know, and how they treat this survey. We do not know who is responding in each firm, or what their position or capabilities are. Nor do we know how the data each firm reports are gathered within the firm, or their relationship to similar data reported to the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC).2

Since its inception in 1953, the survey has experienced several focused efforts to modernize and strengthen its conceptual and technical foundation. The most ambitious modernization effort took place a little over a decade ago, in 1992, when the sample design was substantially modified to better represent the growing service sector, extend coverage to smaller firms, and collect additional information for understanding R&D outsourcing and that performed by foreign subsidiaries.

The 1992 redesign effort updated the operations of the survey to reflect many aspects of the changed environment and correct some of the most severe deficiencies, which had rendered the survey results quite misleading over time. At the conclusion of that redesign, however, there was still much to do to meet a growing need for data to measure the emerging realities in the conduct and measurement of R&D in the United States. Not much progress has been made since that redesign; in fact, the survey changes that have been introduced since 1992 have been almost cosmetic in their application. Minimal revisions have been implemented to maintain currency, such as the introduction of the North American Industry Classification System (NAICS) in 1997 and the more recent changes in questionnaire wording and collection procedures (see Box 3-1).

Thus, this decade-old redesign of the survey has left several issues unresolved. A major unresolved issue is the failure to implement collection of R&D data at the product or line-of-business level of detail; another is the failure to learn more about respondents and to sharpen concepts and definitions to more adequately reflect business organization for R&D; and a third is the inability to speed the production and release of the estimates to data users.

With the passage of time, the need to consider further revisions has accelerated. The R&D environment has changed even further since the early 1990s. As discussed in Chapter 1, organizational arrangements for the conduct of R&D have continued to change apace. New forms of R&D in


Hall and Long (1999) compared data from the 1991 and 1992 Survey of Industrial Research and Development to the SEC 10K reports and found a number of discrepancies of three basic types: differences between fiscal and calendar year reporting, differences in coverage (whether foreign-performed R&D was included), and differences in definition, either intended or unintended. They pursued the source of the definitional differences in interviews with a small number of firms. Given the confidential nature of the RD-1 data, detailed tables of the discrepancies by industry and reason could not be produced, so that a precise picture of the relationship between SEC and NSF data was not obtained.

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