Survey Overview (FY 2020 survey cycle)

Top of Page.

The Survey of State Government R&D is the only source for comprehensive, uniform statistics regarding the extent of R&D activity performed and funded by departments and agencies in each of the nation's 50 state governments, the government of the District of Columbia, and the government of Puerto Rico.

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. It is collected under Office of Management and Budget control number 0607–0933, expiration date 31 July 2023. The survey is conducted by the Census Bureau under Title 13, United States Code, § 8(b) for the National Center for Science and Engineering Statistics (NCSES) within the National Science Foundation.

Major changes to recent survey cycle.


Key Survey Information

top of page.


Initial survey year.

FY 2006.

Reference period.

State government fiscal years ending in 2020.

Response unit.

State government departments, agencies, commissions, public authorities, institutions, and other entities that operate separately or somewhat autonomously from the central state government—but where the state government maintains administrative or fiscal control over their activities—with the capacity to perform or fund R&D; units are collectively referred to as agencies.

Sample or census.


Population size.

726 agencies.

Sample size.

Not applicable.

Key variables.

  • State government department or agency

  • Total expenditures for R&D

  • R&D expenditures by source of funds (federal, state, and other)

  • Expenditures for intramural performance by source of funds

  • Expenditures for intramural performance by type of work (basic research, applied research, and experimental development)

  • Expenditures for extramural performance by source of funds

  • Expenditures for extramural performance by type of performer (academic institutions, companies and individuals, and others)

  • Federal funds for R&D by state and federal agency

  • R&D expenditures by governmental function (agriculture, energy, environment and natural resources, health, transportation, and other)

  • Capital outlays for state government R&D-related facilities

Survey Design

top of page.
Target population.

The target population consists of all state departments, agencies, commissions, and dependent entities that funded R&D activities for state government fiscal years ending in 2020. Several industry-specific state commissions, which are generally chartered by state legislatures but are administered independently, are considered state agencies and included in the survey's population of interest. Excluded are state-run colleges and universities, which are canvassed as part of NCSES's Higher Education R&D (HERD) Survey. State-run laboratories or experiment stations controlled by state universities are also excluded from the respondent universe, as are any entities determined to be nonprofit or private as defined by the Census Bureau. Most state fiscal year periods begin 1 July and end the following 30 June. For example, FY 2020 is defined as the state fiscal period beginning on 1 July 2019 and ending on 30 June 2020. There are, however, five exceptions to the 30 June fiscal year end: New York (ends 31 March), Texas (ends 31 August), Alabama (ends 30 September), and the District of Columbia and Michigan (ends 30 September). For comparability, all states, the District of Columbia, and Puerto Rico are surveyed at the same time.

Sampling frame.

The total universe includes all state government dependent units with the capacity to perform or fund R&D, including those for the District of Columbia and Puerto Rico, as defined by the Census Bureau's Government Finance and Employment Classification Manual. All units were identified with the aid of a state coordinator who was appointed by the governor of each state, Puerto Rico, and the mayor of the District of Columbia. Since the FY 2020 survey launched in the fall of 2020 at the height of the COVID-19 pandemic, no letters were sent to governors or to the mayor of the District of Columbia to ask for appointments of state coordinators. Instead, prior year state coordinators were asked to assist for the FY 2020 survey cycle.

Sample design.

The Survey of State Government R&D is a census. For the FY 2020 survey, state coordinators were provided with the list of agencies that were previously identified as having the potential to perform or fund R&D from the FY 2019 survey cycle. In addition, the list included agencies identified from a systematic review of state session laws and additional review of agencies reporting to the Census Bureau's Census of Governments program by staff members from the Census Bureau and NCSES. State coordinators were asked to review this list and add agencies that they believed were involved with R&D and were not already identified. State coordinators also adjusted the agency universe to remove agencies that have never had any qualifying R&D to report to NCSES, to address organizational changes within their respective states since the previous survey, and to provide updated agency contact information.

Data Collection and Processing

top of page.
Data collection.

