NEW YORK (GenomeWeb News) - The US federal government in 2006 spent $18.3 billion on the academic life sciences through federally financed R&D expenditures, with the majority, $15.2 billion, coming from the Department of Health and Human Services, according to a recent report from the National Science Foundation.
Other federal agencies contributed far less to life sciences in 2006, the most recent year for which data is available, NSF said in its Science and Engineering Indicators 2008 report, which presents a numerical picture of the state of US science and engineering and offers a big-picture look at the trends in research fields and in science education.
The report is packed with information about a wide variety of trends, including information about biotechnology and life sciences funding and career data for researchers in the field.
HHS provided 83 percent of all federal life science research funding in 2006. In addition to the $15.2 billion that HHS spent that year, the report said the US Department of Defense spent $446 million; the Department of Energy spent $153 million; the National Aeronautics and Space Administration spent $103 million; the National Science Foundation spent $587 million; the US Department of Agriculture spent $718 million; and all other agencies spent a total of $1 billion.
In 2005, HHS funding accounted for 91 percent of life sciences spending.
Doctorate recipients in the life sciences who were holding tenure and tenure track appointments at academic institutions stumbled somewhat in 2003, falling from 12.6 percent in 1993 to 8 percent and then rising again to 13.4 percent in 2006 for researchers who had received their doctorates in the previous three years. For those who received their doctorates between four and six years previous, that number slid between 1993 and 2006 from 24.8 percent to 20.8 percent.
In terms of salary, life sciences doctorate recipients who had received their degrees between one and five years before 2006 earned $38,000 at the 25th percentile, $46,000 at the 50th percentile and $65,000 at the 75th percentile.
NSF prepares the report every two years as an impartial document of trends, and offered the three major recommendations along with this year's edition: the federal government should enhance funding for basic research, “encourage greater intellectual exchange or synergy between industry and academy,” and should keep its eyes on how the globalization of high-tech industries is affecting the US economy.
Aside from the broad recommendations for more spending, sharing, and monitoring, this report is about affixing big numbers to dates, such as the record-high, international best $340 billion the US spent on R&D in 2006.
The board also breaks those and other numbers down. Applied research in 2006 was $75 billion, or 22 percent of total R&D, while basic research was $62 billion, or 18 percent, and development gained the lion’s share of funding at $203 billion, or 60 percent.
The federal government provided around 60 percent of basic research funds, while industry provided around 17 percent and the rest came from private foundations and academic institutions.
In spite of that spending, the US’ advantage in hi-tech exports has slipped with the trade balance in advanced technology products shifting from a surplus to a deficit in 2002. Most of that deficit was made up of IT and communications instrument products arriving from Asia, according to the NSF.
Buttressing the US spending on R&D was an increase in support from the American public for federal government funding from 80 percent to 87 percent over the past quarter century, according to the NSF.