Annual Expenditures for Research Instrumentation
Total Expenditures for the Purchase or Acquisition of Research Instruments Expenditures by Field of Science and Engineering Median Expenditures for the Purchase of Research Instrumentation Sources of Funding for the Purchase of Research Instrumentation Expenditures for Maintenance/Repair and Operation of Existing Instruments
Total Expenditures for the Purchase or Acquisition of Research InstrumentsContext
During the first two cycles of this survey in 1982-83 and 1985-86, data were collected only for instruments (and their corresponding departments and facilities) with an original purchase price of $10,000 to $999,999. Beginning with the 1988-89 survey, coverage was expanded to include instruments with an original purchase price of $1 million or more. To maintain the richness of longitudinal data collected about the departments and facilities (units) having all instruments under $1 million, the trend tables in this report were developed so that the units are split between those units with all instruments under $1 million and those with at least one instrument over $1 million. This reporting split was a methodological artifact, and does not imply any other meaning about the relative importance of the size of the units, nor can it be used to predict behavior of the different sized units. The size separation was done solely to facilitate presentation of the varied availability of data from the survey. For economy of words, this report will refer to the units containing at least one instrument costing $1 million or more as "larger" units, and those with no instrument costing at least $1 million as "smaller" units.
Respondents were asked to give an estimate of "the total expenditures in this unit for the purchase/acquisition of scientific research equipment or equipment systems during the institution's 1993 fiscal year."
Total annual expenditures for the purchase of academic scientific research instrumentation were $1,203 million in 1993, an increase in current dollars of 6 percent since the last survey in 1988-89 (table 1). However, this increase occurred primarily in the "smaller" units. Expenditures in these units increased 19 percent since the last survey, from $787 million in 1988-89 to $935 million in 1993.
Many of the larger units in the survey reported decreased expenditures. Overall, expenditures in these "larger" units decreased $83 million since the 1988-89 survey; the $268 million spent in 1993 was a 24-percent reduction from 1988-89. Decreases in the larger units were in three fields-engineering, biology, and computer sciences-but the bulk of the decline was in expenditures in computer science facilities; outlays in these units dropped from $183 million in 1988-89 to $62 million in 1993. (See the special computer science analysis on page 11 for a discussion of the changes in computer science facilities.)
In constant dollars, total expenditures in 1993 were 10 percent below the level in 1988-89. The constant-dollar decline was experienced entirely by the larger units, where expenditures dropped 36 percent since the 1988-89 survey. During the same period the expenditures in the smaller units showed minimal upward change, with a 2-percent total increase in constant dollar outlays since 1988-89.
Expenditures by Field of Science and EngineeringThere were large variations in expenditures depending upon the field of science. Three fields of science experienced a decline in current dollar spending over the amount purchased in 1988-89: agriculture (a 5-percent decrease to $42 million), multidisciplinary fields (a 28-percent decrease to $39 million), and computer science (a 44-percent decrease to $127 million). Although this was the largest decline of any field reporting in the survey, the decline occurred exclusively at central computer facilities, which experienced a 61-percent drop in expenditures between the two survey years. At the same time, departmental computer science expenditures increased by 50 percent since the 1988-89 survey (table 1).
The engineering fields had the largest total expenditures for research equipment in 1993, with expenditures of $295 million, up from $267 million in 1988-89. Although this was an increase of 10 percent in current dollars, measured on a constant dollar basis, the expenditures were 7 percent less than those reported in the last survey in 1988-89. Expenditures in the biological sciences were the second highest for any field in 1993, $283 million, up from $256 million in 1988-89. This was an 11-percent increase; however, measured in constant dollars, it represented a decrease of 3 percent.
Total expenditures in physics/astronomy were the third highest, $211 million in 1993. The increase of $72 million since the last survey in 1988-89 was the largest absolute increase in any field, and the corresponding 52-percent increase was also the largest percentage increase of any field. (In constant dollars, the percentage increase was 28 percent over the expenditures in 1988-89.) Physics/astronomy is one of the few fields in which the expenditures of the larger units ($102 million in 1993) and the smaller units ($110 million) are fairly even. (In the majority of other fields, more money is spent in aggregate by the smaller units.) Units in physics/astronomy also experienced a similar percentage increase over the previous survey (53 percent and 55 percent, respectively). It is interesting to note that the large current-dollar increase by the smaller units in physics/astronomy between 1988-89 and 1993 follows an uneven pattern of spending reported in earlier surveys. There was a 60-percent increase in expenditures between 1982-83 and 1985-86 (from $52 million to 83 million), followed by a 13-percent decrease in the next survey in 1988-89 ($72 million).
Instrument expenditures in the environmental sciences also rose considerably (47 percent) from $64 million in 1988-89 to $94 million in 1993. Two-thirds of the increase was in the larger units, which experienced a tripling in expenditures (a $21 million increase, from $10 million in 1988-89 to $31 million in 1993). The smaller units experienced a 17-percent increase, from $54 million to $63 million.
