Economic Security

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Graphic of Economic Value of Earth and Space Sciences Fact SheetEconomic Value of Earth and Space Science

Investing in Earth and space science research and development creates jobs and helps grow our economy and support global competitiveness. History shows that much of the economic growth the U.S. enjoyed post-World War II was the result of strong support for and investments in science and technology.

Investing in Earth and space science research and development (R&D) creates jobs and helps grow our economy and support global competitiveness.

History shows that much of the economic growth the U.S. enjoyed post-World War II was the result of strong support for and investments in science and technology. In fact, much of the scientific R&D that we rely on to fuel our economic engine is funded through the U.S. non-defense discretionary budget.

“When the United States invests in innovation, it creates companies and jobs at home, makes Americans healthier and safer, and saves lives and fights poverty in the world’s poorest countries.” – Bill Gates[1]

  • Since a historic high in the mid-1960s, the percentage of the U.S. federal budget spent on research and development has been trending down. Since 2011, total federal R&D funding has made up less than 4% of the federal budget, and non-defense R&D has been less than 2%.[2]
  • The U.S. currently ranks sixth behind South Korea, Japan, Finland, Taiwan, and Germany for R&D spending as a percentage of gross domestic product (GDP).[3]
  • In 2013, the U.S. spent $456.1 billion on research and development. This accounted for about 27% of global R&D expenditures compared to China’s 20% global share or $336.5 billion. In 2001, U.S. R&D accounted for 37% of the global share. [4][5]

Economic Benefits

Federally-funded scientific R&D has led to innovations which demonstrate many benefits across American industries:

  • The U.S. agriculture industry sees $460 million in annual savings from accurate El Niño and La Niña forecasting.[6]
  • Since 1977, investments in R&D at the U.S. Department of Energy’s Office of Fossil Energy have resulted in an estimated $1.3 trillion in public health benefits associated with emissions reductions of sulfur dioxide and nitrogen oxide.[7]
  • Every $1 million spent on U.S. Department of Interior ecosystem restoration projects returns an estimated $2.2 to $3.4 million in benefits to the U.S. economy.[8]
  • The Internet industry, which has roots in networks built by federally-funded programs for the U.S. Department of Defense and National Science Foundation, now represents about 6% of U.S. GDP, equivalent to $966.2 billion, and is responsible for nearly 3 million jobs.[9]
  • From 2015 to 2027 estimated savings of $5.1 billion, including $1.28 billion for energy providers, $265 million for the airline industry, and $545 million in agriculture, are expected as a result of the National Weather Service’s GOES-R satellite system (used for monitoring hurricanes, heavy rainfall, lightning strikes, tornadoes, and space weather).[10]
  • Research funded by the National Science Foundation’s Directorate of Geoscience has contributed to the understanding the nutrients that pollute the Chesapeake Bay, helping protect the Chesapeake Bay and the $60 billion commercial activity that relies on the bay.[11]

 

[1] Bill Gates, Reuters, April 18, 2016: “America’s secret weapon.” http://blogs.reuters.com/great-debate/2016/04/18/bill-gates-americas-secret-weapon/?utm_source=twitter

[2] American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS), 2016: “Historical Trends in Federal R&D,” http://www.aaas.org/page/historical-trends-federal-rd

[3] AAAS, 2016: “Historical Trends in Federal R&D.”

[4] National Science Foundation (NSF): “Science and Engineering Indicators 2016,” http://www.nsf.gov/statistics/2016/nsb20161/uploads/1/7/chapter-4.pdf;

[5] NSF, “Science and Engineering Indicators 2014,” http://www.nsf.gov/statistics/seind14/index.cfm/chapter-4/c4h.htm

[6] National Weather Service (NSF), April 2013: “Value of a Weather-Ready Nation.” http://www.nws.noaa.gov/com/weatherreadynation/files/nws_wrn_roadmap_final_april17.pdf

[7] U.S. Department of Energy Office of Fossil Energy, June 2011: “Fossil Energy Research: A Legacy of Benefit” http://energy.gov/sites/prod/files/legacy_factcard.pdf

[8] Cullinane Thomas, Catherine et. al, 2016: “Estimating the economic impacts of ecosystem restoration—Methods and case studies: U.S. Geological Survey Open-File Report,” http://dx.doi.org/10.3133/ofr20161016.

[9] Internet Association, December 10, 2015: “New Report Calculates the Size of the Internet Economy.” https://internetassociation.org/121015econreport/

[10] NWS, “Weather Ready Nation RoadMap 2.0.”

[11] NSF, September 2013: “Unraveling Earth’s Complexity,” http://www.nsf.gov/about/congress/reports/geo_research.pdf.