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“Science and Engineering Indicators 2012” Released

Richard M. Jones
Number 14 - February 3, 2012  |  Search FYI  |   FYI Archives  |   Subscribe to FYI

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“This information clearly shows we must re-examine long-held assumptions about the global dominance of the American science and technology enterprise.”  These comments by National Science Foundation Director Subra Suresh came on the day that the National Science Board released “Science and Engineering Indicators 2012,” a 575-page report measuring and characterizing R&D, education, workforce, academic, public attitudes and state data.   

Indicators 2012 is the 20th edition of this biennial report that has long been regarded as “the gold standard.”  It was prepared by NSF’s National Center for Science and Engineering Statistics (NCSES).  Rolf Lehming is the Director of the Science and Engineering Indicators Program; Lynda Carlson is NCSES Director.  Ray Bowen is the Chairman of the National Science Board; Jose-Marie Griffiths is the Chairman of the Committee on Science and Engineering Indicators. 

Indicative of the high esteem this report enjoys was the crowd that spilled out into the hallway when the report was released at a January 18 Capitol Hill briefing.  Among those attending was Rep. Rush Holt (D-NJ) who called the Indicators report “the most important benchmark.”  As described in an accompanying document, the Indicators report is “factual and policy-neutral; it neither offers policy options nor make policy recommendations.  The indicators included in the report are intended to contribute to the understanding of the current S&E environment.”

The indicators call attention to discouraging trends.  The report charts the loss of high-tech manufacturing jobs, estimating that 687,000 jobs have been lost since 2000. That was the year the number of these jobs peaked at 2.5 million. The vast majority – an estimated 85 percent - of new U.S. multinational corporate R&D employment has occurred outside of the United States since 2004.  The United States still leads in total R&D spending at $400 billion in 2009, with Asian region countries approaching it at $399 billion.  The percentage of American high-tech exports continues to decline, while that for China has dramatically increased.

Indicators 2012 presents a diverse range of data and analysis that makes it an indispensable source of information for anyone seeking factual insights on R&D and related topics in the U.S., and in many cases in the larger world.  The eight chapter titles are indicative of the report’s scope:

  • Elementary and Secondary Mathematics and Science Education
  • Higher Education in Science and Engineering
  • Science and Engineering Labor Force
  • Research and Development: National Trends and International Comparisons
  • Academic Research and Development
  • Industry, Technology, and the Global Marketplace
  • Science and Technology: Public Attitudes and Understanding
  • State Indicators

There is also an extensive body of statistics accompanying the report.

The National Science Board has released a graphics-rich presentation of some of the most important indicators in the larger report.  This Digest is important reading.     

Also of note is a State Data Tool of 58 indicators of elementary/secondary education, higher education, workforce, financial R&D inputs, R&D outputs, and science and technology outputs.  This tool is interactive, enabling users to examine one or more indicators in a variety of formats.

When releasing the report, Griffiths commented:

“Over the last decade, the world has changed dramatically.  It’s now a world with very different actors who have made advancement in science and technology a top priority.  And many of the troubling trends we’re seeing are now very well established.”

Richard M. Jones
Government Relations Division
American Institute of Physics