Important Reading: Science and Engineering Indicators 2014

Publication date

Yesterday the National Science Board released a report that has long been viewed as “the gold standard” on the state of science and engineering in the United States and other countries.  This report, Science and Engineering Indicators 2014, is important reading for anyone interested in STEM topics, including education, workforce, national and international R&D trends, academic R&D, the global knowledge and technology marketplace, public attitudes and understanding, and state performance.

“Science and Engineering Indicators (SEI) is first and foremost a volume of record comprising the major high quality quantitative data on the U.S. and international science and engineering enterprise,” the report’s preface declares.  SEI is a prepared every two years by the National Science Board as required by law.  The twenty-four presidentially-appointed members of the Board are charged with establishing the policies of the National Science Foundation.  Dan Arvizu is the Board’s Chairman.   Ray Bowen is the Chairman of the Board’s Committee on Science and Engineering Indicators.  The volume was produced by NSF’s National Center for Science and Engineering Statistics and the foundation’s Directorate for Social, Behavioral and Economic Sciences.  More than one hundred individuals contributed to or reviewed the report.

Arvizu, Bowen, and Acting NSF Director Cora Marrett briefed a standing-room-only audience of congressional staff and members of the science policy community in a Senate hearing room yesterday morning about this 21st edition of the Indicators.  Marrett spoke of the thousands of individual plot points in the 600-page Indicators report describing, she said, “where we are on the global map, and where we have been.”  Arvizu and Bowen described three major themes in this edition of the Indicators: trends in global scientific leadership, the rebound of the U.S. scientific enterprise, and significant changes in state spending for institutions of higher education. 

The Indicators reports are policy-neutral and are intended to inform policy making.  The report is to be used, the preface explains, “by readers who hold a variety of views about which indicators are most significant for different purposes.”

The 600-page 2014 Indicators report has eight chapters.  Seven of these chapters, ranging in length from 45-64 pages, follow a standard format of a two-page Highlights section followed by an Introduction.  The remainder of the chapter consists of a text narrative accompanied by figures, text tables, sidebars, conclusion, notes, glossary, references, and on-line appendix tables.  The eighth and final chapter provides 129 pages of state S&T data regarding elementary and secondary education, higher education, workforce, financial research and development inputs, research and development outputs, and science and technology in the economy.

The topics covered in the first seven chapters are as follows:

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

The range and depth of the Indicators report are vast.  An overview of important trends is presented in a highly-readable 23-page digest.  Seven key STEM topics are presented in two-page sections with bulleted findings and five or six exhibits.

Accompanying the two documents are 325 on-line appendix tables keyed to the eight chapters in the main report.   

The documents, appendix tables, and 36 noteworthy presentation slides are available here.