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National Science Foundation National Center for Science and Engineering Statistics

General Notes

Data Tables

Appendix. Technical Notes

Suggested Citation, Acknowledgments

Mike Yamaner,
Project Officer
(703) 292-7815
Research and Development Statistics Program

Federal Science and Engineering Support to Universities, Colleges, and Nonprofit Institutions: FY 2009


Appendix. Technical Notes


Scope of Survey

Data presented in this report are collected annually through the National Science Foundation's (NSF's) congressionally mandated Survey of Federal Science and Engineering (S&E) Support to Universities, Colleges, and Nonprofit Institutions (Federal S&E Support Survey). The survey originated in 1965, 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 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 NSF'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 further detailed in the survey's methodology report, available from the project officer.

The FY 2009 data in this report were submitted by the following 19 federal agencies, covering the period 1 October 2008 through 30 September 2009.

Agency for International Development
Appalachian Regional Commission
Department of Agriculture
Department of Commerce
Department of Defense
Department of Education
Department of Energy
Department of Health and Human Services
Department of Homeland Security
Department of Housing and Urban Development
Department of the Interior
Department of Labor
Department of Transportation
Environmental Protection Agency
National Aeronautics and Space Administration
National Science Foundation
Nuclear Regulatory Commission
Office of Justice Programs
Social Security Administration

The data are presented in terms of federal obligations provided for direct support of academic S&E. 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 upon 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 reported to the survey in thousands of dollars. Obligations totaling less than $500 for any specific activity (e.g., R&D, general support for S&E) are reported as zero.

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.

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Changes in Reporting

Since these data were first collected in 1965, there have been some changes in reporting. The most recent of these include the following:

  1. After the close of the FY 2007 survey cycle, the Department of Defense (DOD) discovered a programming error that was made during the FY 2005 survey cycle and caused each advanced technology development dollar to be reported twice: as advanced technology development, and also as major systems development. Data for FY 2005–07 were revised.

  2. Between FY 2006 and FY 2007, the National Aeronautics and Space Administration's (NASA's) R&D obligations decreased for two reasons: (1) in FY 2007 NASA excluded projects that were operational in nature that were not excluded in FY 2006; and (2) there was an overall decrease in obligations between FY 2006 and FY 2007, which accounts for the remainder of the decrease.

  3. In FY 2004 NASA implemented a full-cost budget approach, which includes all of the direct and indirect costs for procurement, personnel, travel, and other infrastructure-related expenses relative to particular programs and projects. Data for FY 2004 and later years may not be directly comparable to data for FY 2003 and earlier years.

  4. For the FY 2003 survey cycle, the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) was unable to provide S&E obligations (with the exception of the U.S. Coast Guard) broken down into the categories shown in this report. Because the U.S. Coast Guard, formerly part of the Department of Transportation, moved under DHS for FY 2003, its data were not part of the FY 2003 detailed statistical tables (DSTs). The U.S. Coast Guard's overall S&E obligations for FY 2003 are the following:

    • Total academic S&E, $2,159,000
    • Academic R&D, $1,824,000
    • Academic R&D plant, $335,000
    • Nonprofit R&D, $924,000

  5. Beginning in FY 2000, NASA reclassified the space station as a physical asset and space station research as equipment and also transferred funding for the program from R&D to R&D plant. According to NASA, this classification change had a negligible impact on the data reported in this report for FY 2000. However, this classification change was reflected in the FY 2001 academic totals, which showed an R&D plant increase for NASA nearly five times over the FY 2000 R&D plant total (see table 2).

  6. Beginning with the FY 1999 survey cycle, NSF determined that federal agencies would no longer report obligations to academic or nonprofit FFRDCs. Obligations to FFRDCs were deleted from all previous years shown in this report.

  7. Beginning with the FY 1996 survey cycle, NSF determined that federal agencies would no longer report obligations for fields of S&E.

  8. Since FY 1994, NSF has collected data on DOD development dollars in two categories: advanced technology development and major systems development. These categories better differentiate between that part of the federal R&D budget that supports "science and key enabling technologies" (including military and nondefense applications) and that part that primarily concerns "testing and evaluation of large technical systems prior to production" (of mostly defense-related systems).

  9. Before FY 1993, NSF published data on a seventh obligations category (see "Categories of Support" below) covering non-S&E activity. At that time, however, the Department of Education (ED) made major software modifications to the automated system from which its federal S&E data were produced. The revamped coding structure introduced major trend differences for the department's institution data. Consequently, because ED accounted for 91% ($5.9 billion) of the total federal support for non-S&E activity ($6.5 billion) for FY 1993, NSF no longer publishes non-S&E totals. To explain ED's downward academic R&D trend between FY 1993 and FY 1994 (from $95 million to $49 million), the agency stated that academic R&D programs in FY 1994 either were not funded, did not have an S&E component, or received reductions in funding.

  10. During the FY 1987 survey cycle, DOD determined that some funds reported in prior years as R&D obligations to The Johns Hopkins University Applied Physics Lab (APL) were more appropriately classified as other sciences and engineering. Data for FY 1984–86 were revised, but DOD was unable to revise data for earlier years. In FY 2009, APL accounted for more than 90% of DOD's total S&E funding of $522 million to The Johns Hopkins University.

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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:

    • Routine product testing
    • Quality control
    • Topographical mapping and surveys
    • Collection of general-purpose statistics
    • Experimental production
    • Demonstrations designed to exhibit new technologies or methods or to disseminate information on those new technologies and methods
    • Scientific and technical information activities
    • R&D facilities and fixed equipment

    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 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 comprising 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.

  2. 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 and 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).

  3. 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).

  4. 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 and/or study.

    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.

  5. 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.).

  6. Other S&E activities includes 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 (sponsored by the National Center for Education Statistics [NCES]) and the Higher Education Directory (published by Higher Education Publications, Inc.).

Institutions included are those that received federal S&E support during FY 2009. 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 U.S. Department of Agriculture Graduate School are not included.

Independent Nonprofit Institutions

Independent nonprofit institutions are legal entities other than universities and colleges, 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 science or engineering disciplines. NSF has identified several 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; these agencies together 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.

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.

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.

National Patterns of R&D Resources

NSF 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 http://www.nsf.gov/statistics/fedsupport/. Information on file formats and the years for which they are available can be found at http://www.nsf.gov/statistics/srvyfedsupport/.

Academic 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 http://www.nsf.gov/statistics/profiles/. An institutional profile consists of data not only from this survey but from three other NSF academic S&E surveys: the Survey of Research and Development Expenditures at Universities and Colleges, now the Higher Education R&D Survey (HERD); the NSF-NIH Survey of Graduate Students and Postdoctorates in Science and Engineering (GSS); and the Survey of Earned Doctorates.


Researchers can also obtain data from several academic S&E resources through the Integrated Science and Engineering Resources Data System (WebCASPAR), 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 Survey of Earned Doctorates, Survey of Federal Funds for R&D, Federal S&E Support Survey, HERD, Survey of S&E Research Facilities, and GSS. Data from the Integrated Postsecondary Education Data System conducted by NCES are also included.

WebCASPAR can be accessed via the World Wide Web at http://ncsesdata.nsf.gov/webcaspar/.

Accurate Historical Data

To obtain accurate historical data, use only the latest DSTs (covering FY 2009) 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 and/or institutions. For that reason, references to prior-year data should be restricted to those published in this document.

Federal Science and Engineering Support to Universities, Colleges, and Nonprofit Institutions: FY 2009
Detailed Statistical Tables | NSF 13-303 | December 2012