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Federal Research Funding Drops 9 Percent in Latest Data

New data reveal that annual federal funding for research has dropped 9 percent in the post-stimulus era, losing about $6 billion after 2010, with no overall improvement expected at least through 2013.

According to the National Science Foundation, in fiscal year 2011, total research funding by federal agencies fell to $58 billion from about $63.7 billion the previous two years. Preliminary data show funding in 2012 also totaled about $58 billion, with 2013 projected a bit higher in current dollars ($59.7 billion), though stagnant in constant dollars. (In constant 2005 dollars, funding peaked in 2009 at $57.6 billion, dipped slightly to $57.1 billion in 2010, then dropped to $51 billion in 2011. In 2012, in constant dollars, the figure will be $50.1 billion. The projection for 2013 is $50.9 billion.)

Research Funding by Agency
Of the top-6 agencies, Health and Human Services has been the most impacted. HHS provided $35.8 billion. in research funds in 2010 but fell to $30.8 billion to $30.9 billion in 2011, 2012, and 2013. Between 2009 and 2010, the agency lost $2 billion in American Recovery and Reinvestment Act funding, then lost another $5.7 billion in 2011, with some of the difference made up in non-ARRA funding.

Research funding by the Department of Energy took a $650 million hit in 2011 from the loss of ARRA funds but also gained in non-ARRA funding. In 2011, the agency' research s funding fell off by about $250 million, hitting $7.35 billion. It fell to $7.1 billion in 2012, according to preliminary data, and is expected to rebound to nearly $8 billion by the end of this year, though in inflation-adjusted dollars its research funding will still be off by about $100 million.

The Department of Defenses's research spending fell off about $470 million in 2011, hitting $6.6 billion. That remained flat in 2011 and is expected to increase by about $150 million this year.

The National Science Foundation's research funding fell of $1.08 billion between 2009 and 2010 (from nearly $6.1 billion to $5 billion) owing to a large drop in ARRA funding that year. It was around $5.1 billion in 2011 and 2012 and is expected to climb slightly to $5.4 billion this year.

The USDA has remained flat at roughly $2 billion to $2.2 billion each year from 2009 to 2012 and is expected to stay flat at $2.06 billion this year.

NASA is the only agency in the top-6 that is expected to come out ahead in both current and inflation-adjusted research funding by the end of this year. The space agency actually increased its research spending slightly from $1.5 billion in 2010 to $1.575 billion in 2011. That rose to $1.64 billion in 2012 and is expected to hit $1.87 billion this year.

Research Funding by Discipline
The two disciplines hardest by the research funding declines will be environmental sciences and life sciences.

Federal agency funding for environmental sciences research was at $3.75 billion in 2009. It dropped to $3.34 billion in 2010 then to $3.2 billion in 2011 and to $3.08 billion in 2012 (according to preliminary data). 2013 is projected at $3.14 billion.

Life sciences research hit $33.27 billion in 2009 and $33.91 billion in 2010. It dropped to $29.41 billion in 2011 and $29.1 billion in 2012. It's projected to land at $29.15 billion this year.

Most other disciplines fell off in federal agency funding between 2010 in 2011 (except social sciences, which saw a slight increase of $65 million) but are expected to return to roughly their 2010 levels or better this year, at least in current dollars. In inflation-adjusted dollars, all will be in the red except the "other" category which will increase from its 2010 level by nearly $1 billion, reaching $3.45 billion.

The complete report is available trough the NSF's statistics portal.

About the Author

David Nagel is the former editorial director of 1105 Media's Education Group and editor-in-chief of THE Journal, STEAM Universe, and Spaces4Learning. A 30-year publishing veteran, Nagel has led or contributed to dozens of technology, art, marketing, media, and business publications.

He can be reached at [email protected]. You can also connect with him on LinkedIn at .

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