|Science Resources Studies Division|
|Academic R&D Expenditures Maintain Steady Growth in FY 1996|
by M. Marge Machen
Federal Government share of academic R&D expenditures holds firm at 60 percent for fourth consecutive year.
Total expenditures by universities and colleges for separately budgeted research and development (R&D) activities in science and engineering (S&E) increased 3.5 percent over the FY 1995 level, reaching nearly $23 billion in FY 1996. This amount had more than doubled the $10.9 billion reported for FY 1986, and more than 6 times the $3.7 billion spent just 2 decades ago. When adjusted for inflation, academic R&D increased 1.4 percent over the FY 1995 level, slower than the 4.6-percent constant dollar average annual growth rate maintained during the previous 20 years.
Sources of R&D Funding
Expenditures financed by all non-Federal sources combined grew nearly 4 percent in FY 1996 (close to 2 percent after accounting for inflation), rising to $9.2 billion. Spending from industry sources increased the fastest-6 percent in FY 1996, followed by the largest non-Federal source-institutional funds-with a 4-percent gain. State and local governments' R&D funding was up nearly 3 percent, and funds from all other non-Federal sources (including private foundations and voluntary sources) rose 2 percent (table 1).
Total basic research spending at academic institutions rose to $15.4 billion, up 4 percent over FY 1995, or a 2-percent increase after adjusting for inflation. The Federal Government continued to provide 64 percent of the basic research total in FY 1996, $9.9 billion, for a 4-percent increase (2 percent in constant dollars).
Higher education expenditures for applied research and development combined totaled $7.5 billion in 1996-an increase of 3 percent over the 1995 level. The Federal Government provided 52 percent of the applied R&D total in 1996.
Fields of Research
Although expenditures in all fields grew, the computer sciences, psychology, and the physical sciences grew slower than the 2-percent rate of inflation.
Federally financed spending followed a similar pattern with R&D funding, exceeding inflation in five of the eight major S&E fields (chart 1).
Increases in federally funded expenditures were below the rate of inflation for the physical sciences, mathematical sciences, and psychology. In terms of R&D expenditures in specific S&E subfields, three fell in nominal dollars: astronomy (down 9 percent), aeronautical & astronautical engineering (down 3 percent), and earth sciences (down 2 percent). Declining support from Federal sources accounted for much of the reduction in funding in these fields.
Academic R&D expenditures are concentrated in relatively few institutions. The 100 leading research institutions (out of the 674 institutions represented in this survey) accounted for 81 percent of Federally financed spending and 80 percent of all academic R&D expenditures. The leading 20 research institutions alone accounted for 34 percent of federally sponsored support and a 31-percent share of total academic R&D expenditures in FY 1996 (table 3).
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