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The United States of America and scientific research\ud

By Gregory J. Hather, Winston Haynes, Roger Higdon, Natali Kolker, Elizabeth A. Stewart, Peter Arzberger, Patrick Chain, Dawn Field, B. Robert Franza, Biaoyang Lin, Folker Meyer, Vural Ozdemir, Charles V. Smith, Gerald van Belle, John Wooley and Eugene Kolker


To gauge the current commitment to scientific research in the United States of America (US), we compared federal research\ud funding (FRF) with the US gross domestic product (GDP) and industry research spending during the past six decades. In\ud order to address the recent globalization of scientific research, we also focused on four key indicators of research activities:\ud research and development (R&D) funding, total science and engineering doctoral degrees, patents, and scientific\ud publications. We compared these indicators across three major population and economic regions: the US, the European\ud Union (EU) and the People’s Republic of China (China) over the past decade. We discovered a number of interesting trends\ud with direct relevance for science policy. The level of US FRF has varied between 0.2% and 0.6% of the GDP during the last six\ud decades. Since the 1960s, the US FRF contribution has fallen from twice that of industrial research funding to roughly equal.\ud Also, in the last two decades, the portion of the US government R&D spending devoted to research has increased. Although\ud well below the US and the EU in overall funding, the current growth rate for R&D funding in China greatly exceeds that of\ud both. Finally, the EU currently produces more science and engineering doctoral graduates and scientific publications than\ud the US in absolute terms, but not per capita. This study’s aim is to facilitate a serious discussion of key questions by the\ud research community and federal policy makers. In particular, our results raise two questions with respect to: a) the\ud increasing globalization of science: ‘‘What role is the US playing now, and what role will it play in the future of international\ud science?’’; and b) the ability to produce beneficial innovations for society: ‘‘How will the US continue to foster its strengths?’

Topics: Data and Information
Year: 2010
DOI identifier: 10.1371/journal.pone.0012203
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