The report released Thursday by the National Science Board -- the policy making body of the National Science Foundation -- said major Asian economies, taken together, now perform a larger share of global R&D than the United States, and China performs nearly as much of the world's high-tech manufacturing as America.
The report authors said the share of the world's research and development performed in the United States has decreased from from 37 percent to 30 percent since 2001, and Europe saw a similar decline from 26 percent to 22 percent. During that time the share of worldwide R&D performed by Asian countries grew from 25 percent to 34 percent.
China led the Asian expansion, with its global share growing from 4 percent to 15 percent during the period.
"The first decade of the 21st century continues a dramatic shift in the global scientific landscape," said NSB Chairman Dan Arvizu, who is also the director and chief executive of the U.S. National Renewable Energy Laboratory. "Emerging economies understand the role science and innovation play in the global marketplace and in economic competitiveness and have increasingly placed a priority on building their capacity in science and technology."
The 2008-09 recession took a toll on U.S. R&D with expenditures declining in 2009 primarily due to a sharp drop in business R&D, which comprises the largest portion of U.S. R&D activity, the report authors said.
"The United States remains the world's leader in science and technology," said Ray Bowen, NSB member and chairman of its Committee on Science and Engineering Indicators, which oversees development of the report. "But there are numerous indicators showing how rapidly the world is changing and how other nations are challenging our predominance.
"As other countries focus on increasing their innovation capacities, we can ill afford to stand still," he said. "We now face a competitive environment undreamed of just a generation ago."