Science and engineering "in transition" as a new century begins

June 18, 2000

Increasing globalization of research and development (R&D) and the prolific growth of information technology (IT) are major elements in a "science and engineering enterprise that is in transition," the National Science Board (NSB) said in its biennial report to the President and Congress on the nation's status in science and engineering.

Several NSB members gathered at the National Press Club today to discuss key issues in Science and Engineering Indicators 2000, the first report of the new century and the first-ever two-volume edition.

The NSB, governing body of the National Science Foundation (NSF), the independent U.S. federal agency responsible for support to most areas of science and engineering, says that much has changed since President Harry S. Truman signed the bill creating NSF in 1950. The new law established NSF's mission: "to promote the progress of science; to advance the national health, prosperity and welfare...and for other purposes."

The new S&E Indicators report emphasizes a changing context for NSF, and for science and engineering, generally.

"Today, it is much more of an international landscape in S&E," said Science Board chair Eamon Kelly. According to Kelly, there has been rapid worldwide growth and emphasis in science and technology, heightened by broad collaboration among nations. Recognizing the trend, the NSB devoted portions of each of the nine chapters in the new S&E Indicators to international comparisons and global patterns in science, engineering, education and technology.

The report describes growing evidence of how fundamental science has contributed to a stronger U.S. economy, and how IT has had a major impact on all facets of society. It also says that the impact is unequal within many segments of the national economy and in education, leaving these parts of American society bereft of IT's advantages, and creating a "digital divide."

Among highlights reported in S&E Indicators 2000 are:Among the work force and education trends, S&E Indicators 2000 finds:

  • The number of retirements among college-educated workers in S&E will increase dramatically over the next 10 to 15 years, especially among Ph.D. holders. Meanwhile, the expected demand for S&E workers overall is expected to greatly increase in the decade between 1998-2008. S&E occupations are projected to grow at almost four times the rate of all other occupations. (Chapter 3);


  • S&E graduate school enrollments in the U.S. declined from 1993 to 1997 (an average of two percent annually) following increases throughout the previous four decades. However, demographic data shows a reversal in 2001 to a two-decade-long U.S. population decline among college-age students that may help reverse the graduate enrollment trend. (Chapter 4);


  • Despite increasing percentages of high school graduates who reported taking higher level math and science courses, 22 percent of first-year college students in 1997 who indicated an intent to major in science or engineering reported that they needed some remedial work in mathematics. (Chapter 4);


  • Dramatic increases have occurred among U.S. school districts to provide access for students and teachers to new forms of technology, but in a 1998 survey, only one teacher in five felt "very well prepared" to integrate technology in the subject they taught (Chapter 5).
  • The two-volume edition of S&E Indicators 2000 also includes for the first time a CD-ROM that provides access to the entire report and data tables in a spreadsheet format.
    -end-
    The National Science Foundation develops S&E Indicators for the NSB through NSF's Division of Science Resources Studies. The final report is submitted to the President, who transmits it to Congress.

    To view the full volumes of Science and Engineering Indicators 2000, see:
    http://www.nsf.gov/sbe/srs/seind00/start.htm For other media news releases and backgrounders, see:
    http://www.nsf.gov/od/lpa/news/press/00/pr_indicators.htm

    Program contact:
    Marta Cehelsky
    703-306-2000, mcehelsk@nsf.gov

    National Science Foundation

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