By Simon Tripp and Marty Grueber
Specializing in science- and technology-based economic development, TEConomy Partners pays close attention to trends in academe. The following graphic shows TEConomy Partner’s analysis of NSF nationwide data in regards to growth in U.S. academic R&D expenditures (the x axis) and growth in degrees conferred (y axis). The size of each sphere is the total amount of research expenditure in 2014 (the latest year with complete data reporting).
- Engineering disciplines have generally experienced the strongest growth in research funding, and have seen quite robust growth in degrees conferred (although electrical engineering is flat in this regard).
- Life science disciplines, as expected, are in a strong position on both dimensions, and receive by far the highest amount of research funds. Agricultural sciences, however, has seen the third slowest rate of growth.
- Interdisciplinary science has attracted strong interest from students – something we have also heard in conversations with universities. When talking to industry we also hear a demand for cross-training of students, particularly graduate students, to enable transdisciplinary thinking.
- Physical sciences have lower relative growth in both research and degrees, something perhaps of concern given the importance of basic science advancements that have underpinned U.S. economic advancement.
- Computer Science and Electrical Engineering appear to be losing student interest, something that could pose a challenge in our digital economy and the increasingly connected world of the internet-of-things and machine-to-machine (M2M intelligence). It suggests a potential workforce shortage in these important disciplines.
- With climate change concerns, the comparatively weak position of “Atmospheric Sciences” on both dimensions is extraordinary.