high technology industry.

To review Science and Engineering Indicators 2008, visit

SEI is prepared by NSF's Division of Science Resources Statistics (SRS) on behalf of the National Science Board. It is subject to extensive review by outside experts, interested federal agencies, Board members and SRS internal reviewers for accuracy, coverage and balance.

The National Science Board was established by Congress in 1950, and has two roles. It provides oversight for, and establishes the policies of, the National Science Foundation. It also serves as an independent body of advisors to both the President and Congress on broad national policy issues related to science and engineering research and education.

Journalists may contact Lisa-Joy Zgorski to schedule interviews with presenters, Board members and other NSF officials.

Note: What follows is a sampling of "13 Prime" indicators that illustrate what some of the data show.

Science and Engineering Indicators 2008

FACT SHEET: A Prime 13

1-2 Science and Engineering (S&E) Capabilities - People and Skills

Science and Engineering Indicators 2008 tell a mixed story regarding the achievement of U.S. students in science and math in international comparisons.

  • U.S. grade school students continue to lag behind other developed countries in science and math, although fourth and eighth grade U.S. students showed steady gains in math since 1990. Only fourth graders showed gains in science compared to 1996.
  • High school completion and college enrollment rates across ethnic groups increased steadily in recent years. But college enrollment and completion rates differ across socioeconomic groups.

3-4 Science and Technology (S&T) Capabilities and Workforce

The capability to do science and technology work increased throughout the world, and the National Science Foundation is out front tracking the trends.

  • In 2000, the United States held about one quarter of the world's 194 million tertiary degrees -- degrees broadly equivalent to a U.S. baccalaureate. Twenty years earlier, the U.S. share was closer to one third of the world's then 73 million tertiary degrees.
  • From 1994 to 2004, U.S. firms increased the number of people they employed in R&D jobs outside the United States by 76 percent and employment within the United States by 31 percent, while U.S. subsidiaries of foreign firms increased their U.S. R&D employment by 18 percent.

5-6 S&T Capabilities - U.S. Research & Development (R&D)

The U.S. is the largest, single, R&D-performing nation in the world supplying an estimated $340 billion for R&D in 2006, a record high.

  • Of the $340 billion R&D total, basic research accounted for 18 percent or $62 billion; applied research accounted for 22 percent or $75 billion; and development accounted for the other 60 percent or $203 billion. In 2006, the federal government supplied about 60 percent of all basic research funds, industry about 17 percent, with private foundations, academic institutions and other governmental entities supplying the rest.
  • Federal obligations for all academic research, basic and applied, declined in real terms between 2004 and 2005 and are expected to drop further in 2006 and 2007. This would be the first multiyear decline for academic research since 1982.

7-9 High Technology - U.S. Position

Based on key indicators, the U.S. sustained a relative economic advantage over other developed and developing economies. Growth has been far more rapid in the emerging markets of China and India.

  • The U.S. is a leading producer in high-tech manufacturing and knowledge-intensive services, but several Asian countries, led by China, have rapidly increased their global market share.
  • The U.S. leads the world in economically-viable patents, filed in the U.S., Japan and Europe.
  • The U.S. comparative advantage in exports of high-technology products has eroded: the U.S. trade balance in advanced technology products shifted from surplus to deficit starting in 2002. Information and communications products geographically concentrated in Asia -- particularly China and Malaysia -- account for this deficit.

10-11 Public Support for Science in the U.S.

U.S. public support for government funding of scientific research is strong and growing.

  • In a 2006 survey, 87 percent of Americans supported government funding for basic research, up from 80 percent in past surveys dating back to 1979. Also, Americans who said the government spends too little on scientific research grew from 34 percent to 41 percent between 2002 and 2006.
  • In 2006, Americans expressed greater confidence in leaders of the scientific community than those of any other institution except the military. On science-related public policy issues, including global climate change, stem cell research and genetically modified foods, Americans believe that science leaders, are knowledgeable and impartial and ought to be influential.

12-13 Federal Support for Academic Scientists and Engineers

Academic scientists and engineers are more diverse today, and federal funding remains important to them.

  • From 1973 to 2006, in the academic, doctoral labor force the share of women increased from 9 percent to 33 percent, of underrepresented minorities (African-Americans, Hispanics, and American Indians/Alaska Natives) from 2 percent to 8 percent, and of Asian/Pacific Islanders from 4 percent to 14 percent.
  • Academic S&E doctorate holders employed in academia who received federal support has remained steady during the last 20 years: just under half, 47 percent in 2006, and in the late 1980s. Among life scientists, this percentage has dropped from 65 percent in 1989, to 58 percent in 2006, although the actual number of those reporting federal support increased.


Media Contacts
Lisa-Joy Zgorski, NSF, (703) 292-8311, email:
Bobbie Mixon, NSF, (703) 292-8070, email:

Program Contacts
Jean Pomeroy, NSF, (703) 292-7000, email:

The U.S. National Science Foundation propels the nation forward by advancing fundamental research in all fields of science and engineering. NSF supports research and people by providing facilities, instruments and funding to support their ingenuity and sustain the U.S. as a global leader in research and innovation. With a fiscal year 2023 budget of $9.5 billion, NSF funds reach all 50 states through grants to nearly 2,000 colleges, universities and institutions. Each year, NSF receives more than 40,000 competitive proposals and makes about 11,000 new awards. Those awards include support for cooperative research with industry, Arctic and Antarctic research and operations, and U.S. participation in international scientific efforts.

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