The State of U.S. Science and Engineering shows that the U.S. S&E enterprise continues to advance along several dimensions. The United States continues to perform the largest share of global research and development (R&D), generate the largest share of R&D-intensive industry output globally, award the largest number of S&E doctoral degrees, and account for significant shares of S&E research articles and citations worldwide. However, other nations, particularly China, are rapidly developing their science and technology (S&T) capacity. The changing global landscape affects the position of the United States relative to the other major global players. For example, the United States has seen its relative share of global S&T activity remain unchanged or shrink, even as its absolute activity levels have continued to rise.
Although total U.S. R&D investment has grown, funding and performance patterns have changed. Since 2000, the rise in U.S. R&D was driven mainly by the business sector, which continues to perform and fund most of the overall R&D in the United States, as well as most of the applied research and experimental development. During this period, the share of U.S. R&D funded by the federal government has declined. This decline is notable as federally funded R&D is an important source of support, particularly for the higher education sector and for the nation's basic research enterprise.
The U.S. S&E workforce continues to grow overall. The number of women and underrepresented minorities (URMs)—blacks, Hispanics, and American Indians or Alaska Natives—has grown. However, these groups remain underrepresented in the S&E workforce relative to their overall presence in the workforce and the population.
Science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) competencies in elementary, secondary, and post-secondary schooling are an important component of the pathway to an S&E-capable workforce. U.S. eighth graders continue to rank in the middle of advanced economies in international mathematics and science assessments. Similarly, U.S. national assessments of mathematics show little to no growth in scores over the past decade. At the same time, for higher education, the United States remains the destination for the largest number of internationally mobile students. Foreign-born noncitizens make up a considerable proportion of S&E doctorate recipients, including half or more of the doctorate recipients in engineering, mathematics and computer sciences, and economics. Many of these students stay in the United States after graduation. As such, foreign-born individuals account for a sizeable share of U.S.S&E employment, particularly among workers with graduate degrees.
Although The State of U.S. Science and Engineering does not forecast future outcomes, the data clearly show the evolution of the United States in the global S&E enterprise. Increasingly, the United States is seen globally as an important leader rather than the uncontested leader. Whether and how long the current global trends continue is an important question that will be affected by the overall S&E environment, along with the economic, social, and political forces that shape the S&E environment in the United States and around the world.