LOS ANGELES—The global landscape for science and technology is changing with Asian countries and regions showing particular gains, a US researcher said Monday.
In the competition for resources and recognition, many foreign governments are strengthening their educational and research programs, according to Diana Hicks, professor and chair of GeorgiaInstitute of Technology’s School of Public Policy.
At the American Chemical Society’s national meeting in San Diego, California, she said the gap is closing between the United States and its Asian competitors such as China, South Korea, Japan, Singapore and India.
Hicks presented a number of benchmarks at a symposium indicating trends in Asian research and development and their impact on US education and industry.
More talents: the number of researchers in Asia has grown rapidly as more Asians, especially the Chinese, earn doctoral degrees. At the same time, the number of US citizens pursuing doctoral degrees has been decreasing, according to Hicks. In addition, the number of Asian students who study for doctoral degrees in the United States dropped 19 percent in just four years(1994 to 1998).
Increased spending on research and development (R&D): from 1995 through 2001, China and South Korea increased gross R&D spending by about 140 percent, while the United States increased its investments by only 34 percent. Moreover, 68 percent of all domestic R&D money in the United States now comes from the private sector. Nearly three-fourths of this money goes toward developmentinstead of basic research.
“Basic research is important because it sets up the country forthe next generation of technology so we don’t run out of innovations,” said Hicks, who is also a member of the Task Force on the Future of American Innovation.
Patent growth: since 1988, the number of US patent applications for innovations originating in Asia increased 789 percent, with South Korea evidencing especially strong gains. In contrast, US patent applications for homegrown technology grew more slowly at arate of 116 percent.
More published papers: the US share of science and engineering papers published worldwide fell from 38 percent in 1988 to 31 percent in 2001, while European and Asian papers were on the upswing. In fact, Western Europe, which gained a 36 percent share in 2001, now one-ups the United States, and Asia’s share of published papers grew from 11 to 17 percent during the 1988-2001 period.
The number of scientific papers, an important measure of knowledge base, is a sign that a country has highly skilled peoplewho are producing the necessary knowledge for later applications, Hicks said
“This makes the United States appear slightly less important, another sign that our dominance is starting to decline,” Hicks said, noting that the actual number of published papers from US researchers also began to wane in the late 1990s.
“The number of pages in journals like Nature or Science can only grow so fast,” she explained. “If Asian and European nations increase their scientific capability faster, they crowd out some of our efforts, which reduces the perceived achievement of youngerUS scientists. Although US researchers will work far harder than previous generations, they will not command the same dominating position in world science as did their predecessors.”
“This is a slow-developing trend, and one that’s hard to see from inside the United States,” she said. “We’re still a very competitive country, but it’s important to look at the long-range implications of these benchmarks. Maintaining our leadership role in science and innovation is critical to economic strength and national security.”