International Science and Technology Issues: Summary of a Report to the Committee on Science

The 1990s have been a time of great vitality and change for U.S. science and technology (S&T) policy and research and development (R&D) programs. As a result, many Members of Congress have asked what might be done to set national S&T priorities more efficiently, establish policies, and fund or otherwise support R&D programs that best enhance U.S. resources?

The answers may be found, in part, by understanding other nations' S&T policies and R&D programs within the context of U.S. policy and programs. For many, U.S. S&T policy (and the R&D programs supported by the policy) is perhaps the most successful in the world, often admired and sometimes copied. But U.S. science and technology does not exist in a vacuum. The United States is constantly interacting with other nations that seek to cooperate and/or compete in science and technology. A better understanding of other nations policies and programs may better inform domestic U.S. S&T policy and R&D programs; other U.S. policies, such as trade or national security; and U.S. interactions with other nations in S&T issues, such as when countries engage in international agreements. The Science, Technology, and Medicine Division of the Congressional Research Service prepared a comparative study of international science and technology at the request of the Committee on Science of the House of Representatives. This report is a summary of the larger two-part study completed October 1997 and February 1998. The data in this two-part study shows a great variety of how nations support R&D. For example, governments in Russia, Brazil, India, and Mexico fund over half of the national R&D, while in countries such as Japan, Korea, Germany, and Canada, less than one-third of all national funding comes from government sources. In the United States, the R&D funding trend in recent years has been for less government support for total R&D and more industry support. In S&T policy, a wide range of national perspectives are documented as well. The European Union has a transnational S&T policymaking process known as the Framework program, unique in both its size and scope. The United Kingdom utilizes a technology foresight program as part of its national S&T policymaking. In Israel, a national S&T policy is directly linked to economic development and industrial growth. Yet other nations, such as Brazil, struggle with incorporating a coherent national S&T policy as a way to address national goals and objectives.