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

1. Survey Overview (FYs 2015–17 survey cycle; volume 65) Top of Page.

  1. Purpose: The annual Survey of Federal Funds for Research and Development (Federal Funds Survey) is the primary source of information about federal funding for R&D in the United States. The results of the survey are also used for budget purposes for four federal programs: the Federal Laboratory Consortium for Technology Transfer, Small Business Innovation Research, Small Business Technology Transfer, and Experimental Program to Stimulate Competitive Research. The survey is sponsored by the National Center for Science and Engineering Statistics (NCSES) within the National Science Foundation (NSF).
  2. Data collection authority: The information is solicited under the authority of the National Science Foundation Act of 1950, as amended, and the America COMPETES Reauthorization Act of 2010.
  3. Major changes to recent survey cycle: None.

2. Key Survey Information Top of Page.

  1. Frequency: Annual.
  2. Initial survey year: 1951.
  3. Reference period: FYs 2015–17.
  4. Response unit: Federal agencies.
  5. Sample or census: Census.
  6. Population size: A total of 28 federal agencies reported R&D data. Because multiple subdivisions of some federal departments completed the survey, there were 74 agency-level respondents: 5 federal departments, 56 agencies within another 10 federal departments, and 13 independent agencies. However, lower offices could also be authorized to enter data: agency-level offices could authorize program offices, program offices could authorize field offices, and field offices could authorize branch offices. When these sub-offices are included, there were 667 total respondents: 74 agency-level offices, 197 program offices, 130 field offices, and 266 branch offices.
  7. Sample size: Not applicable; the survey is a census of all federal agencies that conduct R&D programs, excluding the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA).
  8. Key variables: Key variables of interest are listed below.
  9. The survey provides data on federal obligations by the following key variables:
  10. The survey provides data on federal outlays by the following key variables:

Note that the variables "R&D," "type of R&D," and "R&D plant" in this survey use definitions comparable to those used by the Office of Management and Budget (http://www.whitehouse.gov/omb/). The variables "geographic location" and "field of science and engineering" used in this survey are comparable with those in the related Survey of Federal Science and Engineering Support to Universities, Colleges, and Nonprofit Institutions, sponsored by NCSES (https://www.nsf.gov/statistics/fedsupport/).

3. Survey Design Top of Page.

  1. Target population: The population consists of all federal agencies that conduct R&D programs, excluding the CIA. In the survey cycle for data collection on FYs 2015–17, a total of 28 federal agencies (15 federal departments and 13 independent agencies) reported R&D data. The Analytical Perspectives volume and the "Detailed Budget Estimates by Agency" section of the appendix to the president's budget identify agencies that receive research and development funding. In addition, the Federal Yellow Book and the U.S. Government Manual are consulted.
  2. Sample frame: Not applicable.
  3. Sample design: Not applicable.

4. Data Collection and Processing Top of Page.

  1. Data collection: Synectics for Management Decisions, Inc. (Synectics) performed the data collection for volume 65 (FYs 2015–17) under contract with NCSES. Agencies were initially contacted by e-mail to verify the contact information of each agency-level survey respondent. A Web-based data collection system is used to collect data for the Federal Funds Survey.

    Federal funds data, as collected, span 3 government fiscal years: the fiscal year just completed, the current fiscal year, and the next fiscal year. Actual data are collected for the year just completed; estimates are obtained for the current and next fiscal year.

    For volume 65, actual data (representing completed transactions) were collected for FY 2015 and estimated data were collected for FYs 2016 and 2017. Estimated data do not represent final actions. Data collection for the Federal Funds Survey began in February 2016 and continued until September 2016. The amounts reported for FY 2016 reflect congressional appropriation actions, as well as apportionment and reprogramming decisions, as of that time. Data for FY 2017 represent as-yet unimplemented administration budget proposals. Authorization, appropriation, deferral, and apportionment actions completed after data collection concluded will be reflected in subsequent surveys in this series.

  2. Data processing: A Web-based data collection system is used to collect and manage data for the Federal Funds Survey. This Web-based system was designed to help improve survey reporting and reduce data collection and processing costs by offering respondents direct online reporting and editing.

    All data collection efforts, data imports, and trend checking are accomplished using the Web-based data collection system. The Web-based data collection system has a component that allows survey respondents to enter their data online; it also has a component that allows the contractor to monitor support requests, data entry, and data issues.

