Overview of 2015–16 Data Update

National Patterns of R&D Resources provides current data on the levels and key trends of the performance and funding of research and experimental development in the United States, with comparisons to the historical record (back to 1953). Detail is also provided for the U.S. total and by performer according to the types of R&D conducted (i.e., basic research, applied research, and experimental development).

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Key Information on Publication Series

Report frequency. Reports in this series are typically published annually.

Current reference period. Data from 1953 to 2016 are provided for almost all variables. The data for 2016 are estimates and not previously reported in this series. The data for 2015 are revised from the previous edition (2014–15) of this series. The data for 1953–2014 reflect final data that may still include some further (typically minor) revisions.

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Survey Data Sources for National Patterns

The National Patterns statistics draw primarily from NCSES's annual national surveys of the R&D expenditures and funding of the organizations that perform the bulk of U.S. R&D. These organizations include the business sector, federal and nonfederal government, higher education, and other nonprofit organizations. Each of these sectors are summarized—including links to other sections of the NCSES website with specifics on survey coverage, variables collected, and survey/sampling implementation—in the sections below.

Business Sector

For 2008 and later years, annual data on the R&D performed in the domestic United States by the business sector come from NCSES's Business Research and Development and Innovation Survey (BRDIS; cosponsored with the U.S. Census Bureau [https://www.nsf.gov/statistics/srvyindustry/]). BRDIS is a sample survey of companies in manufacturing and nonmanufacturing industries, designed to be nationally representative of all for-profit companies (publicly or privately held) with 5 employees or more in the United States (typically, a sample of around 44,000 companies representing a national population of around 2 million companies). Key variables covered include R&D performance (in the United States and worldwide); total and R&D employment (in the United States and worldwide); sources of R&D funding; the type of R&D activities (basic research, applied research, experimental development); type of R&D costs; R&D capital expenditures; R&D application and technology focus areas; geographic location (within the United States and in foreign countries); sales (in the United States and worldwide); patenting, licensing, other technology transfer activities; and innovation indicators.

For 2007 and earlier years, data come from the NCSES Survey of Industrial Research and Development (SIRD), the predecessor to BRDIS (https://www.nsf.gov/statistics/srvyindustry/sird.cfm). SIRD was also a sample survey, conducted annually (1953–2007), that provided national estimates of the R&D performed within the United States by industrial firms, whether U.S. or foreign owned. The SIRD target population consisted (same as BRDIS) of all for-profit companies with 5 employees or more, manufacturing and nonmanufacturing, that performed R&D in the United States.

Federal Government

Federal intramural R&D. Data on the intramural R&D performed by the federal government comes from NCSES's Survey of Federal Funds for Research and Development (Federal Funds Survey), which is completed annually by all federal agencies conducting R&D programs (approximately 28 federal departments or independent agencies; https://www.nsf.gov/statistics/srvyfedfunds/). The Federal Funds Survey data provide intramural R&D totals as outlays and obligations on a federal fiscal-year basis. The obligations data are further detailed by federal agency, performer, type of R&D, geographical area, and field of science or engineering (for research, not for development). (Note: data on federal intramural R&D plant reported by the Federal Funds Survey are not included as a component in the National Patterns total of federal intramural R&D.)

Federally funded R&D centers (FFRDCs). The nation's FFRDCs are a second venue of federal R&D performance. (Currently, there are 41 FFRDCs, although the number can change from year to year; NCSES maintains a Master List of the population of FFRDCs, which it regularly updates [https://www.nsf.gov/statistics/ffrdclist/].) FFRDCs are R&D-performing organizations administered by an industrial firm, a university, a nonprofit institution, or a consortium but that have funding exclusively or substantially from the federal government. An FFRDC is operated to provide R&D capability to serve an agency's mission objectives or, in some cases, to provide major facilities at universities for research and training purposes. Since FY 2001, NCSES's FFRDC Research and Development Survey (known previously as the Survey of Research and Development Expenditures at FFRDCs) has provided annual data (by federal fiscal year) on the R&D expenditures (with additional detail) of all the nation's FFRDCs (https://www.nsf.gov/statistics/srvyffrdc/). Prior to FY 2001, R&D expenditure data for the FFRDCs were collected as part of the major performer surveys: the Survey of R&D Expenditures at Universities and Colleges (for university-administered FFRDCs), the Survey of Industrial R&D (for industry-administered FFRDCs), and the Federal Funds Survey (for nonprofit-administered FFRDCs).

