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Frontiers
R&D Outpaces Inflation at Colleges and Universities

June 1996

Academic research and development (R&D) expenditures outpaced inflation in 1994, increasing by nearly 6% (4% in constant dollars) even as R&D decreased in industry and elsewhere.

According to the recent Science Resources Studies (SRS) report, Survey of Scientific and Engineering Expenditures at Universities and Colleges, Fiscal Year 1994, R&D spending totalled $21 billion.

Other recent SRS reports show a leveling off and decline of R&D expenditures by industry and Federal agencies after a period of fast growth in the early 1980s (see Frontiers January 1996).

The increase in academic R&D funding may not reflect a recent increase in commitment as much as long-term projects coming to fruition, says report author and project officer M. Marge Machen. "For example, if a university received an award for sponsored research of three million for a five year period, they may report their expenditures as they spend them or at any time during this period. The money is separately budgeted and accounted for."

In both 1994 and 1993, Federal sources came up with 60% of the schools' R&D funds, providing $12.7 billion in 1994, Machen writes. The other 40%, or $8.4 billion, came from non-federal sources, including state and local governments, industry, academic institutions, and a catchall category "all other sources," which include private foundations and voluntary sources.

Between 1993 and 1994, Federal academic spending for R&D increased 6%. Non-federal spending increased 5%. The total rates within fields ranged from 2% in physical sciences to 9% in computer sciences.

Two-thirds of the funding went toward basic research, says Machen. The other third, applied research and development, includes such projects as chemical testing and materials design.

The twenty leading research institutions accounted for 32% of total R&D expenditures in 1994, writes Machen. The top 100 institutions accounted for 80% of the R&D total. The five schools with the most R&D expenditure were: Johns Hopkins University, the University of Michigan, the University of Wisconsin-Madison, MIT, and Texas A&M University.

Being among the top 100 is significant to the institutions, reports Machen. Schools use the data from this annual survey to formulate their budgets in policy analysis and competitive research. In addition, nonfederal sources use the rankings to locate expertise in various fields.

For a copy of this data brief, call SRS at (703) 292-8774 or visit NSF's Web site: http://www.nsf.gov


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