The U.S. National Science Board has released their biennial report on the U.S. science and engineering (S&E) enterprise. The NSB Science & Engineering Indicators study is a key source of data on the status of U.S. R&D and STEM workforce investments and activities. The report analyzes the overall levels of investment in R&D at all levels (basic/applied/development) by all performers (academic/industry/non-profit/government) and source of funds (government/private/non-profit). It also compares and contrasts the performance of the U.S. with other countries.
Key findings include:
- Global research and development (R&D) performance is concentrated in a few countries, with the United States performing the most (27% of global R&D in 2019), followed by China (22%), Japan (7%), Germany (6%), and South Korea (4%).
- The global concentration of R&D performance continues to shift from the United States and Europe to countries in East-Southeast Asia and South Asia.
- Many middle-income countries, such as China and India, are increasing science and engineering (S&E) publication, patenting activities, and knowledge- and technology-intensive (KTI) output, which has distributed science and technology (S&T) capabilities throughout the globe.
- The proportion of total U.S. R&D funded by the U.S. government decreased from 31% in 2010 to an estimated 21% in 2019, even as the absolute amount of federally funded R&D increased. This translates into the weakening of the U.S. system of basic research which has long been a pillar of a strong U.S. S&E enterprise.
- The U.S. science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) labor force represents 23% of the total U.S. labor force, involves workers at all educational levels, and includes higher proportions of men, Whites, Asians, and foreign-born workers than the proportions of these groups in the U.S. population.
- Blacks and Hispanics are underrepresented among students earning S&E degrees and among STEM workers with at least a bachelor’s degree. However, their share of STEM workers without a bachelor’s degree is similar to their share in the U.S. workforce.
- Disparities in K–12 STEM education and student performance across demographic and socioeconomic categories and geographic regions are challenges to the U.S. STEM education system, as is the affordability of higher education.
- The United States awards the most S&E doctorates worldwide. Among S&E doctorate students in the United States, a large proportion are international and over half of the doctorate degrees in the fields of economics, computer sciences, engineering, and mathematics and statistics are awarded to international students.
This year the report marked significant changes to how it analyzes the science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) workforce. It combines two major component into total STEM workforce: (1) S&E and S&E-related workers with a bachelor’s or higher degree and (2) skilled technical workers (STW) without such a degree.