Higher-ed R&D funding hits 38-year low


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U.S. universities’ spending for research and development in 2012 dwindled for the first time in almost four decades.

Universities spent a total of $65.8 billion on research, representing a 1 percent decline in spending; the largest decrease since 1974 after adjusting for inflation, according to a National Science Foundation survey released Nov 27.

The decline marks a stoppage in a small growth period for R&D. Between 2009 and 2011, higher-education spending grew an average of 5 percent a year.

Part of the decline can be attributed to less spending from the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009. Federal funding from the act decreased from $4.2 billion to $2.4 billion between 2011 and 2012. The act represented about 6 percent of federally funded R&D expenditures in 2012.

Institution, business and nonprofit funding grew in 2012, however. Institution spending increased by more than $1 billion.

State and local funding declined along with federal government funding. State and local funding dropped about $100 million, while federal funding was slashed about $600 million.

About 30 institutions make up 40 percent of all R&D spending.

The university receiving the most funding was Johns Hopkins University, with about $2.1 billion.

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