General Notes

General Notes

The National Science Foundation (NSF) sponsors a series of surveys to collect information on the financial and human resources devoted to research and development (R&D). In this report, NSF survey data on the various sectors of the U.S. economy—industry, Government, academia, and selected nonprofit organizations—are aggregated so that the components of the overall R&D effort are placed in a national context. Information presented in National Patterns includes the following:

The national totals reported here incorporate data available from several Division of Science Resources Studies (SRS) surveys as of July 1, 1996, with projections to cover the remainder of the year 1996.

These notes provide a brief introduction to the concepts used in the report. Significant deviations from previous National Patterns reports are also highlighted. For complete definitions, descriptions of projection methodologies, and references to the underlying survey reports, see appendix A.

Performer Reporting Basis

SRS annually surveys Federal Government agencies, industry, and academia. Respondents in each sector indicate the amounts they spend on R&D in their own sector and the sources of these funds. National historical totals are based on data reported by performers because they are in the best position to (1) indicate how much they spent in the actual conduct of R&D in a given year, (2) classify their R&D by character of work, and (3) identify the sector of the economy in which their financing originated. The consistent reliance on performer reporting reduces the possibility of double-counting and conforms to international standards and guidance.

There are exceptions to the use of performer-reported data. The last complete survey of the nonprofit sector was conducted in 1973, although a survey of nonprofit R&D activity is planned for 1997. Since 1973, informal surveys of this sector have been undertaken periodically; nonetheless, the estimates of R&D performance by nonprofit organizations reported here are based generally on (1) Federal agency reporting of Federal funding to the nonprofit sector and (2) R&D performance trends in the other non-Federal sectors.

NSF conducts only occasional surveys of State government agencies; the last two surveys covered fiscal years (FYs) 1977 and 1987-88. Consequently, the national R&D time-series totals exclude estimates of State agencies' intramural R&D performance. State funds for R&D reported by other sectors of the economy, however, are included in the respective R&D performance totals.

One byproduct of the decision to use performer-reported data is that the federally funded R&D performance totals presented in National Patterns differ from the Federal R&D funding totals reported by the Federal agencies that provide the funds. One reason for these differences is that performers of R&D often expend Federal funds in a year other than the one in which the Federal Government provides authorization, obligations, or outlays. (For definitions of these terms, see appendix A.) During the past several years, the differences have widened between the Federal R&D funding reported by performers and that reported by funding agencies. These trends are documented in appendix A and tables B-1 and B-2.


Although respondents continually are given the opportunity to revise prior data, the R&D totals for 1994 reported here are considered to be actual expenditures. Data reported for 1995 and 1996 are preliminary, in the sense that 1995 data are based on preliminary reporting of information; and 1996 data are projections made during the summer of 1996 based on information available at that time. The series presented in this National Patterns updates projections for 1993 and 1994 that were reported in National Patterns of R&D Resources: 1994, including—in particular—revisions to industrial basic research data.

To the greatest extent possible, this report incorporates data for 1996 R&D programs contained in the administration's 1997 budget proposal. Where these data are used, it is explicitly noted in the text. The budget, however, does not contain estimates on the detailed disaggregation reported in National Patterns; most importantly, it includes very little information on the economic sectors receiving the Federal funds. Consequently, Federal agencies' R&D performance for 1995 and 1996 are derived from an NSF survey of 32 Federal agencies coinciding with the third quarter of FY 1995; therefore, the amounts reported for 1996 reflect congressional appropriations, apportionments, and reprogramming decisions as of that time.

Industry R&D performance for 1996 is derived from patterns observed in previous years, and from 151 company responses to a mail survey of the Industrial Research Institute's (IRI's) membership during August and September 1995. IRI, which annually conducts this survey, is an association of more than 260 R&D-performing companies, representing such industries as aerospace, automotive, chemical, computer, and electronics.

R&D performance estimates for 1996 for the other sectors of the economy are derived from regression and time-series modeling techniques. Inputs to these models are (1) the performer-reported actual R&D performance data and (2) information on Federal R&D funding of non-Federal sectors, as reported by Federal agencies in the third quarter of FY 1995.

Expanded Detail in R&D Time Series

This National Patterns is the first to contain 1955-to-present estimates for those federally funded research and development centers (FFRDCs) administered by industrial firms and nonprofit organizations. Previous National Patterns contained separate detail on only those FFRDCs administered by universities and university consortia.


R&D Expenditures

U.S.-International Comparisons

R&D Performance by Sector

R&D Performance by State

Character of R&D Work

R&D Scientists and Engineers

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