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Federally Financed Academic R&D Expenditures Hold Firm

May/June 1998

In 1996, the federal government's share of research and development (R&D) dollars expended at universities and colleges held firm at 60% for the fourth year in a row, according to a recent data brief from NSF's Division of Science Resources Studies (SRS).

The data brief reports that in FY 1996, academic R&D expenditures financed by the federal government increased 3% (1% *) to $13.8 billion. This rate of growth was considerably below the nearly 9% (4% *) average annual growth rate in academic spending from federal sources that had been maintained over the last two decades. Total expenditures reached nearly $23 billion--again at a much slower average annual growth rate than in previous years.

Total basic research spending at academic institutions rose to $15.4 billion, up 4% (2% *) over FY 1995, with the federal government providing 64% of the total, or $9.9 billion, a 4% (2% *) increase. Expenditures for applied research and development totaled $7.5 billion in 1996--an increase of 3%, with the federal government providing 52% of the total.

"Although total expenditures in all fields grew, computer sciences, psychology and physical sciences grew at rates below the 2% rate of inflation," writes M. Marge Machen, author of the data brief. Federally financed spending grew at rates exceeding inflation in social sciences, engineering, life sciences, environmental sciences and computer sciences. Increases were below the rate of inflation for physical sciences, mathematical sciences and psychology.

The 100 leading research institutions represented in the survey accounted for 81% of federally financed spending and 80% of all academic R&D expenditures. The leading 20 institutions alone account for 34% and 31%, respectively.

More detailed data are available in the SRS report Survey of Research and Development Expenditures at Universities and Colleges, Fiscal Year 1996.

For a copy of the data brief, call SRS at (703) 292-8774, or send an e-mail to srsweb@nsf.gov.

* Percentages in parentheses are adjusted for inflation

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