The National Science Foundation Act of 1950, as amended, requires that the National Science Foundation

initiate and maintain a program for the determination of the total amount of money for scientific and engineering research, including money allocated for the construction of the facilities wherein such research is conducted, received by each educational institution and appropriate nonprofit organization in the United States, by grant, contract, or other arrangement from agencies of the Federal Government, and to report annually thereon to the President and the Congress.

To fulfill this requirement, NSF’s National Center for Science and Engineering Statistics has used the data collection system originally designed by the Committee on Academic Science and Engineering of the Federal Council for Science and Technology. Through its Survey of Federal Science and Engineering Support to Universities, Colleges, and Nonprofit Institutions, NCSES annually collects statistical data from the 19 federal agencies that account for virtually all support for science and engineering (S&E) research and development at educational institutions. Data are also collected on these agencies' obligations to nonprofit institutions.

Since its inception, this survey system has been the sole source of data on federal funding to individual institutions for S&E activities and, therefore, attracts a wide audience. These data provide information that enables users to examine patterns of support for individual institutions over time and to compare such patterns with those of other institutions.