A quick look through Obama’s proposed 2011 budget shows that nondefense health R&D is still getting top priority over nondefense nonhealth R&D–that is, pretty much everything else. Take a look at this chart:
The Obama budget continues the trend of the Bush years–a rising share of GDP going for health R&D, while federal nonhealth nondefense R&D is basically flat as a share of GDP. Nonhealth R&D includes space, energy, environment, information technology, physics, chemistry, and pretty much the whole range of science and technologies, outside of the life sciences.
Since FY 2001, funding for health R&D has exceeded funding for nonhealth nondefense R&D, and the gap has been growing. The President’s proposed budget for 2011 calls for nondefense health R&D to exceed nondefense nonhealth R&D by 31%.
Given that the Obama Administration has made green technologies a priority, it’s worth looking at federal funding for potentially ‘green’ R&D: Transportation, energy, natural resources, and environment.
This chart shows federal nondefense R&D spending in these key areas, as a share of GDP. Certainly it’s on an uptick compared to the 2006-2008 lows. But even then, the 2011 level of funding for transportation/energy/environment R&D, measured as a share of GDP, is roughly half where it was in 1992.
If you believe that the U.S. is falling behind in nonhealth science and technology, these charts suggest one reason why.