Research Spending Is Up

Expenditures on funds for research at universities topped $40 billion in 2003, double the level of 1993.

July 21, 2005

Colleges and universities spent $40.1 billion on research and development in the 2003 fiscal year, up 10.2 percent from the previous year and 100 percent from 1993.

The data were released by the National Science Foundation, which regularly studies research spending in higher education.

A majority of the research funds came from Washington. Federal research and development spending in 2003 was $24.7 billion, up 13 percent from the previous year. Other significant sources of research support include state and local governments, businesses and institutional funds. Industry support for R&D in higher education fell by 1 percent in 2003, to $2.16 billion. Other categories all reported increases.

Nearly three-fourths of total research spending is for basic research, but applied research outpaced basic research slightly in the rate of increase, 11 percent to 10 percent.

Within the sciences and engineering, the top area of support, by far, is the medical sciences. The following table shows a breakdown, by disciplines.

R&D Expenditures by Higher Education in Science and Engineering, 2003

Field All Spending Federal Spending
Agricultural sciences   $2,555,000,000    $762,000,000
Biological sciences   $7,392,000,000 $5,017,000,000
Computer sciences   $1,304,000,000    $936,000,000
Environmental sciences   $2,188,000,000 $1,440,000,000
Mathematical sciences      $429,000,000     $295,000,000
Medical sciences $12,787,000,000 $8,249,000,000
Physical sciences   $3,273,000,000 $2,353,000,000
Psychology       $769,000,000      $553,000,000
Social sciences   $1,661,000,000      $667,000,000
Engineering   $5,999,000,000 $3,608,000,000

Outside of the sciences, spending levels are much smaller and total $1.37 billion. Education is the top subject area, at $597 million, followed by business and management at $165 million, humanities at $135 million, and social work at $56 million.

The NSF study also provides rankings of the top universities in R&D expenditures, a category in which Johns Hopkins University is No. 1.

Top 20 Universities in R&D Science Expenditures, 2003

University and rank All Spending Federal Spending
1. Johns Hopkins U. $1,244,000,000 $1,107,000,000
2. U. of California at Los Angeles    $849,000,000    $421,000,000
3. U. of Michigan (all campuses)    $780,000,000    $517,000,000
4. U. of Wisconsin at Madison    $721,000,000    $396,000,000
5. U. of Washington    $685,000,000    $566,000,000
6. U. of California at San Francisco    $671,000,000    $372,000,000
7. U. of California at San Diego    $647,000,000    $400,000,000
8. Stanford U.    $603,000,000    $484,000,000
9. U. of Pennsylvania   $565,000,000   $416,000,000
10. Cornell U. (all campuses)   $555,000,000   $321,000,000
11. Pennsylvania State U. (all campuses)   $533,000,000   $301,000,000
12. Duke U.   $520,000,000   $307,000,000
13. U. of Minnesota (all campuses)   $509,000,000   $293,000,000
14. U. of California at Berkeley   $507,000,000   $238,000,000
15. Ohio State U. (all campuses)   $496,000,000   $198,000,000
16. U. of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign   $494,000,000   $266,000,000
17. Massachusetts Inst. of Technology   $486,000,000   $356,000,000
18. U. of California at Davis   $482,000,000   $208,000,000
19. Washington U. in St. Louis   $474,000,000   $357,000,000
20. Baylor College of Medicine   $462,000,000   $303,000,000

The universities in the rankings aren't entirely equivalent. Johns Hopkins leads the pack in large part because of the grants awarded to the Applied Physics Laboratory, which received $582 million in federal R&D support in 2003. These rankings also group together some university systems, but not others. Five University of California campuses appear on the top 20 list.

Federal spending on research and development remains highly concentrated, the data show. The top 20 institutions noted above account for 32 percent of federally sponsored R&D spending.


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