The mandate of the Board on Science, Technology, and Economic Policy (STEP) is to advise federal, state, and local governments and inform the public about economic and related public policies to promote the creation, diffusion, and application of new scientific and technical knowledge to enhance the productivity and competitiveness of the U.S. economy and foster economic prosperity for all Americans. The STEP board and its committees marshal research and the expertise of scholars, industrial managers, investors, and former public officials in a wide range of policy areas that affect the speed and direction of scientific and technological change and their contributions to the growth of the U.S. and global economies. Results are communicated through reports, conferences, workshops, briefings and electronic media subject to the procedures of the National Academies to ensure their authoritativeness, independence, and objectivity.
The STEP Board is one of several program units in the Policy and Global Affairs division of the National Research Council.
In July 2013, the Commerce Department revised its GDP accounting to treat R&D and intellectual property as investments with payoffs over a period of time. Two STEP reports, Intangible Assets: Measuring and Enhancing Their Contribution to Corporate Value and Economic Growth (2009) and Copyright in the Digital Era: Building Evidence for Policy (2013), have underscored the need to have the national economic accounts revised along these lines, resulting in higher GDP than previously reported and giving policymakers the time series data for the contribution of these investments to growth.
A Patent System for the 21st Century, the 2004 report of a STEP committee chaired by Yale President Richard Levin and then-Xerox VP Mark Myers, recommended far-reaching changes in the U.S. patent system to improve patent quality, cope with the escalation in patent applications, contain the cost of litigation, and achieve greater harmonization among the world’s major patent systems. Those recommendations are reflected in subsequent Supreme Court and Federal Circuit Court of Appeals decisions, congressional appropriations to expand the staff resources of the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office, and the creation of an in-house analytical capability in the USPTO. Several other of the panel’s recommendations are contained in patent reform legislation that has passed the House of Representatives and the Senate Judiciary Committee.
Innovation Inducement Prizes at the National Science Foundation (2007) recommended an experimental federal program of conducting prize contests of varied scope and scale to solve challenges in different fields. The terms outlined in the report were incorporated in legislation introduced in the current Congress (S.1371) and are reflected in other prize proposals.
Trends in Federal Support of Research and Graduate Education (2001) was the first analysis to show the real decade-long decline in research funding in most physical science and engineering fields after the end of the Cold War. This laid the groundwork for the funding proposals in the President’s American Competitiveness Initiative (ACI) and authorized in the America COMPETES Act of 2006.
Enhancing Productivity Growth in the Information Age (2007), summarizing a multi-year study of technological and economic trends in the information technology industries, helped shape the recommendations of Commerce Secretary Gutierrez’ Advisory Committee on Measuring Innovation in the 21st Century, when it reported in January 2008.
The Small Business Innovation Research Program: Challenges and Opportunities (1999) launched an Academy assessment of the SBIR programs of the five largest federal R&D agencies, the first such outside evaluation. It led to recommendations currently under consideration in Congress’ reauthorization of the $2.3 billion program.
Sponsors of current work include a large number of federal government agencies, foundations, high technology companies, and individuals. The Board was established with grants from the National Research Council and the Alfred P. Sloan Foundation.