Survey Overview (2016 survey cycle)

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The Business R&D and Innovation Survey-Microbusiness (BRDI-M) was the primary source of information on research and development expenditures and the R&D employees of for-profit, nonfarm businesses with fewer than 10 employees operating in the United States. Questions from BRDI-M are incorporated into the Annual Business Survey starting with survey cycle 2017. Only companies with 1 to 4 employees will be reflected in the published statistics.

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 0607-0912, expiring 31 January 2018.

Major changes to recent survey cycle.

Not applicable.

Key Survey Information

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One time.

Initial survey year.


Reference period.

CY 2016.

Response unit.

Companies with fewer than 10 employees in the United States. Only companies with 1 to 4 employees will be reflected in the published statistics.

Sample or census.

Sample survey of for-profit companies with a U.S. presence and fewer than 10 employees engaged in the mining, utilities, construction, manufacturing, wholesale trade, retail trade, or services industries.

Population size.

A total of 2,595,220 companies with 1 to 4 employees. A total of 3,460,816 companies with 1 to 10 employees.

Sample size.

A total of 161,066 companies with 1 to 4 employees. A total of 200,000 companies with 1 to 10 employees.

Key variables.

Key variables of interest are listed below.

  • R&D performance

  • Total and R&D employment

  • Sources of R&D funding

  • Type of R&D work (basic research, applied research, and development)

  • Type of R&D cost (e.g., salaries and fringe benefits)

  • Demographic and entrepreneurial characteristics of the business owner

  • Indicators of innovation

  • Patents and intellectual property

Survey Design

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Target population.

The target population consists of all for-profit nonfarm companies that have fewer than 10 paid employees in the United States and 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. Only companies with 1 to 4 employees will be reflected in the published statistics.

Sampling frame.

The Business Register, maintained by the Census Bureau, is the source used to create the sample frame for BRDI-M.

Sample design.

BRDI-M has a stratified probability sampling design that uses simple random sampling within strata. Stratification is based on the NAICS industry code.

Data Collection and Processing

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Data collection.

BRDI-M uses multimode data collection by paper booklet or Web reporting instruments.

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.

Estimation techniques.

Estimates are produced from sums of weighted data (reported or imputed), in which the weights are the product of the sampling weight and the nonresponse adjustment factor. Exceptions are described in detail in the annual report containing detailed statistical tables.

Survey Quality Measures

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Sampling error.

Estimates of sampling errors associated with the planned detailed statistical tables will be available by request.

Coverage error.

Coverage error is minimal because the Business Register, the source for BRDI-M, is continually updated and coverage is comprehensive of all domestic businesses.

Nonresponse error.

The response rate was 76.0% for companies with 1 to 4 employees and 76.8% for those with 1 to 10 employees. Unit nonresponse was handled 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 are available in the annual report containing detailed statistical tables.

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.

Data Availability and Comparability

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Data availability.

Data produced from BRDI-M will be available at

Data comparability.

BRDI-M is a cross-sectional survey designed to produce annual estimates of R&D performance and related statistics.

Data Products

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BRDI-M data will be published in NCSES InfoBriefs and Detailed Statistical Tables Reports in the Business and Industrial R&D series.

Electronic access.

Results from this survey will be available on the NCSES website at BRDI-M 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 29 secure Research Data Centers administered by the Census Bureau. Researchers interested in accessing microdata can apply for a restricted-use license by submitting a proposal to the Census Bureau’s Center for Economic Studies (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 primary site where the research will be conducted. Per the Federal Cybersecurity Enhancement Act of 2015, the data are protected from cybersecurity risks through screening of the systems that transmit the data.

Contact Information

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For additional information about this survey, 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