Nonfederal Government

The category of nonfederal government R&D performance included in National Patterns is the intramural R&D of state governments (i.e., the R&D performance of state agency and department employees also the services performed by others in support of internal R&D projects). Data on this state intramural R&D come from NCSES's Survey of State Government Research and Development (https://www.nsf.gov/statistics/srvystaterd/). This state survey is a comparatively recent NCSES initiative, fielded on a biennial basis, with the first data year in FY 2006.

In addition, the BRDIS, FFRDC, and Higher Education Research and Development Survey (HERD) surveys (see above and below) provide detail on R&D funding by nonfederal governments other than state government.

Higher Education Institutions

For academic FY 2010 and onward, data on the R&D performed in higher education come from NCSES's HERD. HERD is an annual census of universities and colleges that grant the bachelor's degree or higher and expend at least $150,000 in separately accounted for R&D over the fiscal year of academic institutions (https://www.nsf.gov/statistics/srvyherd/). The survey collects information on R&D expenditures by field of research, source of funds, type of R&D, and head counts of R&D personnel.

The HERD Survey replaced the earlier Survey of Research and Development Expenditures at Universities and Colleges (https://www.nsf.gov/statistics/srvyrdexpenditures/). For data years FY 2009 and earlier, the Universities and Colleges Survey provides the data on academic R&D.

Other Nonprofit Organizations

This sector refers to R&D performed in the United States by nonprofit organizations other than government or academia. Data on the R&D performed by such nonprofit organizations that are federally funded comes from the aforementioned NCSES Federal Funds Survey (reported annually, on federal fiscal year basis). Data for the R&D performed by other nonprofit organizations with funding from within the nonprofit sector and from business sources (both reported on calendar year basis) are estimated, based on parameters from NCSES's past comprehensive R&D surveys of the sector. NCSES's most recent Survey of Research and Development Funding and Performance by Nonprofit Organizations dates to 1973 and 1996–97 (https://www.nsf.gov/statistics/srvyrdnonprofit/). Data for years prior to 1973 come from earlier National Patterns reports (which reflect, in part, surveys in 1957 and 1960).

Statistics on the U.S. Economy

Some of the trend analyses in National Patterns draw on National Income and Product Accounts data (e.g., U.S. gross domestic product, state domestic product) assembled by the U.S. Bureau of Economic Activity (BEA). For details on this U.S. economic data, see http://www.bea.gov/national/index.htm#gdp.

In keeping with international conventions, U.S. R&D expenditures in current dollars are adjusted for inflation based on BEA's implicit GDP price deflator.

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The National Patterns statistical picture of the U.S. R&D system arises from integration of the primary data from the NCSES sectoral R&D surveys. Adjustments to the primary data are needed in some cases to enable consistent addition. Furthermore, preliminary or otherwise estimated values may be used (and later revised) where final data from one or more of the surveys are not yet available but can reasonably be calculated.

Key features of the methodology include the following.

Additional details on methodology and technical issues pertaining to specific variables are provided in the notes on each table. For further information about compiling the National Patterns statistics, contact the Project Officer.

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R&D performers and funders. The U.S. R&D system consists of the R&D activities of differing performers and sources of funding for these activities. The main categories of R&D performers tracked by NCSES are businesses; federal agencies; FFRDCs (administered by businesses, universities, or nonprofit organizations); nonfederal government agencies (particularly those of the states); higher education; and other nonprofit organizations. For R&D funding, the main categories are businesses; the federal government; nonfederal government (state, regional, local); higher education; and other nonprofit organizations. Organizations that perform R&D often receive significant levels of outside funding; R&D funders may also be significant performers.

Type of R&D. As defined by the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development's Frascati Manual (in seven editions since the early 1960s), "R&D" spans three main types of activities:

Basic research: Experimental or theoretical work undertaken primarily to acquire new knowledge of the underlying foundations of phenomena and observable facts, without any particular application or use in view.

Applied research: Original investigation undertaken in order to acquire new knowledge. It is, however, directed primarily towards a specific, practical aim or objective.

Experimental development: Systematic work, drawing on knowledge gained from research and practical experience and producing additional knowledge, which is directed to producing new products or processes or to improve existing products or processes.[2]

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[1] National Science Board. 2018. Tracking R&D Expenditures: Disparities in the Data Reported by Performers and Sources of Funding. In Science and Engineering Indicators 2018, Chapter 4. NSB 2018-1. Alexandria, VA: National Science Foundation. Available at https://www.nsf.gov/statistics/2018/nsb20181/

[2]Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD). 2015. Frascati Manual 2015: Guidelines for Collecting and Reporting Data on Research and Experimental Development. Page 45. OECD Publishing, Paris. Available at http://www.oecd.org/publications/frascati-manual-2015-9789264239012-en.htm.

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