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  NSF 03-317 | April 2003   PDF format PDF format | See Related Reports  

Federal Academic S&E Obligations Increased 13 Percent in FY 2001: Record Highs Reported in Five of Six Funding Categories

by Richard J. Bennof Send an e-mail message to the author

According to the National Science Foundation's (NSF's) newly available data from the Survey of Federal Science and Engineering Support to Universities, Colleges, and Nonprofit Institutions, Federal agency obligations for academic science and engineering (S&E) activities reached $22.5 billion in FY 2001, a historic high. This amount represents an increase of $2.6 billion, or 13 percent (11 percent when accounting for inflation), over FY 2000 levels. The increase follows a 10 percent current-dollar increase (8 percent in real dollars) in total Federal academic support between FYs 1999 and 2000.

Categories of Support

Federal academic S&E obligations are divided into six categories, all of which registered increased support in FY 2001 (table 1). In five of the categories, support reached record levels. The largest category is research and development (R&D) projects, which have accounted for 84 to 87 percent of total Federal academic S&E support over the last decade (figure 1). A new high of $19.4 billion was reached in this category in FY 2001, representing a 12 percent current-dollar increase (a 10 percent increase in real dollars) over the previous year. The Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) accounted for just over three-fifths ($11.9 billion) of all Federal academic R&D obligations in FY 2001 and for more than two-thirds of the total R&D increase.

Table 1. Federal academic science and engineering (S&E) obligations, by type of activity: fiscal years 2000-01
  Table 1 Source Data: Excel file

Figure 1. Federal obligations for academic S&E activities and for S&E R&D:  fiscal years 1991-2001
  Figure 1 Source Data: Excel file

Federal agency obligations for academic science and engineering (S&E) activities reached $22.5 billion in FY 2001, a historic high.
Federal academic S&E support covers five other categories as well: fellowships, traineeships, and training grants (FTTGs); R&D plant; facilities and equipment for S&E instruction; general support for S&E; and other S&E activities. Funding levels increased in FY 2001 for all five of these categories; moreover, all categories except for FTTGs were at record funding levels.

  • Federal obligations for FTTGs increased by 8 percent to $842 million, just under FY 1999's record $844 million. HHS was the major source of the latest increase.
  • Federal support for R&D plant (R&D facilities and fixed equipment) increased by 67 percent to a new high of $401 million. Most of the increase was from funding by NSF and the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA).
  • Funds for facilities and equipment for S&E instruction rose to $68 million, a 13 percent jump. Most of this increase was reported by the Department of Transportation.
  • Funding for general support projects totaled $332 million in FY 2001, a 6 percent rise stemming mostly from increased HHS support. Such projects include activities that provide support for nonspecific or generalized purposes related to scientific research and education.
  • Obligations for other S&E activities increased 23 percent to $1.5 billion. Most of this increase was supplied by NSF. This category encompasses all academic S&E obligations that cannot be assigned elsewhere and includes activities supporting technical conferences, teacher institutes, and programs aimed at increasing the scientific knowledge of precollege and undergraduate students.

Agency Sources

HHS accounted for 57 percent of all Federal FY 2001 academic S&E obligations. HHS, NSF, and the Department of Defense (DoD) together provided 81 percent of total Federal academic S&E funding. S&E funds obligated by HHS grew 13 percent in current terms. NSF and DoD reported S&E support level increases of 18 and 7 percent, respectively, in current dollars. The Department of Agriculture (USDA), NASA, and the Department of Energy (DOE) provided 74 percent of the remaining academic S&E total. Of those three agencies, NASA and USDA increased their academic S&E levels by 11 percent each, and DOE increased its support by 9 percent, in current dollars (table 2).

Table 2. Federal academic S&E obligations, by agency: fiscal years 2000-01
  Table 2 Source Data: Excel file

University Shares

The Johns Hopkins University (including its Applied Physics Laboratory) continued to be the leading academic recipient of Federal S&E support in FY 2001 (table 3), with HHS and DoD together providing 82 percent of its Federal S&E funds. Nearly $6 of every $7 in the university's $992 million total Federal S&E obligations supported R&D programs, with most of the remainder allocated to other S&E activities. The top 20 universities, as ranked by Federal academic S&E obligations, accounted for 34 percent of total Federal S&E obligations. All but one of the top 20 recipients in FY 2001 were also among the top 20 universities in FY 2000. The new entrant was Duke University (19th after being 21st the prior year); it replaced the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (21st after being 17th).

Table 3. Federal academic S&E support to the top 20 universities: fiscal year 2001
  Table 3 Source Data: Excel file

Data Notes

The Federal academic S&E obligations data presented in this InfoBrief were obtained from 18 agencies that participated in the FY 2001 Survey of Federal Science and Engineering Support to Universities, Colleges, and Nonprofit Institutions. NSF has collected annual data through this survey since 1965. These data allow Federal S&E support to be reported by funding agency, type of institution, institutional ranking, and geographic distribution. The full set of detailed statistical tables on the FY 2001 Survey of Federal Science and Engineering Support to Universities, Colleges, and Nonprofit Institutions will be available online at

NSF makes available computer-generated institutional profiles for individual doctorate-granting institutions and institutions of higher education with S&E departments that grant master's degrees. These profiles contain data from this survey as well as from two other NSF academic S&E surveys: the Survey of Research and Development Expenditures at Universities and Colleges, and the Survey of Graduate Students and Postdoctorates in Science and Engineering. Current and historic data from the three surveys are also available via the World Wide Web ( by individual survey and the Computer-Aided Science Policy Analysis and Research (WebCASPAR) database system, a web tool for retrieval and analysis of statistical data on academic S&E resources (

This InfoBrief was prepared by:

Richard J. Bennof
Division of Science Resources Statistics
National Science Foundation
4201 Wilson Boulevard, Suite 965
Arlington, VA 22230