A. Guidance from the Office of Management and Budget

Description: The Office of Management and Budget (OMB) issued the Uniform Administrative Requirements, Cost Principles, and Audit Requirements for Federal Awards, Title 2 Part 200 of the Code of Federal Regulations (CFR) in December 2013. This guidance supersedes and streamlines requirements from the following OMB Circulars: A-21, A-50, A-87, A-89, A-102, A-110, A-122, and A-133. The full text of 2 CFR Part 200 is available at http://www.ecfr.gov/cgi-bin/text-idx?SID=68fca03721b9c921be5236306ae7a5fa&tpl=/ecfrbrowse/Title02/2chapterII.tpl.

Previous definitions for R&D reporting relevant to educational institutions, hospitals and nonprofit organizations, state and local governments, and nonprofit organizations were addressed in OMB Circulars A-21, A-110, and A-133. Although these circulars are still available (https://obamawhitehouse.archives.gov/omb/circulars_default) they are, with limited exceptions, no longer applied to assistance awards issued after the implementation date of December 26, 2014.


Research and Development (R&D) means all research activities, both basic and applied, and all development activities that are performed by non-federal entities. The term research also includes activities involving the training of individuals in research techniques where such activities utilize the same facilities as other research and development activities and where such activities are not included in the instruction function.

"Research" is defined as a systematic study directed toward fuller scientific knowledge or understanding of the subject studied. "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.

Source: 2 CFR 200.87. Available at http://www.ecfr.gov/cgi-bin/text-idx?tpl=/ecfrbrowse/Title02/2cfr200_main_02.tpl.

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B. Higher Education R&D

NCSES Higher Education Research and Development (HERD) Survey

Description: The Higher Education Research and Development Survey, successor to the Survey of Research and Development Expenditures at Universities and Colleges, is the primary source of information on R&D expenditures at U.S. colleges and universities. The survey collects information on R&D expenditures by field of research and source of funds and also gathers information on types of research and expenses and headcounts of R&D personnel. The survey is an annual census of institutions that expended at least $150,000 in separately budgeted R&D in the fiscal year. For general information about this survey please see https://www.nsf.gov/statistics/srvyherd/.


R&D is creative and systematic work undertaken in order to increase the stock of knowledge—including knowledge of humankind, culture, and society—and to devise new applications of available knowledge. R&D covers three activities defined below—basic research, applied research, and experimental development.

Source: NCSES, Higher Education Research and Development Survey, FY 2016. Available at https://www.nsf.gov/statistics/srvyherd/.

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C. R&D by Nonprofit Organizations

NCSES Survey of Nonprofit Research Activities (NPRA)


This survey focuses on R&D performed or funded by U.S. nonprofit organizations.


For the purposes of this survey, research includes research and experimental development. Research and experimental development comprise creative and systematic work to:

Increase the stock of knowledge, including knowledge of humankind, culture and society OR Devise new applications of available knowledge (including materials, products, devices, processes, systems, or services)

Research activities must be . . .

Novel: projects that advance current knowledge or create new knowledge

Creative: projects focused on original concepts and hypotheses

Uncertain: project outcomes are unable to be completely determined at the outset

Systematic: projects are planned and budgeted

Transferable/Reproducible: project methodology and results are transferable/reproducible to other situations and locations

[The following activities] May meet the criteria for research:

Laboratory or animal studies

Clinical trials

Prototype development

Outcomes research

Development/measurement of new methods to deliver/measure social service outcomes

Policy research

Humanities research

Research traineeships

Other experimental studies

[The following activities] Most likely do not meet the criteria for research:

Internal program monitoring or evaluation

Public service grants or outreach programs

Education or training programs

Quality control testing

Market research

Management studies/efficiency surveys

Literary, artistic, or historical projects, such as films, music, or books and other publications

Feasibility studies, unless included as part of an overall research project

Source: NCSES, Pilot Survey of Nonprofit Research Activities (FY 2015). Available at https://www.nsf.gov/statistics/srvynpra/.

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