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Measuring Research and Development Expenditures in the U.S. Economy
ally expressed in the form of degrees granted but often in works cited or other indicators of academic output.
It is generally acknowledged that the survey of research and development spending at colleges and universities is a successful data collection program. NSF points with pride to the fact that the response rate from academia has historically been about 95 percent, and it is usually 100 percent for the FFRDCs (see Table 6-1). However, the high unit response rate is tempered by bothersome high item nonresponse rates for some data items. Both the small unit nonresponse and the higher item nonresponse are masked by the fact that NSF imputes values when there is no response. The validity of the imputation methods is open to question.
The survey has impressive depth of coverage: it covers all institutions with doctoral programs in science and engineering (S&E) fields or at least $150,000 in separately budgeted R&D activity, meaning that it is a virtual census of all research and development spending at colleges and universities. These institutions have traditionally expended more than 95 percent of U.S. academic R&D funds. In addition, the survey population includes all FFRDCs that are academically administered and engaged in basic or applied research, development, or management of R&D activities. Also, all historically black colleges and universities (HBCUs) that perform any separately budgeted R&D in S&E are included.
The development of the frame for the survey of colleges and universities is a very complicated undertaking, with the possibility of generating coverage error (see Box 6-1). The application of the dollar limit to identify universities and colleges that conduct R&D could be a problem in that, if the frame fails to identify an academic institution with at least $150,000 in separately budgeted R&D, there would be a gap. The HBCUs are well identified so do not pose any coverage loss. Similarly, FFRDCs are well known. The doctorate-granting universities are well known. So it is the application of the dollar limit that could pose problems. NSF describes the only other gap as the four 2-year degree-granting institutions that accounted for less than 0.01 of the total R&D expenditures. The issues raised with this frame also affect the Survey of Science and Engineering Research Facilities, which uses this frame as its universe.
While there are other sources of information on the extent and direction of R&D activity at colleges and universities, including the NSF sister surveys of science and engineering graduate students and postdoctorate students, there is no survey that provides such a long-term (annually since 1972) view of science and engineering activity at the nation’s academic institutions. The historical continuity of the data is often considered to be a particular strength of this data collection, in view of the fact that the results of this survey are often blended with the results of the federal funds and