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Chapter 5. Academic Research and Development


U.S. universities and colleges continue to be important performers of U.S. R&D, and particularly basic research. Both the overall academic S&E doctoral workforce and the academic research workforce have continued to increase. Citation data indicate that U.S. scientific publications remain highly influential relative to those of other countries. While the United States continues to produce more S&E articles than any other country, its share of total world articles has declined due to high publication growth rates elsewhere, notably China.

Although funding for academic R&D has been increasing, a number of shifts in funding sources have occurred. After increasing between 2000 and 2004, the federal government's share of funding for academic R&D decreased from 2005 through 2008. In addition, federal funding for academic R&D has either declined in constant dollars or remained flat since 2005. Industry support for academic R&D declined from 2002 to 2004 but rose again through 2008. The state and local government share of support for academic R&D has been generally declining since 1972, and the university share of support for academic R&D has been generally increasing.

The structure and organization of academic R&D have also changed. (See sidebar "Publications and Resource Inputs.") Research-performing colleges and universities continued to expand their stock of research space, particularly in the biological and medical sciences. The number of academic S&E doctoral researchers has grown over the past couple of decades, with the life sciences accounting for much of the trend. Life scientists accounted for more than a third of academic S&E doctoral researchers in 2006. Increasingly, these researchers are employed in postdoc or other nonfaculty positions. Particularly among life scientists, the number of new doctorate holders has increased greatly while the numbered of tenured or tenure-track positions has remained relatively constant since the late 1980s.

Academic R&D is also becoming more international in a number of ways. U.S. academic scientists and engineers are collaborating extensively with colleagues in other countries: In 2008, 29% of journal articles with a U.S. academic author also had at least one coauthor from abroad. The intimate linkage between research and U.S. graduate education, regarded as a model by other countries, helps to bring large numbers of foreign students to the United States, many of whom stay after graduation. Academia has also been able to attract many talented foreign-born scientists and engineers into its workforce, with the percentage of foreign-born full-time doctoral S&E faculty in research institutions approaching half the total in some fields.


Science and Engineering Indicators 2010   Arlington, VA (NSB 10-01) | January 2010