Median Expenditures for the Purchase of Research InstrumentationData Considerations
Part of the increase in total expenditures reported in each survey cycle is due to an increase in the number of units represented by the institutions in the sample, due primarily to two factors:
- In each time period that the survey has been collected there has been a gradual increase in the number of institutions that perform over $3 million in R&D; therefore the survey respondents in each succeeding cycle represent more institutions.
- The institutions sampled in this survey are generally large, dynamic, growing entities. There is typically a higher level of activity between each cycle of the instrumentation survey, and often the total number of departments and facilities at these institutions increases as well. As the number of units increases, the total expenditures at the institution also tends to increase.
Using the measure of median expenditures per unit allows an analysis of the change in expenditures that is independent of the increase in the total number of units. (Since there may be significant variation in the values for many variables collected in this survey, the median was chosen because it is not significantly affected by extreme values.)
The median expenditure per unit for the purchase of equipment in all fields increased from $166,000 in 1988-89 to $176,000 in 1993 (table 2). Not all disciplines participated in this increase. Median expenditures per unit for agricultural sciences, for example, dropped from $130,000 in 1988-89 to $90,000 in 1993, while median outlays per unit for engineering decreased by a smaller amount, from $162,000 to $154,000. The largest decrease per unit occurred in median expenditures for computer science, which decreased from a median of $490,000 in 1988-89 to $200,000 in 1993. Median expenditures track the direction of total expenditures; the computer science decline was entirely in computer facilities, which experienced a 73-percent decline in median expenditures.
Median expenditures per unit in the other sciences increased during the period between the two surveys, but at differing rates. Chemistry, for example, had median expenditures per unit rise from $449,000 to $600,000, and physics/astronomy median expenditures per unit rose from $309,000 to $400,000. During the same time the biology median expenditure per unit rose only slightly, from $150,000 to $153,000.
Sources of Funding for the Purchase of Research InstrumentationThe Question
Respondents were asked to estimate the "proportion of total expenditures for equipment in FY 1993 from each of the following sources: Federal (National Science Foundation; National Institutes of Health; Department of Defense; Department of Energy; and other Federal sources) and non-Federal (institution or unit funds; State grant or appropriation; industry; and other sources including private, nonprofit foundations, gifts/donations, and bonds).
Federal sources.In 1993, the Federal Government provided $624 million, or 52 percent of the $1,203 million in total expenditures for academic research instruments (table 3). Funds generally came as part of a grant or contract for the conduct of research, or through special instrumentation programs set up by the Federal Government. The four agencies mentioned above contributed 84 percent of the total Federal contribution.
The National Science Foundation was the largest Federal source for research instrumentation funds in 1993, providing $213 million, or 18 percent of the total. The National Institutes of Health was the second largest Federal source, providing $117 million, or 10 percent. The Department of Defense was the third largest Federal source; providing $106 million, or 9 percent. The Department of Energy contributed $87 million, or 7 percent of the total.
All other agencies combined contributed $99 million, or 8 percent of the total expenditures.
Non-Federal Sources.In 1993, non-Federal sources provided $580 million, or 48 percent of the total expenditures for academic research instruments (table 3). The largest single source of funds was the academic institutions themselves, which provided $292 million, or 24 percent of the total. Funding from State grants or appropriations amounted to $102 million, or 8 percent of the total. Industry contributed $80 million, or 7 percent of the total. All other sources (including private, nonprofit foundations, gifts/donations, and bonds) totaled $105 million, or 9 percent of the total. (Bonds are a "source" of income only in a limited time sense, as the institutions in future years must pay back the borrowed money and accompanying interest payments from their other sources of income.)
Expenditures for Maintenance/Repair and Operation of Existing InstrumentsContext
Expenditures to maintain and operate the existing stock of scientific research instrumentation are an important additional cost that must be factored into the total research budget decisions by the head of every unit. The chairs of departments and facilities must choose among alternatives for spending, with research money being allocated at a minimum among personnel expenses; instrumentation purchases; and maintenance, repair, and operation of existing instrumentation.
The instrumentation survey measured the amount of total maintenance/repair and operation expenses in comparison with the amount that was spent on purchasing new instrumentation, and reported the perception of the unit heads of the quality of assets available to them to maintain, repair, and operate their existing stock of instrumentation. To reduce respondent burden, the survey did not ask for information concerning the sources of funding for the costs incurred for maintenance/repair and operation.
Respondents were asked to give the "FY 1993 expenditures for maintenance/repair and for operation of scientific research equipment in this unit. (Do not include fringe benefits or overhead costs.)"
In addition, given five-point rating scales ranging from excellent (1) to poor (5), they were also asked to assess the maintenance/repair of the research equipment in the unit, and the availability of resources in the unit to operate current equipment.
