Indicators: Physics, Materials, Astronomy, Environmental Sciences

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Publication date: 
31 August 2000
Number: 
102

   

As explained in FYI #92, the National Science Board has released the report, "Science and Engineering Indicators 2000." Produced by the Directorate for Social, Behavioral and Economic Sciences of the National Science Foundation, this two-volume set contains analysis and thousands of statistics on science and engineering in the United States and, in some cases, other nations.

NSF has informed our office that this two volume set (NSB-00-1), with an accompanying compact disc, is available without charge. This is a unparalleled opportunity for anyone interested in science and technology, and how the conduct of research has changed over time. Address your request to paperpubs [at] nsf.gov and NSF asks, "please specify if you wish to receive both volumes (analytical report and appendix tables) or only the analytical report (vol. 1), which contains a CD of the entire report and appendix tables." NOTE: please do NOT send your request to FYI [at] aip.org

There are many interesting statistics on funding for physics, astronomy, materials engineering and environmental sciences in Volume 2. Selections follow below. Reference in each case is made to the table in volume 2 from which the data was extracted. Some of the latest data is "preliminary."

How has total spending on basic research in the United States changed from 1958 to 1998?
Appendix table 2-10 states the following, in millions of constant 1992 dollars:
TOTAL U.S. BASIC RESEARCH EXPENDITURES
1958: $4,155; 1968: $12,214; 1978: $13,757; 1988: $22,809; 1998: $33,609 million

How has total spending on basic research by just the federal government changed in this period?
Appendix table 2-10 states the following, in millions of constant 1992 dollars:
FEDERAL GOVERNMENT BASIC RESEARCH EXPENDITURES
1958: $2,367; 1968: $8,678; 1978: $9,803; 1988: $14,082; 1998: $17,955 million

How has total spending for academic R&D in physics, materials engineering, astronomy, and environmental sciences (atmospheric science, earth sciences, oceanography, other) changed from 1973 to 1997?
Appendix table 6-7 states the following, in millions of constant 1992 dollars:
EXPENDITURES FOR ACADEMIC R&D, BY FIELD
Physics - 1973: $485; 1979: $537; 1985: $703; 1991: $907; 1997: $941 million
Materials Engineering - 1973 through 1989: not available; 1991: $313; 1997: $350 million
Astronomy - 1973: $70; 1979: $89; 1985: $123; 1991: $217; 1997: $257 million
Env. Sciences - 1973: $608; 1979: $832; 1985: $900; 1991: $1,150; 1997: $1,376 million

How has the "mix" of total expenditures for academic research for each of these fields changed over this period? Below is the percentage of that year's total of 100% which was spent in each field (e.g., in 1973, 5.8% of that year's total expenditure for academic R&D was spent on physics, declining to 4.3% in 1997.) Expenditures for medical sciences are included for comparison. Appendix table 6-7 states the following:
EXPENDITURES FOR ACADEMIC R&D, BY FIELD
Physics - 1973: 5.8%; 1979: 5.4%; 1985: 5.7%; 1991: 5.0%; 1997: 4.3%
Materials Engineering - 1973 through 1989: not available; 1991: 1.7%; 1997: 1.6%
Astronomy - 1973: 0.8%; 1979: 0.9%; 1985: 1.0%; 1991: 1.2%; 1997: 1.2%
Environmental Sciences - 1973: 7.3%; 1979: 8.4%; 1985: 7.3%; 1991: 6.4%; 1997: 6.3%
Medical Sciences - 1973: 22.4%; 1997: 28.2%

How has total spending on basic research in physics, metallurgy & materials engineering, astronomy, and environmental sciences by the federal government changed from 1985 (first year available) to 1997?
Appendix table 2-47 states the following, in millions of constant 1992 dollars:
FEDERAL OBLIGATIONS FOR BASIC RESEARCH
Physics - 1985: $1,225; 1988: $1,405; 1991: $1,693; 1994: $1,429; 1997: $1,397 million
Metallurgy & Materials Engineering - 1985: $271; 1988: $268; 1991: $303; 1994: $314; 1997: $414 million
Astronomy - 1985: $512; 1988: $534; 1991: $630; 1994: $689; 1997: $674 million
Environmental Sciences - 1985: $893; 1988: $1,017; 1991: $1,301; 1994: $1,443; 1997: $1,380 million

Viewing the support of academic research by the federal government from a different perspective, what is the percentage of support provided by various departments and agencies in each field?
Appendix table 6-11 states the following as the sources of support in FY 1997:
PERCENTAGE OF FEDERAL ACADEMIC RESEARCH OBLIGATIONS PROVIDED BY MAJOR AGENCIES, BY FIELD: FY 1997
Physics - DOE: 53.0%; NSF: 24.1%; NASA: 11.7%; DOD: 10.5%; HHS: 0.6%
Materials Engineering - DOD: 45.5%; NSF: 40.3%; DOE: 9.5%; NASA: 4.6%; HHS: 0.0%
Astronomy - NASA: 76.7%; NSF: 23.2%; DOD: 0.1%; DOE and HHS: 0.0%
Env. Sciences - NSF: 46.0%; NASA: 25.8%; DOD: 14.5%; DOE: 10.4%; HHS: 2.5%

What percent of these department or agency's academic research obligations are expended on each field? Appendix table 6-10 states the following for FY 1997 (e.g., 50.1% of DOE's obligations were for academic research in physics.)
DISTRIBUTION OF FEDERAL AGENCY ACADEMIC RESEARCH OBLIGATIONS, BY FIELD: FY 1997
Physics - DOE: 50.1%; NASA: 10.2%; NSF: 6.9%; DOD: 5.8%; HHS: 0.1%
Materials Engineering - DOD: 12.6%; NSF: 5.8%; DOE: 4.5%; NASA 2.0%; HHS: 0.0%
Astronomy - NASA: 21.6%; NSF: 2.1%; DOD, DOE and HHS: 0.0%
Env. Sciences - NSF: 17.0%; NASA: 29.1%; DOE: 12.6%; DOD: 10.3%; HHS: 0.3%

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