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  NSF 04-331 | July 2004   PDF format PDF format | See Related Reports  

Federal Obligations for R&D and R&D Plant Expected to Reach Over $105 Billion in FY 2004

by Ronald L. Meeks Send an e-mail message to the author

Federal obligations for research and development (R&D) and R&D plant in fiscal year 2004 will increase an estimated 4 percent (3 percent in inflation-adjusted 2000 dollars) over the FY 2003 level, reaching $105.2 billion (table 1). In this InfoBrief, "research" includes both basic and applied research. See Data Notes, below, for more detailed definitions of research, development, and R&D plant.

Table 1. Federal obligations for research, development, and R&D plant, by character of work: FY 1990?2004.
Table 1 Source Data: Excel file

Federal Funding for Research

With agencies projecting a rise of 3 percent (2 percent in constant 2000 dollars) in total research funding, to $54.1 billion, research will account for 51 percent of total R&D and R&D plant dollars in FY 2004. The Departments of Health and Human Services (HHS), Defense (DoD), Energy (DOE), and Agriculture, and two independent agencies, the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) and the National Science Foundation (NSF), have consistently been the top research-funding agencies. Combined, these six agencies are expected to account for 93 percent of research dollars in FY 2004 (table 2). HHS is expected to provide the largest share (52 percent) of agency-funded research, followed by DoD (11 percent) and DOE and NASA (10 percent each).

Table 2. Federal obligations for research, by selected agency: FY 1990?2004.
Table 2 Source Data: Excel file

Basic Research
Since FY 1990 Federal obligations for basic research have grown annually an average of 6 percent (4 percent in constant 2000 dollars). The basic-research share of Federal obligations for R&D and R&D plant has also increased, growing from 17 percent in FY 1990 to 25 percent in FY 2000. Since FY 2000 that share has remained at 25 or 26 percent (table 1). In FY 2004 agency support for the life sciences, an estimated $15.4 billion, will account for 58 percent of the total for basic research (table 3).

Table 3. Federal obligations for research, by field of science and engineering: FY 2002?2004.
Table 3 Source Data: Excel file

Applied Research
Federal obligations for applied research during the period FY 1990 to FY 2004 have grown at an average annual rate of 7 percent (5 percent in constant 2000 dollars) (table 1). Applied research accounted for 16 percent of Federal R&D and R&D plant obligations in FY 1990 and had reached 27 percent by FY 2001. That share has since remained steady. Applied research funding is concentrated in the life sciences ($13.9 billion, or 51 percent) and engineering ($6.8 billion, or 25 percent).

Science and Engineering Fields
According to preliminary estimates, engineering ($9.1 billion), physical sciences ($5.4 billion), and environmental sciences ($3.8 billion) will receive substantial support for research in FY 2004 (table 3); however, the life sciences will receive more research funding (an estimated $29.3 billion) in FY 2004 than will any other field. The life sciences (agricultural sciences, biological sciences, environmental biology, medical sciences, and other life sciences) will account for more than half of total research funding. HHS (mostly from NIH) will provide 85 percent ($24.8 billion) of life sciences research funding.

Federal Funding for Development

Until FY 2004 the development share of total obligations for R&D and R&D plant had been decreasing, falling from 64 percent in FY 1990 to an estimated 43 percent in FY 2003 (table 1). In FY 2004, however, agencies project an increase in development funding of 9 percent (7 percent in constant 2000 dollars) over the FY 2003 level, to $47.0 billion, or 45 percent of total R&D and R&D plant obligations. DoD will provide 39.9 billion of these development dollars (85 percent), up 11 percent from FY 2003.

Federal Funding for R&D Plant

R&D plant is slated to decrease 21 percent (22 percent in constant 2000 dollars) from FY 2003 levels, to $4.2 billion (table 1). R&D plant dollars will account for 4 percent of the R&D and R&D plant total. NASA will provide the largest share of R&D plant dollars ($2.2 billion), followed by DOE ($1.0 billion) and NSF ($0.3 billion).

Data Notes

All percentages in this report have been rounded to whole numbers. Preliminary estimates presented here are being released in advance of the NSF detailed statistical tables report Federal Funds for Research and Development: Fiscal Years 2002, 2003, and 2004. The full report will be available at http://www.nsf.gov/sbe/srs/dst.htm.

Research, development, and R&D plant, collectively, includes all costs for performance of R&D plus the costs of R&D plant. R&D plant includes costs related to structures, works, equipment, facilities, or land for use in R&D activities.

Research is systematic study directed toward fuller scientific knowledge or understanding of the subject studied and is classified as either basic or applied. Basic research is performed without specific applications in mind; applied research is performed to meet a recognized, specific need.

Development includes costs related to the production of materials, devices, and systems or methods and comprises design, development, and improvement of prototypes and new processes to meet specific requirements.

For more information, contact

Ronald L. Meeks
Research and Development Statistics Program
Division of Science Resources Statistics
National Science Foundation
4201 Wilson Boulevard, Suite 965
Arlington, VA 22230


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