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FYI Number 70: June 4, 2004

New Report Characterizes Support for Physics, Astronomy, Earth Sciences

Every two years, the National Science Board issues a report that almost staggers the mind with thousands of statistics about the conduct of science and technology in the United States and in the larger world. The current report, "Science & Engineering Indicators - 2004," contains eight chapters of analysis, packaged with an accompanying appendix containing many tables of statistics.

These volumes are the sixteenth in a series of reports that are a well-known and highly trusted source of information. The chapters in the first volume cover topics such as elementary though higher education, the science and engineering labor force, U.S. and international R&D, academic R&D, "industry, technology, and the global marketplace," public attitudes and understanding about S&T, and state indicators. Both the report and accompanying appendix and can be found at http://www.nsf.gov/sbe/srs/seind04/start.htm A free CD of the two volumes is available by contacting the National Science Board (not AIP) at http://www.nsf.gov/sbe/srs/seind04/cdreq.htm

The following figures on physical sciences research are drawn from the appendix to this report, with the table number noted for further reference. Directional variations in year-to-year funding should be expected. Note that some of the statistics apply to academic research expenditures, to all research expenditures, to various disciplines, and to physical sciences. Questions about the meaning of a particular point are perhaps best clarified by consulting the cited appendix table at http://www.nsf.gov/sbe/srs/seind04/pdf_v2.htm

In FY 2003, the federal obligation for physical sciences research was $5,200.5 million. Of this, DOE provided $2,049.0 million, NASA provided $1,179.5 million, NSF provided $643.9 million, DOD provided $573.4 million, and HHS $432.7 million. (Appendix table 4-33)

The federal obligation for physics research (in constant 1996 dollars) was $2,450.5 million in 1982, and $2,248.7 million in 2001. This is an annual growth rate of minus 0.5%. (Appendix table 4-34)

The federal obligation for astronomy research (in constant 1996 dollars) was $419.7 million in 1982, and $693.5 million in 2001. This was an annual growth rate of 2.7%. (Appendix table 4-34)

The federal obligation for environmental sciences research (in constant 1996 dollars) was $1,747.3 million in 1982, and $2,970.3 million in 2001. This was an annual growth rate of 2.8%. (Appendix table 4-34)

Federal and non-federal research expenditures at academic institutions in 2001 were distributed as follows:
Physics research was 3.8% of all R&D expenditures. Of this, 74.9% was federal and 25.1% was non-federal.
Astronomy research was 1.2% of all R&D expenditures. Of this, 68.7% was federal and 31.3% was non-federal.
Earth, atmospheric and ocean sciences research was 5.6% of all R&D expenditures. Of this, 64.7% was federal and 35.3% was non-federal. (Appendix table 5-5)

In 1975, physics research comprised 5.1% of all expenditures for academic R&D, declining to 3.8% in 2001. For astronomy research, the comparable figures are 0.8% and 1.2%. For earth, atmospheric, and ocean sciences research the comparable figures are 7.5% and 5.6% (Appendix table 5-7)

In 2001, federal academic research received the following percentages of support from the below major agencies:
Physics: DOE: 50.2%; NSF: 28.4%; DOD: 12.8%; NASA: 8.6%
Astronomy: NASA: 80.5%; NSF: 19.5%
Earth, atmospheric, and ocean sciences: NSF: 39.9%; HHS: 19.8%; NASA: 18.9%; DOD: 11.5%; DOE: 9.5%; USDA: 0.3% (Appendix table 5-11)

In 2001, 6.6% of NSF's academic research obligation was for physics, 2.1% for astronomy, and 14.6% for earth, atmospheric, and ocean sciences. In 2001, 41.6% of DOE's academic research obligation was for physics, 0.0% for astronomy, and 12.5% for earth, atmospheric and ocean sciences. In 2001, 6.1% of NASA's academic research obligation was for physics, 26.6% for astronomy, and 21.3% for earth, atmospheric and ocean sciences. (Appendix table 5-10)

In 1988, there were 16 million square feet of assignable academic research space for physical sciences, which increased to 19 million square feet in 2001. The comparable figures for earth, atmospheric and ocean sciences are 6 million square feet and 8 million square feet. (Appendix table 5-13)

In constant 1996 dollars, the expenditure for academic physics research equipment was $53 million in 1983 and $103 million in 2001. The comparable figures for academic astronomical research equipment in 1983 was $6 million and $13 million in 2001. The comparable figures for academic earth, atmospheric and ocean sciences was $45 million in 1983 and $81 million in 2001. (Appendix 5-14)

Richard M. Jones
Media and Government Relations Division
American Institute of Physics
fyi@aip.org
301-209-3095

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