Vital Assets: Federal Investment in Research and Development at the Nation’s Universities and Colleges. RAND. 2004.
Between fiscal year (FY) 1996 and FY 2002, total federal research and development (R&D) funds going to universities and colleges increased from $12.8 billion to $21.4 billion, an overall increase of 45.7 percent in constant 1996 dollars. The increase was more than twice the overall increase in total federal R&D funds of 20.9 percent. In FY 2002, 45 percent of all federal R&D funds provided to universities and colleges by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services and all other federal agencies went directly to medical schools. The Medical School at Johns Hopkins University alone received more in R&D funding than all but nine universities and colleges in the nation.
The profile of federally funded R&D at universities and colleges that emerges from this analysis raises questions about the proportionality of funding. In the current funding profile, approximately two-thirds of the federal funds going to universities and colleges for R&D is focused on one field of science—life science—and is concentrated at a few research universities. These findings raise questions about whether other critical national needs that have substantial R&D components (e.g., the environment, energy, homeland security, and education) are receiving the investment they require and whether the concentration of dollars at a few institutions is shortchanging science students at institutions that receive little or no federal R&D funding.
Critical Choices: Science, Energy, and Security. Final Report of the Secretary of Energy Advisory Board Task Force on the Future of Science Programs at the Department of Energy. October 2003.
In the last 30 years, the federal investment in research in the physical sciences and engineering has been nearly stagnant, having increased less than 25 percent in constant dollars. The corresponding investment in life science research has increased more than 300 percent. In 1970, research in physical sciences, engineering, and life sciences was funded at a total annual level of approximately $5 billion in 2002 dollars. Today, physical science and engineering research are funded at approximately $5 billion and $7.5 billion, respectively. The current funding for life sciences is about $22 billion.
During this same period, the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) national laboratories have suffered from decay and deferred maintenance, and U.S. industry has largely phased out its basic physical sciences, mathematics, and engineering research programs and organizations. As a result, the United States is no longer the clear leader in some important areas of science.
The report recommends that DOE embark on three major, highly visible research initiatives to fulfill its mission of leadership in energy, security, and science. The first initiative should directly address a basic issue in energy production, storage, distribution, or conservation. The second should establish world leadership in the application of advanced computation and simulation to basic scientific problems. And the third should provide a pioneering research facility for the pursuit of basic science.
Assessing the U.S. R&D Investment. Prepared by the Panel on Federal Investment in Science and Technology and Its National Benefits, President’s Council of Advisors on Science and Technology. October 2002.
FUNDING FOR RESEARCH AND DEVELOPMENT. There have been considerable shifts in the sources of funding for U.S. R&D. In FY 2000, private sector R&D accounted for 67 percent of the total, and federal funding accounted for a mere 30 percent. In 1976, the split was about 50/50, and prior to 1975, the share of federal funding was larger than the industry share. With the predominance of industry R&D, basic and applied research as a percentage of total R&D will most likely drop. If there is not enough investment in basic and applied research, no significant advances in new products, services, defense, or health will be made, and we can expect that 25 years from now the United States will be an importer, rather than an exporter, of most goods and services.
Another major change has taken place in the disciplinary areas funded over the last 25 years. In FY 1970, support for the three major areas of research (physical and environmental sciences, life sciences, and engineering) was about equal. Today, the life sciences receive 48 percent of federal R&D funding compared to 11 percent for the physical sciences and 15 percent for engineering. The lack of funding in the latter two disciplines raises a number of concerns:
The number of full-time graduate students and Ph.D. students in most physical sciences, mathematics, and engineering disciplines is decreasing; the number in the life sciences is increasing.
Facilities and infrastructure in general for the physical sciences are less than adequate for the needs of today’s researchers.
Interdependencies among disciplines require that research in all disciplines advance together.
HUMAN RESOURCES. The number of full-time graduate students in most fields of science and engineering has either declined or remained stagnant (based on 1998 data). Nearly half of the students earning doctorates in science and engineering fields and nearly 35 percent of those earning master’s degrees in the United States are foreign born.
Compared to other countries, the United States is at the low end in terms of the number of 24-year-olds attracted to the natural sciences and engineering; in 1975, the United States was at the high end. These statistics are for four-year degrees and higher degrees, but similar problems exist at the technical/community college level.
KEY RECOMMENDATIONS. 1. Beginning with FY 2004, the R&D budget should be adjusted upward for the physical sciences and engineering to bring them collectively to parity with the life sciences over the next four budget cycles. 2. A major program of fellowships should be established to attract U.S. citizens to science and engineering fields that support critical national needs.
Sustaining the Nation’s Innovation Ecosystems, Information Technology Manufacturing and Competitiveness. Prepared by the Subcommittee on Information Technology Manufacturing and Competitiveness, President’s Council of Advisors on Science and Technology. January 2004.
The world is on the brink of a new industrial world order. Those who simply make commodities faster and cheaper than the competition will not be the big winners in the increasingly fierce global scramble for supremacy. The winners will be those who develop talent, techniques, and tools so advanced that they have no competition. This will mean securing unquestioned superiority in nanotechnology, biotechnology, and information science and engineering. And it will require upgrading and protecting investments that have given us our present national stature and unsurpassed standard of living.
