The National Science Foundation releases <i>Globalization of Science and Engineering Research</i> report


Mar 04, 2010

The National Science Foundation (NSF) recently published Globalization of Science and Engineering Research: A Companion to Science and Engineering Indicators 2010. The rapid development of R&D capabilities worldwide raises important policy issues both for the federal government and for private U.S. firms. The National Science Board addresses these issues with recommendations in Globalization of Science and Engineering Research, its policy companion to SEI 2010.

Here is an excerpt from the report:

Figure 1 illustrates the changes in percentage of worldwide R&D expenditures (combined public and private) by geographical location over the last decade.

"Science and Engineering Indicators 2010 provides clear evidence that science and engineering (S&E) research is becoming an increasingly international endeavor. S&E activities are occurring and intensifying in more regions and economies, largely in response to recognition by governments that S&E research and development (R&D) leads to economic growth, employment, and overall social well-being of their citizens. Figure 1 illustrates the changes in percentage of worldwide R&D expenditures (combined public and private) by geographical location over the last decade. While total worldwide expenditures have increased about seven percent per year on average, the percent growth in the Asia/Pacific region has outpaced this average, with most of the increase coming from China, India and other developing nations.

Overall international growth in S&E research activity is driven by increasing science and technology (S&T) capacity in economies around the world. There is widespread recognition of the need to move to a knowledge-intensive economy. Governments increasingly acknowledge the role of S&T in generating new jobs, economic prosperity, responses to national issues and/or global challenges, and global competitiveness. As a result, they are focusing on S&T as national priorities (e.g., by crafting strategic plans for S&T and integrating them in their long-range economic policies) and investing government funding in S&T infrastructure (e.g., in S&E research, education, facilities, R&D, and open markets, and frequently imposing conditions favoring their national enterprise). At the same time, the private sectors in many countries are enhancing and growing their international commercial presence as well as their research and development capabilities. The growth of S&T capacity around the world is facilitated by multinational corporate investments in R&D and new foreign direct investment in emerging markets, as well as by expanding international access to R&D knowledge, training, and facilities. There are growing international research investments by the private sectors of many countries, all enabled and enhanced through the opportunities for scientific exchange provided by revolutionary advances in information and communications technologies (ICT).

Increased global S&E capacity has been greatly facilitated by enhanced communications, enhanced freedom of travel in many nations, and striving for the efficient sharing of resources. This growing global S&E capacity and capability presents both opportunities and challenges to United States (U.S.) S&E research. On one hand, increased global S&E capacity offers great opportunities for scientific advancement and cross-border scientific cooperation. It offers a larger pool of researchers for both U.S. public and private enterprises, and a wider range of possibilities for collaborations and utilization of major foreign research facilities. On the other hand, it presents definite challenges to U.S. competitiveness in high technology areas, and to its position as a world leader in critical S&E fields.

Since the end of the Cold War, the National Science Board has discussed in a number of reports the increasing international challenge to the overall economic competitiveness of the U.S. in S&E, and strength in S&E research fields. Examples include: The Competitive Strength of U.S. Industrial Science and Technology: Strategic Issues (NSB-92-138) (1992), Working Paper on Government Funding of Scientific Research (NSB-97-186) (1997), and The Science and Engineering Workforce: Realizing America's Potential (NSB-03-69) (2003). Additionally, the Board recently explored the value of international S&E collaboration in the public sector and, among other recommendations, encouraged the active pursuit of cross-border S&E partnerships (International Science and Engineering Partnerships: A Priority for U.S. Foreign Policy and Our Nation's Innovation Enterprise (NSB-08-4) (2008). The Board has also undertaken a number of studies to suggest specific NSF and Federal strategies and practices to ensure wise investment in world class research capabilities across the fields of science and engineering. These include recommendations focusing on NSF, especially Enhancing Support of Transformative Research at the National Science Foundation (NSB-07-32) (2007) and Toward a More Effective NSF Role in International Science and Engineering (NSB-00-217) (2000), and more broadly on the Federal support for research in Federal Research Resources: A Process for Setting Priorities (NSB-01-156) (2001)."

To view the report, click here.