by Michael T. Gibbons [1]

Science and engineering (S&E) research space reached 220 million net assignable square feet (NASF) at research-performing universities and colleges in FY 2017 (table 1). This amount was 5.5 million NASF (2.6%) more than the FY 2015 total, according to the biennial Survey of Science and Engineering Research Facilities, conducted by the National Center for Science and Engineering Statistics within the National Science Foundation (figure 1) (see "Data Notes" for definitions of research space and NASF).

TABLE 1. Science and engineering research space in academic institutions, by field and research animal space: FYs 2007–17
(Net assignable square feet in millions)
Field and research animal space FY 2007 FY 2009 FY 2011 FY 2013 FY 2015 FY 2017

na = not applicable; see notes below.

S&E = science and engineering.

a Research animal space is listed separately and is also included in individual field totals.

NOTES: Fields of science and engineering and their disciplines were revised in FY 2015. Specifically, "Agricultural sciences and natural resources sciences" was split into "Agricultural sciences" and "Natural resources and conservation." Physical sciences and its subfields "Earth, atmospheric, and ocean sciences" and "Astronomy, chemistry, and physics" are now reported under "Geosciences, atmospheric sciences, and ocean sciences" and "Physical sciences," respectively. Data were not collected separately for "Natural resources and conservation" prior to the FY 2015 survey and are included in the "Agricultural sciences" field for earlier cycles. Details may not add to totals due to rounding.

SOURCE: National Science Foundation, National Center for Science and Engineering Statistics, Survey of Science and Engineering Research Facilities.

Table 1 Source Data: Excel file

All research space 187.9 196.1 202.2 211.8 214.5 220.0
Agricultural sciences 27.9 29.5 27.6 30.5 28.3 28.1
Biological and biomedical sciences 44.8 50.3 53.7 57.2 55.9 57.5
Computer and information sciences 4.8 5.2 5.0 4.3 4.3 4.2
Engineering 28.4 30.2 31.7 33.5 34.2 35.1
Geosciences, atmospheric sciences, and ocean sciences 8.4 8.0 7.8 7.8 8.1 8.5
Health sciences 37.0 36.3 36.7 38.0 39.2 40.0
Mathematics and statistics 1.6 1.5 1.5 1.7 1.8 1.8
Natural resources and conservation na na na na 3.5 4.3
Physical sciences 20.3 20.5 21.8 22.9 22.7 23.1
Psychology 4.9 5.2 5.5 5.5 5.5 5.6
Social sciences 6.0 5.5 5.7 5.7 6.0 6.1
Other fields of S&E 3.7 3.9 5.2 4.8 4.9 5.8
Research animal spacea 17.8 18.1 18.4 18.9 19.2 19.1
FIGURE 1. Science and engineering research space in academic institutions, change over 2-year period: FYs 1988–2017
FIGURE 1. Science and engineering research space in academic institutions, change over 2-year period: FYs 1988–2017.

NOTE: The biennial survey cycle ran on even years from 1988 to 1998 and on odd years from 1999 to 2017.

SOURCE: National Science Foundation, National Center for Science and Engineering Statistics, Survey of Science and Engineering Research Facilities.

Figure 1 Source Data: Excel file

Research space in biological and biomedical sciences grew by 1.6 million NASF from FY 2015 to FY 2017, after a net loss of 1.3 million NASF between FY 2013 and FY 2015. Overall, biological and biomedical sciences accounted for 40% of total S&E research space growth over the past 10 years and utilize the most research space of any field (57.5 million NASF). Research space in all S&E fields increased from 2007 to 2017, except for computer and information sciences, which declined 13% from 4.8 million to 4.2 million NASF. The other S&E fields increased to varying extents over the past decade, with the most space added in biological and biomedical sciences (12.7 million NASF) and engineering (6.7 million NASF).

New Construction of Research Space

New research space is added each year through new construction projects and the repurposing of existing space. Similarly, some space is withdrawn from use through decommissioning and repurposing. As part of this process, academic institutions broke ground on 7.0 million NASF of new S&E research space construction projects in FYs 2016–17, costing more than $6.1 billion.[2] This was the largest amount of new research space construction started since FYs 2010–11 (8.1 million NASF) (table 2). Projects designed for biological and biomedical sciences (2.0 million NASF), engineering (1.5 million NASF), and health sciences (1.4 million NASF) accounted for 70% of new research space construction started in FYs 2016–17.

