Statistics at NCSES

Higher Education Research and Development Survey

How much do universities spend on research and development, and what do they spend it on? Answers to these questions can be found through NSF's Higher Education Research and Development (HERD) Survey, the primary source of information on R&D expenditures at higher education institutions in the United States.

In FY 2010, the HERD Survey replaced a previous annual collection, the Survey of Research and Development Expenditures at Universities and Colleges, which was conducted from FY 1972 through FY 2009. The revamped survey continues to collect information on R&D expenditures by field of research and source of funds, but it also contains new questions about additional funding sources, types of research and expenses, and headcounts of R&D personnel. The revised survey also requests data across all academic disciplines, not just science and engineering disciplines.

The HERD Survey is an annual census of all known eligible universities that expended at least $150,000 in separately budgeted R&D in the fiscal year. In FY 2011, 96% of eligible institutions responded to the survey (912 of 945 institutions).

Data from the HERD Survey are available on the NCSES website at and in the NCSES Integrated Science and Engineering Resources Data System (WebCASPAR).

Stats at a Glance

  • University spending on R&D in all fields continued to increase between FY 2010 and FY 2011, rising 6.3% from $61.2 billion to $65.1 billion.
  • Much of the increase in university spending on R&D came from funding from the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009 ($4.2 billion in FY 2011).
  • Total federal funding for higher education R&D rose to $40.8 billion in FY 2011 (62.6% of the $65.1 billion total).
  • Most of the university spending on R&D went toward the broad field of life sciences, which grew 6.6% to $37.2 billion in FY 2011. Engineering was the next largest broad field, which increased 7.7% to $10.0 billion.
  • Of the $65.1 billion spent by universities on R&D, 35.5% ($23.1 billion) was spent within medical schools.
  • Duke University reported the largest amount of medical school R&D in FY 2011 ($831 million), followed by the University of California, San Francisco ($785 million) and Johns Hopkins University ($646 million).

More data from the 2011 HERD Survey are available in Universities Report Highest-Ever R&D Spending of $65 Billion in FY 2011 (

Women, Minorities, and Persons with Disabilities in Science and Engineering

Women, persons with disabilities, and three racial and ethnic groups—blacks, Hispanics, and American Indians—are underrepresented in science and engineering. Underrepresentation may vary by field of study or occupation.

A wealth of information detailing the participation of these groups in science and engineering is available in the National Science Foundation's (NSF's) biennial report Women, Minorities, and Persons with Disabilities in Science and Engineering. The report provides a broad base of statistical information for these underrepresented groups relating to enrollment in higher education, degrees earned, institutions attended, and financial support, as well as employment status, occupations, sectors, and salaries. Current and trend data are available in the report.

NSF reporting on this topic is mandated through the Science and Engineering Equal Opportunities Act (Public Law 96–516), as a way of tracking—and improving—the participation of women and other underrepresented groups in science and engineering.

Stats at a Glance
  • Women earn a smaller proportion of degrees in many science and engineering fields of study, although their participation has risen over the past 20 years.
  • Women's participation is greatest in psychology (over 70 percent of degrees in that field were awarded to women).
  • Women's participation is lowest in computer science and in engineering (18 to 28 percent of degrees in those fields were awarded to women).
  • Underrepresented minorities' shares of bachelor's and master's degrees in science and engineering have risen over the past 20 years.
  • Since 1991, the greatest rise in the share of bachelor's degrees in science and engineering earned by underrepresented minorities has been in psychology, the social sciences, and computer sciences.
  • Since 2000, underrepresented minorities' shares in engineering and the physical sciences have been flat, and participation in mathematics has dropped.
  • Among scientists and engineers, unemployment rates are higher for blacks, Hispanics, American Indians, and Asians than for whites, and the rate is higher for Asian females than for Asian males.
  • Among employed scientists and engineers, women are more likely than men to be employed part time. White women are the most likely to be employed part time.
  • More than one-half of scientists and engineers who report having disabilities say they became disabled at age 40 or older. Relatively few of those with disabilities have been disabled since birth.
How does the United States stack up against its global counterparts in science and engineering? The Scientists and Engineers Statistical Data System (SESTAT) is a unique source of information that helps to measure U.S. competitiveness.

SESTAT contains information on the education and employment of the college-educated U.S. science and engineering workforce, compiling data from three surveys—the National Survey of College Graduates (NSCG), the National Survey of Recent College Graduates (NSRCG), and the Survey of Doctorate Recipients (SDR). These three surveys together gather data from more than 100,000 respondents.

SESTAT provides a profile of scientists and engineers in the United States, tying together the pipeline from education to occupation. Other surveys can provide degree counts or numbers of workers, but not both.

Information from SESTAT is gathered in two Congressionally mandated reports—Science and Engineering Indicators and Women, Minorities and Persons with Disabilities in Science and Engineering—and in InfoBriefs, short reports that are published by NCSES. This information is used by policy makers, other federal agencies, academia, and private industry.

SESTAT data are also available for download in public use files or through the SESTAT Data Tool, which allows users to generate their own data tables.

Stats at a Glance
Nearly 22 million persons classified as scientists and engineers were employed in the United States as of October 2010: about 5.4 million in science and engineering (S&E) occupations, 7 million in S&E-related occupations, and 9.5 million in occupations other than S&E.

  • Women are 45% of the overall S&E workforce and hold 28% of S&E jobs.
  • Sixty-seven percent of psychologists are women.
  • Eighty-seven percent of those in engineering occupations are men.
  • Seventy percent of scientists and engineers in S&E occupations are white.
  • Asian scientists and engineers are the next largest racial or ethnic group, constituting 18% of those employed in S&E occupations.

More data from the 2010 SESTAT are available in Employment and Educational Characteristics of Scientists and Engineers (

← Back to the International Year of Statistics

Can't find what you're looking for? Search NCSES or Browse the Publication IndexLast Updated: April 09, 2014