the level of federal spending for R&D as reported in the federal funds survey and the amounts that performers in industry and academia report as receiving from the federal government. (These issues are addressed in Chapter 7). When data collections fail to fully meet the needs of users, substitutes spring up. As might be expected, there is a growing, new competition to the survey in the form of a microdata-based collection known as the RaDiUS database, also funded by NSF.

In this chapter, we focus mainly on the current status of the survey of federal funds and its deployment within the federal government. In view of the uses put to the data as addressed in Chapter 2, we examine the adequacy and relevance of this data collection. Finally, we consider the RaDiUS database to determine the extent to which this data source compliments or competes with the federal funds survey. We recommend a reconsideration of several aspects of this survey operation to modernize it and improve its operations. Attention is also paid to examining these issues as they pertain to the annual, congressionally mandated survey of federal obligations to academic institutions.

  • Is the accounting framework appropriate, that is, the use of obligations rather than authorizations or outlays?

  • Can federal agency staffs that are asked each year to provide information about their R&D obligations be motivated to regard this task as a benefit rather than a burden?

  • Are the federal funds collections maximizing the ability to report data from agency accounting systems in the form requested by NSF? Can the collection be placed on a microdata level, that is, comparable to Level 5 in RaDiUS?


The federal funds survey collects data on federal support of national scientific activities in terms of budget obligations and outlays. For each year, survey data are to be provided for three fiscal years (FY)—the FY just past, the current FY, and the president’s budget year. Actual data are collected for the year just completed, while estimates are obtained for the current year and the budget year.

Agencies are asked to submit the survey data on the same basis as the budget authority figures submitted to the OMB in January. Definitions of obligations and outlays are purposely the same as those in the U.S. budget—obligations represent the amount 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, and outlays represent the amounts of checks issued and cash

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