TABLE 2. New construction of science and engineering research space in academic institutions, by field and time of construction: FYs 2008–19
(Net assignable square feet in millions)
Field Started in
FY 2008 or
FY 2009
Started in
FY 2010 or
FY 2011
Started in
FY 2012 or
FY 2013
Started in
FY 2014 or
FY 2015
Started in
FY 2016 or
FY 2017
Planned to start
in FY 2018 or
FY 2019

* = value > 0 but < 50,000 net assignable square feet; na = not applicable; see notes below.

S&E = science and engineering.

NOTES: Fields of science and engineering and their disciplines were revised in FY 2015. Specifically, "Agricultural sciences and natural resources sciences" was split into "Agricultural sciences" and "Natural resources and conservation." Physical sciences and its subfields "Earth, atmospheric, and ocean sciences" and "Astronomy, chemistry, and physics" are now reported under "Geosciences, atmospheric sciences, and ocean sciences" and "Physical sciences," respectively. Data were not collected separately for "Natural resources and conservation" prior to the FY 2015 survey and are included in the "Agricultural sciences" field for earlier cycles. Details may not add to totals due to rounding.

SOURCE: National Science Foundation, National Center for Science and Engineering Statistics, Survey of Science and Engineering Research Facilities.

Table 2 Source Data: Excel file

All research space 9.9 8.1 6.6 5.1 7.0 9.4
Agricultural sciences 0.4 0.4 0.4 0.4 0.2 0.8
Biological and biomedical sciences 3.5 2.0 2.0 1.5 2.0 1.7
Computer and information sciences 0.3 0.1 0.2 0.1 0.3 0.2
Engineering 2.1 1.3 1.4 0.9 1.5 2.8
Geosciences, atmospheric sciences, and ocean sciences 0.1 0.3 0.2 0.2 0.2 0.2
Health sciences 1.9 2.8 1.6 1.0 1.4 1.8
Mathematics and statistics * * * * * 0.1
Natural resources and conservation na na na * 0.1 0.1
Physical sciences 0.9 0.6 0.6 0.7 0.6 0.8
Psychology 0.3 0.1 * 0.1 0.1 *
Social sciences 0.2 0.1 0.1 * 0.2 *
Other fields of S&E 0.3 0.3 0.1 0.2 0.3 0.8

U.S. universities and colleges planned to start 9.4 million NASF of new research space construction in FY 2018 or FY 2019 with projected costs of $8.5 billion. However, because institutions' budgets and priorities may change unexpectedly, not all planned projects are started during the projected time frame. In FY 2015, academic institutions reported 9.6 million NASF of planned new research space construction for FY 2016 or FY 2017. The actual amount reported in FY 2017 for that period was 7.0 million NASF, which was 73% of what was reportedly planned.

Repair and Renovation

Academic institutions expended $5.1 billion on major repairs and renovation of S&E research space started in FY 2016 or FY 2017 (table 3). Costs for research space improvements exceeded $1 billion in three fields: biological and biomedical sciences ($1.3 billion), health sciences ($1.3 billion), and engineering ($1.0 billion). Research space in physical sciences also underwent sizeable repairs and renovations, totaling $740 million for projects started in FY 2016 or FY 2017. Combined, these four major fields accounted for 85% of all research space repair and renovation costs.

TABLE 3. Costs for repair and renovation of science and engineering research space in academic institutions, by field and time of repair and renovation: FYs 2006–19
(Costs in millions of dollars)
Field Started in FY 2016
or FY 2017
Planned to start in
FY 2018 or FY 2019
Deferred projects
Included in
institutional plan
Not included in
institutional plan

S&E = science and engineering.

NOTES: Fields of science and engineering and their disciplines were revised in FY 2015. Specifically, "Agricultural sciences and natural resources sciences" was split into "Agricultural sciences" and "Natural resources and conservation." Physical sciences and its subfields "Earth, atmospheric, and ocean sciences" and ÔÇťAstronomy, chemistry, and physics" are now reported under "Geosciences, atmospheric sciences, and ocean sciences" and "Physical sciences," respectively. Data were not collected separately for "Natural resources and conservation" prior to the FY 2015 survey and are included in the "Agricultural sciences" field for earlier cycles. Deferred projects are those that (1) are not funded and (2) are not scheduled for FY 2018 or FY 2019. Details may not add to totals due to rounding.

