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Sunday, 17 January 2010 19:56

U.S. losing Right Stuff in science, engineering

According to a 2010 National Science Board report, the state of science and engineering in the U.S. is still good; however, the country’s lead in the number of researchers is being challenged by China. Other science and engineering indicators in the U.S. are also being challenged by Asian countries.

The January 15, 2010 press release of the National Science Foundation, called National Science Board Releases Science and Engineering Indicators 2010, states that “Worrisome trends show eroding U.S. competitive advantage in the world science and engineering environment.”

The report “Science and Engineering Indicators 2010” provides information on the quality, quantity, strength, and capacity of science and engineering in the United States as compared to the rest of the world.

Kei Koizumi, assistant director for federal research and development within the White House’s Office of Science and Technology Policy, states, "The data begin to tell a worrisome story.

He adds that the report shows “… U.S. dominance has eroded significantly.” [NSF]

Mr. Koizumi calls the report a “State of the Union on science, technology, engineering, and mathematics.” (Those subjects, as a group, are often abbreviated STEM.)

For additional information on STEM, please go to the STEM Education Coalition.

Some of the statistics from the Report include:


•    Over the past decade, the amount of research and development (R&D) in Asian countries has grown considerably, while the same R&D in the United States has remained steady.

•    Annual growth of R&D expenditures in some Asian countries is “two, three, even four times that of the United States.”

•    R&D expenditures in the United States has averaged 5 to 6%.

Page two continues with additional statistics from the National Science Board report.

The Report by the National Science Board also states statistics on R&D expenditures, number of research publications, and number of inventions/patents.

These statistics are:


•    Japan has been ahead of the United States with respect to R&D expenditures as a share of economic output for many years.

•    South Korea now is ahead of the United States and Japan with respect to R&D expenditures as a share of economic output.


•    The United States leads the world in the number of research publications. However, China is now second in the world in the number of research publications.

•    China produces 8% of all research publications in the world (as of 2009) as compared to 2% in 1995 (when it ranked 14th in the world).


•    Inventors in the United States, the countries of the European Union, and Japan produce almost all of the patents of the world that are awarded in the United States.

•    The number of patents being protected by U.S. patent law is “… on the rise, driven by activity in Taiwan and South Korea.” The number of patents by Chinese and Indian inventors remains “modest.”

Page three provides information on the Report, including where you can download it.

To download the Report and to watch a video of Rolf Lehming, program director of NSF's Science and Engineering Indicators, as he briefs the media on the report “Science and Engineering Indicators 2010,” please go to the following website SEI 2010.

The National Science Foundation (NSF) is headquartered in Arlington, Virginia, just outside of Washington, D.C.

Its website states that the NSF "... is an independent federal agency created by Congress in 1950 'to promote the progress of science; to advance the national health, prosperity, and welfare; to secure the national defense...."

And, "With an annual budget of about $6.06 billion, [the NSF is] the funding source for approximately 20 percent of all federally supported basic research conducted by America's colleges and universities. In many fields such as mathematics, computer science and the social sciences, NSF is the major source of federal backing."

The National Science Board (NSB) is the governing board of the NSF.

The NSB advises members of the U.S. Congress and the president with respect to matters involving science and engineering within the United States.

Part of the information provided by the National Science Foundation press release and website states, “Latest data shows that China has reached the level of the United States in terms of its number of researchers.”

And, “This number has spiked in the past decade making this trend worrisome for those who are concerned about the United States keeping its competitive edge in producing cutting-edge research across the scientific disciplines.”

"It may also present opportunities for greater cooperation and richer collaborations with Chinese scientists.”

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