By the Numbers

Beyond propaganda and rhetoric, numbers tell the real story

science lab

Federal research and development grants to universities and colleges for science and engineering totaled $29.2 billion in fiscal year 2005 — an increase of 5.6 percent from 2004, according to the latest survey by the National Science Foundation. The University of Michigan, with $809 million in grants, ranked second among the 640 institutions surveyed, behind Johns Hopkins University, which collected $1.4 billion. The 20 institutions collecting the largest grants accounted for 30 percent of federal university and college science and engineering R&D spending. The single largest share of funding went to life science research ($17.7 billion), followed by engineering ($4.1 billion); physical sciences ($2.67 billion); environmental sciences ($1.7 billion); computer sciences ($1 billion); social sciences ($691 million); psychology ($611 million); and math ($346 million). More numbers and analysis are available at; and

The discovery of mass graves in Poland and Germany in 2005 prompted creation of a DNA database of Holocaust survivors and victims’ relatives in hopes of identifying the remains. The database also is being used to unite an estimated 10,000 orphans with the 300,000 survivors worldwide. Of the 6 million Jews killed during the Holocaust, 2 million were cremated. The remaining 4 million were buried in mass graves throughout Europe, making genetic testing possible. DNA matching techniques developed after Sept. 11 and Hurricane Katrina are aiding in the identification of remains, more of which are being discovered in the course of development projects across Europe. Time is of the essence, however; the average age of survivors is in the mid-80s. More information is available at

Between 35 and 50 new plants would have to be built to maintain nuclear power’s 20-percent share of the energy market, according to a July 2, 2007 report by the Associated Press. Currently, there are 104 commercial nuclear reactors nationwide. The U.S. Department of Energy estimates that demand for electricity will grow 45 percent by 2030. Licenses are currently being sought for 33 new reactors, according to the Nuclear Regulatory Commission. Each plant takes at least seven years to build and bring online. The AP article is available at

The cost of greenhouse gas regulations would fall disproportionately on the poor, according to a recent report from the Congressional Budget Office. Higher prices for fuel and electricity resulting from a 15-percent cut in carbon dioxide emissions would cost the poorest Americans (those in the lowest one-fifth of the income distribution) about 3.3 percent of their average income. By comparison, such regulations would cost a household in the top income range about 1.7 percent of its average income. The CBO report is available at