December 2011 Issue • Volume 39 • Issue 9

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Report Shows Sociology’s Competitiveness
in Gaining Federal R&D Dollars

ASA Research and Development Department


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In 2009, the last year for which data is available, federally funded Research and Development (R&D) monies spent by universities and colleges reached 32.9 billion dollars, up 4.2 percent in inflation-adjusted dollars from the previous year. The fields that received the most dollars were the life sciences and engineering, as has been the case for many years. Between them, they received 24.3 billion dollars or 73 percent of federal R&D dollars. In contrast, the social sciences received a miniscule portion of these dollars (about 3.7 percent or 852 million) in 2009. The largest share of these social science dollars came from Health and Human Services (HHS), followed by the National Science Foundation (NSF). Of the social sciences, sociology received the most R&D dollars, perhaps demonstrating their competitiveness in the grant writing process.


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These data are gathered by NSF from 711 universities and colleges that awarded degrees in science (including social science), technology, engineering, and mathematics disciplines and spent at least $150,000 in science and engineering R&D. The report with attached data tables can be found on the NSF website at

In 2009, as seen in Figure 1, sociology spent $201,648,000 in federal R&D funds compared to $136,583,000 spent by political science and $121,360,000 spent by economics. Psychology is its own category. Sociology did less well than economics or political science in receiving non-federal R&D monies ($206,540,000; $257,979,000; and $231,981,000, respectively). In the years since 2005, sociology has maintained its lead over the other two social science disciplines, and kept up with the overall rate of increase, but as Figure 2 shows, its growth rate has not kept up with political science and economics (4.1 percent, 11.4 percent, and 21.1 percent, respectively).

Research on the Profession

See the latest trend data on sociology as a discipline including degrees by
race/ethnicity and gender, graduate enrollments by race/ethnicity, gender and citizenship status, and employment status for ASA members.” Go to

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