The survey was funded by NCSES. Data collection was conducted by the Census Bureau via an e-mail containing a survey form. The survey was launched in September 2020, and responses were collected through early June 2021. The respondent questionnaire consisted of one screening question, intended to reduce the burden on agency respondents who did not have qualifying R&D expenditures during FY 2020, seven questions regarding R&D-related expenditures, and two questions regarding counts of employees.

Data processing.

Data collected under the survey are subject to automated data correction procedures using a combination of logical edits incorporated into the survey form as well as telephone and e-mail follow-up with survey respondents by staff members from NCSES and the Census Bureau for any other data anomalies.

Estimation techniques.

All state and national totals are summations of reported state agency data.

Survey Quality Measures

top of page.
Sampling error.

Not applicable.

Coverage error.

In addition to a Census Bureau review of state session laws to identify agencies with the capacity to fund R&D, NCSES utilizes the expertise of an appointed state coordinator to assist in identifying state government agencies that have the capacity to perform or fund R&D. State coordinators are also offered the opportunity to review survey responses from their respective state agencies before results were finalized for data release. In cases where the state coordinator refused to cooperate or where some agencies did not respond to the survey, it is possible there may be an undercount of state government R&D activities. The undercount may occur despite efforts by staff members of NCSES and the Census Bureau to conduct additional queries and conduct outreach with state agencies that did not appoint a state coordinator. In other instances, the appointed state coordinator could misinterpret the NCSES definition and examples of qualifying R&D activities and not identify all state government-dependent units with the capacity to perform or fund R&D.

Nonresponse error.

Of the 726 agencies in the survey universe, 699 (96.3%) responded to the survey. Of the 699 respondents, 391 (55.9%) reported having R&D activities in FY 2020. A ratio of historic state data was used to impute two nonresponding agencies known to have R&D in the past, namely the Kentucky Department of Fish and Wildlife Resources and the Louisiana Department of Education. No statistical methods were used to account for the other nonresponding agencies, which historically have reported not having R&D.

Measurement error.

All responses, including the initial agency data submissions and final state coordinator reviews, were received via e-mail or phone. Census Bureau staff performed basic logical edit checks and reviewed respondent comments, allowing staff to detect errors and work with respondents to correct them. Despite these efforts, some of the data reported could include expenditures for non-R&D activities, such as commercialization, environmental testing, or routine survey work. Similarly, some state data may also exclude minor R&D expenditure amounts from agencies not surveyed.

Data Availability and Comparability

top of page.
Data availability.

Data presented in trend tables in this report are from the most recently completed survey cycle. Data are available beginning with FY 2006. No survey of state governments' FY 2008 R&D activity was conducted.

Data comparability.

References to data prior to FY 2020 should be restricted to those published in this report for three reasons: (1) when completing the current-year survey, survey respondents may revise their prior-year data; (2) state coordinators may identify additional agencies to be canvassed that were not initially surveyed during the prior survey cycle, and many of these agencies will provide prior-year data during the current survey collection cycle; and (3) NCSES reviews data from prior years for consistency with current-year responses and, if necessary, may revise these data in consultation with respondents.

For FYs 1995, 1988, and 1987, data collections of state government R&D were conducted by nonfederal organizations that were supported by NCSES grants. Prior to those efforts, NCSES collected state government R&D data for FYs 1977, 1973, 1972, 1968, 1967, 1965, and 1964 in collaboration with the Census Bureau's Census of Governments and related programs. Because of differences in the survey populations, in definitions of covered R&D activities, and in collection methods over time, the results of these historical surveys are not comparable with the statistics collected for FY 2006 and subsequent Surveys of State Government R&D.

Data Products

top of page.

Data from the Survey of State Government R&D are published in NCSES InfoBriefs and data tables available at Data from the Survey of State Government R&D are also used in the annual report National Patterns of R&D and the biennial report Science and Engineering Indicators.

Contact Information

top of page.

For additional information about this survey, please contact:

Christopher Pece
Survey Manager
Research and Development Statistics Program, NCSES
Tel: (703) 292-7788

National Center for Science and Engineering Statistics
Directorate for Social, Behavioral and Economic Sciences
National Science Foundation
2415 Eisenhower Avenue, Suite W14200
Alexandria, VA 22314
Tel: (703) 292-8780
FIRS: (800) 877-8339
TDD: (800) 281-8749