FYI: The AIP Bulletin of Science Policy News

Additional Insights from the Indicators

Richard M. Jones
Number 16 - February 7, 2012  |  Search FYI  |   FYI Archives  |   Subscribe to FYI

Adjust text size enlarge text shrink text    |    Print this pagePrint this page    |     Bookmark and Share     |    rss feed for FYI

As previously mentioned, the National Science Board’s “Science and Engineering Indicators 2012,” is accompanied by a large compendium of statistics. Below are brief descriptions of several tables and figures from this compendium.

Federal Support:

Statistics examine federal expenditures for research from a wide variety of perspectives.  In addition to funding figures by field, the appendix also provides data on academic funding.

Academic R&D funds provided by federal government, by S&E field: Selected Years, 1975-2009

After declining from a high of 86.8 percent in 1980, federal funding for academic physics R&D declined to 72.6 percent in 2009, its lowest level since 1980. This table lists many different fields.

Federally financed R&D expenditures at academic institutions, by S&E field and agency: FY 2009

All federal agencies provided $1,361 million (current dollars) for physics R&D in 2009.  The National Science Foundation provided the most support for academic physics research (33.5 percent), followed by the Department of Energy (24.7 percent) and the Department of Defense (15.1 percent.)  Again, the table lists many different fields.


Public Perceptions and Knowledge of Science:

Correct answers to factual knowledge questions in physical and biological sciences: 1985-2010

Among questions that were asked:

  • “The continents on which we live have been moving their locations for millions of years and will continue to move in the future.”
  • “The universe began with a huge explosion.”
  • “Human beings, as we know them today, developed from earlier species of animals.”
  • “All radioactivity is man-made.
  • “Electrons are smaller than atoms.”
  • “Lasers work by focusing sound waves.”

Public opinion on whether federal government should fund basic scientific research: 1985-2010

“Strongly agree” increased from 9 percent in 1985 to a high of 32 percent in 2006, and declined to 23 percent in 2010.

“Agree” ranged from 70 percent to 53 percent in 2004, and increased to 59% in 2010.
In 2010, the percentage who “strongly agree” or “agree” was 82 percent. 
In 2010, a total of 14 percent of respondents “disagree” or “strongly disagree” with this statement.

Public assessment of federal government spending, by policy area: 1981-2010

Respondents were asked about many government programs, including education, alternative energy systems, law enforcement, childcare assistance, national defense, space exploration, and foreign assistance.  When asked about “supporting scientific research”

  • 36 percent said “too little”
  • 47 percent said “about right”
  • 12 percent said “too much”
  • 5 percent said “don’t know”

Familiarity with nanotechnology, by respondent characteristic: 2010

44 percent of all adults surveyed have heard “nothing at all” about nanotechnology. 

Public assessment of whether the quality of science and mathematics education in American schools is inadequate: 1985-2008

In 2010, 70 percent of those surveyed replied “strongly agree” or “agree.”


The above are but a small sample of the 328 tables and figures appearing in the appendix.

Richard M. Jones
Government Relations Division
American Institute of Physics