  3. Estimation techniques: There is no known unit or item nonresponse, so no weighting or imputation methods are used; NCSES assumes a blank field is zero for estimation purposes.

5. Survey Quality Measures Top of Page.

  1. Sampling error: Not applicable.
  2. Coverage error: Given the existence of a complete list of all eligible agencies, there is no known coverage error. The CIA is purposefully excluded.
  3. Nonresponse error: Agencies are encouraged to estimate when actual data are unavailable. The survey instrument allows respondents to enter data or skip data fields. NCSES assumes a blank field is zero for estimation purposes. There are several possible causes for nonresponse error: data items incorrectly skipped by respondents; an incorrect assumption that a blank field is zero; and incorrect estimates when data are unavailable.
  4. Measurement error: Some measurement problems are known to exist in the data. Some agencies are not able to report the full costs of R&D, the ultimate performer of the R&D, or the R&D plant data.

    For example, the Department of Defense (DOD) does not include headquarters costs of planning and administering R&D programs, which are estimated at a fraction of 1% of its total cost; DOD has stated that identification of amounts at this level is impracticable.

    The National Institutes of Health (NIH) in the Department of Health and Human Services currently has many of its awards in its financial system without any field of science code. Therefore, NIH uses an alternate source to estimate its research dollars by field of science. NIH uses scientific class codes (based upon past history of grant, content of the title, and the name of the awarding institute or center) as an approximation for field of science codes.

    The National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) does not include any field of science codes in its financial database. Consequently, NASA must estimate what percentage of the agency's research dollars are allocated into the fields of science.

    The FY 2014 data reported by the Department of State were excluded due to their poor quality. Between FYs 2008 and 2013, the Department of State reported average obligations of $2.9 million for R&D and R&D plant out of average federal obligations of $138.1 billion over that same period.

    Also, agencies are required to report the ultimate performer of R&D. However, through past workshops, NCSES has learned that some agencies do not always track their R&D dollars to the ultimate performer of R&D. This leads to some degree of misclassification of performers of R&D, but NCSES has not determined the extent of the errors in performer misclassification by the reporting agencies.

    Eleven agencies are required to report R&D obligations by state and performer (the Departments of Agriculture, Commerce, Defense, Energy, Health and Human Services, Homeland Security, the Interior, and Transportation; the Environmental Protection Agency; NASA; and NSF). Obligations of these 11 agencies represent the vast majority of total federal R&D obligations (over 97 percent for FYs 2008–15), but there is some underreporting by state, and it may affect states unevenly. In addition, geographic distribution of DOD development funding to industry reflects the location of prime contractors and not the numerous subcontractors who perform much of the R&D. DOD development funding to industry represented 51.5 percent of total federal obligations for development in FY 2015 ($33.4 billion out of $67.9 billion).

    R&D plant data are underreported to some extent because of the difficulty some agencies, particularly DOD and NASA, encounter in identifying and reporting these data. DOD's respondents report obligations for R&D plant funded under the agency's appropriation for construction, but they are able to identify only a small portion of the R&D plant support that is within R&D contracts funded from DOD's appropriation for research, development, testing, and evaluation. Similarly, NASA respondents cannot separately identify the portions of industrial R&D contracts that apply to R&D plant, since these data are subsumed in the R&D data covering industrial performance. NASA R&D plant data for other performing sectors are reported separately.

6. Data Availability and Comparability Top of Page.

  1. Data availability: Annual data are available for FYs 1951–2017.
  2. Data comparability: The information included in this survey has been stable since FY 1973, when federal obligations for research to universities and colleges by agency and detailed science and engineering field were added to the survey. Many of the other variables are available from the early 1950s on. However, analysts studying trends are encouraged to obtain up-to-date data from the NCSES Web site, because agencies reclassify their responses for prior years as additional budget data become available.

7. Data Products Top of Page.

  1. Publications: NCSES publishes data from this survey annually in the detailed tabular data series Federal Funds for Research and Development (https://www.nsf.gov/statistics/fedfunds/) and the Science and Engineering State Profiles series (https://www.nsf.gov/statistics/states/). Historical information is also available from NCSES's Integrated Science and Engineering Resources Data System (WebCASPAR at https://webcaspar.nsf.gov/).

8. Contact Information Top of Page.

For additional information about this survey, or the methodology report, contact the Project Officer:

Christopher Pece
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) 292-7788
E-mail: cpece@nsf.gov