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NSF Finds Substantial Increase in University Research Space

August 08, 2005

Increasing and modernizing university research capacity is a priority for many states. Contrary to programmatic or operational appropriations being required annually, funding for such construction projects can be phased over decades as part of a state's larger capital budget/bond programs. Recent research from the National Science Foundation (NSF) documents the results of the increased importance placed in university research building programs.

During fiscal years 2001-03, research-performing colleges and universities increased their research space by 11 percent, a substantially higher rate than any previous two-year period since 1988, a new NSF InfoBrief states.

NSF obtained data from a census of 465 science and engineering degree-granting universities that expended at least $1 million in R&D funds during FY 2002. The survey collected information on traditional bricks and mortar research space in addition to computing and networking infrastructure, which is playing an increasingly important role in the conduct of scientific research, the InfoBrief states.

All fields within S&E reported increased research space except for agricultural sciences, which reported a slight decline. Mathematics experienced the largest increase followed by computer science, medical sciences, and social sciences. Biological sciences and medical sciences, however, remained the fields with the largest total amount of space. Other findings from the survey include:

  • 216 academic institutions (48 percent) began a total of 420 projects expected to total 16 million net assignable square feet (NASF).
  • Since 1988, the amount of research space increased biennially at a rate of at least 4 percent.
  • 71 percent of Internet connections were at the lowest connection speeds of 1.5 megabits or 45 megabits; at least 6 percent were at 1 gigabit or faster.
  • Doctorate-granting institutions had a substantially greater percent of their Internet connections at a speed of at least a gigabit, when compared to non-doctorate institutions.

The InfoBrief also states that 67 percent of institutions reported 20 percent or less of their building areas are wireless. However, by the end of FY 2004, institutions indicate that their wireless coverage will extend substantially.

Academic institutions spent at least $7.6 billion for construction of new space during FY 2002-03, and plans for FY 2004-05 include an additional 19 million NASF at a cost of $9.1 billion, according to the survey. Engineering, biological, and medical sciences account for 72 percent of the planned FY 2004-05 construction. The InfoBrief is available in full from NSF at: http://www.nsf.gov/statistics/infbrief/nsf05314/