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Chapter 5. Academic Research and Development

Chapter Overview

U.S. universities and colleges occupy a unique position in the nation's overall R&D system. They perform more than half of U.S. basic research and, because they link graduate education and research, prepare the next generation of researchers (see chapter 2).

This chapter discusses the role of the academic sector within the national R&D enterprise. The first section examines trends in spending and funding for academic R&D, identifies key funders of academic R&D, and describes the allocation of funds across academic institutions and S&E fields.

Because the federal government has been the primary source of funding for academic R&D for more than half a century, the importance of federal agency support for overall R&D and for individual fields is explored in some detail. Other significant sources of funding include the institutions themselves, businesses, and state and local government. The first section also traces recent changes in the distribution of funds among academic institutions and the types of academic institutions that receive federal R&D support.

The chapter's second section reviews the status of infrastructure for academic R&D. This discussion provides data on the current trends in academic research facilities, research equipment, and cyberinfrastructure.

The next section discusses trends in the employment of academic doctoral scientists and engineers. Major trends examined include the numbers of academic doctoral scientists and engineers, their changing demographic composition, and the types of positions they hold. This section also examines employment patterns in the segment of the academic workforce that is engaged in research, with particular attention to full-time faculty, postdocs, graduate research assistants, and the academic scientists and engineers receiving research support from the federal government.

The chapter concludes with an analysis of trends in two types of research outputs: S&E articles and patents issued to U.S. universities. (A third major output of academic R&D, educated and trained personnel, is discussed in chapter 2.) This section looks at the volume of research articles for selected countries/regions and focuses (when appropriate) on S&E articles by U.S. academic researchers. Coauthored articles, both across U.S. sectors and internationally, are indicators of increasing collaboration in S&E research. The number of influential articles from U.S. institutions, as measured by the frequency with which they are cited, is examined and compared with citations to S&E articles produced around the globe.

The final section explores academic patenting activities and examines patents, licenses, and income from these as forms of academic R&D output. Patent citations to the S&E literature are also examined, with some attention—new in this edition—to S&E literature citations in patents for clean energy and related technologies.