The academic sector is a major contributor to the nation's scientific
and technological progress, both through the education and training
of scientists and engineers (see chapter 2) and
the generation of new knowledge and ideas. These activities advance
science and support technological innovation, which in turn enhances
economic development. A strong national consensus supports the public
funding of academic research, and the Federal Government still provides
close to 60 percent of the necessary financial resources, although
its role is diminishing. More than half of all academic research
and development funds go to the life sciences, and this share increased
during the past quarter century, prompting discussion about whether
the distribution of funds across disciplines is appropriate.
The number of academic institutions receiving Federal support
for R&D activities increased during the past 3 decades, expanding
the base of the academic R&D enterprise beyond the traditional
research institutions. The academic science and engineering infrastructure,
both research space and research equipment, grew over the past decade.
However, the percentage of total annual R&D expenditures devoted
to research equipment declined.
Doctoral S&E faculty in universities and colleges play a critical
role in ensuring an adequate, diverse, and well trained supply of
S&E personnel for all sectors of the economy (see chapter
3). Demographic projections point to the potential for strong
enrollment growth and the continuation of several trends: more minority
participation, more older students, and more nontraditional students.
Future trends for foreign graduate students, however, are uncertain
in the wake of the events of September 11, 2001.
In this context, and driven by financial and other pressures,
universities and colleges will continue to debate questions about
their organization, focus, and mission. These discussions are taking
place during a time when academia may be approaching a period of
increasing retirements caused by an aging labor force. The extent
and nature of replacement hiring into tenure-track faculty positions
versus other, more temporary, positions are unresolved questions.
Until recently, positive outcomes and impacts of R&D were taken
for granted; however, the R&D enterprise has begun to face demands
that it devise means and measures to account for results of specific
Federal R&D investments, including those for academic R&D,
and for the longer term consequences of those results for valued
This chapter addresses key issues of the academic R&D enterprise,
such as the Federal role in supporting academic research; the distribution
of funding across S&E disciplines; the breadth and strength
of the academic base of the nation's S&E and R&D enterprise;
research facilities and instrumentation at universities and colleges;
the role of doctoral S&E faculty, including both their teaching
and their research responsibilities; and research outputs in the
form of refereed articles, academic patents, licenses, and spinoffs.
Comparisons with other countries can be found in chapters
2 and 3.
The first section of this chapter discusses trends in the financial
resources provided for academic R&D, including allocations across
both academic institutions and S&E fields. Because the Federal
Government has been the primary source of support for academic R&D
for more than half a century, the importance of selected agencies
in supporting individual fields is explored in detail. This section
also presents data on changes in the number of academic institutions
that receive Federal R&D support and then examines the status
of two key elements of university research activities: facilities
The next section discusses trends in the employment of academic
doctoral scientists and engineers and examines their activities
and demographic characteristics. The discussion of employment trends
focuses on full-time faculty, postdocs, graduate students, and other
positions. Differences between the nation's largest research universities
and other academic institutions are considered, as are shifts in
the faculty age structure. The involvement of women and minorities
is also examined. Attention is given to participation in research
by academic doctoral scientists and engineers, the relative balance
between teaching and research, and Federal support for research.
Selected demographic characteristics of recent doctorate holders
entering academic employment are reviewed.
The chapter concludes with an assessment of two types of research
outputs: scientific and technical articles measured by data from
a set of journals covered by the Science Citation Index (SCI) and
the Social Sciences Citation Index (SSCI) and patents issued to
U.S. universities. (A third major output of academic R&D, educated
and trained personnel, is discussed in the preceding section of
this chapter and in chapter 2.) This section looks
specifically at the volume of research (article counts), collaboration
in the conduct of research (joint authorship), use in subsequent
scientific activity (citation patterns), and use beyond science
(citations to the literature on patents). It concludes with a discussion
of academic patenting and some returns to academic institutions
from their patents and licenses.