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According to the National Science Foundation's (NSF) latest data, federal research and development (R&D) obligations to U.S. colleges and universities failed to keep pace with inflation between FY 2003 and FY 2007, the latest year for which data were available. "Federal Science and Engineering Support to Universities, Colleges, and Nonprofit Institutions: FY 2007" found that R&D obligations increased 11.1 percent over the period, while inflation rose 12.7 percent.

NSF annually surveys the 19 federal agencies that account for almost all federal R&D obligations, defined as "the amounts for orders, placed, contracts awarded, services received, and similar transactions during a given period, regardless of when the funds were appropriated and when future payment of money is required." This differs from expenditures, which are actual outlays of money spent.

The latest report found that 40 states saw an increase in their total federal obligations over the five-year period. However, only 24 states had increases that exceeded the rate of inflation. New Mexico had the largest period increase, a 45.7 percent increase. States whose obligations rose in excess of 25 percent include West Virginia, North Dakota and Tennessee.

SSTI, a resource for persons and organizations involved in technology-based economic development, has prepared a table tracking each state's federal R&D obligations from FY 2003 through FY 2007. That information may be viewed at

The complete NSF report is available at

Melissa Carl handles public policy-related NSF issues for ASME. She can be reached at: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..