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The National Science Board releases the biennial Science and Engineering Indicators report

March 14, 2024
By: Michele Hujber

The National Science Board released the biennial Science and Engineering Indicators report on Wednesday. This report compiles data about the composition of the U.S. research enterprise and its trajectory relative to that of other nations. It covers data collected through 2021.

The 2024 Indicators report shows that the U.S. remains the most prominent performer of R&D, with $806 billion in gross domestic expenditures in 2021. China, at $668 billion, is the next largest performer. The U.S. spends 3.5% of U.S. GDP on R&D, the highest percentage the nation has ever spent. Most of the R&D spending increases have come from private businesses, particularly in the information technology and pharmaceutical industries, while federal spending has remained roughly flat. The report also shows that several high-tech business sectors fund almost as much basic research as the federal government.

The report illustrates that the U.S.'s global position is being challenged by China. In a statement released on March 8, the National Science Board said the Indicators report shows that China has surpassed the U.S. in “STEM talent production, research publications, patents, and knowledge-and technology-intensive manufacturing.” The board also noted it has “sounded the alarm as the U.S.’s lead has eroded on more and more global science and engineering (S&E) metrics” and added, “Every year that the United States does not meet the ambitious, but necessary, pace of investment in our nation’s S&E enterprise set by the CHIPS & Science Act is a year that we cede more ground to our global competitors, endangering U.S. national security and economic prosperity.” (See SSTI’s article on this year’s White House budget here).

The National Center for Science and Engineering Statistics, or NCES, prepares science and technology indicators under the guidance of the National Science Board. NSF releases thematic reports that complement the 2024 Indicators reports throughout the year. The 2024 Indicator report is online here.

nsf, science, engineering