U.S. R&D: Federal Portfolio
Why is this important?
The distribution of R&D funds by the U.S. federal government provides insight into the nation's broad mission priorities for public expenditures.
Federal R&D funds, by type of work: 1987–2009
SEI 2012: R&D by Character of Work, Chapter 4.
Type of work
Federal funding of R&D has more than doubled over 20 years (not adjusting for inflation). For the past decade, basic and applied research funds have accounted for more than half of the total.
Federal stimulus funds for R&D have primarily boosted development activities.
Federal basic and applied research funds, by S&E field: 1985–2009
SEI 2012: Federal Spending on Research by Field, Chapter 4.
Support for S&E fields
The life sciences have accounted for half of the federal research portfolio (basic and applied research) since 2001.
Over the past decade, federal research funds for the life sciences and math/computer sciences have increased by more than one-third, after inflation; engineering funds rose by one quarter.
Inflation-adjusted federal funding over the decade was flat for the physical sciences and shrank for environmental sciences and for the social sciences and psychology.
Federal R&D budget, by national objectives: 1990–2010
SEI 2012: Federal R&D Budget by National Objectives, Chapter 4.
More than half of the federal government's R&D investment is devoted to defense. More than half of nondefense R&D is related to health, largely funded by the Department of Health and Human Services, primarily through the National Institutes of Health. Nondefense, health, and general science accounts show clearly the 1-year boost from federal stimulus funds.
Federal spending on R&D, by performer: 1986–2009
SEI 2012: R&D Funding by the Federal Government, Chapter 4.
Different institutions bring different perspectives and approaches to R&D. Academic and nonprofit institutions, which tend to concentrate on basic research, have received steadily increasing federal support. Industry, heavily focused on development and applied research, has recently seen rising federal funding after a decade of little growth.