is research for which the primary aim of the investigator is a fuller knowledge or understanding of the subject under study rather than a specific application thereof. Thus, in reality, basic research is to be defined at the individual grant level by each principal researcher. When this is not possible, each department head or other relevant research coordinator should review the grants. Here is another method used by one institution to estimate the amounts of basic and applied research: all federally funded grants and R&D funded from other universities, foundations, and nonprofit organizations are considered to be basic research. R&D funds received through federal cooperative agreements and federal contracts and most state-funded R&D are, by definition, applied research.

Finally, for the survey of the government sector, NSF and the Office of Management and Budget use the same definitions. Basic research is defined as systematic study directed toward fuller knowledge or understanding of the fundamental aspects of phenomena and of observable facts without specific applications toward processes or products in mind. Applied research is defined as systematic study to gain knowledge or understanding necessary to determine the means by which a recognized and specific need may be met. Development is defined as systematic application of knowledge or understanding, directed toward the production of useful materials, devices, and systems or methods, including design, development, and improvement of prototypes and new processes to meet specific requirements (U.S. Office of Management and Budget, 2003a).

The fields-of-science taxonomies are another example of definitions that have been maintained over time despite clear evidence that the phenomena to be measured have changed. The definition of basic and applied research sponsored by federal agencies and conducted at universities is classified by fields that reflect the traditional—and in the view of some critics—antiquated organization of university departments. The field classification of public-sector research and the industrial classification of privatesector R&D are not comparable, and classifications are not standard across NSF’s R&D and personnel surveys. Additional discussion of the fields-of-science issues is found in Chapter 6.



The National Academies | 500 Fifth St. N.W. | Washington, D.C. 20001
Copyright © National Academy of Sciences. All rights reserved.
Terms of Use and Privacy Statement