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Data on Federal Research and Development Investments: A Pathway to Modernization
resources, and their technological, procedural, and conceptual infrastructure has not been modernized for procedure or content, in contrast with other surveys in the portfolio of SRS. SRS has recognized the need to upgrade these surveys and to implement recommendations from two previous National Research Council (NRC) studies—Measuring the Science andEngineering Enterprise: Priorities for the Division of Science ResourcesStudies (2000) and Measuring Research and Development Expendituresin the U.S. Economy (2004)—which reviewed the federal funds and the federal support surveys as part of the broader SRS portfolio.
With these issues in mind and at the request of the SRS, the Committee on National Statistics of the National Research Council convened this panel to review the uses and collection of data on federal funds and federal support for science and technology and to recommend future directions for the program based on an assessment of these uses and the adequacy of the surveys. The panel was also asked to consider the classification structure, or taxonomy, for the fields of science and engineering, which provides the framework for the federal funds survey as well as other SRS surveys.
The panel has engaged in a variety of activities as part of its responsibilities. We have reached out to senior officials of federal agencies that provide the federal funds data and key data users and solicited advice from providers of complementary and competing data sources. The panel also reviewed past studies on federal funds data, identified common requirements, and considered new data elements and fields that could be useful to collect. As part of our information-gathering activities, the panel conducted a workshop on September 5-6, 2008, at which SRS and outside experts reviewed the uses and collection of data on federal funds for research and development, and assessed the adequacy of the surveys based on the uses. In the workshop, presenters addressed new and emerging methods of data access and retrieval, and recent federal government initiatives to increase the reliability and transparency of contract and grant databases. The workshop concluded with presentations on the issue of an appropriate fields of science classification structure. This report, with recommendations on modernizing the infrastructure of the survey, is the primary product of the study.
The purpose of this report is to provide a pathway for SRS to follow, with the support of the Office of Management and Budget (OMB) and other federal agencies, in order to achieve some modest short-term improvements in the surveys while beginning to build a foundation for a much fuller, more useful R&D data system in the long term. In this report, we define the short term as the next 1 to 4 years; medium-term improvement actions are laid out for a period of 4 to 10 years; and long-term actions are understood to extend beyond the 10-year window. The timing of the pathway for change is outlined in the final chapter.