Overview  Survey Design  Survey Quality Measures  Trend Data  Availability of Data

Overview (FY 2011 survey cycle) Top of Page.


The Survey of Science and Engineering Research Facilities is a congressionally mandated, biennial survey. It is the primary source of information about science and engineering research facilities located at U.S. research-performing colleges and universities and nonprofit biomedical research organizations and hospitals. The survey is the basis of public data used by Congress, higher education associations, state governments, academia, and architectural and engineering firms. The survey was cosponsored by the National Institutes of Health (NIH) from FY 1988 to FY 2009.


The Facilities Survey is an establishment-based survey completed by institutional coordinators at academic institutions. These staff coordinate the collection of information from various institutional offices.

Key variables

The Facilities Survey collects information, including the following data, on the status of research facilities at academic institutions:

Survey Design Top of Page.

Target population and sample frame

Research-performing colleges and universities in the United States that expended at least $1 million in research and development funds in the prior fiscal year are the target population for this survey. The frame for the academic institutions is the FY 2010 NSF Higher Education Research and Development (HERD) Survey.

Sample design

The survey is a census of all eligible institutions as defined above. In the FY 2011 survey cycle there were 554 academic institutions, of which 541 (98%) participated.

Data collection techniques

Surveys are distributed to institutional coordinators at each institution. Institutional coordinators are individuals knowledgeable about the requested information who collect the responses from various offices and submit the information to an NSF contractor. The data collection period was from November 2011 through April 2012.

Respondents may report their data using either a paper or Web-based version of the survey. Approximately 97% of the respondents submitted a Web-based survey. For both methods, telephone and e-mail follow-up is used.

Several procedures were used to clean and edit the data. For example, the Web survey contained numerous programmed edit checks that alerted the respondents to inconsistent or missing data using edit messages. These included alerting respondents if their individual data did not sum to their total data. Also, once the respondents submitted their final data, a second set of edit checks was conducted. Finally, comparisons were made between an institution's FY 2011 data and the previous year's survey data. Respondents were contacted regarding any apparently inconsistent, missing, or unclear data.

Estimation techniques

This survey is a census and therefore only nonresponse weights are calculated to make population estimates. Weights are used to adjust for unit nonresponse. The weights were developed using restricted generalized regression estimation. They were adjusted for the known number of academic institutions by R&D expenditure category (quintiles of the distribution), census region, control of institution (i.e., public or private), and whether the institution granted doctoral degrees. The minimum were constrained to be at least 1.0.

Data missing as a result of item nonresponse are imputed using a regression-model approach. The predictors for the academic linear regressions are (1) private/public, (2) doctorate granting/nondoctorate granting, (3) existence of a medical school, (4) R&D expenditures for the prior fiscal year, and (5) total net assignable square feet (NASF) for the prior fiscal year.

Survey Quality Measures Top of Page.

Sampling variability

This survey is a census and therefore there is no sampling variation.


Coverage is believed to be high because institutions meeting the population requirements can be easily identified. However, it is possible that some institutions are inadvertently excluded. Institutions were individually investigated to ensure there was no duplication.


Unit nonresponse—For the FY 2011 cycle, 98% (541 out of 554) of the academic institutions responded to the survey.

Item nonresponse—The FY 2011 survey had limited item nonresponse. Nonresponse ranged from 0% to 3% for 98% of the questions. Six other cyberinfrastructure questions applied to 25 or fewer participants. Each of these questions had two nonresponses.


The most likely source of measurement error results from institutions estimating the requested data. Respondents may estimate their data for several reasons. These include estimating for data that are not included in the institution's database and estimating because some figures are estimates by their nature (e.g., out-year budget figures).

Measurement error may also occur because institutions may define their database elements differently from the definitions used on the survey. For example, an institutional database may identify research space based on a primary-use criterion, whereas the survey requests that space be prorated according to all uses. Finally, the survey question on the condition of research space is a subjective question that may be subject to measurement error.

Trend Data Top of Page.

This survey was first conducted in 1988. Small improvements were made to the survey questions over time, but these changes did not likely affect data comparability. The FY 2001 survey was very limited and comprised only two questions. However, the data for these two questions should be comparable to the corresponding questions in the prior survey cycles.

The survey was extensively redesigned for implementation in the FY 2003 survey. A comprehensive description of the redesigned survey can be found in Redesign of Survey of Science and Engineering Research Facilities: 2003. To the extent possible, the FY 2003 survey was redesigned for comparability over time.

Following each survey cycle, the cyberinfrastructure questions in Part 2 of the survey are evaluated for current relevance and updates in technology. As a result, new questions may be added, some questions may be deleted, and other questions may be modified.

Beginning with the FY 2003 cycle, respondents are requested to provide data on their institution's individual new construction projects. Respondents provide several types of data for each project including name, gross square feet, net assignable square feet, and cost of project. Using this information, it is possible to compare the new construction projects reported by each institution in the immediately previous survey cycle to the projects the same institution reported in the current survey cycle to determine if any appear to be duplicates. When projects with the same or similar characteristics are identified for both survey cycles, the relevant institutions are contacted to discuss these projects. With the approval of each institution, the projects are eliminated from the institution's new construction data for the appropriate cycle. In addition, the data on the source of funding of new construction projects are revised to reflect the deletion of these projects.

Individuals wishing to analyze trends other than those published in NCSES's most recent publications are encouraged to contact the project manager below for more information about comparability over time.

Availability of Data Top of Page.


The data from this survey are published biennially in detailed statistical tables in the series Science and Engineering Research Facilities. The most recent report in this series is available at http://www.nsf.gov/statistics/facilities/.

Information from this survey is also included in Science and Engineering Indicators.

Electronic access

To make the survey data most useful to survey respondents, microdata beginning with the FY 2003 survey are available in the NSF WebCASPAR data system. Due to a confidentiality pledge, microdata from this survey for the years 1988 through 2001 are not available.

Contact for more information

Additional information about this survey can be obtained by contacting:

Michael Gibbons
Research and Development Statistics Program
National Center for Science and Engineering Statistics
National Science Foundation
4201 Wilson Boulevard, Suite 965
Arlington, VA 22230

Phone: (703) 292-4590
Internet: mgibbons@nsf.gov