U.S. leadership in technology and innovation depends on dynamic innovation ecosystems, built on strong investment in basic R&D, skilled scientists and engineers, a flexible, skilled workforce, reliable infrastructure, and a supportive regulatory and legal environment. The United States will need increased federal funding for basic research in nanotechnology, information technology, and manufacturing R&D and improvements in science and technology education and related workforce skills to maximize its advantages.
High-Technology Manufacturing and U.S. Competitiveness. RAND. March 2004.
From 1977 to 2001, U.S. manufacturing output nearly doubled when measured in constant 1996 dollars. In the same period, real output per manufacturing worker more than doubled to more than $86,000. This large increase in productivity is the reason for decreases in manufacturing employment. U.S. manufacturing activities that have remained in the United States tend to be the most advanced, complex kinds of manufacturing, typically requiring close coordination with engineering or design staff. But routine manufacturing, in which every efficiency must be pursued, tends to locate overseas.
Research universities, national laboratories, and technology industries depend on R&D funding for the development of emerging technologies and cutting-edge innovation. In 1970, federal R&D funding was slightly more than 1 percent of gross domestic product (GDP). By 2000, federal funding had fallen to about 0.25 percent of GDP.
Pasteur’s Quadrant. Donald. E. Stokes. Brookings Institution. 1997.
Stokes argues persuasively that the post-WWII linear paradigm of research, from basic to applied research, has scientific, political, and social shortcomings. He documents how adherence to this paradigm influenced patterns of federal sponsorship for research after the war, including the emergence of the National Science Foundation (NSF) and the distribution of federal research funds to mission agencies, NSF, and the National Institutes of Health. For instance, the U.S. Department of Defense definitions of research (e.g., 6.1, 6.2, etc.) are based directly on the linear model.
As an alternative to the linear model, Stokes proposes a planar model with four quadrants:
Stokes argues that a national debate should be opened to discuss the limitations of the linear model and develop agendas for the future based on use-inspired basic science that bears on the nation’s needs. This research should be funded by agencies throughout the government.
Revolutionizing Science and Engineering Through Cyberinfrastructure. NSF Blue Ribbon Advisory Panel on Cyberinfrastructure. January 2003.
A new age has dawned in scientific and engineering research, pushed forward by continuing progress in computing, information, and communication technology and pulled ahead by the increasing complexity, scope, and scale of today’s challenges. The panel recommends that the National Science Foundation establish and lead a large-scale, interagency, and internationally coordinated advanced cyberinfrastructure program to create, deploy, and apply cyberinfrastructure in ways that radically empower all scientific and engineering research and related fields of education. Sustained funding of $1 billion per year will be necessary to achieve critical mass and leverage co-investments from other federal agencies, universities, industry, and international sources.
Invention: Enhancing Inventiveness for Quality of Life, Competitiveness, and Sustainability. Committee for the Study of Invention, Lemelson-MIT Program and the National Science Foundation. April 2004.
To meet the challenges and take advantage of our recent opportunities, it is important that we leverage human ingenuity. The United States has an enviable record of scientific discovery and engineering invention but has not been as good at anticipating the long-term effects and larger implications of new technologies. Economic forces, including government support for research and development, play a decisive role in the direction of inventiveness. Federal support for large systems projects has stimulated inventiveness; support for individual investigators doing basic research has expanded discovery-type knowledge but has been less effective in stimulating invention.
Engineering schools should examine their tenure and promotion policies to determine how they can put greater emphasis on invention and the teaching of inventiveness. They should also support research projects and external collaborations, and maintain policies, that promote creativity among students and faculty.
The Future of University Nuclear Engineering Programs and University Research and Training Reactors. Department of Energy Office of Nuclear Energy, Science and Technology. May 2000.
The U.S. nuclear science and engineering educational structure has not only stagnated, but has actually declined significantly. The number of independent nuclear engineering programs and the number of operating university nuclear reactors have both fallen by about half since the mid-1980s. The survival of nuclear engineering as a discipline is becoming problematic, as falling enrollments result in fewer programs, which in turn result in further declines in enrollment. Nevertheless, the demand for nuclear-trained personnel is on the rise.
Preparing for the 21st Century: Science and Engineering Research in a Changing World. National Research Council. 1997.
This report aggregates the findings and recommendations of National Research Council reports from the early and mid-1990s. A primary recommendation is that the federal government establish a new budget category, federal science and technology to enable individual agencies to consider their science and technology budgets properly.
New Perspectives on Economic Growth and Technological Innovation. F.M. Scherer. Brookings Institution. 1999.
Economic studies have shown that increases in productivity are significantly correlated with the level of spending on R&D. Technological progress in industry requires concerted, profit-oriented activity that yields (1) products that can be patented and produced and (2) knowledge, which tends to spill over into the general pool of knowledge. As knowledge
increases, R&D becomes more productive, creating more knowledge, more new products, and more economic growth. The cycle is dependent on sufficient human capital, which is the most important component in advancing science and technology.
After World War II, the United States allocated more of its human capital to R&D than any other country in the world. But growth slowed in the 1980s, and a decline began in the early 1990s, when Japan led the world with 41 scientists and engineers per 10,000 people. The United States was second with 38, followed by Norway with 32, West Germany with 28, and Singapore with 23. In 1993, China had 3, and India had 1. Reasons for the decline in U.S. science and engineering graduates include a lack of academic openings, low earnings relative to other professions, and the poor quality of math and science education, which limits interest and ability in science and engineering studies.