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National Science Board announces vision for securing US leadership in science and engineering for the next decade

June 11, 2020

The U.S. has long been the global leader in science and engineering (S&E), but that position is being increasingly challenged with China likely surpassing the U.S. in total Research and Development (R&D) investment in 2019. Accounting for this changing landscape, the National Science Board (NSB) recently released its Vision 2030 report. It identifies the primary challenges facing the S&E enterprise in the United States, the essential elements of leadership, and a roadmap for implementing these recommendations and maintaining U.S. leadership in S&E for the next decade.

The NSB identified the following primary challenges:

  • Globalization of S&E — Global S&E activity is increasing faster than in the United States. Despite the shrinking share of the world’s activity, the U.S. S&E enterprise is still expanding in total. The U.S. has also maintained its lead in fundamental research, which fuels the S&E sector. The key question is how can the U.S. can keep its lead in fundamental research?
  • Growth of Knowledge and Technology-intensive Industries — The growth in these industries has been fueled by decades of basic and fundamental research, yet the share of basic R&D funded by the federal government has dropped. The key question is how can American discoveries continue to empower U.S. businesses and entrepreneurs to succeed globally?
  • Demand for Talent — International competition for highly trained workers in STEM fields is rising and drawing top talent away from the United States. The key question is how can the U.S. increase STEM skills and opportunities for all Americans?

The NSB identified the following elements required for continued leadership:

  • Practice of Science & Engineering — Remaining competitive in the “fields of the moment” and ensuring that new basic research is leveraged to yield revolutionary advancements and create value for all Americans.
  • Talent — Collecting an inclusive and diverse pool of the world’s most talented S&E workers requires ensuring robust domestic and international pipelines. The NSB message is that “just as illiteracy is unacceptable, it can no longer be acceptable for anyone to be ‘bad at math.’”
  • Infrastructure — The U.S. must take a more strategic approach to developing domestic R&D infrastructure to encourage the geographic distribution of innovation and to redress geographic and institutional resource inequities.
  • Partnerships —Remaining global leaders in S&E will require both competing against and collaborating with international partners. Bolstering strategic and reliable international partnerships will further enable the continued practice of S&E, the attraction of top talent, and the continued development of domestic R&D infrastructure.

The NSB’s Roadmap for the Future includes the following elements:

  • Delivering benefits from research – leveraging America’s lead in basic research to speed the path from discovery to innovation. As the only agency with the sole mission of investing in R&D across myriad fields, NSF must ensure that all NSF-funded research and education benefit the national interest and translate into new and strengthened partnerships, new discoveries, and greater innovation.
  • Developing STEM talent for America — the U.S. must make education a federal, state, and local priority and hold itself accountable with reliable, up-to-date data.
  • Expanding the geography of innovation — the NSB will examine NSF’s investments with an eye toward identifying mechanisms that can best develop capacity and further establish a network of S&E hubs across the country.
  • Fostering a global S&E community — the NSB will work with NSF to develop and expand strategies and partnerships to grow international collaborations, attract global talent, and create international education and training opportunities.
nsf, s&e