Scope of Survey

Data presented in this report are collected annually through the congressionally mandated Survey of Federal Science and Engineering Support to Universities, Colleges, and Nonprofit Institutions (Federal S&E Support Survey) of the National Science Foundation, National Center for Science and Engineering Statistics (NSF, NCSES). The survey originated in 1965 (the oldest data are for FY 1963), when the Committee on Academic Science and Engineering (CASE) within the Federal Council for Science and Technology established the CASE data collection system to report annually on federal science and engineering (S&E) obligations to academic institutions and associated federally funded research and development centers (FFRDCs). Since 1968, CASE data, as well as data on nonprofit institutions, have also served as the basis for an annual report to the president and Congress. This survey is designed to collect information from federal agencies on (1) total S&E program support to academic institutions, and (2) research and development and R&D plant support to nonprofit institutions. All agencies that report R&D performed by universities and colleges or nonprofit institutions in the annual NSF Survey of Federal Funds for Research and Development (Federal Funds Survey) are included in this survey.

A Web-based data collection system is used to collect the Federal S&E Support Survey data. The Web-based data collection system is part of NCSES's effort to enhance survey reporting and reduce data collection and processing costs by offering respondents direct online reporting and editing. Because the Federal S&E Support Survey data are collected in electronic format, there is no paper instrument. Respondents provide data for each institution using similar data entry screens. The screens change slightly depending on whether the respondent is providing data for academic or nonprofit institutions. The categories of support also are slightly different for defense and nondefense agencies. Mock survey instruments have been created to illustrate what information the respondent is asked to provide via the Web. The Web data collection system used for the Federal S&E Support Survey is detailed further in the survey's methodology report, available from the project officer.

The data in this report were submitted by the following 19 federal agencies:

The data are presented in terms of federal obligations provided for direct support of academic S&E activities. The data exclude financial support of an indirect nature, such as funds allocated to state agencies, even if the final recipients of such funds are known to be academic institutions. Data on type of institutional control and highest degree granted are not presented in this report but are available on request (see "Data Availability").

Obligations are the amounts for orders placed, contracts awarded, services received, and similar transactions during a given period, regardless of when the funds were appropriated and when future payment of money is required. Obligations differ from expenditures in that funds allocated by federal agencies during one fiscal year may be spent by the recipient institution either partially or entirely during one or more subsequent years.

The obligations listed for individual institutions reflect direct federal S&E support. Thus, amounts subcontracted and subgranted to other institutions are included, but funds received through subrecipient arrangements from prime recipients are excluded.

Obligations are listed as awards to individual institutions within a system (e.g., to the University of California, Los Angeles, rather than to the University of California system as a whole). However, obligations awarded directly to the central administration of a system are listed separately. If the final destination of the funds is not known, the agencies report them as obligations to a system's administrative office, from which the funds are distributed to the system's individual institutions.

This report presents FY 2013 data, which cover the period from 1 October 2012 to 30 September 2013. For FY 2013, 18 agencies reported obligations to 995 universities and colleges and 1,068 independent nonprofit institutions. (DOL reported that it had no S&E obligations for FY 2013.)

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Changes in Reporting

Since data were first collected for FY 1963, there have been some changes in reporting. The most recent of these changes include the following:

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Categories of Support

The data presented here include all obligations for academic S&E, comprising federal obligations for R&D; R&D plant; facilities and equipment for instruction in S&E; S&E fellowships, traineeships, and training grants; general support for S&E; and other S&E activities. These support categories are defined below.

  1. R&D includes all direct, indirect, incidental, or related costs resulting from or necessary to performing R&D by private individuals and organizations under grant, contract, or cooperative agreement. Demonstration projects designed to test or prove whether a technology or method is, in fact, workable are considered to be within the scope of R&D if they are designed to produce new information and are accomplished within a given time period. The following activities are excluded from R&D but should be reported under one or more of the other five S&E categories:
  2. Research is systematic study directed toward fuller scientific knowledge or understanding of the subject studied. Research is classified as either basic or applied, according to the objectives of the sponsoring agency. In basic research, the objective of the sponsoring agency is to generate knowledge of the underlying foundations of phenomena and of observable facts without specific applications toward processes or products in mind. In applied research, the objective of the sponsoring agency is the creation of knowledge or understanding necessary to determine the means by which a recognized and specific need may be met.

    Development is the systematic use of knowledge and understanding gained from research directed toward the production of useful materials, devices, systems, or methods, including design and development of prototypes and processes.

