Federal Funding for Basic Research at Universities and Colleges Essentially Unchanged in 2012

Five U.S. departments and agencies provided most of the federal funding for basic research.

Universities and colleges received 51 percent of federal obligations for basic research in FY 2012.ThinkstockAccording to a new report from the National Science Foundation (NSF), federal funding for basic research performed at universities and colleges decreased 0.3 percent between fiscal years (FYs) 2011 and 2012.

Three broad fields of science in basic research performed at universities and colleges declined between FY 2011 and FY 2012. Computer sciences and mathematics decreased $75 million, life sciences decreased $55 million, and other sciences not elsewhere classified decreased $160 million.

Even with these declines for federal research funding, the report shows universities and colleges received 51 percent of the total $31 billion in federal obligations for basic research in FY 2012.

Five federal departments and agencies provided $15.4 billion, or 98 percent, of all federal basic research obligations to universities and colleges in FY 2012. Of the basic research total:

  • Department of Health and Human Services obligated 59 percent ($9.2 billion)
  • NSF obligated 24 percent ($3.8 billion)
  • Department of Defense obligated 8 percent ($1.2 billion)
  • Department of Energy obligated 5 percent ($0.7 billion)
  • National Aeronautics and Space Administration obligated 4 percent ($0.6 billion)

In FY 2012, basic research at universities and colleges accounted for 11.4 percent of total research and development obligations. The obligations are estimated to increase to 11.8 percent of total R&D obligations in FY 2013 and are projected to grow to 12.5 percent in FY 2014.

Data for the report are from NSF's Survey of Federal Funds for Research and Development for FYs 2012-14. For more information on this report, please visit NSF's National Center for Science and Engineering Statistics (NCSES).