Physical infrastructure is an essential resource for the conduct of R&D. Not long ago, the capital infrastructure for R&D consisted primarily of research space (such as laboratories and computer rooms) and instrumentation. Accordingly, the square footage of a designated research space and counts of instruments are principal indicators of the status of research infrastructure.
Over the last 20 years, however, advances in information technology have brought significant changes to both the methods of scientific research and the infrastructure needed to conduct R&D. The technologies, human interfaces, and associated processing capabilities resulting from these innovations are often included in the term cyberinfrastructure. Cyberinfrastructure may involve mainly one resource, such as a network used to transfer data, or it may involve a complex interaction of many resources resulting in sophisticated capabilities, such as high-performance computation or remote use of scientific instrumentation. No matter how simple or complex these technologies and their human interfaces may be, cyberinfrastructure has become an essential resource for science.
Indicators for research facilities, research equipment, and cyberinfrastructure capacity are discussed in this section. (For an overview of the sources of data used see the sidebar, "Data on the Financial and Infrastructure Resources for Academic R&D," earlier in this chapter.)
At the close of academic FY 2009, research-performing colleges and universities had 196.1 million net assignable square feet (NASF) of research space available (appendix table
This increase represented continuity in a now two-decade long trend of academic institutions investing to expand their research space. Even so, the pace of growth has slowed in the last few years. The 2.2% expansion over the FY 2007–09 period was the slowest since the 1988–90 period. (The rate of increase peaked in 2001–03 at 11%, and has gradually declined since then.)
The S&E field of biological/biomedical sciences currently accounts for the largest portion of research space, or 50.3 million NASF in FY 2009 and 26% of the academic total (figure
The aforementioned slowing pace of growth in overall academic research space since FY 2005 has played out in a variety of ways across the S&E fields (appendix table
Even so, the amount of research space available to a sizable number of S&E fields has experienced no growth or a decline since FY 2005. Health/clinical sciences and physical sciences, both fields with large amounts of research space, experienced declines in each of the FY 2005–07 and 2007–09 periods. The decline in the health/clinical sciences is particularly notable, because this field exhibited some of the largest increases in research space in any S&E field in the first half of the 2000 decade. While much smaller in NASF size, the social sciences exhibited a research space decline in both FY 2005–07 and 2007–09. And, also small, the mathematics/statistics field exhibited a decline in 2007–09.
Compared with other fields, the computer sciences exhibited among the largest rates of increase in research space from FY 2001 to 2007 (appendix table
Concomitant with the slowing expansion of overall academic research space, new construction also slowed in the second half of the 2000 decade (table
The construction starts for new research space in the biological/biomedical sciences was the largest among all the fields in FY 2006–07 and 2008–09, or 2.9 million NASF and 3.5 million NASF, respectively. Further back were the health/clinical sciences (1.7 million NASF in FY 2006–07, 1.9 million in 2008–09) and engineering (respectively, 1.3 million and 2.1 million). All the other fields reported some new construction starts in both FY 2006–07 and 2008–09, but at levels well below the top three fields.
Academic institutions draw on various sources to fund their capital projects, including the institutions' own funds, state or local governments, and the federal government. For the construction of new research space initiated in FY 2008–09, about 62% of the funding came from institutions' internal sources, 36% from state/local government, and the remaining 3% from the federal government. This was similar to the new construction initiated in FY 2006–07, where the funding shares were, 62%, 32%, and 6%, respectively. In recent years, the federal portion of funding has been under 10% and declining, with the FY 2009 level the lowest for several decades.
In FY 2009, about $2.0 billion in current funds was spent for academic research equipment (i.e., moveable items, such as computers or microscopes) necessary for the conduct of organized research projects (appendix table
The $2.0 billion of equipment spending in FY 2009 was just under 4% of the $54.9 billion of total academic R&D expenditures that year. In FY 2004, the share was somewhat above 4% of the academic R&D total. In FY 1999, the fraction was closer to 5%.
This equipment spending continues to be concentrated in just a few S&E fields. In FY 2009, three fields accounted for 82% of the annual total: life sciences (41%), engineering (24%), and the physical sciences (17%). The shares for these three fields have remained similarly predominant for many years (appendix table
Some of the funding for academic research equipment comes from the federal government. These federal funds are generally received as part of research grants or as separate equipment grants. In FY 2009, the federal government supported 55% of total academic research equipment funding—a figure that has fluctuated between 55% and 63% over the last 20 years (appendix table
Networking is an essential component of cyberinfrastructure. It facilitates research-related activities such as communication, data transfer, high-performance computation, and remote use of instrumentation. In FY 2009, networking infrastructure on many academic campuses was pervasive and still rapidly expanding in capability and coverage. Research-performing institutions had more connections, bandwidth, and campus coverage than they did earlier in the decade. (Network "bandwidth" is the amount of data that can be transmitted in a given amount of time, typically measured in bits per second.) Colleges and universities reported external network connections with greater bandwidth, faster internal network distribution speeds, more connections to high-speed networks, and greater wireless coverage on campus.
Some academic cyberinfrastructure is dedicated primarily to research activities. For example, universities may have high-performance networks (such as the National LambdaRail or networks to government agencies) available almost exclusively for research activities, and this bandwidth capacity is only for these activities. Nonetheless, universities may have other networks that are available to the entire campus community for both research and non-research activities, and this bandwidth capacity is not an indicator solely of research capacity.
Academic institutions can have multiple networking resources, at varying connection speeds. Internet1—the public multiuse, commodity network often called the "Internet"—is one such component. Many institutions also have direct or indirect connections to high-performance networks that support the development and use of advanced applications and technologies. In the academic community, these high-performance networks are chiefly Internet2 (a high performance backbone network providing leading-edge network services to member colleges, universities, and research laboratories across the country), the National LambdaRail (an advanced optical network for research and education, organized by a consortium of universities, private companies, and federal labs), and connections to federal research networks.
Early in the 2000 decade, some academic institutions reported no Internet1 connections of any kind. By mid-decade, all institutions had Internet1 connections and bandwidth speeds were increasing. Between FY 2005 and FY 2009, the fraction of institutions with total Internet1 and Internet2 bandwidth of more than 100 megabits per second increased from 52% to 80% (table
Bandwidth has increased broadly across all types of academic institutions. Nevertheless, a greater fraction of doctorate-granting institutions have the faster bandwidths. In FY 2009, 87% of the institutions that granted doctorates had total Internet1 and Internet2 bandwidth of at least 1 gigabit per second, and 32% had bandwidth greater than 2.4 gigabits. In contrast, 71% of nondoctorate granting institutions had total bandwidth at 1 gigabit per second or above and 8% above 2.4 gigabits.
Part of the increase in institutions' bandwidth can be attributed to an increase in the number of connections to high-performance networks (table
The bandwidth speeds of academic institutions' internal networks have also increased considerably. Since early in the present decade, the percentage of institutions with slower bandwidth has rapidly decreased while the percentage with faster bandwidths has rapidly increased. In FY 2003, 66% of institutions had bandwidth less than 1 gigabit per second, but by the end of FY 2009, only 19% did (table
In FY 2009, all academic institutions had at least some wireless coverage in their campus buildings. In FY 2003, only 14% of these institutions had more than half of their building infrastructure covered by wireless; by FY 2009, the comparable figure was 74%.