A Look at the Numbers
All that extra space does not guarantee that a lot more research will take place there. That will happen only if the grants are there, Dr. Stevens noted. NIH spending rose about 3% between FY ’08 and FY ’09, from $29.3 billion to $30.2 billion, then further to $30.93 billion in FY 2010. That excludes the $10 billion appropriated to NIH in FY ’09 under ARRA, which was available through FY ’10.
NIH funding dipped in the recently approved budget deal for FY 2011 to $30.7 billion. President Obama would like, however, to raise the agency’s budget to $32.9 billion for FY ’12.
Two sets of numbers offer additional insight on academic R&D. Last December, the Association of University Technology Managers issued data showing a 4.7% increase in the amount spent by universities on research to $53.9 billion in the year ending June 30, 2009, from $51.47 billion a year earlier. This figure includes all types of scientific research, not just life sciences.
A few months earlier the NSF released data showing that the life sciences accounted for about 60%, or $32.8 billion, of the overall $54.9 billion spent by the nation’s colleges and universities on R&D during the 2009 academic fiscal year. That figure rose 5%, or more than $1.5 billion, from the $31.2 billion recorded for FY 2008, according to NSF’s annual Survey of Research and Development Expenditures at Universities and Colleges.
Within NSF’s life science category, medical sciences accounted for most of the research spending in FY ’09, which grew 5.7% to $18.2 billion from $17.3 billion the previous year. The next-largest category was biological sciences, which grew 3.9% to $10.15 billion from $9.8 billion in FY ’08. Rounding out the list was agricultural sciences, up 2.1% year-over-year to almost $3.1 billion, and life sciences falling in the “not elsewhere classified” category up 13.6% to $1.3 billion.
NSF’s ability to grow all these numbers will be hampered at least for this fiscal year, since the agency’s budget was cut as part of the recent budget agreement approved by both houses of Congress and signed by President Obama. At about $6.9 billion, NSF will see $53 million less than FY ’10, of which $43 million was cut from the agency’s budget for research and related activities, shrinking it to $5.56 million.
And while the size of NSF’s FY 2012 budget is anyone’s guess, it’s fair to say it won’t be as high as the $7.77 billion proposed in January by President Obama, about 13% above FY 2010 spending. Not when Congressional Republicans and the president are positioning themselves as spending cutters. Both are championing competing cost-reduction plans as annual deficits exceed $1 trillion.