Division of Science Resources Studies
DATA BRIEF Directorate for
Social, Behavioral
and Economic

National Science Foundation
NSF 99-326, February 12, 1999

Federal Academic Obligations for Science and Engineering Activities Increased More than 4 Percent in FY 1997

Richard J.

R&D support has consistently dominated the Federal academic S&E total.



































Johns Hopkins University continued as the leading university recipient of Federal academic S&E support.

Federal agencies obligated a new high of $15.1 billion for academic science and engineering (S&E) activities in fiscal year (FY) 1997, up more than 4 percent (or $653 million) above FY 1996 levels. When adjusted for inflation, Federal academic S&E support was up 2 percent in FY 1997. The increase follows a slight (one-tenth of 1 percent) current-dollar decrease between FYs 1995 and 1996 in total Federal S&E support. This information is based on the latest statistics from the National Science Foundation's (NSF's) annual Survey of Federal Science and Engineering Support to Universities, Colleges, and Nonprofit Institutions.

Categories of Support
Federal academic S&E funding is provided in six categories:

  • research and development (R&D);
  • fellowships, traineeships, and training grants (FTTG);
  • R&D plant;
  • facilities and equipment for S&E instruction;
  • general support for S&E-that is, programs that support nonspecific or generalized purposes related to scientific research and education; and
  • other S&E activities-all academic S&E support that cannot be assigned to one of the other five categories.

Of the six categories, R&D funding has consistently dominated the Federal academic S&E total in recent years, ranging from 84-87 percent of the total since FY 1987 (figure 1). A new high of $13.0 billion for Federal academic R&D in FY 1997 represented more than a 5-percent current-dollar increase (a 3-percent increase in constant dollars), or $679 million above the previous year. The Department of Health and Human Services (HHS), as in the previous year, accounted for 56 percent ($7.3 billion) of all Federal academic R&D obligations in FY 1997 as well as over two-thirds of the R&D increase.

Only two of the other five academic S&E categories showed increased funding levels in FY 1997. FTTG support was up 6 percent to a record high of $677 million; again, HHS was responsible for most of the increase. R&D plant funds rose 11 percent, with most of the increase also from HHS.

On the other hand, facilities and equipment funding for S&E instruction declined 39 percent, dropping to $30 million. Obligations for general support programs in FY 1997 totaled $171 million, a 22-percent decline mostly due to reduced funding from the Agency for International Development (AID). Funding for the final category of support, "other S&E activities", fell 3 percent to $925 million.

Agency Sources
The six Federal agencies that accounted for the largest amounts of academic S&E obligations in FY 1997 provided 95 percent of the total. Four of these agencies- HHS, NSF, the Department of Agriculture (USDA), and the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA)-reported current-dollar increases ranging from 2-12 percent (table 1). When adjusted for inflation, three of the above four agencies showed increases; the NSF S&E total, in constant dollars, was down a fraction of 1 percent. At HHS, USDA, and NASA, more than $6 of every $7 in academic S&E increases were for R&D programs.

University Shares
Johns Hopkins University (including its Applied Physics Laboratory) again was the leading university recipient of FY 1997 Federal academic S&E obligations (table 2). About $5 of every $6 of its $704 million total was for R&D projects, with most of the remainder applied toward "other S&E activities." The top 20 universities ranked by Federal academic S&E obligations accounted for 36 percent of the total. Eighteen of the top 20 academic S&E recipients in FY 1997 were among the leading 20 recipients in FY 1996. The new entrants for FY 1997 were Duke University (19th after being ranked 21st the year before) and the University of Pittsburgh (20th, up from 24th place in FY 1996). They replaced the California Institute of Technology (now 23rd after being ranked 18th in FY 1996) and the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill (now 21st after being ranked 20th in FY 1996). The four top universities in FY 1996 maintained the same ordinal positions in FY 1997.

User Notes
The Federal academic S&E obligations data presented in this Data Brief were obtained from 20 Federal agencies that supply virtually all Federal academic R&D support and that participated in the FY 1997 Survey of Federal Science and Engineering Support to Universities, Colleges, and Nonprofit Institutions. This annual survey also collects data on Federal S&E support by funding category, type of institution, institutional ranking, and geographic distribution.

NSF makes available computer-generated Institutional Profiles for individual doctorate-granting institutions and schools with S&E departments that grant master's degrees. Institutional Profiles contain data from this survey and from NSF's other two academic S&E surveys: the Survey of Research and Development Expenditures at Universities and Colleges, and the Survey of Graduate Students and Postdoctorates in Science and Engineering. Data from the three surveys are also available via the World Wide Web (see "Electronic Dissemination," p.1) and the Computer-Aided Science Policy Analysis and Research (WebCASPAR) database system, a user-friendly Web tool for retrieval and analyses of statistical data on academic S&E resources.

This Data Brief was prepared by:

Richard J. Bennof
Division of Science Resources Studies
National Science Foundation
4201 Wilson Boulevard, Suite 965
Arlington, VA 22230
703-306-1773 x6938

SRS data are available through the World Wide Web (http://www.nsf.gov/statistics/). For more information about obtaining reports, contact pubs@nsf.gov. or call (301) 947-2722. For NSF's Telephonic Device for the Deaf, dial (703) 306-0090. In your request, include the NSF publication number and title, your name, and a complete mailing address.

previous arrow up arrow