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Universities Report Continued Decline in Real Federal S&E R&D Funding in FY 2007

NSF 08-320 | August 2008 | PDF format PDF  

by Ronda Britt[1]

Federal funding of academic science and engineering (S&E) R&D failed to outpace inflation for the second year in a row, according to FY 2007 data from the National Science Foundation (NSF) Survey of Research and Development Expenditures at Universities and Colleges. In current dollars, federally funded academic R&D expenditures rose 1.1% in FY 2007 to $30.4 billion. After adjusting for inflation, this represents a 1.6% decline from FY 2006 and follows a 0.2% decline from the FY 2005 level. A 2-year decline in federal funding in constant dollars is unprecedented for this data series, which began in 1972 (figure 1). The federal government remains the largest source of academic R&D funding, accounting for more than 60% of total R&D expenditures most years since FY 1972. The federal government's share, however, has declined in recent years, dropping from 64% in FY 2005 to 62% in FY 2007.

FIGURE 1. Science and engineering R&D expenditures at universities and colleges, by source of funds: FY 1972–2007.

  Figure 1 Source Data: Excel file

Overall, universities and colleges reported S&E R&D expenditures of $49.4 billion in FY 2007, 3.5% more than in the previous year ($47.7 billion) (table 1). When adjusted for inflation, academic R&D rose by 0.8% in FY 2007.

TABLE 1. Science and engineering R&D expenditures at universities and colleges: FY 2002–07.

  Table 1 Source Data: Excel file

Unless otherwise indicated, all references to dollar amounts or percentages for the remainder of this InfoBrief are in current dollars.

Other Sources of R&D Funding

Funding from all nonfederal sources combined grew by 7.8% (5.0% in inflation-adjusted terms) in FY 2007. R&D expenditures financed by state and local government funding grew by 6.1% in FY 2007, to $3.1 billion.[2] The most noteworthy increases were reported for industry-funded expenditures. After three consecutive declines between FY 2001 and FY 2004, industry funding has more than regained its ground in recent years and in FY 2007 grew 11.2% to $2.7 billion. Funding originating from academic institutions' own funds increased 6.6% in FY 2007 to $9.7 billion. Funding from all other sources combined (nonprofit organizations and other nongovernmental entities) increased 10.0% to $3.5 billion.

Funding by Federal Agency

The Department of Health and Human Services (HHS), including the National Institutes of Health, has historically been the largest provider of federal R&D funding to universities and colleges. In FY 2007 HHS funding constituted 56% of total federally funded expenditures ($17.1 billion) and was concentrated within the medical and biological sciences (table 2). NSF was the second largest provider in FY 2007, funding $3.6 billion across numerous academic R&D fields.

TABLE 2. Federally funded R&D expenditures at universities and colleges, by science and engineering field and agency: FY 2007.

  Table 2 Source Data: Excel file

Funding by Field

Medical sciences ($16.5 billion) and biological sciences ($9.2 billion) once again accounted for more than one-half of all R&D at universities and colleges in FY 2007 (table 3). These two fields have held the largest field shares of academia's R&D performance total throughout the survey's history. The following fields showed the largest percentage increases for FY 2007: oceanography (18.6%), bioengineering/biomedical engineering (12.8%), and aeronautical/astronautical engineering (10.1%). Spending in aeronautical/astronautical engineering declined 13.5% in FY 2006. Bioengineering/biomedical engineering R&D continues to be the fastest growing field, with an average increase of 15.0% annually since FY 2000.

TABLE 3. R&D expenditures at universities and colleges, by science and engineering field: FY 2006-07.

  Table 3 Source Data: Excel file

Top Academic Research Performers

Of the 672 institutions surveyed, the top 20 in terms of total R&D expenditures accounted for 30% of total academic R&D spending (table 4). Historically the top 100 research performers have accounted for roughly 80% of all R&D dollars reported on the survey. The University of California, San Francisco, moved from number 5 in FY 2006 to number 2 in FY 2007, with an increase of $47 million. Most of the change reflects increased funding from nongovernmental sources and the university itself. Duke University continued to increase its R&D spending at a higher rate than many of the other top 20, moving from 14th in FY 2004 ($521 million) to 7th in FY 2007 ($782 million). Between FY 2006 and FY 2007 Duke's spending increased $125 million, primarily due to increased industry funding as well as federal funding from HHS. Most of the increased spending for both of these institutions is in the field of medical sciences. The institutions constituting the top 5 remained the same from FY 2006 to FY 2007.

TABLE 4. Twenty institutions reporting the largest FY 2007 academic R&D expenditures in science and engineering fields: FY 2006–07.

  Table 4 Source Data: Excel file

As an indicator of how much R&D within medical schools contributes to the total R&D reported, only 2 institutions within the top 20 listed in table 4 do not have a medical school within their institution: the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and the University of California, Berkeley. Among the institutions surveyed with no M.D.-granting medical school component, the top 20 in R&D expenditures (table 5) constitute 15% ($7.6 billion) of total R&D among all surveyed institutions ($49.4 billion).

TABLE 5. Twenty institutions without a medical school reporting the largest academic R&D expenditures: FY 2007.

