Survey OverviewBullet 1 Key Survey InformationBullet 2 Survey DesignBullet 3 Data Collection and ProcessingBullet 4 Survey Quality MeasuresBullet 5 Data Availability and ComparabilityBullet 6 Data ProductsBullet 6 Contact Information

1. Survey Overview (FY 2017 survey cycle) Top of Page.

  1. Purpose: The Higher Education Research and Development (HERD) Survey is the primary source of information on separately accounted for R&D expenditures within higher education institutions in the United States and outlying areas.
  2. Data collection authority: The information is solicited under the authority of the National Science Foundation Act of 1950, as amended, and the America COMPETES Reauthorization Act of 2010. The Office of Management and Budget (OMB) control number is 3145–0100 and expires on 30 September 2019. The survey is conducted by the National Center for Science and Engineering Statistics (NCSES) within the National Science Foundation (NSF).
  3. Major changes to the recent survey cycle:

2. Key Survey Information Top of Page.

  1. Frequency: Annual.
  2. Initial survey year: In 2010, the HERD Survey replaced a previous annual collection, the NSF Survey of Research and Development Expenditures at Universities and Colleges (Academic R&D Expenditures Survey), which was conducted from FY 1972 through FY 2009.
  3. Reference period: The academic fiscal year ending in 2017; for most institutions this was 1 July 2016 to 30 June 2017.
  4. Response unit: Establishments. U.S. academic institutions reporting at least $150,000 in R&D expenditures in the previous fiscal year.
  5. Sample or census: Census.
  6. Population size: 903 institutions.
  7. Sample size: Not applicable.
  8. Key variables: Key variables of interest are listed below.

3. Survey Design Top of Page.

  1. Target population: Public and private nonprofit postsecondary institutions in the United States, Guam, Puerto Rico, and the U.S. Virgin Islands that granted a bachelor's degree or higher in any field, expended at least $150,000 in separately accounted for R&D in FY 2017, and were geographically separate campuses headed by a president, chancellor, or equivalent.
  2. Sample frame: The survey is a census of all eligible institutions as defined above. In the FY 2017 cycle there were 903 academic institutions surveyed.
  3. Sample design: Not applicable.

4. Data Collection and Processing Top of Page.

  1. Data collection: The FY 2017 survey was conducted by ICF under contract to NCSES. Surveys were distributed to designated contacts at each institution. The data collection period was from November 2017 through June 2018. Respondents could choose to respond to the survey through printing a questionnaire from the Web and submitting a paper survey or using the Web-based data collection system. For both methods, telephone and e-mail follow-up were used.
  2. Data processing: Respondents were contacted and asked to resolve possible self-reporting issues themselves. Questionnaires were carefully examined by survey staff upon receipt. Reviews focused on unexplained missing data and explanations provided for changes in reporting patterns. If additional explanations or data revisions were needed, respondents were sent personalized e-mail messages asking them to provide any necessary revisions before the final processing and tabulation of data.
  3. Estimation techniques: Missing values were imputed based on the previous year's data and the reported data of peer institutions in the current cycle.

5. Survey Quality Measures Top of Page.

  1. Sampling error: Not applicable.
  2. Coverage error: Coverage error of large research institutions is minimal because comprehensive lists exist. These institutions are easily identified using NCSES's Survey of Federal Science and Engineering Support to Universities, Colleges, and Nonprofit Institutions. However, institutions with smaller amounts of R&D expenditures have been more difficult to identify because they often do not receive federal funding for R&D.

    NCSES annually screens all 4-year and above institutions reporting non-zero amounts of research expenses to the Department of Education Integrated Postsecondary Education Data System (IPEDS) to determine if new institutions qualify for inclusion in the survey.
  3. Nonresponse error: The unit nonresponse was 3.8% in FY 2017. The item nonresponse rate varied from zero for Question 1, total R&D expenditures by source of funds, to 7.2% for Question 6, type of R&D (i.e., basic research, applied research and experimental development).
  4. Measurement error: Potential sources of measurement errors include incomplete administrative data or differing categories used by the institutions.

6. Data Availability and Comparability Top of Page.

  1. Data availability: Annual data are available for FYs 1972–2017.
  2. Data comparability: When the review for consistency between each year's data and submissions in prior years reveals discrepancies, it is sometimes necessary to modify prior years' data. This is especially likely to affect trends for certain institutions that fail to report every year, because current-year data are used to impute prior-year data.
    For accurate historical data, use only the most recently released data tables. Individuals wishing to analyze trends other than those in the most recent data tables are encouraged to contact the Project Officer for more information about comparability of data over time.

7. Data Products Top of Page.

  1. Publications: Data tables from this survey are published annually in the series Higher Education Research and Development. The most recent report in this series is available at Information from this survey is also included in Science and Engineering Indicators.
  2. Electronic access: Microdata beginning with the FY 2010 survey will be available in NCSES's interactive data tool. Public use files beginning with the FY 1972 are available at

8. Contact Information Top of Page.

For additional information about this survey, or the methodology report, contact the Project Officer:

Michael T. Gibbons
Project Officer
Research and Development Statistics Program
National Center for Science and Engineering Statistics
National Science Foundation
2415 Eisenhower Avenue, Suite W14200
Alexandria, VA 22314

Phone: (703) 292-4590