Academic R&D is a key part of the overall U.S. R&D enterprise. Academic scientists and engineers conduct the bulk of the nation's basic research and are especially important as a source of the new knowledge that basic research produces. Indicators tracking the status of the financial resources, the research facilities, and the instrumentation that are used in this work are discussed in this and the next section of the chapter. (For an overview of the sources of data used see the sidebar, "Data on the Financial and Infrastructure Resources for Academic R&D.")
Expenditures by U.S. colleges and universities on R&D in S&E fields totaled $54.9 billion in 2009. Academic spending in non-S&E fields that year was another $2.4 billion. The corresponding figures for 2008 were $51.9 billion and $2.2 billion. In 2004, these figures were $43.3 billion and $1.6 billion, respectively.
Academic R&D spending is primarily for research (basic and applied)—in 2009, about 96% was spent on research (75% basic, 22% applied) and almost 4% was spent on development. These shares are not appreciably different from the proportions that prevailed 5 and 10 years ago (appendix table
Universities and colleges performed about 14% of all U.S. R&D in 2009. Higher education's prominence as a national R&D performer has generally increased over the last 30 years, rising from about 10% of all R&D performed in the United States in the early 1970s to an estimated 14% in 2009 (figure
Universities and colleges accounted for just under 36% of all U.S. research in 2009. This was slightly higher than the 35% reported in 2002—and the previously highest share of the U.S. research total over the last 30 years (figure
In regard to basic research, the academic sector is by far the country's largest performer. In 2009, it accounted for 53% of all the basic research performed in the United States. Indeed, institutions of higher education have accounted for more than half of all U.S. basic research since 1998 (figure
(For a comparison of the academic R&D profiles of other countries, see the section on "International R&D Comparisons" in chapter 4.)
Academic R&D relies on funding support from a variety of sources, including the federal government, universities' and colleges' own institutional funds, state and local government, industry, nonprofits, and other organizations. Nevertheless, the federal government has consistently provided the majority of funding.
The federal government provided $32.6 billion (59%) of the $54.9 billion of academic spending on S&E R&D in FY (academic) 2009. The federal share was somewhat higher in the 1970s and early 1980s, although the federal government has long contributed the majority of funds for academic R&D (figure
This $32.6 billion of federal funding in FY 2009 was 4.2% above the level of the previous year. The rates of growth in 2008 and 2007 were 2.8% and 1.0%, respectively. Over the previous 10 years, the level of federal funding for academic R&D has been consistently up, averaging 3.3% annually for the 5-year period of 2004–09 and 7.3% annually for the 10-year period of FY 1999–2009. But when adjusted for inflation, the 5-year annual average increase was 0.8% and the 10 year average was 4.8%—FY 2006 and 2007 were years with constant dollar declines in federal funding.
An additional perspective on funding trends is provided by inflation-adjusted obligations for academic S&E R&D reported by the federal agencies (i.e., the funds in constant dollars going to academic institutions in a given federal fiscal year that will be spent on R&D activities in the current and subsequent years). In constant 2005 dollars, federal academic R&D obligations peaked in FY 2004 at $25.0 billion, fell in the three subsequent years, reaching $24.0 billion in FY 2008, and then spiked upward in FY 2009, reaching $28.8 billion (appendix table
Federal obligations for S&E R&D grew more than 10% each year on a constant dollar basis between FY 1998 and 2001. This reflected, for the most part, the federal commitment to double the R&D budget of the National Institutes of Health (NIH) over a 5-year period. Between FY (federal) 1998 and 2004, NIH's share of federal academic R&D funding increased from 57% to 63%. Then in FY 2009, the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (ARRA), which was signed into law on February 17, 2009, provided an additional $18.3 billion in appropriations for federal R&D and R&D facilities and equipment in FY 2009. The significant uptick in obligations observed in FY 2009 reflects the presence of nearly $5 billion of these ARRA funds (appendix table
Six agencies are responsible for the vast majority of annual federal obligations for higher education R&D: the National Institutes of Health (NIH), National Science Foundation (NSF), Department of Defense (DOD), National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA), Department of Energy (DOE), and Department of Agriculture (USDA). In federal FY 2009, these six agencies represented about 96% of the estimated $31.6 billion obligated for S&E R&D that year (appendix table
NIH is by far the largest funder, providing about 65% of total federal academic R&D obligations in FY 2009. NSF provided 13%; DOD, 9%; NASA, 3%; DOE, 4%; and USDA, 3%.
