Thursday, September 30, 2010

Universities Report $55 Billion in Science and Engineering R&D Spending for FY 2009; Redesigned Survey to Launch in 2010

University spending on research and development in science and engineering (S&E) increased 5.8% between FY 2008 and FY 2009 to $54.9 billion, according to FY 2009 data from the National Science Foundation (NSF) Survey of Research and Development Expenditures at Universities and Colleges (table 1).[2] When adjusted for inflation, academic R&D rose by 4.2% in FY 2009.
TABLE 1. S&E R&D expenditures at universities and colleges: FY 2004–09.
FY 2009 federally funded academic R&D expenditures rose 4.2% in current dollars to $32.6 billion, a 2.6% increase in inflation-adjusted dollars (figure 1). The federal government is the largest source of academic S&E R&D funding. Its share of universities' R&D funding total has dropped by 5 percentage points in recent years, from 64% in FY 2005 to 59% in FY 2009.
FIGURE 1. S&E R&D expenditures at universities and colleges, by source of funds: FY 2000–09.
Unless otherwise indicated, references to dollar amounts or percentages for the remainder of this InfoBrief are in current dollars.
The second largest source of funding, institutions' own funds (internal funds), increased by 7.6% in FY 2009 to $11.2 billion (table 1). This amount includes separately budgeted organized research funded solely by the institutions ($6.3 billion) and almost $5 billion in unrecovered indirect costs related to sponsored research and direct cost sharing.[3] Academic R&D expenditures financed by state and local government funding grew by 5.7% in FY 2009, to $3.6 billion.[4] Industry-funded academic R&D had the largest percentage increase from FY 2008 to FY 2009, growing 11.6% to $3.2 billion. Funding from all other sources combined (nonprofit organizations and other nongovernmental entities) increased 9.6% to $4.3 billion.
Academic institutions characterized 74.6% of their FY 2009 total R&D expenditures as basic research rather than applied research or development. This proportion has been fairly constant over the last decade.

S&E R&D Expenditures by Type of Institution

Almost 60% of the R&D-performing academic institutions are public universities (414 in FY 2009), and together they accounted for 68% ($37.5 billion) of the total FY 2009 academic R&D expenditures (table 2). Private institutions (297 in FY 2009) accounted for the remaining $17.4 billion. The relative contributions of the major sources of R&D funding differ substantially for public and private institutions. In FY 2009 the federal government provided 54% of the R&D funds spent by public institutions, compared with 71% for private institutions (figure 2). Internal funds accounted for a larger share of R&D funding at public institutions (24% in FY 2009) than at private institutions (12%).
TABLE 2. S&E R&D expenditures at universities and colleges, by type of control: FY 2009.
FIGURE 2. Sources of S&E R&D funding for public and private institutions: FY 2009.
S&E R&D Expenditures by Field
The majority of academic R&D historically has been concentrated in the life sciences ($32.8 billion in FY 2009) (table 3). Within the life sciences, the subfields of medical and biological sciences continue to account for over half of all R&D expenditures with $18.2 billion and $10.2 billion, respectively. Engineering was the next highest field with $8.7 billion in FY 2009 R&D expenditures. R&D spending in two named subfields showed double-digit percentage increases between FY 2008 and FY 2009, physics at 16.4% and aeronautical/astronautical engineering at 14.2%. Mathematics showed a double-digit percentage decline (-10.9%) between FY 2008 and FY 2009.
TABLE 3. R&D expenditures at universities and colleges, by S&E field: FY 2008–09.

S&E R&D Spending by Federal Agency Sources

Corresponding to the dominance of life sciences R&D within academic institutions, the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS), including the National Institutes of Health, historically has been the largest provider of federal R&D funding to universities and colleges (55% or $18.1 billion in FY 2009) (table 4). NSF contributed the next largest amount in FY 2009 ($3.9 billion) and was the largest single-agency funder of five different fields. The Department of Defense (DOD) provided $3.4 billion, almost half in support of engineering R&D.
TABLE 4. Federally funded R&D expenditures at universities and colleges, by S&E field and agency: FY 2009.

S&E R&D Spending for Top 20 Performers

Of the 711 institutions surveyed, the top 20 in terms of total S&E R&D expenditures accounted for 30% of total academic R&D spending (table 5). The University of Colorado all campuses and the University of North Carolina Chapel Hill both reported one-year R&D spending increases of over $100 million, primarily within the life sciences, and moved into the top 20 in FY 2009, displacing the University of Pittsburgh all campuses and the University of Florida. The University of Michigan all campuses reported a one-year increase of over $130 million, making it the second institution in the survey's history to top $1 billion in annual R&D expenditures. The institutions constituting the top 5 have remained the same since FY 2004.
TABLE 5. Twenty instituions reporting the largest FY 2009 R&D expenditures in S&E fields, ranked by FY 2009 amount: FY 2007–09.

Non-S&E R&D Spending for Top 20 Performers

Academic institutions spent a total of $2.4 billion on R&D in non-S&E fields in FY 2009 (table 6).[5] This amount is in addition to the $54.9 billion expended on S&E R&D. The largest amounts reported for individual non-S&E fields were in education ($921 million), business and management ($341 million), and humanities ($253 million). The top 20 performers of non-S&E R&D accounted for 36% of the total non-S&E R&D expenditures in FY 2009. Purdue University all campuses, ranked 34th in S&E R&D expenditures, holds the number one spot in non-S&E R&D for the second year in a row with $70 million. The University of Michigan all campuses holds the number two spot in non-S&E R&D as well as S&E R&D spending, with $63 million in non-S&E R&D reported in FY 2009. Three institutions were newcomers to the top 20 in FY 2009: Arizona State University, the University of Southern Maine, and Ohio State University all campuses, displacing the University of California, Santa Cruz; Indiana University all campuses; and Brown University.
TABLE 6. Twenty instituions reporting the largest FY 2009 non-S&E R&D expenditures, ranked by FY 2009 amount: FY 2007–09.

