The National Center for Science and Engineering Statistics (NCSES) serves as a clearinghouse for the collection, interpretation, analysis, and dissemination of objective data on science, engineering, technology, and research and development for use by policymakers, practitioners, researchers, and the public. One component of this activity is sponsorship of the Nonprofit Research Activities (NPRA) Survey, which collected information on R&D-related activities performed or funded by nonprofit organizations in the United States. A pilot survey was conducted from September 2016 through February 2017, and a full implementation of the survey, which collected FY 2016 data, was conducted in 2018.[1]

The nonprofit sector is one of four major sectors of the economy (i.e., business, government, higher education, and nonprofit organizations) that perform or fund R&D. Historically, NCSES has combined nonprofit sector data with data from the other three sectors to estimate total national R&D expenditures, which are presented in the annual series National Patterns of R&D Resources. The other three sectors are surveyed annually; however, prior to fielding the pilot NPRA Survey, NCSES had last collected R&D data from nonprofit organizations in 1997. Since then, National Patterns of R&D Resources has relied on statistical modeling based on the results of the 1996–97 Survey of Research and Development Funding and Performance by Nonprofit Organizations, supplemented by data from the NCSES Survey of Federal Funds for Research and Development (Federal Funds Survey) that details federal R&D funding to nonprofits, to continue estimation of the nonprofit sector's R&D expenditures.

The primary objective of this new survey was to fill data gaps in the National Patterns of R&D Resources in such a way that the data are compatible with the data collected about other sectors of the U.S. economy and are appropriate for international comparisons.

Because this was the first time this population was surveyed by NCSES in more than 20 years, there were many significant challenges but also many successes that can be built upon for future survey efforts. This report details the methodological challenges and lessons learned. Due to the low response rate (48% unweighted and 61% weighted), results should be viewed as rough estimates and do not meet NCSES criteria for official statistics. Appendix A contains tabulated survey results, along with the standard errors and imputation rates associated with each data point provided.


[1] Reports detailing the pilot NPRA Survey and subsequent revisions to the FY 2016 survey are available from the survey manager.