Indiana University SPEA Edward J. Bloustein School of Planning and Public Policy University of Pennsylvania AIR American University

Panel Paper: The Backbone of American Academic Research Capacity: An Empirical Study of Funding of University Science and Engineering Research Facilities in the U.S

Friday, November 13, 2015 : 1:50 PM
Grenada (Hyatt Regency Miami)

*Names in bold indicate Presenter

Yonghong Wu, University of Illinois, Chicago
There is a general consensus among S&T policy scholars that R&D policy as a development instrument should center on the growth of capacity (Bozeman, Dietz and Gaughan, 2001). The growth of capacity is generated from the accumulation of scientific and technical human capital, which includes both human capital endowments such as formal education and training, and social relations and network ties (Bozeman and Corley, 2004). However, relatively less attention has been devoted to understanding of the tangible research infrastructures such as facilities and equipment, which constitute the backbone of American academic research capacity. The paper intends to examine the current situation and recent evolution in the funding of university science and engineering research facilities in the U.S.

The American universities provide important resources necessary for excellence in research and the availability of facilities, equipment, graduate assistants, and other factors are critical to the conduct of science and the development of research capacity. The academic R&D activities require substantial financial resources to support operational expenditures primarily on human resources, and to invest in building and maintaining necessary research facilities and equipment. In addition to slightly over $60 billion of academic R&D expenditures in FY 2011, American higher education institutions spent $6.4 billion on new construction and another $3.5 billion on major repairs and renovation of S&E research facilities in FYs 2010-2011. The 2010-2011 funding of S&E research facilities came from multiple sources, including federal government (7.4%), state/local government (28.4%), and other sources (64.2%).

The data of funding of S&E research facilities are from the Survey of Science and Engineering Research Facilities, a congressionally mandated biennial survey to collect data on the amount, construction, repair, renovation, and funding of research facilities. Because the survey was extensively redesigned for implementation in the FY 2003, we use data of the recent decade 2003-2013 to ensure data compatibility. In addition to the overall trend of funding academic S&E research facilities, we are particularly interested in the interactions among the different sources of funding. Given that state government provides a larger share of support to research infrastructure than operational R&D expenditures, we will explore what are the primary determinants of state government funding of S&E research facilities. We expect that the federal funding may substitute state funding although some federal infrastructure-related grants require matching funds from the recipient states.

This empirical study will improve the understanding about the recent evolution of funding of university research facilities and dynamic relationships among federal, state, and other sources of funding.  The findings will shed light on the assessment of some federally funded infrastructure programs. For instance, the recent EPSCoR awards provide funding to the eligible jurisdictions primarily for infrastructure improvement to strengthen their academic research capacity. Since federal government is one of several sources of funding, the aggregate amount of resources and the net effects largely depend on how other parties react to the federal research infrastructure initiatives.