Federal Science and Engineering Support to Universities, Colleges, and Nonprofit Institutions: Fiscal Year 2008
Appendix. Technical Notes
Data presented in this report are collected annually through the National Science Foundation's (NSF's) congressionally mandated Survey of Federal Science and Engineering (S&E) Support to Universities, Colleges, and Nonprofit Institutions (Federal S&E Support Survey). The survey originated in 1965, when the Committee on Academic Science and Engineering (CASE) within the Federal Council for Science and Technology established the CASE data collection system to report annually on federal S&E obligations to academic institutions and associated federally funded research and development centers (FFRDCs). Since 1968, CASE data, as well as data on nonprofit institutions, have also served as the basis for an annual report to the President and Congress. This survey is designed to collect information from federal agencies on (1) total S&E program support to academic institutions and (2) research and development (R&D) and R&D plant support to nonprofit institutions. All agencies that report R&D performed by universities and colleges or nonprofit institutions in the NSF Survey of Federal Funds for Research and Development are included in this survey.
A Web-based data collection system is used to collect the Federal S&E Support Survey data. The Web-based data collection system is part of NSF's effort to enhance survey reporting and reduce data collection and processing costs by offering respondents direct online reporting and editing. Because the Federal S&E Support Survey data are collected in electronic format, there is no paper instrument. Respondents provide data for each institution using similar data entry screens. The screens change slightly depending on whether the respondent is providing data for academic or nonprofit institutions. The categories of support also are slightly different for defense and nondefense agencies. Mock survey instruments have been created to illustrate what information the respondent is asked to provide via the Web. See the Federal S&E Support Survey's methodology report for further details on the Web data collection system.
The fiscal year 2008 data in this report were submitted by the following 19 federal agencies, covering the period 1 October 2007 through 30 September 2008.
Agency for International Development
Appalachian Regional Commission
Department of Agriculture
Department of Commerce
Department of Defense
Department of Education
Department of Health and Human Services
Department of Homeland Security
Department of Housing and Urban Development
Department of the Interior
Department of Labor
Department of Transportation
Department of Energy
Environmental Protection Agency
National Aeronautics and Space Administration
National Science Foundation
Nuclear Regulatory Commission
Office of Justice Programs
Social Security Administration
The data are presented in terms of federal obligations provided for direct support of academic S&E. The data exclude financial support of an indirect nature, such as funds allocated to state agencies, even if the final recipients of such funds are known to be academic institutions. Data on type of institutional control and highest degree granted are not presented in this report but are available upon request (see Data Availability).
Obligations are the amounts for orders placed, contracts awarded, services received, and similar transactions during a given period, regardless of when the funds were appropriated and when future payment of money is required. Obligations differ from expenditures in that funds allocated by federal agencies during one fiscal year may be spent by the recipient institution either partially or entirely during one or more subsequent years.
The obligations listed for individual institutions reflect direct federal S&E support. Thus amounts subcontracted and subgranted to other institutions are included, but funds received through subrecipient arrangements from prime recipients are excluded.
Obligations are reported to the survey in thousands of dollars. Obligations totaling less than $500 for any specific activity (e.g., R&D, general support for S&E) are reported as zero.
Obligations are listed as awards to individual institutions within a system (e.g., to the University of California, Los Angeles, rather than to the University of California system as a whole). However, obligations awarded directly to the central administration of a system are listed separately. If the final destination of the funds is not known, the agencies report them as obligations to a system's administrative office from which the funds are distributed to the system's individual institutions.
Since these data were first collected in 1965, there have been some changes in reporting. The most recent of these include the following:
The data presented here include all obligations for academic S&E, comprising federal obligations for R&D; R&D plant; facilities and equipment for instruction in S&E; S&E fellowships, traineeships, and training grants; general support for S&E; and other S&E activities. These support categories are defined below.
Research is systematic study directed toward fuller scientific knowledge or understanding of the subject studied. Research is classified as either basic or applied according to the objectives of the sponsoring agency. In basic research, the objective of the sponsoring agency is to generate knowledge of the underlying foundations of phenomena and of observable facts without specific applications toward processes or products in mind. In applied research, the objective of the sponsoring agency is the creation of knowledge or understanding necessary to determine the means by which a recognized and specific need may be met.
Development is systematic use of knowledge and understanding gained from research directed toward the production of useful materials, devices, systems, or methods, including design and development of prototypes and processes.
Research equipment is any item (or interrelated collection of items comprising a system) of nonexpendable tangible property or software having a useful life of more than 2 years and an acquisition cost of $500 or more that is used wholly or in part for research. Research equipment is included under R&D.
The types of institutions covered by this survey are universities and colleges, independent nonprofit institutions, and consortia of both universities and colleges and of independent nonprofit institutions.
Universities and Colleges
Universities and colleges are those institutions of higher education in the United States that offer at least 1 year of college-level study leading toward a degree. The universe of academic institutions for this survey is derived from the higher education institution portion of ED's Integrated Postsecondary Education Data System (sponsored by the National Center for Education Statistics) and the 2009 Higher Education Directory (published by Higher Education Publications, Inc.).
Institutions included are those that received federal S&E support during FY 2008. This support may have been provided to any part of the academic institution—its colleges (e.g., liberal arts) and schools (e.g., agriculture), professional schools, hospitals, agricultural experiment stations, bureaus, offices, and research centers (excluding FFRDCs), whether located on or off the main campus or at branch campuses controlled directly by the parent institution. Further, the institutions included must have a significant degree of academic and administrative autonomy. For example, institutions within a system (a group of institutions having a collective legal status and generally recognized by a state government, a board of education, or other relevant organization) in which a significant degree of autonomy remains at the individual institution level are presented separately; however, obligations to branch campuses are included in the totals for the parent institutions. Obligations to the U.S. Department of Agriculture Graduate School are not included.
