Expert Report

Each report is produced by a committee of experts selected by the Academy to address a particular statement of task and is subject to a rigorous, independent peer review; while the reports represent views of the committee, they also are endorsed by the Academy. Learn more on our expert consensus reports.

Chemistry plays a key role in conquering diseases, solving energy problems, addressing environmental problems, and the development of new materials, technologies, and industries. In response to concerns about the future health of the field, the National Science Foundation and the U.S. Department of Energy asked the National Research Council to conduct an in-depth benchmarking analysis to gauge the current standing of the U.S. chemistry field in the world. The report concludes that chemistry research in the United States is stronger than in any other single country, but competition from Europe and Asia is rapidly increasing. The United States publishes more papers than any other nations, but its percentage of the world's chemistry papers has dropped from 23 percent in 1988 to 19 percent in 2003, as other nations have increased their rate of publication. The analysis showed U.S. chemists leading in the quality of their publications, with about 50% of total citations in 30 prominent chemistry journals over the last 16 years and 50% percent of the 100 most frequently cited chemistry papers. U.S. chemistry is expected to be strong in emerging areas such as nanoscience, biological chemistry, and materials chemistry, but core research areas, such as in physical chemistry and organic chemistry, will likely to continue to struggle for research support. The report finds it is likely that the number of U.S. citizens receiving chemistry Ph.D.s will continue to decrease.

Key Messages

  • Analysis of publications and virtual congresses showed that U.S. chemistry is particularly strong in emerging cross-disciplinary areas such as nanochemistry, biological chemistry, and materials chemistry.
  • It is likely that the number of U.S. citizens receiving chemistry Ph.D.s will continue to decrease.
  • Today, chemistry research in the United States is stronger than in any other single country, but competition from Europe and Asia is rapidly increasing.
  • U.S. funding of chemistry is projected to continue to barely keep up with inflation and to be concentrated in emerging and interdisciplinary areas.