    Research equipment is any item (or interrelated collection of items that make up a system) of nonexpendable tangible property or software having a useful life of more than 2 years and an acquisition cost of $500 or more that is used wholly or in part for research. Research equipment is included under R&D.

  3. R&D plant includes all projects whose principal purpose is to provide support for construction, acquisition, renovation, modification, repair, or rental of facilities, land, works, or fixed equipment for use in scientific or engineering R&D. A facility is to be interpreted broadly to include any physical resource important to the conduct of research or development. All costs—direct, indirect, and related expenditures—are to be included.

    If the R&D facilities are part of a larger facility devoted to other purposes as well, the funds should be distributed among the categories of support involved, as appropriate. In general, another category that is likely to be involved is category 3 (facilities and equipment for S&E instruction). Excluded from the R&D plant category are expendable research equipment, office furniture and equipment, and all other activities (i.e., those not specifically related to S&E). See the definition of "research equipment" under category 1 (R&D).

  4. Facilities and equipment for instruction in S&E include all programs whose principal purpose is to provide support for construction, acquisition, renovation, modification, repair, or rental of facilities, land, works, or equipment for use in instruction in S&E.

    If the instructional facilities are part of a larger facility also devoted to other purposes, the funds should be distributed among the categories of support involved, as appropriate. In general, the other category most likely to be involved is category 2 (R&D plant).

  5. S&E fellowships, traineeships, and training grants include all fellowship, traineeship, and training grant programs that are directed primarily toward the development and maintenance of the scientific and technical workforce. The total amounts pertaining to such awards (stipends and cost-of-education allowances) are reported in terms of the institution at which the recipient performs research or studies.

    Excluded are projects that support research and educational institutes, seminars, and conferences, such as teacher-training activities provided through teacher institutes, short courses, research participation, and in-service seminars; activities aimed at the development of educational techniques and materials for use in S&E training; and programs that provide special opportunities for increasing the scientific knowledge and experience of precollege and undergraduate students. These activities either are to be reported under category 6 (other S&E activities) or are not to be reported if they are not S&E-related.

  6. General support for S&E includes activities that provide support for nonspecific or generalized purposes related to scientific research and education. Such projects are generally oriented toward academic departments, institutes, or institutions as a whole. General support implies a spectrum of varying types of support. At one extreme is support provided without any specification of purpose other than that funds be used for scientific activities. Another kind of general support is to be found in projects that provide funds for activity within a specified field of S&E but without specifying an explicit purpose. The distinguishing feature of general support for S&E projects is that they permit a significant measure of freedom as to purpose (research, faculty support, education, institutional support, etc.).

  7. Other S&E activities include all academic S&E activities that cannot be meaningfully assigned to one of the five categories previously set forth. Among the types of activities to be included in this category are support for scientific conferences and symposia, teacher institutes, and activities aimed at increasing the scientific knowledge of precollege and undergraduate students.

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Types of Institutions

The types of institutions covered by this survey are universities and colleges, independent nonprofit institutions, and consortia of both universities and colleges and of independent nonprofit institutions.

Universities and Colleges

Universities and colleges are those institutions of higher education in the United States that offer at least 1 year of college-level study leading toward a degree. The universe of academic institutions for this survey is derived from the higher education institution portion of ED's Integrated Postsecondary Education Data System (IPEDS), sponsored by the National Center for Education Statistics (NCES) and the online version of the Higher Education Directory (published by Higher Education Publications, Inc.).

Institutions included are those that received federal S&E support during FY 2013. This support may have been provided to any part of the academic institution—its colleges (e.g., liberal arts) and schools (e.g., agriculture), professional schools, hospitals, agricultural experiment stations, bureaus, offices, and research centers (excluding FFRDCs)—whether located on or off the main campus or at branch campuses controlled directly by the parent institution. Further, the institutions included must have a significant degree of academic and administrative autonomy. For example, institutions within a system (a group of institutions having a collective legal status and generally recognized by a state government, a board of education, or other relevant organization) in which a significant degree of autonomy remains at the individual-institution level are presented separately; however, obligations to branch campuses are included in the totals for the parent institutions. Obligations to the USDA Graduate School are not included.

Independent Nonprofit Institutions

Independent nonprofit institutions are legal entities other than universities and colleges that are privately organized or chartered to serve the public interest and exempt from most forms of federal taxation. Data presented for nonprofit institutions are obligations for R&D and R&D plant reported by as many as 19 participating agencies.

Coverage of the nonprofit sector in the Federal S&E Support Survey was expanded beginning in the late 1970s to include all types of nonprofit institutions that receive federal R&D funds. Beginning with the FY 2004 DSTs, the nonprofit-sector tables are no longer available by specific nonprofit type.


