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.