Federal Funding for the Geosciences, 1970-2015

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From 1970-2015, the geoscience share of federal research funding dropped from 10% to 7%. However, the actual amount of federal research funding spent on the geosciences has increased from 1970-2015. In 2013, $4 billion of federal research funding was spent on the geosciences, and $1.1 billion of that was given to universities for geoscience research.

The graphs show the amount of federal research funding given to universities for the geosciences and the total amount of federal research funding spent on geoscience research over time. They also show the percentage of that funding spent on the geological sciences, environmental sciences, atmospheric sciences, and ocean sciences through 2013, the latest reported disciplinary breakdown of funding levels. The spike of funding in 2009 was a result of the stimulus funding bill passed that year.

The amount of federal geoscience funding for the environmental sciences increased over this time period as research focus has shifted. This led to a drop in the percentage of geoscience funding directed at the geological sciences. However, it is important to remember that the absolute spending continued to increase. In 2013, the majority of federal funding for the geosciences went to the atmospheric sciences, but the majority of federal spending by universities is within the environmental sciences and ocean sciences.

The data were gathered from NSF’s Survey of Federal Funds for Research and Development. The federal funding to the geosciences in this dataset was distributed by the U.S. Departments of Agriculture, Commerce, Defense, Energy, Health and Human Services, Interior, and Homeland Security, along with the EPA, NASA, and NSF.