that cannot be measured as a direct investment in the economy. Carnevale said that he preferred to think of advances in knowledge as the way people combine and use resources, whether human, technological, or otherwise. So advances in knowledge include the development of Walmart as opposed to mom and pop hardware stores, not just the direct effects of technology.
R and D Spending and Economic Growth
Connecting federal spending on R and D to these advances in knowledge is a difficult problem. For example, R and D directly involves a fairly limited number of people. About 1.4 million U.S. workers spend at least 10 percent of their time doing R and D, out of a total workforce of about 150 million people. (The former number includes social scientists, although the Center on Education and the Workforce typically does not include social scientists among workers in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics, or STEM.) The relatively small size of the STEM workforce explains why federal investments in research have relatively small short-term impacts on employment.
The STEM workforce engages in both research, which Carnevale identified as scientific investigations—and development—or the application of scientific knowledge. While research has sometimes led directly to technologies that are economically important, development is a much more important source of innovations, according to Carnevale. “Historically, science owes a whole lot more to the invention of the steam engine than the steam engine ever owed to science. That is, most of the development of economies occurs in application, not in labs.” A strong argument also can be made, he said, that the economic value from development has been growing more rapidly than the economic development from research. “A lot of wealth creation in the world now has to do with process improvements, not so much invention.” Even in industries such as pharmaceuticals, where discoveries lead to new products, the commercialization and distribution networks bring in much of the new revenue.
The Growth of the STEM Workforce
The STEM workforce, which is larger than the number of people doing R and D, is growing, said Carnevale. Today, people who work in science, technology, engineering, or mathematics—not counting social