Consortia are organizations formed by the membership of a number of institutions from one or more types of performers (e.g., academic, nonprofit) in order to promote and support efforts to enhance knowledge in one or more S&E disciplines. NSF has identified a number of consortia and classified them as either academic or nonprofit types, based on the predominance of their membership at the time of identification.

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Data Comparability with Other National Center for Science and Engineering Statistics Surveys

Federal Funds for Research and Development

Data presented here on R&D and R&D plant by agency sometimes differ significantly from similar data presented in the annual NSF Federal Funds Survey. Much of the difference lies in the two surveys' treatment of interagency transfers. Interagency transfers of funds obligated to an academic or nonprofit institution are reported here by the agency that actually obligates the funds to the receiving institution. In the Federal Funds Survey, however, obligations are reported by the agency in which the funds originated.

Other differences between the data compiled by the two surveys stem from the following factors:

Agencies involved: In the survey presented here, data are reported by as many as 19 federal agencies on their S&E obligations to institutions of higher education; together, these agencies obligate virtually all federal support to academic R&D. For the Federal Funds Survey, budget data on R&D and R&D plant are gathered from the 27 federal agencies with such programs.

Data sources: The two surveys rely on different sources of data and different methods of data collection. For example, data for the Federal S&E Support Survey are generally processed from award files; Federal Funds Survey data are often derived from agency budget documents.

Preparer interpretations: Several agencies rely on personnel from separate internal offices to respond to the two surveys. These respondents may differ in their interpretation of survey questions.

Scope of information: Data collected in the Federal S&E Support Survey pertain only to individual academic and nonprofit institutions. Those collected in the Federal Funds Survey relate to all types of performers. Furthermore, the Federal Funds Survey provides detailed data on the character of work (basic research, applied research, and development); data from the Federal S&E Support Survey are not comparably disaggregated.

National Patterns of R&D Resources

NCSES publishes one other report related to federal R&D funding, National Patterns of R&D Resources. This report provides statistics on U.S. R&D expenditures categorized by provider of funds (federal government, nonfederal government, industry, academia, and nonprofit institutions); type of performer (federal government, industry, academia, nonprofit institutions, and FFRDCs); and character of work (basic research, applied research, and development). In the report, R&D expenditure levels from federal sources are based on performer-reported surveys, which differ from federal R&D funding totals reported by the federal agencies that provide those funds. The difference in the federal R&D totals appears to be concentrated in the funding of industry R&D by DOD.

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Data Availability

Data published in this report are also available at Information on file formats and the years for which they are available can be found at

Institutional Profiles

Selected data items for individual doctorate-granting institutions and schools with S&E departments that grant a master's degree are available in institutional profiles at An institutional profile consists of data not only from this survey but from three other NCSES academic S&E surveys: the Survey of Research and Development Expenditures at Universities and Colleges (Academic R&D Expenditures Survey); the NSF–National Institutes of Health Survey of Graduate Students and Postdoctorates in Science and Engineering (Graduate Student Survey); and the Survey of Science and Engineering Research Facilities.


Researchers can also obtain data from several academic S&E resources through the Web-based Integrated Science and Engineering Resources Data System (WebCASPAR) database system, which provides quick and convenient access to a wide range of statistical data focusing on U.S. universities and colleges and their S&E resources.

WebCASPAR provides an extensive and growing data library with multiyear statistics on the state of higher education in general and on academic S&E resources specifically. This data library is based on a set of standard institutional and field-of-science definitions across the multiple sources used to develop the database. The WebCASPAR program includes built-in help capabilities to facilitate the use and interpretation of the data.

WebCASPAR data are drawn from a number of sources. All data are available for individual institutions, by state and at the national level. Longitudinal data from surveys of universities and colleges conducted by NSF's National Center for Science and Engineering Statistics include the Federal S&E Support Survey, the Academic R&D Expenditures Survey, the Federal Funds Survey, the Survey of Earned Doctorates, and the Graduate Student Survey. Data from the IPEDS conducted by NCES are also included. Data from other sources include the National Research Council's assessment of research doctorate programs.

WebCASPAR can be accessed at

Accurate Historical Data

To obtain accurate historical data, use only the latest DSTs (covering FY 2013 and trend data back to 1963, although most trend data are for FYs 2005–13) and not data published earlier. Data presented in trend tables in this report are assembled from the most recently completed survey cycle. Data for prior years are reviewed for consistency with current-year responses and, when necessary, are revised in consultation with agencies or institutions. For that reason, references to prior-year data should be restricted to those published in this document.

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