Independent Nonprofit Institutions
Independent nonprofit institutions are legal entities other than universities and colleges, privately organized or chartered to serve the public interest, and exempt from most forms of federal taxation. Data presented for nonprofit institutions are obligations for R&D and R&D plant reported by as many as 19 participating agencies.
Coverage of the nonprofit sector in the Federal S&E Support Survey was expanded beginning in the late 1970s to include all types of nonprofit institutions that receive federal R&D funds. Beginning with the FY 2004 detailed statistical tables, the nonprofit sector tables are no longer available by specific nonprofit type.
Consortia are organizations formed by the membership of a number of institutions from one or more types of performers (e.g., academic, nonprofit) in order to promote and support efforts to enhance knowledge in one or more science or engineering disciplines. NSF has identified several consortia and classified them as either academic or nonprofit types based on the predominance of their membership at the time of identification.
Federal Funds for Research and Development
Data presented here on R&D and R&D plant by agency sometimes differ significantly from similar data presented in the annual NSF Survey of Federal Funds for Research and Development (or the "Federal Funds Survey"). Much of the difference lies in the two surveys' treatment of interagency transfers. Interagency transfers of funds obligated to an academic or nonprofit institution are reported here by the agency that actually obligates the funds to the receiving institution. In the Federal Funds Survey, however, obligations are reported by the agency in which the funds originated.
Other differences between the data compiled by the two surveys stem from the following factors:
Agencies involved: In the survey presented here, data are reported by as many as 19 federal agencies on their S&E obligations to institutions of higher education; these agencies together obligate virtually all federal support to academic R&D. For the Federal Funds Survey, budget data on R&D and R&D plant are gathered from the 27 federal agencies with such programs.
Scope of information: Data collected in the Federal S&E Support Survey pertain only to individual academic and nonprofit institutions. Those collected in the Federal Funds Survey relate to all types of performers. Furthermore, the Federal Funds Survey provides detailed data on the character of work (basic research, applied research, and development); data from the Federal S&E Support Survey are not comparably disaggregated.
Data sources: The two surveys rely on different sources of data and different methods of data collection. For example, data for the Federal S&E Support Survey are generally processed from award files; Federal Funds Survey data are often derived from agency budget documents.
Preparer interpretations: Several agencies rely on personnel from separate internal offices to respond to the two surveys. These respondents may differ in their interpretation of survey questions. NIH, for example, reports Minority Biomedical Support Grants under "general support for science and engineering" in the Federal S&E Support Survey, but under "research and development" in the Federal Funds Survey.
National Patterns of R&D Resources
NSF publishes one other report related to federal R&D funding, National Patterns of R&D Resources. This report provides statistics on U.S. R&D expenditures categorized by provider of funds (federal government, nonfederal government, industry, academia, and nonprofit institutions), type of performer (federal government, industry, academia, nonprofit institutions, and FFRDCs), and character of work (basic research, applied research, and development). In the report, R&D expenditure levels from federal sources are based on performer-reported surveys, which differ from federal R&D funding totals reported by the federal agencies that provide those funds. The difference in the federal R&D totals appears to be concentrated in the funding of industry R&D by DOD.
Data published in this report are also available on the World Wide Web at http://www.nsf.gov/statistics/fedsupport/. Information on file formats and the years for which they are available can be found at http://www.nsf.gov/statistics/srvyfedsupport/.
Selected data items for individual doctorate-granting institutions and schools with S&E departments that grant a master's degree are available in institutional profiles at http://www.nsf.gov/statistics/profiles/. An institutional profile consists of data not only from this survey but from NSF's other two academic S&E surveys: the Survey of Research and Development Expenditures at Universities and Colleges (Academic R&D Expenditures Survey) and NSF-NIH Survey of Graduate Students and Postdoctorates in Science and Engineering (Graduate Student Survey).
Researchers can also obtain data from several academic S&E resources through the Web-Based Computer-Aided Science Policy Analysis and Research (WebCASPAR) database system, which provides quick and convenient access to a wide range of statistical data focusing on U.S. universities and colleges and their S&E resources.
WebCASPAR provides an extensive and growing data library with multiyear statistics on the state of higher education in general and on academic S&E resources specifically. This data library is based on a set of standard institutional and field-of-science definitions across the multiple sources used to develop the database. The WebCASPAR program includes built-in help capabilities to facilitate the use and interpretation of the data.
WebCASPAR data are drawn from a number of sources. All data are available for individual institutions by state and at the national level. Longitudinal data from surveys of universities and colleges conducted by NSF's National Center for Science and Engineering Statistics include the Federal S&E Support Survey, Academic R&D Expenditures Survey, Federal Funds Survey, Survey of Earned Doctorates, and Graduate Student Survey. Data from the Integrated Postsecondary Education Data System conducted by the National Center for Education Statistics are also included. Data from other sources include the National Research Council's assessment of research doctorate programs.
WebCASPAR can be accessed via the World Wide Web at http://ncsesdata.nsf.gov/webcaspar/.
Accurate Historical Data
To obtain accurate historical data, use only the latest detailed statistical tables (covering FY 2008) and not data published earlier. Data presented in trend tables in this report are assembled from the most recently completed survey cycle. Data for prior years are reviewed for consistency with current-year responses and, when necessary, are revised in consultation with agencies and/or institutions. For that reason, references to prior-year data should be restricted to those published in this document.