Maintenance/Repair of Existing Research Instrumentation
Expenditures.Aggregate expenditures for maintenance/repair in 1993 fell for the first time since survey data collection began in 1982. Expen-ditures decreased from $289 million in 1988-89 to $234 million in 1993, a decline of 19 percent (table 4).
Maintenance/repair expenditures comprise service contracts and field services, salaries of maintenance personnel, and other costs such as tools and supplies. Expenditures fell at a much faster rate for the larger units (a decrease of 38 percent) than for the smaller units (6 percent) (table A-1). By size of unit, the bulk of the decline in the larger units (as would be expected) was in the computer science facilities. Presumably, with fewer units in existence for the conduct of research, the aggregate expenses to maintain the research instrumentation also decreased.
The largest decrease by field was also in computer science facilities, where expenditures dropped from $85 million to $33 million. Agri-cultural sciences also experienced a large percentage decrease in maintenance/repair (36 percent), with outlays dropping from $11 million to $7 million.
Assessment of resources for maintenance/ repair.Almost three-quarters of the respondents rated the maintenance/repair of their instruments as excellent to adequate. Most satisfied were the respondents from computer science facilities; 97 percent rated their maintenance/repair as excellent. At the other end of the scale, 40 percent of environmental science respondents and 39 percent of chemistry respondents rated maintenance/repair as inadequate to poor (table A-2).
Operation of Existing Research Instrumentation
Expenditures.Expenditures for the operation of existing instrumentation fell 22 percent between the two surveys, from $726 million in 1988-89 to $563 million in 1993 (table A-3). Detail collected in the 1988-89 survey indicated that approximately 75 percent of total operation costs was used to pay the salaries of operators.
Assessment of available resources for operation.The majority of respondents (58 percent) were fairly satisfied with the resources available to them to operate their instrumentation, although the scores here were not as high as the satisfaction scores with maintenance/repair (see earlier discussion). Forty-seven percent of the respondents rated the resources as adequate, and 11 percent rated them as very good to excellent (table A-4).
However, 42 percent of respondents from these research-intensive institutions rated the resources available for operation as less than adequate (34 percent) or poor (8 percent). Fifty-nine percent of the agriculture respondents rated the resources as inadequate to poor, the highest percentage of all the surveyed fields (table A-4). These same agricultural units experienced a 55-percent decrease in operation expenditures since the last survey, from $42 million in 1988-89 to $19 million in 1993 (table 4).
Fifty-three percent of the environmental sciences respondents and 50 percent of the chemistry respondents were dissatisfied with the availability of resources to operate equipment (table A-4), even though both of these fields experienced increases in the outlays for operation of equipment between the two surveys (from $24 million to $32 million for chemistry, and from $52 million to $64 million for environmental sciences) (table 4).
Budgetary considerations for maintenance/repair and operation. Notwithstanding the reduced expenditures in 1993, outlays for maintenance/repair and operation were a considerable expense for the respondents. Overall, expenses for the upkeep and operation of the existing stock of instrumentation amounted to 66 percent of the cost allocated to purchasing new equipment in 1993. In other words, for every dollar spent on new purchases, an additional $0.66 was spent on maintenance/repair and operation of the existing stock (table 5).
These proportional expenditures varied by discipline, with computer science spending the highest proportion: For every dollar spent on new purchases, $1.28 was spent on the maintenance/repair and operation of the existing stock.
Within the field of computer science, the facilities had the highest proportion of these expenses of any field of science surveyed. For maintenance/repair, facilities spent $0.43 for every dollar spent on new purchases. This is not surprising, since the complexity of the large mainframe instrumentation makes it imperative to budget for service contracts and/or specially trained personnel to maintain the systems. Proportional expenditures for operation in computer facilities were also the highest for any field ($1.33 for every dollar of the cost of new purchases) as many of the mainframes and supercomputers cannot be utilized without the services of highly experienced operators.
Similarly, environmental sciences also had a very high proportion of operating expenses ($0.68 for every dollar spent on new purchases). Again, the research instrumentation often necessary in these disciplines-such as research vessels and electron microscopes-often requires the services of highly trained technicians and other specialized personnel.
 For this survey, a "system" is defined as an interrelated collection of items effectively comprising one single instrument.
 Constant dollars were derived by using the GDP deflator.
 The term "environmental sciences" used here includes the fields of earth sciences, atmospheric sciences, oceanography, and other environmental sciences not elsewhere classified.
 Institutional funds generally come from one of four sources: indirect cost recovery from awards from the Federal Government and other sources; State operating appropriations from general revenues; student tuition; and unrestricted gifts and income (e.g., endowments).
 Unpublished NSF data
 Data on expenditures for operation of equipment were first collected in the 1988-89 survey, and a breakdown by type of expenditure was included in the questionnaire. Comments from that survey's respondents indicated that it was exceedingly difficult to report a breakdown of operation expenditures by type; consequently, that level of detail was eliminated in the 1993 survey in an effort to reduce respondent burden.