SOURCE: National Science Foundation, National Center for Science and Engineering Statistics, Survey of Science and Engineering Research Facilities.

Table 3 Source Data: Excel file

All research space 5,079.5 5,036.1 4,782.4 3,788.3
Agricultural sciences 135.5 290.5 427.8 162.7
Biological and biomedical sciences 1,301.4 1,207.6 1,177.4 816.9
Computer and information sciences 149.3 66.2 92.6 40.1
Engineering 1,002.3 647.4 520.8 674.0
Geosciences, atmospheric sciences, and ocean sciences 210.8 154.7 222.8 189.5
Health sciences 1,250.0 1,535.3 850.5 552.6
Mathematics and statistics 28.4 29.8 95.2 118.0
Natural resources and conservation 31.7 38.1 70.1 68.5
Physical sciences 739.7 711.5 610.7 767.0
Psychology 67.6 109.8 203.5 189.6
Social sciences 60.7 125.5 359.3 156.6
Other fields of S&E 102.2 119.6 151.7 52.8

Institutions anticipate $5.0 billion in costs for planned repair and renovation with start dates in FY 2018 or FY 2019. They expect to spend over $1.5 billion improving research space in health sciences and another $1.2 billion in biological and biomedical sciences research space improvements. In addition to these slated improvements, academic institutions reported another $4.8 billion in deferred repair and renovation projects included in their institutional plans, as well as $3.8 billion not included in their institutional plans. Projects in these latter categories were not funded and not scheduled to begin before FY 2020.

Shared Research Space

The FY 2017 Facilities Survey collected new data on the ways in which research space is shared at academic institutions. Respondents were asked whether any of their research space was shared among fields or used for purposes other than research (e.g., instruction). Of the 562 responding institutions, 56% of universities (N = 315) reported that at least some research space is also used for nonresearch purposes and 52% (N = 295) reported research space in at least one field that was shared with another field for research purposes (table 4). The rate at which institutions shared research space in one of the 12 S&E fields for nonresearch purposes ranged from 42% in agricultural sciences to 51% each in engineering, mathematics and statistics, and physical sciences. The rate at which institutions shared research space across fields for research purposes was more varied, ranging from 17% each in psychology and in mathematics and statistics to 35% in engineering and 36% in biological and biomedical sciences. "Other fields of S&E" had the highest rate of shared space (45%) largely because this category includes space for multidisciplinary research.

TABLE 4. Academic institutions with science and engineering research space shared with other fields or used for purposes other than research, by field: FY 2017
Field Institutions with
research spacea
Institutions with research space shared
with other fields
Institutions with research space also
used for nonresearch purposes
Number Percent Number Percent

S&E = science and engineering.

a Includes only those institutions that reported on shared space.

NOTES: Institutions were asked to indicate whether any of the net assignable square feet of research space reported in individual field totals was shared with other fields or used for purposes other than research. Percentages are based on the number of institutions with research space in each field of science and engineering.

SOURCE: National Science Foundation, National Center for Science and Engineering Statistics, Survey of Science and Engineering Research Facilities, FY 2017.

Table 4 Source Data: Excel file

All research space 562 295 52   315 56
Agricultural sciences 199 56 28   84 42
Biological and biomedical sciences 547 199 36   247 45
Computer and information sciences 419 103 25   208 50
Engineering 377 133 35   192 51
Geosciences, atmospheric sciences, and ocean sciences 351 82 23   170 48
Health sciences 406 123 30   191 47
Mathematics and statistics 365 62 17   187 51
Natural resources and conservation 256 74 29   115 45
Physical sciences 475 141 30   240 51
Psychology 435 76 17   198 46
Social sciences 392 87 22   194 49
Other fields of S&E 145 65 45   62 43

Research Space at the Largest Institutions

Of the 575 institutions surveyed, the top 30 institutions ranked by total S&E NASF accounted for 34% of all research space in FY 2017 (table 5). This share is virtually unchanged from the shares reported for FY 2015 (35%), FY 2013 (35%), and FY 2011 (36%). In FY 2017, the top 30 institutions accounted for 50% of all research space in the agricultural sciences and 43% of space in the natural resources and conservation fields. They also reported a large percentage of total academic research space in health sciences (38%), engineering (36%), and social sciences (35%). These institutions accounted for less than 30% of the nation's research space in the six other major fields: biological and biomedical sciences (28%), computer and information sciences (28%), geosciences, atmospheric sciences, and ocean sciences (27%), mathematics and statistics (27%), physical sciences (27%), and psychology (25%).[3]

TABLE 5. Thirty institutions reporting the most FY 2017 research space in all fields: FYs 2013 to 2017
(Net assignable square feet in thousands)
Rank Institution FY 2013 FY 2015 FY 2017

i = imputed.

