Declines in support for basic research by the federal government and by industry raise serious questions about the ability of the U.S. to remain competitive in a rapidly changing world. This is one of the conclusions from the latest "Science & Engineering Indicators" report from the National Science Board (NSB), the policy-making body for the National Science Foundation.
"These indicators come at an important time," NSB Chairman Steven C. Beering said at a Jan. 15 press briefing on the report. "The confluence of a range of indicators raises key questions about future U.S. high-technology industry's competitiveness in international markets and implications for highly skilled jobs at home."
The indicators report is a massive collection of data on all areas that impact R&D conducted by universities, industry, and government. Major sections of this year's report provide data on science and technology education, the scientific labor force, international R&D trends, and public understanding of science.
NSB member Arthur K. Reilly spoke at the report's release particularly about industry shifts during the past few years. He noted that not only has industrial support for academic research been declining, but industry-authored journal publications are falling, too. "Perhaps industrial researchers have other priorities," Reilly said, and he noted that NSB urges more collaboration between university and industry scientists.
But it's not all bad news for R&D in the U.S. According to the report, intellectual property value, science and engineering education, and high-technology manufacturing are among the areas where the U.S. does extremely well.
NSB published a separate analysis of areas in which trends are particularly troubling, along with several policy recommendations. The recommendations call for the federal government to improve funding for basic research; for industry, government, and academia to seek greater intellectual interchange; and for the government to develop new ways to measure the changes caused by the rapid globalization of manufacturing and their implications for the U.S.