Building Boom in Biomedical Science

More than half of growth in academic research facilities is in biological or medical fields, according to the NSF.
July 29, 2005

If your walks through campus are consistently marred by the sound of jackhammers and the sight of bulldozers, a new National Science Foundation offers some reason why.

The foundation's biennial survey of Science and Engineering Research Facilities found that the amount of space dedicated to research at colleges and universities that engage in scientific studies grew by 11 percent from 2001 to 2003, the latest year for which data are available. That's the biggest two-year increase since 1988; since 1988, the average two-year increase has been about 4 percent, according to the NSF survey.

Not surprisingly, given the doubling over the last several years of the budget of the National Institutes of Health, much of the expansion in research facilities occured in the biological and medical sciences. Over all, the number of square feet of research space dedicated to research grew to 172.6 million in 2003, up from 155.1 million. Of that 17.5 million square foot increase, more than half was in the medical sciences (7.1 million) and biological sciences (2.6 million). 

All other fields except agriculture saw increases, though, as the following table shows:

Science and Engineering Research Space
(net assignable square feet, in millions)

Field 1999 2001 2003
All fields 148 155.1 172.6
Agricultural sciences 24 26.7 26.4
Biological sciences 31 33.4 36.0
Computer sciences 2 2.4 3.1
Earth, atmospheric, and ocean sciences 8 8.1 8.9
Engineering 24 25.5 27.4
Mathematics 1 1.0 1.5
Medical sciences 26 27.8 34.9
Physical sciences 19 19.2 20.4
Psychology 4 3.6 4.4
Social sciences 3 4.5 5.7
Other sciences 3 3.0 3.8

Source: NSF

The biological and medical sciences also accounted for more than half of all construction of research facilities that colleges and universities began in 2002 and 2003, the NSF survey found. Two hundred sixteen colleges and universities spent at least $7.6 billion on 420 new research construction projects in that two-year period, and $4.4 billion of that was in the biomedical fields.

The NSF survey also contains for the first time data on research institutions' information technology infrastructure. It found that doctorate granting institutions were far likelier than nondoctorate granting institutions to have connections to the Internet at a speed of at least one gigabit.


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