The federal government's overall support for academic R&D is the combined result of numerous discrete funding decisions made by the R&D-supporting federal agencies, all of which have differing missions and objectives, which in turn affect the priorities for research funding in the academic sector. For the most part, federal R&D funding to the higher education sector is allocated through competitive peer review. Nevertheless, congressional priorities and concerns in the course of the annual federal budget process can influence funding outcomes—see the sidebar, "Congressional Earmarks."
Basic research activities represented about 58% of federal obligations for academic R&D in FY 2009 and about 56% in both FY 2007 and 2008 (appendix table
Applied research represented about 38% of federal obligations for academic R&D in FY 2009, 37% in FY 2008, and 38% in FY 2007. NIH provided the vast majority of funding in this category. Federal obligations for development activities in academia were 4–7% throughout FY 2007–09, with DOD and NASA the principal funders.
Notwithstanding the continuing dominant federal role in academic R&D funding, funding from nonfederal sources has grown steadily in recent years (figure
The Experimental Program to Stimulate Competitive Research (EPSCoR) is a long standing multi-agency federal program that has the objective of improving the geographical distribution of federal support for academic R&D. An overview of the program and recent statistics on its activities are discussed in the sidebar EPSCoR: The Experimental Program to Stimulate Competitive Research.
Investment in academic R&D has long been concentrated in the life sciences, which have received more than half of all academic R&D expenditures for more than three decades.
In FY 2009, academic R&D in the life sciences accounted for $32.8 billion (60%) of the $54.9 billion academic S&E R&D total (appendix table
Adjusted for inflation, academic R&D expenditures in the medical sciences increased by more than 75% from FY 1990 to FY 2000, and by almost 65% from FY 2000 to FY 2009 (figure
R&D projects in the life sciences also constitute a majority of federally supported academic S&E R&D. They accounted for $19.3 billion (59%) of the $32.6 billion of federal support in FY 2009 (appendix table
Federal funding has played a larger role in overall support for some fields than others (appendix table
The federally financed proportion of R&D spending in all of the broad S&E fields has been stable or increased since 1990 (appendix table
Academic institutions spent a total of $2.4 billion on R&D in non-S&E fields in FY 2009 (table
The largest amounts reported for R&D in non-S&E fields were for education ($921 million), business and management ($341 million), and humanities ($253 million). Other areas of non-S&E R&D include law, social work, communication, journalism, library science, and the visual and performing arts.
The prior discussion examined R&D for the academic sector as a whole. This section discusses some of the differences that prevail across the types of academic institutions.
In FY 2009, public institutions received $37.5 billion in academic S&E R&D and private institutions received $17.4 billion (appendix table
Although public and private universities rely on the same major sources of R&D funding, the importance of the different sources varies substantially (figure
Public academic institutions also supported a larger portion of their R&D from their own sources—24%, compared to 12% at private institutions. This larger proportion of institutional R&D funds in public institutions may reflect the general-purpose state and local government funds that public institutions have directed toward R&D. Private institutions in turn report a larger proportion of unrecovered indirect costs (54% of their institutional total in FY 2009, versus 42% for public institutions). For both types of institutions, these unrecovered indirect costs have declined over the past decade, from 63% to 54% for private institutions and from 44% to 42% for public institutions (figure
Both public and private institutions received approximately 6% of their R&D support from industry in FY 2009. The share of total R&D expenditures funded by all other sources was also comparable, at 7% in public and 9% in private institutions.
Academic R&D expenditures are concentrated in a relatively small number of institutions. In FY 2009, 711 institutions reported spending at least $150,000 on S&E R&D. Of these, the top-spending 20 institutions accounted for 30% of total academic R&D spending and the top 100 for 80% of this spending (figure
The top 100 institutions are listed in appendix table
A similar concentration is found among universities that perform non-S&E R&D. The top 20 performers accounted for 36% of the total non-S&E R&D expenditures in FY 2009 (appendix table
A persistent trend in academic R&D has been the growth of research collaboration—notably evident in the growth of jointly authored research articles (see later in this chapter for details). This trend is also evident in flows of funds among institutions to support collaborative research activities. One indicator of this collaboration is the amount of total R&D expenditures that is passed through to other academic institutions or received by institutions as subrecipient funding.
On this basis, the R&D funds for joint projects passed through universities to other university subrecipients more than doubled from FY 2000 to 2009, from $699 million to $1.9 billion (figure
Overall, $3.8 billion was passed through institutions to all types of subrecipients in FY 2009 (including both academic and nonacademic institutions), and $4.1 billion was received as subrecipient funding from all types of pass-through entities (appendix table