  Table 5 Source Data: Excel file

R&D Expenditures at Minority-Serving Institutions

This InfoBrief is the first to present R&D expenditure rankings specifically for high-Hispanic-enrollment (HHE) institutions.[3] A total of $888 million was spent on R&D at HHE institutions in FY 2007, with 65% funded by the federal government (table 6). The top-spending HHE institution in FY 2007 was the University of New Mexico ($177 million).

TABLE 6. Total and federally funded R&D expenditures at the 20 high-Hispanic-enrollment institutions that led in total R&D: FY 2007.

  Table 6 Source Data: Excel file

A total of $421 million was spent on R&D at historically black universities and colleges (HBCUs), with 84% funded by the federal government (table 7). The top-spending HBCU in FY 2007 was Howard University ($38 million), with Jackson State University a close second at $37 million.

TABLE 7. Total and federally funded R&D expenditures at the 20 historically black colleges and universities that led in total R&D: FY 2007.

  Table 7 Source Data: Excel file

Non-S&E R&D Expenditures

Academic institutions spent a total of $2.0 billion on R&D in non-S&E fields in FY 2007 (table 8).[4] This amount is in addition to the $49.4 billion expended on S&E R&D. The largest amounts reported for individual non-S&E fields were in education ($901 million), business and management ($265 million), and humanities ($242 million). Similar to the top institutions in S&E R&D spending, the top 20 performers of non-S&E R&D accounted for 36% of the total non-S&E R&D expenditures in FY 2007. The University of Wisconsin, Madison, ranked third in S&E R&D expenditures, holds the number-one spot for non-S&E R&D for the second year in a row at $72 million. Five other institutions within the top 20 are also in the top 20 for S&E R&D expenditures: the University of Florida (5th), the University of Michigan (8th), the University of California, Los Angeles (10th), the University of Washington (12th), and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (15th). The University of South Florida moved from 23rd in FY 2006 to 2nd in FY 2007 with an increase of almost $46 million in non-S&E R&D spending, primarily in the field of education.

TABLE 8. Twenty institutions reporting the largest FY 2007 academic R&D expenditures in non-science and engineering fields.

  Table 8 Source Data: Excel file

Data Comments

The academic R&D expenditures data presented in this InfoBrief were obtained from 672 universities and colleges that grant degrees in the sciences or engineering and expended at least $150,000 in S&E R&D in the survey period. The amounts reported include all funds expended for S&E activities specifically organized to produce research outcomes and commissioned by an agency external to the academic institution or separately budgeted using institution funds. Non-S&E R&D expenditures are reported separately in the survey and are not included in the overall R&D expenditure totals. For a complete listing of the fields included under the S&E and non-S&E categories, refer to the FY 2007 survey questionnaire, available at http://www.nsf.gov/statistics/question.cfm#12.

Universities have been asked to identify specific agency sources of federal funding since FY 2003. In FY 2006 and 2007 virtually all (99%) of the federal totals were identified by agency source. However, the data for this item still represent slightly lower-bound estimates of agencies' actual support totals, because NSF did not attempt to allocate the undistributed amounts to individual agencies.

Data reported on non-S&E R&D expenditures are also lower-bound estimates for the national totals because NSF did not attempt to estimate for nonresponse on this item. Also, only institutions that conducted at least $150,000 of S&E R&D were surveyed. The activities of institutions that do not perform S&E R&D (but may conduct substantial amounts of non-S&E R&D) are not reflected here.

NSF makes available institutional profiles for institutions of higher education with S&E departments that grant master's degrees or higher (http://www.nsf.gov/statistics/profiles/). The profiles contain data from this survey as well as from two other NSF academic S&E surveys: the Survey of Federal Science and Engineering Support to Universities, Colleges, and Nonprofit Institutions and the Survey of Graduate Students and Postdoctorates in Science and Engineering. Data from the three surveys are available on the Web at http://www.nsf.gov/statistics/ and through the NSF WebCASPAR database system, a Web tool for retrieval and analysis of institutional data on academic S&E resources (http://ncsesdata.nsf.gov/webcaspar/).

The full set of detailed tables from this survey will be available in the report Academic Research and Development Expenditures: Fiscal Year 2007 at http://www.nsf.gov/statistics/rdexpenditures/. Individual detailed tables from the 2007 survey may be available in advance of publication of the full report. For further information, please contact the author.


[1]  Ronda Britt, Research and Development Statistics Program, Division of Science Resources Statistics, National Science Foundation, 4201 Wilson Boulevard, Suite 965, Arlington, VA 22230 (rbritt@nsf.gov; 703-292-7765).

[2]  Figures reported for state and local government support of academic R&D exclude general-purpose funds that schools receive from these sources and devote to R&D activities. These funds are included in figures reported as institutional funds.

[3]  HHE institutions are those whose full-time equivalent undergraduate enrollment is at least 25% Hispanic, according to fall 2005 enrollment data in the Integrated Postsecondary Education Data System (IPEDS).

[4]  Only institutions reporting S&E R&D expenditures are surveyed for non-S&E R&D spending. See "Data Comments."

National Science Foundation, Division of Science Resources Statistics
Universities Report Continued Decline in Real Federal S&E R&D Funding in FY 2007
Arlington, VA (NSF 08-320) [August 2008]

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