by Ronda Britt
Research and development expenditures at the nation's 39 federally funded R&D centers (FFRDCs) increased 3.5% in FY 2009 to $15.2 billion, according to FY 2009 data from the National Science Foundation (NSF) Survey of Research and Development Expenditures at FFRDCs (table 1). The annual increase in FFRDC R&D expenditures has outpaced the general rate of inflation in the economy for the past 3 years.
Table 1 Source Data: Excel file
FFRDCs are privately operated R&D organizations that are exclusively or substantially financed by the federal government. FFRDCs provide the sponsoring federal agencies with capabilities to meet special long-term R&D needs that cannot be met as effectively by existing in-house or contractor resources. Each FFRDC is operated, managed, and/or administered by a university or university consortium, a nonprofit organization, or an industrial firm, either as an autonomous organization or as a separate operating unit.
Federal government funding accounted for 97.1% ($14.8 billion) of the FY 2009 FFRDC expenditures total (table 1). The small remainder (just over $0.4 billion) came from a mix of other sources, including state and local government, industry, and the discretionary funds of FFRDCs.
Los Alamos National Laboratory, a national security research institution focused on nuclear defense, reported the most FFRDC R&D spending, $2.2 billion in FY 2009 (table 2). Sandia National Laboratories, also specializing in national security, reported $2.0 billion. Both FFRDCs receive most of their funding from the Department of Energy (DOE). The NASA-sponsored Jet Propulsion Laboratory was the third largest, with $1.7 billion in R&D spending in FY 2009.
Table 2 Source Data: Excel file
In FY 2009 basic research activities accounted for 38.5% of total FFRDC R&D expenditures; applied research, 30.5%; and development, 31.0% (table 3). When the expenditure totals are distinguished by type of administrator, the shares for basic research remain similar, ranging from 36% to 40%. More variation was found in the shares of applied research and development across administration types. University-administered FFRDCs were the least likely of the three types to conduct applied research (26%) but the most likely to conduct development (38%).
Table 3 Source Data: Excel file
The statistics on FFRDC R&D presented in this report come from the NSF Survey of Research and Development Expenditures at FFRDCs. This survey—completed by FFRDC administrators—is conducted annually, in conjunction with the NSF Survey of Research and Development Expenditures at Universities and Colleges. The survey collects data from the FFRDCs on R&D expenditures by source of funds (federal, state and local, industry, institutional, or other) and by character of work (basic research, applied research, or development). Since FY 2001 this survey has been a census of the full population of FFRDCs.
The full set of detailed tables from this survey will be available in the report FFRDC Research and Development Expenditures: Fiscal Year 2009 at http://www.nsf.gov/statistics/ffrdc/. Individual detailed tables from the FY 2009 survey may be available in advance of publication of the full report. For further information, please contact the author.
Update on NSF Survey of FFRDC Postdocs
Many FFRDCs employ postdoctoral researchers (postdocs) as part of their efforts to assist government agencies with scientific research and analysis and to train the country's researchers and scientists. NSF, in partnership with DOE and the National Institutes of Health, collected data in 2009 on the total number of postdocs at FFRDCs, categorized by selected demographic characteristics, source of support (federal or non-federal), and selected fields of research. An InfoBrief summarizing the results of this survey is expected in fall 2011.
 Ronda Britt, Research and Development Statistics Program, Division of Science Resources Statistics, National Science Foundation, 4201 Wilson Boulevard, Suite 965, Arlington, VA 22230 (firstname.lastname@example.org; 703-292-7765).
 For a description of the federal guidelines and definitions governing FFRDCs, see the "General Notes" section at http://www.nsf.gov/statistics/ffrdclist/gennotes.cfm. The master list of FFRDCs is accessible at http://www.nsf.gov/statistics/ffrdclist/.