National Science Board Releases Indicators Report

January 20, 2016

The U.S. is still the world’s leading science and engineering enterprise, but China is quickly closing that gap, according to a the National Science Board’s 2016 Science and Engineering Indicators report. China accounts for 20 percent of global research and development, while the U.S. accounts for 27 percent, but China’s investment in science and engineering grew 19 percent annually on average from 2003-13, greatly outpacing U.S. investment.

The U.S. invests the most in research and development, produces the most advanced degrees in science and engineering and high-impact scientific publications, and remains the largest provider of information, financial and business services, according to the report. But Southeast, South and East Asia continue to grow in terms of science and engineering, accounting for 40 percent of global investment, according to the report.

Indicators also notes that China has made significant progress in science and engineering education. It’s the world’s top producer of undergraduates with degrees in science and engineering, accounting for 49 percent of all bachelor's degrees awarded there. That’s compared to 33 percent of all bachelor's degrees awarded in the U.S. University degree production has grown most rapidly in China in recent years -- more than 300 percent from 2000-12. But the U.S. continues to award the largest number of science and engineering doctorates and remains a destination for international students, according to the report.

“Other countries see how U.S. investments in [research and development] and higher education have paid off for our country and are working intensively to build their own scientific capabilities,” Dan Arvizu, the science board’s chair, said in a statement. “They understand that scientific discovery and human capital fuel knowledge- and technology-intensive industries and a nation's economic health.”

Despite ongoing challenges with federal investment in research and development, Americans have favorable views toward science, according to the report. At the same time, they are losing faith in U.S. K-12 STEM education, compared to other nations.

About half of Americans say science makes life “change too fast,” and the country remains divided on global warming. Still a majority of Americans say they want more focus on alternative energy development.

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