January 23, 2020

The State of U.S. Science and Engineering 2020 Report Released

The State of U.S. Science and Engineering 2020 Report Released

The National Science Foundation (NSF) published The State of U.S. Science and Engineering 2020 report on January 15th. A surprising result of the report indicated China’s research spending is catching up to the U.S. Julia Phillips, of the National Science Board (NSB), stated, “We think that China may have overtaken the U.S. at some point in 2019.” The report summarized American-style investments in science and engineering (S&E) education in China and other countries helped nations grow their research and development (R&D) markets faster than the U.S., even stating “The United States has seen its relative share of global S&T (science and technology) activity remain unchanged or shrink, even as its absolute activity levels have continued to rise.”

The U.S. R&D spending grew 4.3% per year from 2000 to 2017, while China’s R&D investment grew by more than 17% per year during the same phase. In 2017, the U.S. contributed 25% to the worldwide R&D investment, while China contributed 23%. Kei Koizumi, a former senior adviser in science policy at the American Association for the Advancement of Science in Washington D.C., told Nature “The US–China relationship is the most important international scientific collaborative relationship we have right now,” emphasizing the importance “to think of China as a collaborator than as an adversary.”

The report also found while the number of women and minorities has grown, they are still underrepresented in the S&E workforce relative to their presence in the overall workforce and population. NSF stated in a press release while minorities and women have increased significantly overall, the number of women with S&E bachelor degrees doubling and minorities increasing four-fold, “these increases were outpaced by the rapid growth of S&E jobs so that women and minorities remain underrepresented relative to their proportions in the U.S. population.”

Diane Souvaine, NSB Chair, expressed hopeful remarks regarding the report. “To remain a leader, we need to tap into our American ‘can do’ spirit and recommit to strong partnerships among government, universities, and industry that have been the hallmarks of our success. I believe we should react with excitement, not fear, because we are well positioned to compete, collaborate, and thrive.”