Science was officially turned into an asset in 2008. How? In that year, the United Nations Statistical Commission adopted a new Systems of National Accounts (henceforth SNA 2008) in which research and development (R&D) spending – as well as expenditure on creative arts – was redefined as fixed investment. Previously, R&D spending was treated as an expense incurred during the production process – that is, as an expenditure incurred in the creation of products (or services) ranging from pharmaceutical drugs through cellphones to medical procedures. Following the SNA 2008 decision, then, R&D spending would be reframed as an investment because it produced an asset, in this case scientific knowledge. The USA's Bureau of Economic Analysis outlined the change as follows:

Expenditures for R&D have long been recognized as having the characteristics of fixed assets – defined ownership rights, long-lasting, and repeated use and benefit in the production process. Recognizing that the asset boundary should be expanded to include innovative activities, such as R&D, the NIPAs will record private and government expenditures for R&D as investment.

(BEA 2013: 14)