NOTES: Totals for the leading 30 institutions reflect the institutions in the top 30 for that given year. Some institutions in the FY 2015 ranking were not in the top 30 in FY 2013. Some institutions in the FY 2017 ranking were not in the top 30 prior to FY 2017. Tied institutions ordered according to unrounded totals.

SOURCE: National Science Foundation, National Center for Science and Engineering Statistics, Survey of Science and Engineering Research Facilities.

Table 5 Source Data: Excel file

All institutions 211,775 214,493 220,046
Leading 30 institutions 74,245 74,837 75,633
1 U. Florida 3,110 4,156 4,187
2 U. Georgia 3,777 3,891 3,950
3 U. Minnesota, Twin Cities 3,673 3,400 3,791
4 Johns Hopkins U. 3,265 3,548 3,267
5 U. California, Davis 2,930 3,052 3,058
6 U. Illinois, Urbana-Champaign 3,109 3,034 3,058
7 Texas A&M U., College Station and Health Science Center 2,895 2,926 3,041
8 U. California, Los Angeles 2,718 2,806 2,824
9 U. Wisconsin-Madison 2,774 2,904 2,804
10 Michigan State U. 2,254 2,446 2,790
11 U. California, San Diego 2,555 2,694 2,742
12 North Carolina State U. 2,695 2,633 2,678
13 U. Kentucky 2,287 2,394 i 2,611
14 U. California, Berkeley 2,382 2,551 2,484
15 Harvard U. 2,482 2,420 2,410
16 Yale U. 2,307 2,372 2,387
17 Pennsylvania State U., University Park and Hershey Medical Center 2,733 2,561 2,311
18 Washington State U. 2,055 2,161 2,202
19 Mississippi State U. 2,157 2,140 2,173
20 U. Washington, Seattle 1,796 1,935 2,002
21 Columbia U. in the City of New York 1,869 1,878 2,002
22 Cornell U. 2,121 2,218 1,967
23 U. Pittsburgh, Pittsburgh 1,614 1,882 1,924
24 Georgia Institute of Technology 1,633 1,782 1,922
25 Rutgers, State U. New Jersey, New Brunswick 1,167 1,772 1,921
25 U. Michigan, Ann Arbor 1,897 1,878 1,900
27 U. California, San Francisco 2,053 2,024 1,895
28 U. Utah 1,697 1,677 1,786
29 Massachusetts Institute of Technology 2,023 1,927 1,783
30 U. Pennsylvania 1,749 1,723 1,764

Data Notes

Data Sources and Availability

The data presented in this InfoBrief were obtained from the Survey of Science and Engineering Research Facilities, conducted by the National Center for Science and Engineering Statistics within the National Science Foundation. The survey is a census of 575 colleges and universities that expended at least $1 million in S&E research and development funds in FY 2016. The response rate for this survey was 97.9%.

The full set of data tables are available in the report Science and Engineering Research Facilities: Fiscal Year 2017 at https://www.nsf.gov/statistics/srvyfacilities/#tabs-2. Please contact the author for more information.

Definitions

Net assignable square feet (NASF) is the sum of all areas on all floors of a building assigned to, or available to be assigned to, an occupant for a specific use, such as research or instruction. NASF is measured from the inside faces of walls.

Research space is the NASF of space in buildings within which research activities take place. Research facilities are located within buildings. A building is a roofed structure for permanent or temporary shelter of persons, animals, plants, materials, or equipment. Structures should be included if they are (1) attached to a foundation, (2) roofed, (3) serviced by a utility, exclusive of lighting, and (4) a source of significant maintenance and repair activities.

Notes

[1] Michael T. Gibbons, Research and Development Statistics Program, National Center for Science and Engineering Statistics, National Science Foundation, 2415 Eisenhower Avenue, Suite W14200, Alexandria, VA 22314 (mgibbons@nsf.gov; 703-292-4590).

[2] Data on costs for new construction of S&E research space are available in the full set of data tables in tables 12 through 17.

[3] Data on institutional rankings by field are available in the full set of data tables in table 3.