awards or receive benefits, or for compliance, credit, tax, or other reporting. The use of administrative records on financial transactions, including grants, contracts, and other awards, is becoming a possible optional source of information on federal R&D spending, mainly as a result of new initiatives to improve data on federal spending across the government. These new initiatives promise to make administrative data much more accessible and to improve their quality. As these data sources are improved, they offer a way for SRS to improve the collection and dissemination of comprehensive and timely data on federal R&D spending.
This chapter discusses the potential and limitations of the use of administrative data for collecting and compiling federal R&D spending data. It discusses past and current efforts to use the data and summarizes some initiatives that could change the way that agencies account for and report R&D spending. The requirements for a successful database and the challenges facing the SRS in developing this new system are then highlighted. Finally, a general plan for implementing a new vision for the federal funds and federal support data is outlined that specifically recommends planning for the transition from an all-survey to an integrated survey–administrative record approach, using demonstration projects to test various aspects of a possible transition to a system at least partly based on administrative data.
The use of administrative records to substitute for or enhance surveys has been a goal for the federal statistical system for several decades. Particularly with regard to micro-level data from business entities, we can point to a number of highly successful examples of the development of information from administrative record sources (National Research Council, 2007b). Indeed, the increased use of administrative records has been recognized and documented since the early 1980s (Federal Committee on Statistical Methodology, 1980). However, the same reports that describe in glowing terms the potential of administrative records to provide detailed information at minimal cost, with an associated reduction in response burden in order to supplement or replace surveys, usually take pains to provide cautionary discussion as well. That is because problems of quality, consistency, and access have often plagued attempts to use administrative records for statistical purposes.
Still, the practice of using administrative records appears to be advancing, significantly aided by advances in information technology. With increasing use of administrative records, there has been greater attention to timeliness and other aspects of the quality of the input data. Examples can be seen in recent initiatives to improve the federal government’s administra-