Chapter 1: Amount and Distribution of Research Space

Highlights . . .


How much space do scientists and engineers have in which to conduct research? This chapter compares the amount of S&E research space available in different types of colleges and universities and in different S&E fields. In addition, changes in the amount of S&E research space available since 1988 are examined.

The Survey Questions

Information reported in Items 1a and 1b of the survey (see Appendix C) is contained in this chapter.

Item 1a collects data on space for each of the S&E fields in units of net assignable square feet (NASF). NASF was defined as the sum of all areas (in square feet) on all floors assignable to, or available to be assigned to, an occupant for specific use, such as instruction or research. Two categories of research space included:

Item 1a also asks for the total instruction and research space for all non-science fields. Hence, the combined instruction and research space for both the S&E fields and non-science fields results in an estimate of total academic space. For S&E fields only, Item 1b requests the amount of research NASF that is leased.

Data Considerations

Respondents are asked to consider several issues in determining the amount of space their college or university devotes to S&E research:


How Much Space Was Available for S&E?

In 1996, the nation's 560 research-performing academic institutions had a total of 511 million NASF of academic space in all fields (Table 1-1). S&E fields occupied 56 percent of that space (285 million NASF).

The top 100 institutions in research expenditures contained as much academic space as all other types of research-performing colleges and universities combined. Although the top 100 institutions made up 18 percent of the 560 research-performing colleges and universities, they accounted for 50 percent of the space in all academic fields (255 million NASF).

The ratio of S&E space to total academic space varied by type of institution. The top 100 universities devoted 68 percent of all academic space to S&E. Conversely, nondoctorate-granting institutions used the least amount (37 percent) of their academic space for S&E purposes (Table 1-2 and Figure 1-1).

How Much S&E Space Was Used for Research?

In 1996, the total space devoted to S&E fields, including both instruction and research, comprised 56 percent of the total academic space at the nation's research-performing institutions (Table 1-2).

Almost half, 48 percent (136 million NASF), of all space in the S&E fields was devoted to S&E research. In the top 100 universities, S&E research space occupied 57 percent of all space in the S&E fields, while in the nondoctorate-granting institutions, research space occupied only 21 percent of the total S&E space.

The distribution of S&E research space in research-performing colleges and universities is roughly proportional to the distribution of research and development (R&D) expenditures. In 1994, the most recent year for which data are available, the top 100 universities accounted for 80 percent of all R&D expenditures, with the same institutions accounting for 72 percent (98 NASF divided by 136 NASF) of the total S&E research space in 1996 (Table 1-1) [1].

Has the Amount of S&E Research Space Increased?

Over the last eight years, the amount of S&E research space has increased steadily, from 112 million NASF in 1988 to 136 million NASF in 1996 (Table 1-3). This change reflects an increase of approximately 21 percent.

Most increases resulted from steady growth at the top 100 institutions, wherein S&E research space grew 21 percent--from 81 million NASF in 1988, to 98 million in 1996. Research space at other institutions increased as well, although rate of growth was lower. At other doctorate-granting institutions, research space increased 18 percent, from 27 million NASF in 1988, to 32 million in 1996. After remaining steady at 5 million NASF since 1988, nondoctorate-granting institutions increased their research space to 6 million in 1996.

How Much S&E Space Was Leased?

In 1996, research-performing colleges and universities leased 5.5 million NASF, or 4 percent of their total S&E research space (Table 1-4). This 5.5 million represents the largest amount of leased S&E research space since NSF began collecting data on S&E research facilities. The top 100 institutions leased the highest percentage of their space: 4.6 percent (4.5 million NASF). Nondoctorate-granting institutions leased less than 1 percent of their total S&E research space (16,600 NASF).

The amount of S&E research space that research-performing institutions lease has fluctuated somewhat since 1988, with the amount of leased S&E research space increasing from 4.4 million NASF to 5.5 million between 1994 and 1996. Most of this increase results from additional leased space among the top 100 universities.

How Was Research Space Distributed Across S&E Fields?

In 1996, nearly all institutions had research space in the biological sciences outside of medical schools (90 percent) and in the physical sciences (88 percent) (Table 1-5). Psychology and the social sciences followed (77 percent of all research-performing institutions had research space in psychology and 68 percent had research space in the social sciences).

Research space in five more fields was reported in over half of all research-performing institutions: mathematics, 61 percent; the computer sciences, 61 percent; the earth, atmospheric, and ocean sciences, 55 percent; and engineering, 51 percent. In contrast, only 20 percent of all research-performing institutions had S&E research space in the agricultural sciences. However, the total amount of research space in the agricultural sciences (22 million NASF) was greater than that in the biological sciences outside of medical schools (19 million NASF) or the physical sciences (18 million NASF). Several of the fields grouped as "agricultural sciences"--animal sciences, plant sciences, soil sciences, forestry, and wildlife management, to name a few--require large amounts of research space.

Over a fifth (21 percent) of all research-performing institutions reported S&E research space in medical schools, both in the biological and medical sciences. At the top 100 institutions, 64 percent reported research space in the medical sciences in medical schools, and 58 percent reported research space in the biological sciences in medical schools.

Between 1994 and 1996, no single S&E field experienced a large increase in the amount of research space (Table 1-6). Research space for the agricultural sciences increased from 20 million NASF in 1994, to 22 million in 1996. Biological research space outside of medical schools also increased by 2 million NASF during that same period (from 17 to 19 million NASF). Engineering research space, which demonstrated the most growth between 1988 and 1994 (from 16 million NASF to 21 million), continued to grow in 1996, to 22 million NASF. Medical science research space, both within medical schools and outside, grew by 1 million NASF, each.

The distribution of research space across the S&E fields approximated the distribution of R&D expenditures across the same fields. Engineering, for one, accounted for 16 percent of the S&E research space in 1996, as well as for 15 percent of 1994 R&D expenditures. [2]. Mathematics and the computer sciences occupied 3 percent of the S&E research space and accounted for 4 percent of the R&D expenditures (Table 1-7)


[1] The R&D data are taken from the National Science Foundation, Survey of Scientific and Engineering Expenditures at Universities and Colleges, FY 1994.

[2] The 1996 expenditure data were not available at the time this report was written. The most recent expenditure data, 1994, were therefore used.

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