Financial Resources for Academic R&D
In 2008, U.S. academic institutions spent $52 billion on
R&D, and the higher education sector continues to account
for the majority of basic research performed in the
- Academic performers are estimated to account for 55%
of U.S. basic research ($69 billion), 31% of total (basic
plus applied) research ($157 billion), and 13% of all
R&D ($395 billion) estimated to have been conducted in
the United States in 2008.
- Higher education's share of total U.S. research expenditures
increased by 11 percentage points between 1982
and 2002 (from 24% to 35%), but has since declined to
an estimated 31% in 2008.
Support from the federal government decreased in recent
years with no funding growth for 3 straight years.
- The federal government provided 60% ($31.2 billion)
of funding for academic R&D expenditures in 2008. In
inflation-adjusted dollars, this represents a 0.2% increase
from FY 2007 and follows decreases of 1.6% in FY 2007
and 0.2% in FY 2006.
- According to the federal agencies providing the funding,
total federal obligations for academic R&D peaked in
2004 at $22.1 billion (in constant 2000 dollars) and have
since declined by almost 7% to an estimated $20.7 billion
in FY 2009.
Higher education R&D funding from all nonfederal
sources combined has grown steadily since FY 2004.
- The share of support provided by institutional funds increased
steadily between 1972 (12%) and 1991 (19%) but
since then has remained fairly stable at roughly one-fifth
of total funding.
- After a 3-year decline between 2001 and 2004 (low of $2.1
billion), industry funding of academic R&D increased for
the fourth year in a row, to $2.9 billion in 2008.
The distribution of academic R&D expenditures across
the various broad S&E fields has remained relatively
constant since 1990, with the life sciences receiving the
- In 2008, the life sciences continued to receive the largest
share of investment in academic R&D, accounting for
roughly 60% of all expenditures.
- Over the past two decades, the broad field of life sciences
was the only field to experience any meaningful increase
in its share of total academic R&D, rising more than 4
percentage points since 1998.
In 2008, about $1.9 billion was spent for academic research
equipment. This represents a real increase of
1.0% from FY 2007, but a decline of more than 10%
from the 2004 level.
- About 80% of FY 2008 equipment expenditures were
concentrated in three fields: the life sciences (43%), engineering
(23%), and the physical sciences (16%).
- After a period of steady growth between 2001 and 2004,
equipment expenditures in the physical sciences, medical
and biological sciences, and engineering have all declined
Academic R&D Infrastructure
Research-performing colleges and universities continued
to expand their physical resources for conducting
research. However, while cyberinfrastructure capabilities
continued to expand significantly, the expansion of
traditional "bricks and mortar" infrastructure slowed.
- A large majority of institutions now have connections to
high-speed networks; 25% of institutions have more than
- By FY 2007, 74% of all institutions had internal network
distribution speeds of at least 1 gigabit.
- For the first time in 20 years, almost half of all S&E fields
experienced a decline in their research space.
Doctoral Scientists and Engineers in
The size of the doctoral academic S&E workforce reached
an estimated 272,800 in 2006 but grew more slowly than
the number of S&E doctorate holders in other employment
sectors from 1973 to 2006. Full-time faculty positions,
although still the predominant type of employment,
increased more slowly than postdoc and other full- and
part-time positions, especially at research universities.
- The share of all S&E doctorate holders employed in academia
dropped from 55% in 1973 to 45% in 1991 and has
remained at about that level through 2006.
- Among S&E doctorate holders in academia, full-time
faculty declined continually from 88% in the early 1970s
to 72% in 2006.
- Postdocs and others in full-time nonfaculty positions
constitute an increasing percentage of academic S&E
employment, having grown from 10% in 1973 to 22%
in 2006. This change was especially pronounced in
- The share of part-time positions was roughly 2% to 4%
from 1973 through 1999, but has risen since then to 6%
The number of academic S&E doctorate holders reporting
research as their primary or secondary work activity
showed greater growth from 1973 to 2006 than the
number reporting teaching as their primary or secondary
- The number of researchers grew 2.5% per year (from
82,300 to 183,700) between 1973 and 2006, and the
number of teachers grew 1.7% per year (from 94,900 to
- About two-thirds of doctoral scientists and engineers employed
in academic institutions are engaged in research as
either a primary or secondary work activity.
Life scientists accounted for more than one-third of academic
doctorate holders reporting research as a primary
or secondary work activity in 2006. Life scientists also accounted
for most of the growth in academic researchers.
- The number of academic researchers in the physical sciences
and mathematics grew more slowly, at average annual
growth rates of 1.1% and 1.6%, respectively, from
1973 to 2006. Growth rates for academic researchers in
all fields were greatest in the 1980s.
- The number of full-time faculty in the life sciences has
risen, but the percentage of full-time faculty in the life
sciences who are tenured or on the tenure track has declined
because the number of tenured and tenure-track life
scientists has remained fairly stable since the late 1980s.
