RELEVANT DATA FOR ISSUES IN SCIENCE AND ENGINEERING RESOURCES
The previous chapter described how federal statistical agencies should ensure the relevance of the information they provide by monitoring changing policy issues and concepts, identifying useful data linkages, and improving data currency. The following two chapters outline current issues in the changing science and engineering enterprise about which SRS could improve the relevance of the data and analyses it provides to policymakers, researchers, and others in order to better inform the decisions they make.
The analysis here highlights the importance of specific science and engineering resources issues that warrant attention by SRS at this time. We identified these issues through briefings given by SRS managers, interviews and focus groups with SRS staff and data users, and a national workshop on measuring resources for science and engineering. Committee members discussed these issues and separated them into those that SRS is already addressing and those that require further changes or investigation. We then sought to substantiate that these latter issues are of sufficient consequence to warrant further attention by SRS. First, we examined the recommendations of national reports on science and technology policy, graduate education, and the labor market for scientists and engineers. Often, these recommendations not only substantiated the critical nature of certain issues, but also made specific observations about the data needed to address them. Second, we examined data trends, where possible, to draw our own conclusions about the direction of change and the importance of certain issues. SRS did not provide the committee with complete data on its budget and how it is distributed across staff salaries and benefits, survey operations, data analysis, publications, and other activities. Our analysis, therefore, does not attempt to provide a cost-benefit analysis that would have led to further prioritization of changes in SRS surveys that we suggest or to a protocol for trade-offs among current and proposed activities. In a limited number of cases we do raise the issue of cost and suggest that the costs of obtaining certain
data should be weighed against the benefit of collecting them.
As we identified issues of current concern to the science and engineering community, we were aware that, given the short time frame and limited resources within which we were working, it would be impossible to be exhaustive in our review of the SRS data collection portfolio. Therefore, we describe what we believe are important examples of issues that SRS should better address. Others may well identify additional issues. Also, we describe these issues in a general way. It is our hope that advisory committees for each SRS survey will continue the work of this committee by further investigating current and emerging issues and by providing SRS staff with recommendations for operationalizing changes in specific survey instruments to better measure the new concepts that have been identified.
We should also point out that, in examining data collection activities across the SRS portfolio, we identified only a few items that we believe should be deleted. We concur with the suspension of the Survey of Scientific Instruments and Instrumentation Needs. We believe that SRS's resources are better spent on other activities and issues. We also specify that the collection of data in the Survey of Industrial Research and Development on the product class of applied research and development be dropped, but we also suggest that SRS examine the costs and benefits of fielding the survey at the line-of-business level rather than at the firm level. We believe that other SRS activities should remain in the division's portfolio. Again, specific items within these activities may be dropped as necessary when identified in the future by advisory committees or through other forms of dialogue with the data user community.