Key Survey Information
Data Collection and Processing
Survey Quality Measures
Data Availability and Comparability
1. Survey Overview (FY 2014 Survey Cycle)
- Purpose: The Higher Education Research and Development (HERD) Survey is the primary source of information on separately accounted for R&D expenditures within higher education institutions in the United States and outlying areas.
- Data collection authority: The information is solicited under the authority of the National Science Foundation Act of 1950, as amended.
- Major changes to recent survey cycle: None.
2. Key Survey Information
- Frequency: Annual.
- Initial survey year: In 2010, the HERD Survey replaced a previous annual collection, the National Science Foundation (NSF) Survey of Research and Development Expenditures at Universities and Colleges (Academic R&D Expenditures Survey), which was conducted from FY 1972 through FY 2009.
- Reference period: The academic fiscal year ending in 2014; for most institutions this was 1 July 2013 to 30 June 2014.
- Response unit: Establishments. U.S. academic institutions reporting at least $150,000 in R&D expenditures in the previous fiscal year.
- Sample or census: Census.
- Population size: 895 institutions.
- Sample size: Not applicable.
- Key variables: Key variables of interest are listed below.
- R&D expenditures by field and source of funds (federal government, state and local government, business, nonprofit, institutional, and other)
- R&D expenditures funded from foreign sources
- R&D expenditures within medical schools
- Clinical trial R&D expenditures (Phases I–III)
- R&D expenditures by character of work (basic research, applied research, and development)
- Total and federally funded R&D expenditures passed through to subrecipients or received as a subrecipient
- Federally funded R&D expenditures by field and federal agency
- Federally funded R&D expenditures funded by the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009
- R&D expenditures by cost categories (for example, salaries, software, equipment, indirect costs)
- Total and federally funded R&D equipment expenditures by field
- Headcount of R&D principal investigators and all other R&D personnel
- Headcount of postdocs working on R&D
- Institutional characteristics (highest degree granted, historically black college or university [HBCU], public or private control)
- Geographic location (within the United States)
3. Survey Design
- Target population: Public and private nonprofit postsecondary institutions in the United States, Guam, Puerto Rico, and the U.S. Virgin Islands that granted a bachelor's degree or higher in any field, expended at least $150,000 in separately budgeted R&D in FY 2014, and were geographically separate campuses headed by a president, chancellor, or equivalent.
- Sample frame: The survey is a census of all eligible institutions as defined above. In the FY 2014 cycle there were 895 academic institutions surveyed.
- Sample design: Not applicable.
4. Data Collection and Processing
- Data collection: The FY 2014 survey was conducted by ICF under contract to the National Center for Science and Engineering Statistics (NCSES). Surveys were distributed to designated contacts at each institution. The data collection period was from November 2014 through May 2015. Respondents could choose to respond to the survey through printing an Adobe PDF questionnaire from the Web and submitting a paper survey or using the Web-based data collection system. For both methods, telephone and e-mail follow-up were used.
- Data processing: Respondents were contacted and asked to resolve possible self-reporting issues themselves. Questionnaires were carefully examined by survey staff upon receipt. Reviews focused on unexplained missing data and explanations provided for changes in reporting patterns. If additional explanations or data revisions were needed, respondents were sent personalized e-mail messages asking them to provide any necessary revisions before the final processing and tabulation of data.
- Estimation techniques: Missing values were imputed based on the previous year's data and the reported data of peer institutions in the current cycle.
5. Survey Quality Measures
- Sampling error: Not applicable.
- Coverage error: Coverage of large research institutions is excellent, because they are easily identified using the NSF Survey of Federal Science and Engineering Support to Universities, Colleges, and Nonprofit Institutions. However, institutions with smaller amounts of R&D expenditures have been more difficult to identify because they often do not receive federal funding for R&D.
NSF annually screens all 4-year and above institutions reporting non-zero amounts of research expenses to the Department of Education Integrated Postsecondary Education Data System (IPEDS) to determine if new institutions qualify for inclusion in the survey.
- Nonresponse error: The unit nonresponse was 3.2% in FY 2014. The item nonresponse rate varied from 0% for Question 1, total R&D expenditures by source of funds, to 8.8% for Question 17, headcount of R&D postdocs. No questions had a nonresponse rate of 10% or higher.
- Measurement error: Potential sources of measurement errors include incomplete administrative data or differing categories used by the institutions.
6. Data Availability and Comparability
- Data availability: Annual data are available for FYs 1972–2014.
- Data comparability: When the review for consistency between each year's data and submissions in prior years reveals discrepancies, it is sometimes necessary to modify prior years' data. This is especially likely to affect trends for certain institutions that fail to report every year, because current-year data are used to impute prior-year data. For accurate historical data, use only the most recently released data tables. Individuals wishing to analyze trends other than those in the most recent data tables are encouraged to contact the Project Officer for more information about comparability of data over time.
7. Data Products
- Publications: Data tables from this survey are published annually in the series Higher Education Research and Development. The most recent report in this series is available at http://www.nsf.gov/statistics/srvyherd/. Information from this survey is also included in Science and Engineering Indicators.
- Electronic access: Microdata beginning with the FY 1972 survey are available in the NSF WebCASPAR data system. Public use files are also available at http://www.nsf.gov/statistics/herd/pub_data.cfm.
8. Contact Information
For additional information about this survey, or the methodology report, contact the Project Officer listed below:
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) 292-7765