NSF report shows growth in global R&D spending

By | February 4, 2016

On February 1, the National Science Board (NSB) announced the release of the 2016 Science and Engineering Indicators (SEI) report at a briefing on Capitol Hill. The report, which is updated every two years, details the state of the nation’s scientific enterprise, including research and development (R&D) spending; science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) education; the scientific workforce; and public perceptions of science.

The data show R&D spending accelerated worldwide, particularly in Asia. Countries in South, Southeast, and East Asia accounted for approximately $680 billion or 40 percent of global R&D activity in 2013. The United States led global R&D investment in 2013. Private and public R&D spending in the United States totaled $456 billion dollars in 2013, accounting for 27 percent of global R&D expenditures.

Despite its lead role in the global market, the report also noted that the federal commitment to R&D has wavered in the United States over the last few years. Although federal R&D spending increased through the first decade of the 21st century, SEI data indicated that there was an 11 percent current-dollar decline from fiscal years 2010 to 2014.

This has particular relevance to academic researchers because the federal government is the largest supporter (encompassing 47 percent) of all US basic research. The causes of this recent funding decline are manifold and include the end of the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act , the implementation of the Budget Control Act , and other pressures on the federal discretionary budget.