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NSF rolls out big makeover of science statistics

The Nationwide Science Basis’s (NSF’s) cornucopia of statistics on the worldwide scientific enterprise got here out right this moment—however with a twist that makes it extra well timed.

In a world awash with on-demand knowledge, NSF realized that its biennial report, titled Science and Engineering Indicators, was an anachronism. So as a substitute of pushing out all 2000-plus pages on the similar time, NSF final fall started releasing chapters on science and math training, larger training, the technical workforce, and scientific publications. 4 extra chapters—reporting international spending patterns, tutorial analysis, commerce and trade, data switch, and public attitudes—will observe within the subsequent few months. Immediately launch of a quick abstract lets NSF fulfill a federal mandate to ship a biennial report back to Congress.

Shortening the time to publication helps make the Indicators report extra well timed, even when a number of the knowledge it analyzes are two or three years outdated, says Arthur Lupia, who leads the NSF directorate that produces the report. Liberating up particular person chapters will enable NSF to place out extra specialized stories as warranted, provides Beethika Khan, who heads NSF’s in-house Indicators crew. The company has additionally revamped its on-line interface to make it a lot simpler for researchers and the general public to discover the information, and it now gives quarterly updates of analysis exercise on the state stage.

The lengthy lead occasions wanted to gather and analyze knowledge earlier than publication imply that some knowledge within the newest launch are nonetheless outdated. For instance, someday final 12 months, China possible topped the US in spending on analysis for the primary time in historical past. However, that scientific benchmark isn’t a part of 2020 Indicators. As a substitute, the report cites 2017 knowledge in declaring the US the world chief in analysis spending, at $548 billion.

“We expect that China could have overtaken the U.S. in some unspecified time in the future in 2019,” acknowledges Julia Phillips of the Nationwide Science Board, NSF’s presidentially appointed oversight physique, which formally points Indicators. The board predicted in 2014 that the altering of the guard may happen in 2018, she notes, however surprisingly sturdy spending by U.S. trade allowed the nation to remain in entrance a bit longer. NSF program analysts are ready for 2018–19 knowledge from the Paris-based Organization for Financial Co-operation and Improvement earlier than declaring a brand new international spending king.

The report doesn’t say what China’s ascension may imply for international innovation, or for U.S. financial well being and nationwide safety. That’s by design, Khan says. “We have now not seemed on the ‘why’ questions.”

Along with international comparisons, Indicators gives particulars on key U.S. tendencies, highlighted within the graphics under: the jobless charge for science and engineering staff, the rising share of the workforce who’re foreign-born, and the steadiness between residents and people on scholar visas incomes science and engineering doctorates from U.S. establishments.

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