Interesting Data from the 2014 Science and Engineering Indicators Report


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The 2014 edition of the biannual science and technology survey of the United States’ National Science Board (NSB), “Science and Engineering Indicators,” was recently released and it offers some interesting data.

As mentioned on its web page, Science and Engineering Indicators 2014 is a report that offers a “broad base of quantitative information on the US and international science and engineering enterprise.” It is a compilation of data that depict the state of science, engineering, and technology in the fields of education, labor force, research, industry, marketplace, public opinion, and government. The report claims to be factual and neutral as it does not present policy options or suggestions. The data compiled are presented as they are, without any conclusion or generalization.

From the said 2014 report, the following details are worth noting:

1. Over 90% of Americans hold high regard for scientists.

According to the report, an overwhelming 90%+ of Americans are in the opinion that scientists are “dedicated people who work for the good of humanity” and are “helping to solve challenging problems.” However, less than 50% of those surveyed claim to have “good” or “excellent” understanding of what scientists and engineers actually do at work.

2. The Internet has overtaken TV as the primary source or sci-tech information among Americans.

This is not really surprising considering how the Internet has become more popular and how smartphones and other mobile computing devices are already capable of quickly accessing the web. Besides, TV programming is nowhere near the abundance of scientific information that can be readily accessed online without the compulsory advertisements.

3. Around 90% of Americans consider the benefits of scientific endeavors to be greater than the potential dangers.

As reported on a blog on Voice of America, an overwhelming majority of Americans like scientists and are not alarmed over the threats scientific endeavors may pose in relation to the benefits that can be derived from them. This is a welcome sentiment as it infers an expression of public support to activities that can further technical advancements useful to various industries.

Image courtesy of SOMMAI /

Image courtesy of SOMMAI /

4. Nearly 33% of Americans believe that science and technology should receive more funding.

While most Americans believe that the benefits of scientific initiatives outweigh the potential dangers, only around a third believe that science and technology in the United States lacks funding. This could be a reflection of preference for funding to go to economic improvement and employment generation efforts, given the current condition of the United States economy.

5. Americans have difficulty answering fundamental science questions.

Unfortunately, the Science and Engineering Indicators data also have something unfavorable to report. Based on nine questions, the survey respondents were only able to provide an average of 5.8 correct answers. The questions given were on physical and biological sciences.

Moreover, the survey found that 48% of the respondents believe that humans developed from earlier species of animals while 72% said that humans came to being according to the theory of evolution. On the other hand, 39% of those surveyed said that the universe started with an enormous explosion while 60% said answers that started with the phrase “according to astronomers.”

The scientific knowledge of Americans in the United States is comparable to those in Europe and is generally higher than in other parts of the world.

6. Americans are not as concerned about climate change as other citizens in most parts of the world.

Based on the survey results, only about 3 out of 10 Americans consider global warming and climate change as concerns that should be given priority by the President and Congress. This is sad news for climate change solution advocates as it appears to validate the recent actions of the United States government. For most Americans, changes in the planet’s temperature are a result of natural causes.

7. Compared to residents of other countries, Americans have also become more open to genetic modification for certain crops used as food.

The number of Americans who were not in favor of genetic modifications in crops has decreased. This is in comparison to the figures derived from a similar survey conducted in 2010 when around 25% of Americans thought that it could be “very” or “extremely” dangerous. Views on stem cell research, on the other hand, have remained stable or more or less unchanged since 2005. Most Americans still think of stem cell research as something morally acceptable.

Image courtesy of hyena reality /

Image courtesy of hyena reality /

These recent data about the state of science in the United States generally depict attitudes that are more or less conducive to technological advancement. People care about the sci-tech field. The level of science and engineering knowledge among Americans may leave more to be desired but there are no indications of any worrisome downtrend similar to the nearing extinction of desktop computers to worry about.