Additional Insights from the Indicators

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Publication date: 
7 February 2012

As  previously mentioned, the National Science Board’s “Science and Engineering  Indicators 2012,”  is accompanied by a  large compendium of statistics. Below  are brief descriptions of several tables and figures from this compendium.

Federal  Support:

Statistics  examine federal expenditures for research from a wide variety of  perspectives.  In addition to funding  figures by field,  the appendix also provides data on academic funding.

Academic  R&D funds provided by federal government, by S&E field: Selected Years,  1975-2009

After  declining from a high of 86.8 percent in 1980, federal funding for academic physics  R&D declined to 72.6 percent in 2009, its lowest level since 1980. This  table lists many different fields.

Federally  financed R&D expenditures at academic institutions, by S&E field and  agency: FY 2009

All  federal agencies provided $1,361 million (current dollars) for physics R&D  in 2009.  The National Science Foundation  provided the most support for academic physics research (33.5 percent),  followed by the Department of Energy (24.7 percent) and the Department of  Defense (15.1 percent.)  Again, the table  lists many different fields.


Public  Perceptions and Knowledge of Science:

Correct  answers to factual knowledge questions in physical and biological sciences:  1985-2010

Among  questions that were asked:

  • “The  continents on which we live have been moving their locations for millions of  years and will continue to move in the future.”
  • “The  universe began with a huge explosion.”
  • “Human  beings, as we know them today, developed from earlier species of animals.”
  • “All  radioactivity is man-made.
  • “Electrons  are smaller than atoms.”
  • “Lasers  work by focusing sound waves.”

Public  opinion on whether federal government should fund basic scientific research:  1985-2010

“Strongly  agree” increased from 9 percent in 1985 to a high of 32 percent in 2006, and  declined to 23 percent in 2010.

“Agree”  ranged from 70 percent to 53 percent in 2004, and increased to 59% in 2010.     In  2010, the percentage who “strongly agree” or “agree” was 82 percent.         In  2010, a total of 14 percent of respondents “disagree” or “strongly disagree” with  this statement.

Public  assessment of federal government spending, by policy area: 1981-2010

Respondents  were asked about many government programs, including education, alternative  energy systems, law enforcement, childcare assistance, national defense, space  exploration, and foreign assistance.   When asked about “supporting scientific research”

  • 36  percent said “too little”
  • 47  percent said “about right”
  • 12  percent said “too much”
  • 5  percent said “don’t know”

Familiarity  with nanotechnology, by respondent characteristic: 2010

44  percent of all adults surveyed have heard “nothing at all” about  nanotechnology. 

Public  assessment of whether the quality of science and mathematics education in  American schools is inadequate: 1985-2008

In  2010, 70 percent of those surveyed replied “strongly agree” or “agree.”


The  above are but a small sample of the 328 tables and figures appearing in the  appendix.