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Federal Funding for Basic Research at Universities and Colleges Essentially Unchanged in FY 2012

NSF 14-318 | September 2014| PDF format. PDF  
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by Michael Yamaner[1]

According to the latest data from the National Science Foundation (NSF), federal funding for basic research performed at universities and colleges decreased 0.3% between FY 2011 and FY 2012. Nonetheless, universities and colleges received 50.8% of the $31.0 billion total in federal obligations for basic research and accounted for 11.4% of total research and development obligations in FY 2012. Basic research at universities and colleges is estimated to increase to 11.8% of total R&D obligations in FY 2013 and is projected to grow to 12.5% in FY 2014 (table 1).

TABLE 1. Federal obligations for research and development and R&D plant, by character of work and basic research performer: FYs 2011–14
(Dollars in millions)
Character of work 2011 2012 2013
preliminary
2014
projected
All R&D and R&D plant 139,662 140,636 134,546 134,042
R&D 135,491 138,485 132,436 130,847
Research 58,024 61,947 61,617 64,199
Basic research 29,314 30,959 31,191 32,541
Performer
Intramurala 4,870 5,579 6,002 5,791
Industry 1,727 2,155 2,134 2,490
FFRDCs 3,595 4,081 4,001 4,358
Universities and colleges 15,771 15,730 15,565 16,324
Other nonprofits 3,067 3,123 3,214 3,300
State and local governments 76 80 81 83
Foreign 209 210 194 195
Applied research 28,710 30,988 30,426 31,658
Development 77,467 76,538 70,819 66,647
R&D plant 4,171 2,151 2,111 3,196

FFRDCs = federally funded research and development centers.

a Intramural activities cover costs associated with the administration of intramural and extramural programs by federal personnel as well as actual intramural performance.

SOURCE: National Science Foundation, National Center for Science and Engineering Statistics, Survey of Federal Funds for Research and Development.

Table 1 Source Data: Excel file

Despite a 1.2% drop in development, current-dollar federal obligations for total R&D reached $138.5 billion in FY 2012, an increase of 2.2% over FY 2011. R&D is estimated to decrease by 4.4%, to $132.4 billion, in FY 2013 and is projected to decrease by 1.2%, to $130.8 billion, in FY 2014. Both decreases are being driven by development, which shows an estimated 7.5% drop in FY 2013 and is projected to drop 5.9% in FY 2014 (table 1).

In contrast to the reported decline each year in total R&D obligations for FYs 2012–14, federal basic research obligations are reported to increase incrementally from $29.3 billion in FY 2011 to a projected $32.5 billion in FY 2014 (table 1).

Basic Research at Universities and Colleges, by Agency

In FY 2012, five federal departments and agencies provided $15.4 billion (98.3%) of all federal basic research obligations to universities and colleges: the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) obligated $9.2 billion (58.6%) of this basic research total. NSF obligated $3.8 billion (24.0%), the Department of Defense (DOD) $1.2 billion (7.6%), the Department of Energy (DOE) $0.7 billion (4.5%), and the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) $0.6 billion (3.7%) (table 2).

TABLE 2.Federal obligations for basic research performed at universities and colleges, by selected agency and broad field of science and engineering: FYs 2011–14
(Dollars in millions)
Agency Total Computer sciences
and mathematics
Engineering Environmental
sciences
Life
sciences
Physical
sciences
Psychology Social
sciences
Other
sciences nec
All agencies surveyed
2011 15,720 1,237 1,455 896 8,972 1,652 646 245 617
2012 15,674 1,162 1,511 930 8,917 1,754 688 255 457
2013 (preliminary) 15,528 1,143 1,498 922 8,987 1,620 690 262 406
2014 (projected) 16,279 1,265 1,610 1,016 9,099 1,776 707 279 527
Department of Health and Human Services
2011 9,439 67 387 117 7,832 89 606 55 284
2012 9,181 42 374 99 7,808 75 636 46 101
2013 (preliminary) 9,247 43 376 98 7,867 76 641 46 101
2014 (projected) 9,296 43 378 99 7,909 76 644 46 101
National Science Foundation
2011 3,797 936 582 539 619 729 27 135 231
2012 3,759 838 599 530 620 742 31 160 239
2013 (preliminary) 3,822 852 609 539 631 755 31 163 243
2014 (projected) 4,128 920 658 582 681 815 34 176 263
Department of Defense
2011 1,084 181 383 87 121 261 12 27 11
2012 1,188 234 383 91 160 260 19 21 20
2013 (preliminary) 1,027 218 358 94 133 172 17 19 16
2014 (projected) 1,228 256 401 105 137 262 28 23 16
Department of Energy
2011 725 44 26 50 111 438 0 0 56
2012 699 35 28 37 109 440 0 0 51
2013 (preliminary) 535 18 23 24 85 386 0 0 0
2014 (projected) 678 33 31 44 107 365 0 0 98
National Aeronautics and Space Administration
2011 314 3 58 89 14 124 1 * 25
2012 578 6 107 164 26 228 1 * 47
2013 (preliminary) 557 6 103 158 25 219 1 * 45
2014 (projected) 623 6 115 177 28 245 1 * 50
Other agencies
2011 360 7 18 13 273 11 * 27 10
2012 269 7 22 10 194 9 0 27 0
2013 (preliminary) 340 8 29 9 247 13 0 34 0
2014 (projected) 326 7 27 9 237 13 0 33 0