The demographic composition of academic researchers
changed substantially between 1973 and 2006.
- Women increased from 6% to 29% of full-time doctoral
S&E research faculty from 1973 to 2006.
- Underrepresented minorities (blacks, Hispanics, and
American Indians/Alaska Natives) increased from about
2% to about 8% of full-time doctoral S&E research faculty.
- The Asian/Pacific Islander share of full-time doctoral
S&E research faculty increased substantially, from 4%
- The share of whites among full-time doctoral S&E research
faculty fell from 92% to 79% during the period.
In most fields, the percentage of full-time doctoral S&E
faculty with federal support for their work was about the
same in 2006 as it was in the late 1980s.
- A little less than half (46%) of full-time doctoral S&E
faculty received federal support in both 1987 and in 2006.
- Among full-time faculty, recent doctorate recipients were
less likely to receive federal support than their more established
Outputs of Academic S&E Research:
Articles and Patents
S&E article output worldwide grew at an average annual
rate of 2.5% between 1995 and 2007. The U.S. growth
rate was much lower, at 0.7%.
- The United States accounted for 28% of the world total
S&E articles in 2007, down from 34% in 1995. The share
of the European Union also declined, from 35% in 1995
to 32% in 2007.
- In Asia, average annual growth rates were high—for
example, 17% in China and 14% in South Korea. As a
result, in 2007 China moved past the United Kingdom,
Germany, and Japan to rank as the world's 2nd-largest
producer, up from 5th place in 2005 and 14th place in
The research portfolios of the top article-producing
countries, as indicated by publication of S&E articles,
varied widely. China, Japan, and eight other Asian countries
(the "Asia-8") emphasized the physical sciences
more than the United States and the European Union.
- In 2007, S&E research articles in chemistry and physics
accounted for just under one-half of China's total
article production, 36% of Japan's, and 37% of the Asia-8's. These two fields accounted for 17% of the total for
the United States and 25% of the total for the European
- Articles in the life sciences (biological, medical, agricultural,
and related sciences) accounted for 57% of all
U.S. S&E articles, compared with 49% for the European
Union, 25% for China, 45% for Japan, and 34% for the
- Country research portfolios also differed in their emphasis
on engineering, with the Asian countries more heavily
concentrated in this broad field (China at 16%, Japan at
11%, and the Asia-8 at 19%) than the U.S. or the European
S&E research articles continue to indicate increasing
collaboration across institutions in the United States and
- Coauthored articles grew from 40% of the world's total S&E
articles in 1988 to 64% in 2008. Coauthored articles listing
only authors from different institutions in the same
country increased from 32% of all articles in 1988 to 42%
in 2008. Articles listing authors from institutions in more
than one country grew from 8% to 22% over the same period.
- Within-sector coauthorship increased in all U.S. sectors,
growing, for example, from 38% of academic S&E article
output in 1998 to 45% in 2008. Cross-sector coauthorship
increased generally, mainly due to an increase of 7–10
percentage points in each nonacademic sector's coauthorship with academia. U.S. sector coauthorship with foreign
authors grew in all sectors by 7–10 percentage points.
The U.S. share of world article output and article citations
has declined but not the influence of U.S. research
articles, as indicated by the percentage of U.S. articles
that are among the most highly cited worldwide.
- Between 1998 and 2008, the U.S. share of world articles
declined from 34% in 1998 to 29% in 2008, while its
share of total citations in S&E articles declined from 47%
to 38%. Over the same period, China's share of publications
increased from 2% to 6%, and its share of citations
from 1% to 4%.
- The percentage of U.S.-authored S&E articles receiving
the highest number of citations—an indicator of research
quality and high impact on subsequent research—has
changed little. Between 1998 and 2008, the U.S. index
of highly cited articles declined from 1.83 to 1.78 and remained
well above the expected index value of 1. Indexes
of the European Union, China, Japan, and the Asia-8 all
increased but remained below 1.
Indicators of academic patenting are mixed. U.S. Patent
and Trademark Office (USPTO) data show that patent
grants to U.S. universities declined to about 3,000 in
2008. Other indicators relating to academic patenting
suggest increasing activity.
- According to USPTO data, patent grants to universities
and colleges increased sharply from 1988 to about 1999,
when they peaked at just under 3,700 patents, and then
fell to about 3,000 in 2008. Three technology areas have
dominated these patent awards (chemistry, biotechnology,
and pharmaceuticals), accounting for 45% of the total
patents awarded to U.S. universities in 2008.
- Data from another source show that invention disclosures
filed with university technology management offices
grew from 13,700 in 2003 to 17,700 in 2007 and
that patent applications filed by reporting universities and
colleges increased from 7,200 in 2003 to almost 11,000