1. Introduction

  2. A Record of Discovery in Science and Technology

  3. Opportunities for the Ages

  4. The Role of Policy

  5. Conclusions

"We should also remember that, like the Internet, super- computers and so many other scientific advances, our ability to read our genetic alphabet grew from decades of research that began with government funding. Every American . . . should be proud of their investment in this and other frontiers of science."

President William J. Clinton 35

Today we have the ability to manipulate individual atoms and molecules on the scale of one billionth of a meter. This poses myriad possibilities in the way most everything, from medicines to automobile tires, is designed and made.36 By increasing the wonder of science and engineering -- a computer chip millions of times as fast as today's Pentium 3 or new methods of removing the smallest contaminants from water and air -- we increase hope.

Communicating how things work and why they matter is a continuing challenge. S&T cannot flourish without the visionary use of policy to communicate the joy, fascination, and utility of science and engineering. Indicators can tell us where we have been and suggest where we might be going.

As we celebrate the 50th anniversary of an institution called the National Science Foundation, and reflect on the creative S&T enterprise of which it is a part, we welcome the still-endless frontier that the 21st century holds. We are especially proud to assist, through Indicators, policymakers and government leaders whose decisions will affect the ability of science and engineering to benefit society. That would be a noble achievement beyond this jubilee year.


EHR Subcommittee on Science & Engineering Indicators

Claudia I. Mitchell-Kernan, Chair

John A. Armstrong, Robert M. Solow,
Richard A. Tapia, John A. White

Bob H. Suzuki, Chair, EHR Committee (ex officio)

Daryl E. Chubin, Staff to the Subcommittee


1 National Science Board, Government Funding of Scientific Research (Arlington, VA: National Science Foundation, 1997, NSB 97-186).

2 Gertrude Himmelfarb, "Heroes and Antiheroes Survive the Millennium's Dawn," The Chronicle of Higher Education, Jan. 21, 2000, p. A64.

3 Specifically, the 2 percent per annum growth in productivity observed in the last three years doubled the pace of growth from 1973 to 1995. See Council on Competitiveness, Going Global: The New Shape of American Innovation (Washington, DC, September 1998); Progressive Policy Institute, The New Economy Index: Understanding America's Economic Transformation (Washington, DC, November 1998); Committee for Economic Development, Basic Research: Prosperity through Discovery (New York, NY: CED, 1998); Lester Thurow, "Building Wealth," The Atlantic Monthly, June 1999, pp. 57-69; and President Clinton's Remarks on Science and Technology Investments, California Institute of Technology, Pasadena, CA, Jan. 21, 2000.

4 National Science Board, Science Indicators—The 1985 Report (NSB 85-1), ch. 8.

5 National Science Board, Science and Engineering Indicators—2000 (Arlington, VA: National Science Foundation, 2000, NSB 00-1), Appendix Table 6-32. Hereafter, this source is abbreviated as Indicators—2000.

6 Indicators—2000, ch. 3.

7 College graduates and citizens attentive to science and technology policy hold the most positive views. Chapter 8 of Indicators—2000, "Science and Technology: Public Attitudes and Public Understanding," elaborates on these themes.

8 For example, see NSF GPRA Strategic Plan, FY 2000-2005, February 2000 Draft, NSB 00-16.

9 National Science Board, Toward the Next Century: The State of U.S. Science and Engineering (Arlington, VA: National Science Foundation, February 1994, NSB 94-24), p. 4.

10 Joel Achenbach, "Ingenuity," Washington Post, Dec. 31, 1999, p. M12.

11 "Pathways of Discovery," Science, vol. 287, Jan. 14, 2000, p. 231. In the view of some, "DNA is likely to be the discovery made in the 20th century that will be the most important to the 21st." See Walter Isaacson, "Who Mattered and Why: The Century of Science and Technology, Time, Dec. 31, 1999, p. 54.

12 Even before the cloning of "Dolly," questions were raised about who will own the map of the human genome, what are the limits to privacy in gene therapy, and what is the safety-profitability tradeoff in genetically-modified foods. All illustrate the "slippery slope" that policy must confront. For example, an executive order now prohibits Federal agencies from using genetic testing in any employment decision. Remarks by the President on Genetic Discrimination, American Association for the Advancement of Science, Washington. D.C., February 8, 2000.

13 Dita Smith, "The Millennium Baby," Washington Post, Jan. 1, 2000, pp. A10-A11.

14 Isaacson, op.cit., note 11, p. 57, notes that "Just as the flow of ideas wrought by Gutenberg led to the rise of individual rights, so too did the unfetterable flow of ideas wrought by telephones, faxes, television and the Internet serve as the surest foe of totalitarianism in this century." But concern continues to grow in the U.S. over the "digital divide" _ the gap between those who have access, at home and in school, to IT hardware and software and those who do not. Chapters 8 and 9 of Indicators—2000 explore evidence of this gap.

15 See NSB Statement on the Sharing of Research Data, NSB 99-24, Feb. 18, 1999.

16 Floyd E. Bloom, "The Endless Pathways of Discovery," Science, vol. 287, Jan. 14, 2000, p. 229.

17 The following discussion is indebted to Chapter 1 of Indicators—2000, "Science and Technology in Times of Transition: The 1940s and 1990s."

