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October 23, 2008

NSF funding: Where Pitt stands

While federal funding for academic research in real dollars is declining, Pitt continues to rank in the top 20 nationally in terms of National Science Foundation (NSF) funding.

Jan Schaffner of Pitt’s Office of Research, who helps compile data submitted for NSF surveys, said that the University relies on two of the many NSF surveys for its benchmarking. Those two are the Survey of Research and Development Expenditures at Universities and Colleges (, and the Survey of Federal Science and Engineering Support to Universities, Colleges and Nonprofit Institutions (

“The expenditures survey is a report drawn from data submitted by the institutions themselves,” Schaffner explained, “while the other survey is from data that the federal agencies report they gave each institution, also known as ‘obligations.’”

Expenditures data were obtained from 672 universities and colleges that grant degrees in the sciences or engineering and that expended at least $150,000 in science and engineering R&D in the survey period. The latest expenditures survey data are from FY 2007.

The latest obligations data were obtained from the 19 federal agencies (e.g., the Department of Defense, the Department of Health and Human Services, which includes the National Institutes of Health, and the Department of Agriculture) that participated in the FY 2006 survey.

NSF reports refer to the federal government’s fiscal year, which runs Oct. 1-Sept. 30; Pitt’s fiscal year is July 1-June 30.

The University ranked 19th with $559 million in total FY 2007 academic R&D expenditures for science and engineering “activities specifically organized to produce research outcomes and commissioned by an agency external to the academic institution or separately budgeted using institution funds.” Pitt ranked 37th on this survey in 1997, Schaffner said.

On the FY 2006 obligations survey, Pitt ranked 13th with $444 million, as compared to 24th in 1996, for total federal science and engineering obligations. In terms of federal science and engineering R&D obligations, the major component of total obligations, Pitt ranked 10th with $426.9 million, Schaffner said. Pitt ranked 22nd in the FY 1996 survey.

—Peter Hart

Filed under: Feature,Volume 41 Issue 5

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