For the fourth year in a row, investment in American research and development is expected to outpace the strong growth of the U.S. economy, despite a decrease in federal R&D dollars, according to a special report in the Oct. 19 issue of Chemical & Engineering News, the weekly newsmagazine of the American Chemical Society, the world's largest scientific society.
The National Science Foundation projects overall R&D expenditures to increase by 7.3 percent to $220.6 billion this year, reports the magazine. Of that figure, industry accounts for 65 percent of the total while the federal government is expected to provide about 30 percent. The federal contribution is at "an all-time low," claims the magazine, and continues a ten-year downward slide, according to a forthcoming NSF report cited by the magazine.
Even though the overall R&D picture is healthy, the erosion of government monetary support for R&D means "one of the most basic fears of research scientists and engineers appears to be becoming a reality," the magazine states. The NSF biennial report to Congress this year, quoted by the magazine, apparently supports this view. That report notes "there is some cause for concern that short-term R&D may be displacing the longer term quest for new knowledge and breakthrough discoveries."
As for the future, the magazine feels "the unstable global economy, paired with a Congress that's spinning its wheels over President Bill Clinton's possible impeachment, makes for an uncertain forecast."