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Researchers in the United States lead the world in the volume of articles published and in the frequency with which those papers are cited by others.4 US-based authors were listed on one-third of all scientific articles worldwide in 2001.5 Those publication data are significant because they reflect original research productivity and because the professional reputations, job prospects, and career advancement of researchers depend on their ability to publish significant findings in the open peer-reviewed literature.

The United States also excels in higher education and training. A recent comparison concluded that 38 of the world’s 50 leading research institutions—those that draw the greatest interest of science and technology students—are in the United States.6 Since World War II, the United States has been the destination of choice for science and engineering graduate students and for postdoctoral scholars choosing to study abroad. Our nation—about 6% percent of the world’s population—has for decades produced more than 20% of the world’s doctorates in science and engineering.7

Because of globalization in the fields of science and engineering, however, it is difficult to compare research leadership among countries. Research teams commonly include members from several nations, and industries have dispersed many activities, including research, across the globe.


The strength of science and engineering in the United States rests on many advantages: the diversity, quality, and stability of its research and teaching institutions; the strong tradition of public and private investment in research and advanced education; the quality of academic personnel; the prevalence of English as the language of science and engineering; the availability of venture capital; a relatively open society in which talented people of any background or nationality have opportunities to succeed; the US custom, unmatched in other countries, of providing positions for postdoctoral scholars;8 and the strength of the US peer-review and free-


D. A. King. “The Scientific Impact of Nations.” Nature 430(6997)(July 15, 2004):311-316.


National Science Board. Science and Engineering Indicators 2004. NSB 04-01. Arlington, VA: National Science Foundation, 2004. Chapter 5.


Shanghai’s Jiao Tong University Institute of Higher Education. “Academic Ranking of World Universities.” 2004. Available at: The ranking emphasizes prizes, publications, and citations attributed to faculty and staff, as well as the size of institutions. The Times Higher Education Supplement citation has provided similar results in comparing universities worldwide.


National Science Board. Science and Engineering Indicators 2004. NSB 04-01. Arlington, VA: National Science Foundation, 2004. P. 2-36.


The National Academies. Policy Implications of International Graduate Students and Postdoctoral Scholars. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press, 2005. P. 81.

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