This report, The State of U.S. Science and Engineering, describes trends in and the relative global position of the U.S. S&E enterprise, including S&E education and workforce, R&D, R&D-intensive commercial output, and innovation. The data show mixed trends for the United States. Women, blacks, Hispanics, and American Indians or Alaska Natives are underrepresented in the U.S. S&E workforce compared to their presence in the overall population, even though their participation in absolute numbers has grown. In international mathematics and science assessments, U.S. eighth grade students rank in the middle of advanced economies. Furthermore, U.S. eighth grade students’ average mathematics scores have been relatively flat over the past decade. U.S. universities continue to award the most S&E doctoral-level degrees in the world, as well as to receive the largest number of internationally mobile students. Foreign student enrollment in U.S. universities, however, has declined since 2016. International students receive a considerable proportion of U.S. S&E doctorates, and many of these students remain in the United States for years after graduating. As such, the U.S. S&E enterprise includes not only domestic resources, but also the contributions of international students and workers, international collaborations in research, and global markets and trade in R&D-intensive products.
Since the turn of the century, R&D expenditures have grown more rapidly in several Asian economies, particularly China, compared to more moderate growth in the United States and the EU. In 2017, the economies of East-Southeast and South Asia collectively accounted for 42% of global R&D expenditures, higher than the United States (25%) and the EU (20%). The United States continues to spend the most on R&D of any single country. R&D funding and performance patterns within the United States, however, have changed. The share of U.S. R&D funded by the federal government has declined since 2000. This decline is notable as federally funded R&D is an important source of support, particularly for the higher education sector and for the basic research enterprise of the United States.
The United States is among the top global producers in R&D-intensive industry output and S&E publications. However, its global share has declined or stayed relatively flat because of faster growth in China as well as other middle-income countries. The citation impact of China’s publications has also risen rapidly, although it is lower than that of the United States and the EU.
International collaborations in producing S&E publications have risen since 2000. U.S. authors collaborate most frequently with authors from China. The data in this report also indicate region-specific focus or specialization in subject matter, as well as highlight the importance of engineering, ICT, and health-related technologies for innovation. For example, the S&E publication data show that the United States and the EU each lead in the production of biomedical sciences articles, while China surpassed each individually in the production of engineering articles and now produces twice as many engineering articles as the United States. Within the United States, industries that produce health-related products and technologies as well as ICT industries report above average innovation rates. Furthermore, more than half of the international patents are engineering related.
Although this report does not forecast future outcomes, the data show the evolution of the United States in the global S&E enterprise. The United States continues to lead globally in R&D expenditures, S&E doctoral-level degree awards, and production of highly cited research publications. At the same time, other nations, particularly China, are rapidly developing their S&E capacity. As a result, the United States has seen its relative share of global S&T activity flatten or shrink, even as its absolute activity levels kept rising. As more countries around the world develop R&D and human capital infrastructure to sustain and compete in a knowledge-oriented economy, the United States is playing a less dominant role in many areas of S&E activity.