Public Release: 

Federal research funding up in FY 2015

But total R&D funding falls by 1 percent

National Science Foundation

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Credit: NSF

Federal funding for research and development (R&D) and R&D plant (facilities and fixed equipment) totaled $131.4 billion in Fiscal Year (FY) 2015, a 1 percent decrease from the previous year, according to a new report from the National Center for Science and Engineering Statistics (NCSES).

NCSES reported that within the R&D total, research obligations -- a category of transactions including orders placed, contracts awarded and services received -- increased by 1 percent to $63.6 billion. At the same time, development funding fell by 4 percent to $64.9 billion and R&D plant rose a substantial 27 percent to $2.8 billion.

The NCSES report breaks down research funding amounts for the top federal agencies, including:

  • Department of Health and Human Services (HHS): At $30.2 billion, HHS had the largest share of total federal research obligations. However, HHS research funding represented a 1 percent decrease ($390 million) from the previous year. The department's funding obligations were split evenly between basic and applied research. At $25.2 billion, life sciences was the research category that received the biggest share of HHS' research obligations.
  • Department of Energy (DOE): DOE research obligations rose to $8.6 billion, an increase of 7 percent. About 52 percent of its obligations went toward basic research, and 48 percent went toward applied. Engineering received the biggest share of DOE research obligations, at $3.7 billion.
  • Department of Defense (DOD): DOD's research obligations decreased by $12 million, to $6.7 billion. About 32 percent of DOD's obligations went toward basic research, and 68 percent went toward applied. Engineering received the biggest share of DOD research obligations, at $2.7 billion.
  • National Science Foundation (NSF): NSF's research obligations grew to $5.7 billion, representing a 5 percent increase. Almost all NSF research obligations -- 88 percent -- go toward basic research. NSF spreads its research support more evenly across all science and engineering fields than any other agency, with 21 percent ($1.2 billion) going toward environmental sciences, 18 percent ($1 billion) toward mathematics and computer science, 18 percent ($1 billion) for engineering, 16 percent ($900 million) for physical sciences and 12 percent ($700 million) for life sciences.
  • National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA): NASA research obligations totaled $5.5 billion, a 4 percent increase. About 58 percent of NASA's funding went toward basic research, and 42 percent went toward applied research. NASA directed 87 percent of its funding to three fields: engineering ($2.1 billion), physical sciences ($1.5 billion) and environmental sciences ($1.3 billion).

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For more information, including the top 10 state or location recipients for federal R&D funding, read the full report.

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