University Funding:

Assessing Federal Funding Mechanisms for University Research

RCED-86-75: Published: Feb 7, 1986. Publicly Released: Feb 7, 1986.

Additional Materials:


Office of Public Affairs
(202) 512-4800

In response to a congressional request, GAO assessed the role and impact of different funding mechanisms on university scientific research, specifically whether: (1) particular funding mechanisms played a role in helping universities improve program quality; and (2) individual project grants and center grants had differing effects on research performance.

GAO studied five universities, whose research programs' quality had improved, to determine: (1) what funding and other strategies these universities used to improve selected departments; and (2) how the departments were able to finance their program improvement initiatives. GAO found elements common to all five universities: (1) an explicit commitment from the university to improve its program through increases in internal and external funding and personnel changes; (2) seed funding from government sources, such as National Science Foundation grants, or from private industry, the state government, or the university; (3) after the investment of seed money, the individual project mechanism was the primary source of support with supplemental funds from state governments, endowments, industry, or university funds; and (4) the particular funding mechanism was less important than the ability to obtain grant funds. GAO also found that scientists felt that: (1) the field of science rather than the funding mechanism had a greater affect on coverage of resource requirements and administrative burden; (2) working under center grants provided more financial and resource support stability than working under individual project grants; and (3) they were more likely to perform innovative, high risk, or interdisciplinary research under center grants.

Mar 13, 2015

Mar 2, 2015

Oct 3, 2014

Jul 23, 2014

Jun 9, 2014

May 20, 2014

  • science icon, source: National Cancer Institute

    Nanomanufacturing and U.S. Competitiveness:

    Challenges and Opportunities
    GAO-14-618T: Published: May 20, 2014. Publicly Released: May 20, 2014.

Feb 7, 2014

Dec 20, 2013

Nov 4, 2013

  • science icon, source: National Cancer Institute

    Small Business Innovation Research:

    Data Rights Protections
    GAO-14-116R: Published: Nov 4, 2013. Publicly Released: Nov 4, 2013.

Jul 19, 2013

Looking for more? Browse all our products here