Contributions from and innovation in S&T over many decades have resulted in dramatic improvements to American lives, including enhanced living standards and life expectancy, better access to information and connectivity across the globe, and increased access to and affordability of consumer goods (Baumol 1989; Cutler and McClellan 2001; Gordon 2012; Alston, Beddow, and Pardey 2009). Even though the transformative nature of S&T is not free of risks (e.g., privacy concerns, cyber security threats), most Americans believe that the federal government has a role in funding scientific research and that the benefits of S&T justify its expense (NSB 2018). Although the United States has long been a global leader in the advancement, development, and production of S&T, other countries are increasing their S&T investments and activities. In addition, the U.S. S&E enterprise faces competition from other national priorities for limited resources. Growth of S&T capabilities in other nations has outpaced that of the United States along several dimensions, enabling some countries to converge with, or even to be poised to overtake, the United States in developing specific areas of S&E expertise. This has resulted in a regional shift in S&T performance and capabilities from the United States, Western Europe, and Japan to other parts of the world, notably to China and other Southeast Asian economies.

The analysis in this report is based on data from Science and Engineering Indicators 2020 (Indicators 2020), which has been redesigned to ensure that the content is maximally useful and accessible to a wide audience. Indicators 2020 consists of nine thematic reports that provide a high-level overview of the U.S. S&E enterprise, which includes elementary and secondary science and mathematics education, S&E higher education, S&E workforce, S&E publications, R&D investment, academic R&D, R&D-intensive industries, innovation, and public perceptions of S&T. These thematic reports along with the detailed underlying data are available online at This report, The State of U.S. Science and Engineering, highlights the key findings and indicators from the Indicators 2020 thematic reports. Detailed analysis of these key indicators, as well as numerous important topics, are addressed in the individual thematic reports and are summarized in the executive summary of each report.

This report is organized in six topical sections. The report begins with the topic of education, including performance of K–12 students and S&E degrees awarded in the United States, along with relevant international comparisons. The second section describes the demographic composition of the U.S. S&E workforce and employment trends, including trends in the skilled technical workforce. The next two sections focus on R&D, including the U.S. position within a global context and the structure of U.S. R&D performance and funding. The fifth section examines trends in global S&T capabilities, including S&E research publications and R&D-intensive industry output. The sixth section focuses on innovation-related indicators, as well as U.S. public attitudes toward S&T. The report ends with concluding remarks, as well as references and resources, such as a glossary of terms and acronyms and information on the other reports, including Indicators 2020 thematic reports that provide the underlying analysis for each section.