The United States holds a preeminent position in S&E in the world, derived in large part from its long history of public and private investment in S&E research and development and education. Investment in R&D, science, technology, and education correlate strongly with economic growth and with the development of a safe, healthy, and well-educated society.

Many other nations, recognizing the economic and social benefits of such investment, have increased their R&D and education spending. These trends are by now well-established. S&E capabilities, until recently located mainly in the United States, Western Europe, and Japan, have now spread to other parts of the world, notably to China and other Southeast Asian economies that are heavily investing to build their scientific and technological capabilities.

Major S&E indicators

The National Science Board has selected 42 S&E indicators for inclusion in this digest. These indicators have been grouped into seven themes. Although each stands alone, collectively these seven themes are a snapshot of U.S. S&E in the context of global trends affecting them. As economies worldwide grow increasingly knowledge-intensive and interdependent, capacity for innovation becomes ever more critical. Three themes provide a worldwide view of R&D spending, research outputs, and science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM) education. Four others share a domestic focus, providing information on U.S. R&D funding and performance, the U.S. S&E workforce, invention, knowledge transfer, and innovation, and public attitudes and understanding of science and technology. Indicators may vary in successive volumes of the Science and Engineering Indicators series as different S&E issues emerge.

What these indicators tell the nation

By selecting a set of indicators, the Board seeks to contribute to the assessment of the state of U.S. S&E and to highlight issues of current opportunity or concern. These measures address an emerging set of trends of particular interest to planners and policymakers at all levels whose decisions affect our national S&E enterprise.