Changes for FY 2010

Over the past 3 years NSF has been engaged in a large scale redesign of the Survey of Research and Development Expenditures at Universities and Colleges. The goals of the redesign were to (1) update the survey instrument to reflect current accounting principles, to obtain more valid and reliable measurements of the amount of academic R&D spending in the United States, and (2) expand the current survey items to collect the additional detail most often requested by data users. As part of the redesign effort, NSF held a data user workshop and assembled an expert panel for consultation, worked with accounting and survey methodology experts, visited more than 40 institutions, and conducted phone interviews with an additional 25 institutions to receive input on changes to the survey. A pilot test of the redesigned survey was administered to 40 institutions during the fall of 2009. Final changes to the survey were made based on the feedback of the pilot participant debriefings.
The substantially revised and expanded survey, now the Higher Education R&D (HERD) Survey, will be fielded for the first time in the fall of 2010. Data are expected to be available to the public by late fall of 2011. The HERD Survey will continue to capture comparable information on R&D expenditures by sources of funding and field, which will allow for continued trend analysis. In addition, it will include the following changes:
  • Total R&D will be expanded to include R&D expenditures in both S&E and non-S&E fields
  • The definition of R&D will explicitly include research training grants and clinical trials
  • Each institution campus headed by its own administration (i.e., a campus level president or chancellor) will be asked to report separately to enable a more consistent unit of analysis
  • R&D expenditures funded by nonprofit institutions will be specifically tracked (previously included under "Other sources")
The HERD Survey will also request information never before collected:
  • R&D expenditures funded by foreign sources
  • R&D expenditures by type of funding mechanism (contracts or grants)
  • R&D expenditures within an institution's medical school
  • Clinical trial expenditures
  • R&D expenditures by character of work (basic research, applied research, and development)
  • Detail by field (both S&E and non-S&E) for R&D expenditures from each source of funding (federal, state/local, institution, business, nonprofit, and other)
  • R&D expenditures funded by the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (ARRA)
  • Total R&D expenditures by direct cost categories (salaries, software, equipment)
  • Headcounts of principal investigators and other personnel paid with R&D funds
  • Headcount of postdoctoral researchers paid with R&D funds

Data Sources, Limitations, and Availability

The academic R&D expenditures data presented in this InfoBrief were obtained from 711 universities and colleges that grant degrees in the sciences or engineering and expended at least $150,000 in S&E R&D in the survey period. The amounts reported include all funds expended for S&E activities specifically organized to produce research outcomes and sponsored by an outside organization or separately budgeted using institution funds. R&D expenditures at university-administered federally funded research and development centers (FFRDCs) are collected in a separate survey. Data from the Survey of R&D Expenditures at FFRDCs are available at
Institutions meeting the S&E R&D threshold for inclusion are also asked to provide non-S&E R&D spending. Non-S&E R&D expenditures are reported separately in the survey and are not included in the overall R&D expenditure totals. For a complete listing of the fields included under the S&E and non-S&E categories, refer to the FY 2009 survey questionnaire, available at Data reported on non-S&E R&D expenditures are lower-bound estimates for the national totals because NSF did not attempt to estimate for nonresponse on this item. Also, the activities of institutions that do not perform S&E R&D (but may conduct substantial amounts of non-S&E R&D) are not reflected here.
NSF makes available institutional profiles for institutions of higher education with S&E departments that grant master's degrees or higher ( The profiles contain data from this survey as well as from three other NSF surveys: the Survey of Federal Science and Engineering Support to Universities, Colleges, and Nonprofit Institutions; the Survey of Graduate Students and Postdoctorates in Science and Engineering; and the Survey of Earned Doctorates. Data from the four surveys are available on the Web at and through the NSF WebCASPAR database system, a Web tool for retrieval and analysis of institutional data on academic S&E resources (
The full set of detailed tables from this survey will be available in the report Academic Research and Development Expenditures: Fiscal Year 2009 at Individual detailed tables from the 2009 survey may be available in advance of publication of the full report. For further information, please contact the author.


[1]  Ronda Britt, Research and Development Statistics Program, Division of Science Resources Statistics, National Science Foundation, 4201 Wilson Boulevard, Suite 965, Arlington, VA 22230 (; 703-292-7765).
[2]  The fiscal year referred to throughout this report is the academic fiscal year; for most institutions FY 2009 represents the period 1 July 2008 through 30 June 2009. Most of the increase in R&D expenditures due to American Recovery and Reinvestment Act funding will not be seen until the FY 2010 data.
[3]  Separately budgeted organized research refers to funds designated solely for specific research projects. Unrecovered indirect costs are the portion of indirect costs incurred as a result of conducting sponsored research that are not reimbursed by the project sponsor. Direct cost sharing refers to the portion of direct project costs paid for by the institution on an externally funded project; this amount is negotiated and agreed upon with the sponsor at the time of the project award.
[4]  Figures reported for state and local government support of academic R&D exclude general-purpose funds that schools receive from these sources and devote to R&D activities. These funds are included in figures reported as institutional funds.
[5]  Only institutions reporting S&E R&D expenditures are surveyed for non-S&E R&D spending. See "Data Sources, Limitations, and Availability."

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  1. University spending on research and development in science and engineering (S&E) ...