UNC, Michigan Once Again Tops in Federal R&D on Social Science


The University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill and the University of Michigan, Ann Arbor continue to lead the United States in total federal social science research dollars, according to a just-released annual survey from the Consortium of Social Science Associations. UNC Chapel Hill received $104.1 million in federal social science research and development, with the University of Michigan, Ann Arbor coming in at $98.3 million. The two schools also topped the list last year (with $92 and $88 million respectively) and the year before ($94 and $90 million). In the top 10, the biggest change in the inclusion of the University of South Florida University at No. 9 and with $30 million, up from No. 23 last year.

COSSA dashboard
This year’s rankings also feature a new dashboard on the COSSA website with an interactive map of funding recipients. The page includes links to the past two year’s surveys and breakdowns from last year for every U.S. state.

A total of 446 colleges and universities are included in the latest rankings, ranging from the North Carolinas and Michigans to Johnson C. Smith University (also in North Carolina and recipient of $1,000 in 2016).

This data comes from the National Center for Science and Education Statistics’ Higher Education Research and Development (HERD) Survey for fiscal year 2016, which is the most current data available.

The consortium, known as COSSA, is a nonprofit advocacy organization promoting sustainable federal funding for social and behavioral science research and federal policies that positively affect the conduct of research. COSSA membership includes professional and disciplinary associations, scientific societies, research centers and institutes, and U.S. colleges and universities – the top eight recipients on the list, for example, are all members of COSSA.

COSSA derives “federal R&D” by combining federal research and development expenditures for social sciences, psychology, law, communications, and social work from a variety of federal agencies, ranging from obvious candidates like the National Science Foundation to less intuitive contributors such as the Department of Health and Human Services or the Department of Agriculture.

“Although social and behavioral science may not receive as much popular attention as other STEM fields,” said Wendy Naus, executive director of COSSA, “federally supported research in the social and behavioral sciences generates an evidence base that we can use to produce science-backed strategies to address pressing national issues, like combating the opiate epidemic, enhancing our national security, and mitigating the effects of natural disasters.”

In addition, the federal spending echoes outside of the disciplines, she noted. ““COSSA’s rankings demonstrate how important federally funded social and behavioral science research is to our nation’s most prestigious research universities—and to local economies.”

Top Recipients of Federal Social Science R&D Funding

  1. University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill – $104,085,000 (#1 in 2017)
  2. University of Michigan, Ann Arbor – $98,348,000 (#2 in 2017)
  3. Pennsylvania State University, University Park and Hershey Medical Center – $39,333,000 (#6 in 2017)
  4. University of Minnesota, Twin Cities – $39,147,000 (#5 in 2017)
  5. University of Washington, Seattle – $38,676,000 (#7 in 2017)
  6. University of Pennsylvania – $35,449,000 (#4 in 2017)
  7. University of Maryland, College Park – $35,235,000 (#3 in 2017)
  8. Arizona State University – $31,016,000 (#10 in 2017)
  9. University of South Florida, Tampa – $29,932,000 (#23 in 2017)
  10. University of Southern California – $29,810,000 (#11 in 2017)

Consortium of Social Science Associations

The Consortium of Social Science Associations (COSSA) is an advocacy organization that promotes attention to and U.S. government funding for the social and behavioral sciences. It serves as a bridge between the academic research community and the Washington policy-making community. Its members consist of more than 100 professional associations, scientific societies, universities, and research centers and institutes.

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