18 John R. Steelman, Science and Public Policy, vol. I (New York: Arno Press, reprinted from 1947), pp. 13, 26.

19 William J. Clinton and Albert Gore, Science in the National Interest, Executive Office of the President, August 1993, p. 7.

20 Committee on Science, U.S. House of Representatives, Unlocking Our Future: Toward a New National Science Policy, 105th Congress, Committee Print 105-B, September 1998, p. 12.

21 These and related human resource issues are discussed in the Board's report, Preparing Our Children: Math and Science Education in the National Interest, NSB 99-31, March 1999.

22 An NSB Symposium on International Models for S&T Budget Coordination and Priority Setting, in November 1999, examined decision making models in industrialized, centralized, and developing nations. Also see Committee on Science, Engineering, and Public Policy, Capitalizing on Investments in Science and Technology (Washington, DC: National Academy Press, 1999); and Lewis M. Branscomb and James H. Keller, eds., Investing in Innovation: Creating a Research and Innovation Policy That Works (Cambridge, MA: MIT Press, 1998).

23 National Science Board, National Science Foundation, Science at the Bicentennial: A Report from the Research Community (Washington, DC: U.S. GPO, Apr. 30, 1976), ch. 1. The Board is currently grappling with methodologies for coordination and priority-setting in the Federal science and engineering research budget. See Charge to the Ad Hoc Committee on Strategic Science and Engineering Policy Issues, Mar. 23, 1999, NSB 99-56.

24 Philip M. Smith, "Life Sciences' Stewardship of Science," Science, vol. 286, Dec. 24, 1999, p. 2448.

25 In the view of Business Week's economics editor, "In the 1990s, at least, it seems that technology is more powerful than either taxes or deficits. No one is saying that the three are mutually exclusive. Lower interest rates from increased savings can encourage innovation. So can lower tax rates." Michael J. Mandel, "How Most Economists Missed the Boat," Business Week, Nov. 15, 1999, pp. 106.

26 Note that the U.S. investment, which includes both military and civilian expenditures, is second in percentage terms only to Japan (whose R&D investment is all civilian). For national funding data, see the AAAS R&D Budget and Policy Program website <http://www.aaas.org/spp/dspp/rd/rdwwwpg.htm>.

27 Congress has extended the Research and Experimentation tax credit for an unprecedented five-year period. See President Clinton Highlights Progress toward Building a High-Tech, High-Wage Economy, White House Press Release, Dec. 3, 1999. But the President's Information Technology Advisory Committee (PITAC), Interim Report to the President (Arlington, VA: National Coordination Office for Computing, Information, and Communications, August 1998), has warned that the Federal investment in IT is inadequate and "threatens to interrupt the flow of ideas that has driven the information economy in this decade" (p. 3).

28 Also see National Research Council, Measuring the Science and Engineering Enterprise (Washington, DC: National Academy Press, 2000).

29 Indicators—2000, Appendix Table 6-60. If coauthors from different countries are considered, the U.S. proportion grows 9.8 percent, Japan 7.1 percent, and the UK 12.6 percent.

30 Indicators—2000, Appendix Tables 6-56 and 6-63.

31 Indicators—2000, Appendix Table 6-65. However, articles resulting from "public research" _ that performed in academic, nonprofit, and government research organizations, and funded primarily by Federal sources _ are increasingly cited in U.S. patent applications. See National Science Board Working Paper, Industry Trends in Research Support and Links to Public Research (Arlington, VA: NSF, 1998, NSB 98-99).

32 Indicators—2000, pp. 6-84 to 6-87 and Appendix Table 6-67.

33 Of course, the Nobel Prize is given for only a subset of scientific fields. Omissions include fields such as information science and technology that did not exist at the time when the Nobel was established. For all fields in which the Nobel Prize is awarded, U.S.-based scientists represent two-thirds of the laureates, ranging from 54 percent in Chemistry to 77 percent in Economics. These tabulations are derived from the "Nationality or Citizenship Index" in Bernard S. Schlessinger and June H. Schlessinger, eds., The Who's Who of Nobel Prize Winners 1901-1995 (Oryz Press, 1996), pp. 243-244.

34 Indicators—2000, Appendix Table 1-1. The prize was adopted as the unit of analysis, with multiple winners increasing the likelihood that at least one will have had NSF support. Laureates from foreign countries, of course, would be less likely to apply for U.S. funds.

35 Remarks by President Clinton at the National Medal of Science Award Ceremony, Mar. 14, 2000.

36 See President Clinton Fact Sheet on National Nanotechnology Initiative, Jan. 21, 2000.

National Science Board Members: Eamon M. Kelly, NSB Chair | Diana S. Natalicio, NSB Vice Chair | John A. Armstrong | Pamela A. Ferguson | Mary K. Gaillard | Sanford D. Greenberg | M. R. C. Greenwood | Stanley V. Jaskolski | Anita K. Jones | George M. Langford | Jane Lubchenco | Eve L. Menger | Joseph A Miller, Jr. | Claudia I. Mitchell-Kernan | Robert C. Richardson | Vera C. Rubin | Maxine Savitz | Luis Sequeira | Robert M. Solow | Bob H. Suzuki | Richard A. Tapia | Chang-Lin Tien | Warren M. Washington | John A. White Jr. | Rita R. Colwell Director, National Science Foundation | Marta Cehelsky, Executive Officer

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