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  NSF 02-310 | February 2002   PDF format PDF format | See Related Reports  

Federal Academic Science and Engineering Obligations Increased 10 Percent in FY 2000

by Richard J. Bennof Send an e-mail message to the author

The National Science Foundation (NSF) has collected annual data on the Survey of Federal Science and Engineering Support to Universities, Colleges, and Nonprofit Institutions since 1965. The latest data indicate that Federal agencies obligated a new high of $19.9 billion for academic science and engineering (S&E) activities in fiscal year (FY) 2000—an increase of $1.8 billion, or 10 percent (8 percent when adjusted for inflation) over FY 1999 levels. The increase follows a 12-percent current-dollar increase (11 percent in real dollars) in total Federal academic S&E support between FYs 1998 and 1999.

Categories of Support

Federal support for academic S&E activities mostly funds research and development (R&D) projects, which have accounted for 84 to 87 percent of total Federal academic S&E support over the last decade (figure 1). A new high of $17.3 billion was reached in Federal academic R&D support in FY 2000, representing an 11-percent current-dollar increase—and a 9-percent increase in real dollars—over the previous year (table 1). The Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) accounted for three-fifths ($10.5 billion) of all Federal academic R&D obligations in FY 2000 and more than four-fifths of the total R&D increase. Federal support for academic S&E activities covers five other categories as well— (1) fellowships, traineeships, and training grants; (2) R&D plant; (3) facilities and equipment for S&E instruction; (4) general support for S&E; and (5) other S&E activities. Funding levels for four of these categories increased in FY 2000:

  • Federal obligations for R&D plant increased by 44 percent to $248 million. Most of the increase was from funding by the HHS' National Institutes of Health.

  • Funds for facilities and equipment for S&E instruction rose to a new high of $62 million, a 31-percent jump. Most of the increase was reported by the Department of Transportation.

  • Obligations for general support projects reached a new high of $325 million in FY 2000, a 3-percent rise resulting mostly from increased HHS support. Such projects can include either support provided without any specification of purpose other than that the funds be used for scientific projects or support for activities within a specified discipline but without specification of explicit purpose.

  • Funds for other S&E activities increased 6 percent to a record high of $1.2 billion. Most of this increase was supplied by the Department of the Navy within the Department of Defense (DoD) and the Department of Agriculture's (USDA's) Cooperative State Research, Education, and Extension Service. This category encompasses all academic S&E obligations that cannot be assigned elsewhere and includes activities in support of technical conferences, teacher institutes, and programs aimed at increasing the scientific knowledge of precollege and undergraduate students.

  • Fellowships, traineeships, and training grant support decreased by 7 percent to $783 million; the Department of Education was the major source of this decrease.
Figure 1. Federal obligations for academic science & engineering (S&E) activities and for S&E research and development (R&D): fiscal years 1990-2000
  Figure 1 Source Data: Excel file

Table 1. Federal academic science and engineering (S&E) obligations, by type of activity: fiscal years 1999-2000
  Table 1 Source Data: Excel file

Agency Sources

HHS accounted for 57 percent of all Federal FY 2000 academic S&E obligations. HHS, NSF, and DOD together provided 81 percent of total Federal academic S&E funding. S&E funds obligated by HHS grew by 15 percent in current dollars. DOD and NSF reported S&E support level increases of 11 percent and 5 percent, respectively, in current dollars. USDA, the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA), and the Department of Energy (DOE) provided 75 percent of the remaining academic S&E total. Of those three agencies, only NASA showed a current-dollar decrease: its obligations fell by 2 percent. USDA and DOE support increased by 14 percent and 7 percent, respectively, in current dollars.

University Shares

The Johns Hopkins University (including its Applied Physics Laboratory) continued to be the leading academic recipient of Federal S&E support in FY 2000 (table 2), with HHS and DOD together providing 86 percent of its Federal S&E obligations. About $6 of every $7 in the university's $933 million total Federal S&E obligations supported R&D projects, with most of the remainder allocated to other S&E activities. The top 20 universities, ranked by Federal academic S&E obligations, accounted for 36 percent of the Federal total. All but one of the top 20 recipients in FY 2000 were also among the top 20 universities in FY 1999. The new entrant was the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill (20th after being 22nd the prior year); it replaced Duke University (21st after being 20th).

Table 2. Federal academic science & engineering (S&E) support to the top 20 universities: FY 2000
  Table 2 Source Data: Excel file

User Notes

The Federal academic S&E obligations data presented in this InfoBrief were obtained from 18 agencies that participated in the FY 2000 Survey of Federal Science and Engineering Support to Universities, Colleges, and Nonprofit Institutions. Data from this annual survey allow Federal S&E support to be reported by funding agency, type of institution, institutional ranking, and geographic distribution. The full set of Detailed Statistical Tables on the FY 2000 Survey of Federal Science and Engineering Support to Universities, Colleges, and Nonprofit Institutions will be available online (

NSF makes available computer-generated Institutional Profiles for individual doctorate-granting institutions and for schools with S&E departments that grant master's degrees. These 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 ( and the Computer-Aided Science Policy Analysis and Research (WebCASPAR) database system, a Web tool for retrieval and analysis of statistical data on academic S&E resources (

This InfoBrief was prepared by

Richard J. Bennof
Division of Science Resources Statistics
National Science Foundation
4201 Wilson Boulevard, Suite 965
Arlington, VA 22230