Government Graphics Galore; How much of our tax dollars are going towards science?

Click to expand: A taste of what is to come...This graphic offers an international comparison of the percent of their GDP that countries invest in the defense and non-defense categories of their R&D budgets.

As someone who's salary is coming directly from the National Science Foundation (NSF), I am a fan of the government dollars. This also means I'm a little fed up with Congress' love of cutting funding for the sciences. In the aftermath of the sequester, and the resultant funding cuts for scientific organizations in the US (National Institute of Health, NSF, NASA to name a few), I was left wondering just how much much money has actually been funneled to the sciences over the years.

I hope you're wondering the same thing, because I've experimented with a new free graphics program over the past week. This resulted in some cool looking graphics that demonstrate the state of science funding in the United States over the years.

Note that I decided to focus on the federal Research and Development budget. R&D encompasses much of the science spending in the US including NASA, the Department of Energy, the NSF, the Department of Commerce, the Department of Transportation, and the Environmental Protection Agency, to name a few. HOWEVER, and this is important, R&D spending also includes defense spending. For instance, some of this money is going to the Department of Defense, Homeland Security, and Veterans Affairs.

So keep in mind that R&D is not entirely non-defense spending. And also keep in mind that R&D is entirely separate from the defense budget. To give a comparison, in 2009 (George W.'s last White House year), the defense budget (not including discretionary funds for the War on Terror) was $515.4 billion dollars [DoD]. The R&D budget that same year was $133.3 billion [NSF]. So already, R&D spending totals up to around a fifth of the stand-alone defense budget in 2009.

But what does this look like? Check out the graphics below. 

Click to expand: Here I've plotted the dollars going towards the R & D budget over the years. The red portion of the bars are the non-defense portion of R & D while the green is the portion going towards things like weapons development and other military-related pursuits.

(Data Credit: All data from the NSF's Science and Engineering Indicators 2010 report.)

Click to expand: This is the same data as above, but I thought it would be fun to plot as a bubble chart. Here the size of a given year's bubble corresponds to the R&D going towards defense purposes while the color scale corresponds with the overall amount going towards non-defense purposes. 

Note that for comparison purposes, this data has all been normalized to the worth of the US dollar in the year 2000. This means that relatively speaking the US R&D budget has increased over the last 30 years accounting for inflation.

Click to expand: Here I wanted to break down the US spending even further. See that tiny little dark blue sliver? That's the amount of the R&D budget that goes into the space program. See that light blue chunk? That's the money going into developing new weapons technology. This is why Tony Stark is a rich man.

Click to expand: This is a crazy graphic that compares internationally the US's R&D defense and non-defense spending internationally over the years. This is plotted as a percent of each country's overall GDP. I found it interesting that the US has a larger gap between non-defense and defense R & D spending than most other countries.

This year, the budget for the NSF is 7.17 billion dollars. The budget for the F-35 Joint Strike Fighter is 7.55 billion dollars (United States DoD Fiscal Year 2015 Budget Request).

In other words, while the NSF funds 11,000 new applicants each year, the F-35 continues to have issues getting off the ground (see David Axe's article "Pentagon's big budget F-35 fighter 'can't turn, can't climb, can't run": ). 

Just sayin'.

Here it is. The weapon that is more expensive than the NSF's budget.  (Image credit: "CF-1 flight test" by Andy Wolfe)

Here it is. The weapon that is more expensive than the NSF's budget. 

(Image credit"CF-1 flight test" by Andy Wolfe)


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