Survey OverviewBullet 1 Key Survey InformationBullet 2 Survey DesignBullet 3 Data Collection and Processing Bullet 4 Survey Quality MeasuresBullet 5 Data Availability and ComparabilityBullet 6 Data ProductsBullet 7 Contact Information

1. Survey Overview (2017 survey cycle) Top of Page.

  1. Purpose: The Annual Business Survey (ABS) is comprised of two different questionnaires that collect data from nonfarm, for-profit businesses operating in the United States. The ABS is the primary source of information on R&D expenditure for those businesses with one to nine employees. The ABS also collects data related to innovation, intellectual property, technology, and business owner characteristics from those businesses with one or more employees.
  2. Data collection authority: National Science Foundation Act of 1950, as amended, and the America COMPETES Reauthorization Act of 2010; collected under Office of Management and Budget control number 0607-1004, expiring 31 March 2021. The survey is conducted by the Census Bureau under Title 13, United States Code, ยง 8(b) for the National Center for Science and Engineering Statistics (NCSES) within the National Science Foundation (NSF).
  3. Major changes to recent survey cycle: Not applicable.

2. Key Survey Information Top of Page.

  1. Frequency: Annual.
  2. Initial survey year: 2018.
  3. Reference period: CY 2017.
  4. Response unit: All nonfarm, for-profit businesses in the United States (ABS-1 focuses on businesses with one to nine employees and ABS-2 focuses on businesses with 10 or more employees).
  5. Sample or census: Sample survey of for-profit companies with a U.S. presence engaged in the mining, utilities, construction, manufacturing, wholesale trade, retail trade, or services industries.
  6. Population size: Approximately 6,000,000 companies.
  7. Sample size: Approximately 850,000 companies (ABS-1 approximately 580,000; ABS-2 approximately 270,000).
  8. Key variables: Key variables of interest are listed below.

3. Survey Design Top of Page.

  1. Target population: The target population consists of all for-profit, nonfarm companies in the United States that have at least one establishment that is classified in an in-scope sector based on the North American Industry Classification System (NAICS), is in business during the survey reference year and data collection period, and is physically located in the United States.
  2. Sample frame: The Business Register, maintained by the Census Bureau, is the source used to create the sample frame for the ABS.
  3. Sample design: The ABS has a systematic stratified sampling design that uses simple random sampling within strata. Stratification is based on the NAICS industry code.

4. Data Collection and ProcessingTop of Page.

  1. Data collection: The ABS collects data electronically.
  2. Data processing: All data submitted by respondent companies are reviewed to ensure that data fields are complete and that data are internally consistent. Survey responses often include errors that require correction or unusual patterns that require validation. Automated edit checks are applied to improve the efficiency of data review and correction. Edit checks are designed to catch arithmetic errors and logically inconsistent responses (balance edits). The remaining automated edit checks are designed to flag outliers for further review (analytical edits). If additional information or data corrections are needed, respondents may be contacted to clarify or correct data. If additional information or corrected data cannot be obtained from respondents, data are imputed.
  3. Estimation techniques: Estimates are produced from sums of weighted data (reported or imputed) and nonresponse adjustment factors where appropriate. Exceptions are described in detail in annual reports containing detailed statistical tables.

5. Survey Quality Measures Top of Page.

  1. Sampling error: Estimates of sampling errors associated with the detailed statistical tables will be available by request.
  2. Coverage error: Coverage error is minimal because the Business Register, the source for the ABS, is continually updated and coverage is comprehensive of all domestic businesses.
  3. Nonresponse error: Unit nonresponse will be done by adjusting weighted reported and imputed data by multiplying each company's sampling weight by a nonresponse adjustment factor. Detailed descriptions of the adjustments for nonresponse will be available in the annual reports containing detailed statistical tables.
  4. Measurement error: Expected sources of measurement error include differences in respondent interpretations of the definitions of R&D activities and differences in how companies count and report numbers of employees in various categories, including whether they work on R&D full time or part time. Although quantitative metrics of measurement error are not available, there are ongoing efforts to minimize measurement error, including questionnaire pretesting, improvement of questionnaire wording and format, inclusion of more cues and examples in the questionnaire instructions, in-person and telephone interviews and consultations with respondents, and post-survey evaluations.

6. Data Availability and Comparability Top of Page.

  1. Data availability: Data produced from the ABS will be available at
  2. Data comparability: The ABS is a cross-sectional survey designed to produce annual estimates of R&D performance and related statistics.

7. Data Products Top of Page.

  1. Publications: The ABS data will be published in NCSES InfoBriefs and in reports with detailed statistical tables in the ABS series (
  2. Electronic access: Results from this survey will be available on the NCSES website at The ABS contains confidential data that are protected under Title 13 and Title 26 of the U.S. Code. Restricted microdata will be available at any of the 28 secure Research Data Centers administered by the Center for Economic Studies (CES) at the Census Bureau. Researchers interested in accessing microdata can apply for a restricted-use license by submitting a proposal to the CES, which evaluates proposals based on their benefit to the Census Bureau, scientific merit, feasibility, and risk of disclosure. To learn more about the Research Data Centers and how to apply, please visit the CES page on research opportunities ( For additional information about the application process, including how to initiate a project, please contact the administrator at the appropriate Research Data Center. Per the Federal Cybersecurity Enhancement Act of 2015, the data are protected from cybersecurity risks through screening of the systems that transmit the data.

8. Contact Information Top of Page.

For additional information about this survey, please contact the Project Officer.

Audrey Kindlon
Project Officer
Research and Development Statistics Program
National Center for Science and Engineering Statistics
National Science Foundation
2415 Eisenhower Avenue, Suite W14200
Alexandria, VA 22314

Phone:(703) 292-2332