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Suggested Citation:"8 Conclusion." National Research Council. 2012. Improving Measures of Science, Technology, and Innovation: Interim Report. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/13358.



Measuring capacity and change in science, technology, and innovation (STI) has a long history, dating back decades in economics and management research. Since the 1950s, under congressional mandate, the U.S. National Science Foundation (NSF) has produced measures of research and development, as well as education and occupational statistics specifically for science and engineering fields. At this time, when the knowledge economy is a key driver for several elements of social well-being (better health outcomes, higher-paying jobs, and higher productivity), it is critically important that identifiable elements of STI activities be measured more accurately, more reliably, and in a more timely fashion.

This interim report from the Panel on Developing Science, Technology, and Innovation Indicators for the Future responds to a request from the NSF’s National Center for Science and Engineering Statistics (NCSES) to examine the status of STI indicators that are currently developed and published by NCSES. NCSES expressed specific interest in the international scope and comparability of STI indicators, particularly since part of its revised mandate is to measure elements of competitiveness. The panel is focusing on the development of statistics that are balanced, policy relevant but policy neutral, and useful to decision makers at all levels, including federal agency administrators, members of the National Science Board, and members of Congress, as well as the general public.

This interim report conveys six recommended actions that NCSES could take before the panel delivers its final recommendations, scheduled for December 2012. These recommendations suggest the development of new and revised indicators based on existing survey data and research and experimental work that can be done to develop new methods for obtaining data. The final report will give a complete set of prioritized recommendations to NCSES, along with commissioned papers on developing subnational STI indicators, more comprehensive measures of trade in research and development services, and a conceptual framework for measuring innovation activities.

Suggested Citation:"8 Conclusion." National Research Council. 2012. Improving Measures of Science, Technology, and Innovation: Interim Report. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/13358.
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The National Center for Science and Engineering Statistics (NCSES), at the U.S. National Foundation, is 1 of 14 major statistical agencies in the federal government, of which at least 5 collect relevant information on science, technology, and innovation activities in the United States and abroad. The America COMPETES Reauthorization Act of 2010 expanded and codified NCSES's role as a U.S. federal statistical agency. Important aspects of the agency's mandate include collection, acquisition, analysis, and reporting and dissemination of data on research and development trends, on U.S. competitiveness in science, technology, and research and development, and on the condition and progress of U.S. science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) education.

Improving Measures of Science, Technology and Innovation: Interim Report examines the status of the NCSES's science, technology, and innovation (STI) indicators. This report assesses and provides recommendations regarding the need for revised, refocused, and newly developed indicators designed to better reflect fundamental and rapid changes that are reshaping global science, technology and innovation systems. The book also determines the international scope of STI indicators and the need for developing new indicators that measure developments in innovative activities in the United States and abroad, and Offers foresight on the types of data, metrics and indicators that will be particularly influential in evidentiary policy decision-making for years to come.

In carrying out its charge, the authoring panel undertook a broad and comprehensive review of STI indicators from different countries, including Japan, China, India and several countries in Europe, Latin America and Africa. Improving Measures of Science, Technology, and Innovation makes recommendations for near-term action by NCSES along two dimensions: (1) development of new policy-relevant indicators that are based on NCSES survey data or on data collections at other statistical agencies; and (2) exploration of new data extraction and management tools for generating statistics, using automated methods of harvesting unstructured or scientometric data and data derived from administrative records.

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