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How the NSF allocates billions of federal dollars to top universities

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As another college year begins, tens of thousands of academics will once again be scrambling to submit proposals to the National Science Foundation, hoping to secure government funding for their research. Each year, the National Science Foundation (NSF) bestows more than $7 billion worth of federal funding on about 12,000 research proposals, chosen out of about 45,000 submissions. Thanks to the power of open data, we can now see how representation on NSF federal advisory committees connects to which universities get the most funding. (Federal advisory committee membership data is a feature of Influence Explorer.) Our analysis finds a clear correlation between the universities with the most employees serving on the NSF advisory committees and the universities that receive the most federal money. Overall about 75% of NSF funding goes to academic institutions. Even when controlling for other factors, we find that for each additional employee a university has serving on an NSF advisory committee that university can expect to see an additional $125,000 to $138,000 in NSF funding.

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