* = value less than $500,000 in obligations.

nec = not elsewhere classified.

NOTES:Because of rounding, detail may not add to total. Seven agencies are required to report data for this section of the survey: the Departments of Agriculture (USDA), Defense, Energy, Health and Human Services, and Homeland Security (DHS); the National Aeronautics and Space Administration; and the National Science Foundation. Basic research obligations of these seven agencies represented over 99% of total federal basic research obligations to universities and colleges in FYs 2011–14. Other agencies includes USDA and DHS.

Table 2 Source Data: Excel file

In FY 2012, 85.0% of HHS obligations for basic research at universities and colleges were in support of the life sciences. HHS provided almost all of the support for psychology-related basic research (92.4%). NSF's obligations for academic basic research were more evenly spread across computer sciences and mathematics (22.3%), engineering (15.9%), environmental sciences (14.1%), life sciences (16.5%), and physical sciences (19.7%), reflecting NSF's role in supporting a wide mix of research disciplines. NSF was also the largest funder of basic research in the social sciences. DOD's obligations for academic basic research were primarily in three broad fields: engineering (32.2%), physical sciences (21.9%), and computer sciences and mathematics (19.7%). DOE's support was largely in the physical sciences (62.9%). NASA primarily supported physical sciences (39.4%) and environmental sciences (28.4%) (table 2).

Basic Research at Universities and Colleges, by Field of Science and Engineering

In FY 2012, three of the eight broad fields of science and engineering received 77.7% of total federal basic research dollars obligated to universities and colleges: life sciences (56.9% of total basic research obligations to universities), physical sciences (11.2%), and engineering (9.6%) (table 2).

Three broad fields of science in basic research performed at universities and colleges declined between FY 2011 and FY 2012. Computer sciences and mathematics decreased $75 million (6.1%), life sciences decreased $55 million (0.6%), and other sciences not elsewhere classified (nec) decreased $160 million (26.0%). Between FY 2012 and FY 2013, five of the eight broad fields of science are estimated to decrease by a combined $225 million. The other three fields—life sciences, psychology, and the social sciences—are estimated to increase a combined $79 million. In FY 2014, all eight of the broad fields of sciences are projected to increase, with the physical sciences showing the largest dollar increase at $156 million (9.6%) (table 2).

In FY 2012, the majority of life science funding was obligated within the subfields of biological sciences ($4.9 billion), which decreased 2.9%, and medical sciences ($2.9 billion), which increased 1.5%. The physical sciences increased by $102.3 million in FY 2012, with astronomy experiencing the largest percentage growth of the physical science subfields, rising 38.9% ($61.9 million). Engineering increased by 3.9% ($56.7 million) in FY 2012 (table 3).

