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Measuring Research and Development Expenditures in the U.S. Economy
extensive detail on universities and colleges for FY 1996 to FY 2002, in a favorably timely manner compared with the publication of NSF’s federal support data, suggests the potential of data systems based on individual records of contracts, grants, and cooperative agreements to produce useful estimates.
The panel recommends that NSF devote attention to further researching the issues involved with converting the federal support survey into a system that aggregates microdata records taken from standardized, automated reporting systems in the key federal agencies that provide federal support to academic and nonprofit institutions. In connection with this investigation, NSF should evaluate the possibility of collecting for nonprofit organizations the same science and engineering variables that pertain to academia (Recommendation 5.3).
Statistical Methodology Issues
There are several difficult aspects of the survey methodology. For example, the frame for the survey is the list of all federal agencies that sponsor R&D, obtained from the president’s budget submission to Congress. In practical terms, the survey covers respondents to the federal funds survey, focusing on only the largest of the agencies (in FY 2000, 18 agencies were in the target population). Unlike the federal funds survey, this survey is not a census of science and engineering support. Not all agencies are surveyed, and some funding can be missed. While the overall amount of missed funding is not significant, the patterns of funding by agency and recipient may be somewhat distorted by these omissions.
The data collection is web-based, with automated functions supporting all data collection, data imports, data editing, and trend checks. There is no nonresponse from agencies and no item nonresponse, since the forms must be completed prior to transmittal, raising issues that need to be studied, as discussed before. It is possible that coding errors, such as an incorrect institutional code or incorrect branch of a multiunit institution, could lead to errors in the estimates of funding by institution. Matching program descriptions to proper funding categories may cause some confusion on the part of respondents.