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NSF Press Release


Embargoed until 1 p.m. EDT

NSF PR 02-28 (NSB PR 02-74) - April 30, 2002

Media contacts:

 William Harms

 (703) 292-8070


 Bill Noxon

 (703) 292-8070

Strong R&D Spending Buttresses U.S. Economic Growth, Report Shows
S&E Indicators 2002 hints that international impact may increase

Science and Engineering Indicators 2002 cover image

Dramatic increases in research and development (R&D) investments during the past decade, largely from industry, have contributed to U.S. standing as a global economic powerhouse. However, developments abroad could affect U.S. preeminence in science and technology in the years to come, says Science and Engineering Indicators 2002, a biennial report of the National Science Board to the President.

The report shows that the United States finances 44 percent of the total worldwide investment in R & D--equal to the combined total of Japan, the United Kingdom, Canada, France, Germany and Italy.

International R&D on the rise

Inspired by American success, other nations are increasing their R&D investments and focusing on areas such as physical sciences and engineering, which receive comparably less funding in the United States.

Those changes, S&E Indicators concludes, could lead to the creation of new centers for research excellence abroad, and return to those home countries more of their U.S.-trained scientists and engineers. The report acknowledged the many contributions of non-U.S. born scientists to America's vitality, but added "the country's international economic competitiveness ultimately rests on the U.S. labor force's own capacity for innovation and productivity."

Indicators also reports that R&D investments by U.S. industry at home have contributed to a steady stream of innovations and spurred economic growth, increasing per-capita income. Concurrently, new forms of R&D and technological alliances connect firms and universities, nonprofit organizations and government. The very conduct of research and development has changed in response to market pressures and the capabilities created by the information technology revolution. This has led to transformations in other areas, too, including a growth in science-based patents and a much-increased level of high-tech exports.

Meanwhile, the balance of R&D investments continues to shift. As industry R&D grew to nearly 75 percent of the national total by 2000, Federal expenditures remained essentially flat over the past decade. Defense-related R&D fell by the end of the decade to a 50-year low of about 14 percent of the U.S. R&D total. Since 1980, the share of basic research to total national R&D has risen from 14 to 18 percent.

Also rising quickly are federal research expenditures in life sciences, from 41 to 47 percent of the federal total between 1990 and 2000. However, the combined share of physical sciences and engineering in federal research total dropped from 37 to 29 percent in the same period.

Workforce changes tracked

Changes in the U.S. economy have spilled into the workforce. Information- and technology-based changes in the economy have created new opportunities for highly trained workers. Science and engineering occupational fields are growing faster than the overall growth of the American work force, the report shows. The Bureau of Labor Statistics predicts that during this decade, S&E occupations will grow by 47 percent, compared to 15 percent for the labor force as a whole.

These workers have provided growth for American high-tech manufacturers, which produce about 35 percent of world output of major high-tech industries. The high-tech industries' share of national manufacturing output rose from 9.6 percent to 16.6 percent during the period 1980 to 1998.

In the past decade there has been a steady increase of participation by women and minorities in the U.S. science and engineering enterprise. The number of foreign students enrolled in U.S. universities has risen as well. In fact, half or more of the people receiving U.S. engineering or computer science Ph.D.s were born abroad.

In academia, the number of doctorates awarded in sciences and engineering between 1991 and 2000 rose from 24,023 to 25,970. Within those totals, the number of Ph.D.s going to women increased from 6,932 to 9,396, while the number to white men fell from 8,585 to 7,909.

Education concerns remain

Despite many state and national reforms initiated during the last decade, concern continues about the quality of mathematics and science education in grades K-12, according to the new Indicators. America's high school students continue to lag in international achievement measures in science and mathematics. Although more students are taking advanced academic courses in high school, many students need remedial work in college.

A persistent issue in science and mathematics education remains the size and adequacy of the teaching force, the report says. Too many mathematics and science teachers have a limited background in the subjects. Low pay makes the profession unappealing to college graduates in science and mathematics.

Solving the problem of producing more high-quality, homegrown scientists and engineers depends upon solving the problems with elementary and secondary education, the report concludes.


For the complete Science and Engineering Indicators 2002 see:

See also:



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