TABLE 3.Federal obligations for basic research performed at universities and colleges for selected agencies, by detailed field of science and engineering: FYs 2011–12
(Dollars in thousands)
Field 2011 2012 % change
2011–12
All fields 15,720,039 15,674,387 -0.3
Computer sciences and mathematics 1,237,479 1,161,711 -6.1
Computer sciences 817,428 732,706 -10.4
Mathematics 381,245 374,883 -1.7
Other computer sciences and mathematics 38,806 54,121 39.5
Engineeringa 1,454,762 1,511,438 3.9
Aeronautical engineering 77,611 127,513 64.3
Astronautical engineering 8,812 18,356 108.3
Chemical engineering 134,663 67,118 -50.2
Civil engineering 137,507 28,618 -79.2
Electrical engineering 189,505 180,352 -4.8
Mechanical engineering 51,542 123,490 139.6
Metallurgy and materials engineering 231,465 293,540 26.8
Other engineering 623,656 672,452 7.8
Environmental sciences 895,653 930,465 3.9
Atmospheric sciences 223,772 263,037 17.5
Geological sciences 187,597 200,888 7.1
Oceanography 317,876 305,397 -3.9
Other environmental sciences 166,407 161,143 -3.2
Life sciences 8,971,552 8,917,042 -0.6
Agricultural sciences 120,537 73,402 -39.1
Biological sciences (excluding environmental biology) 5,053,423 4,905,789 -2.9
Environmental biology 221,597 202,364 -8.7
Medical sciences 2,881,627 2,925,030 1.5
Other life sciences 694,367 810,456 16.7
Physical sciences 1,652,075 1,754,342 6.2
Astronomy 159,360 221,277 38.9
Chemistry 498,657 485,586 -2.6
Physics 791,465 834,561 5.4
Other physical sciences 202,593 212,918 5.1
Psychology 646,026 687,546 6.4
Biological aspects 9,173 11,500 25.4
Social aspects 7,616 8,514 11.8
Other psychological sciences 629,237 667,531 6.1
Social sciences 245,281 254,990 4.0
Anthropology 19,469 18,867 -3.1
Economics 31,518 29,586 -6.1
Political science 9,114 9,831 7.9
Sociology 13,636 21,968 61.1
Other social sciences 171,544 174,738 1.9
Other sciences nec 617,213 456,856 -26.0

nec = not elsewhere classified.

a For the FY 2012 survey, the National Science Foundation's Directorate for Engineering updated its data mapping to improve the accuracy of their reporting.

NOTES: Because of rounding, detail may not add to total. Seven agencies are required to report data for this section of the survey: the Departments of Agriculture, Defense, Energy, Health and Human Services, and Homeland Security; the National Aeronautics and Space Administration; and the National Science Foundation. Basic research obligations of these seven agencies represented over 99% of total federal basic research obligations to universities and colleges in FYs 2011–12.

SOURCE: National Science Foundation, National Center for Science and Engineering Statistics, Survey of Federal Funds for Research and Development.

Table 3 Source Data: Excel file

Data Notes

The data presented here are from the NSF Survey of Federal Funds for Research and Development for FYs 2012–14. The 27 federal agencies that report R&D obligations to the survey submitted actual obligations for FY 2012, preliminary data for FY 2013, and projected data for FY 2014. Data were requested from agencies beginning in February 2013. Agencies later revise the preliminary data based on actual changes in the funding levels of R&D programs. Further, agencies may provide changes in prior-year data to reflect program reclassifications or other data corrections.

Definitions

Obligations represent the amounts for orders placed, contracts awarded, services received, and similar transactions during a given period, regardless of when the funds were appropriated and when future payment of money is required.

Basic research is defined as systematic study directed toward fuller knowledge or understanding of the fundamental aspects of phenomena and of observable facts without specific applications toward processes or products in mind.

Other sciences nec is used for multidisciplinary or interdisciplinary projects that cannot be classified within one of the broad fields of science.

Data availability

The full set of detailed tables from this survey will be available in the report Federal Funds for Research and Development: Fiscal Years 2012–14 (http://www.nsf.gov/statistics/fedfunds/). Individual detailed tables from the FY 2012–14 survey may be available in advance of the full report. For more information, please contact the author.

Notes

[1] Michael Yamaner, Research and Development Statistics Program, National Center for Science and Engineering Statistics, National Science Foundation, 4201 Wilson Boulevard, Suite 965, Arlington, VA 22230 (myamaner@nsf.gov; 703-292-7815).


National Science Foundation, National Center for Science and Engineering Statistics
Federal Funding for Basic Research at Universities and Colleges Essentially Unchanged in FY 2012
Arlington, VA (NSF 14-318) [September 2014]


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