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Notes on Methodology and Data

How the R&D Funding Data are Compiled
The data presented by the AAAS R&D Budget and Policy Program cover only research and development (R&D), not the entire federal budget. Within the federal budget there is no separately identified R&D budget as such; nor are most appropriations for R&D so labeled. To determine funding levels for federal R&D, the Office of Management and Budget (OMB) requires federal agencies to submit data on their R&D programs as part of their annual budget submissions in December and January. Specifically, the agencies provide data on funding levels for basic research, applied research, development, construction of R&D facilities, and major capital equipment for R&D (see Definitions for the common definitions that OMB, the agencies, and AAAS use to classify programs as R&D or non-R&D).

R&D figures rarely correspond to budget line items as found in appropriations bills or the President’s budget. Agencies make determinations as to what proportion of budget line items are classified as R&D; many budget line items have both R&D and non-R&D components. Agencies also differ in their reporting. For example, some agencies classify program direction or management support as R&D; others do not.

Each February, OMB releases these R&D data as part of the President’s proposed budget for the coming fiscal year. The data cover three fiscal years: the past fiscal year, the current fiscal year, and proposals for the coming fiscal year. In the data tables, columns labeled “actual,” “est.” and “request” represent agencies’ best estimates of federal funding for R&D for the past, current, and coming fiscal year, respectively. Each February through April, AAAS bases its analyses on the OMB data, but AAAS also collects detailed R&D information from individual federal agencies reflecting their revisions to data made after the President’s budget was prepared. The final, revised data are made available online and in print.

As the proposed budget is considered by Congress in the summer and fall, AAAS produces estimates of R&D contained in appropriations bills. Because final program-by-program allocations of R&D funding are not available until several months after appropriations actions, AAAS estimates of R&D are based on agency data, historical trends for R&D within appropriations, appropriations bill language, committee report language, and other supplementary data, and should be considered estimates at all times.

Possible Discrepancies in Data from Other Sources
Although AAAS relies mostly on OMB, agency, and congressional data, we rely on data from other data sources to provide a wider context for the federal R&D enterprise. When these other data sources are used, they are noted in tables and charts. The National Science Foundation’s National Center for Science and Engineering Statistics and the OECD are among the most common sources for supplementary information. The user should be aware that although NSF and OECD use the same definitions as OMB and AAAS in compiling their data, there may be discrepancies between different data sources. The discrepancies can result from several factors:

  1. Some data sources rely on surveys, rather than the self-reported agency data used by OMB and AAAS.
  2. Some data sources track obligations or expenditures for R&D, which can differ from the budget authority data used by AAAS (see definitions).
  3. Some data sources use the calendar year rather than the fiscal year used by AAAS and federal agencies.
  4. Some data sources report only on the conduct of R&D, rather than total R&D used by AAAS (which includes funds for the construction of R&D facilities support and major capital equipment for R&D – see definitions).

For the most part, these other data sources are used to highlight broad funding trends and to discuss the federal R&D portfolio or the U.S. R&D portfolio in the aggregate. The reader should be aware that these data are not directly comparable at the agency or program level to the OMB and AAAS R&D data.

Note on Research: There are no basic or applied research programs as such in the federal budget. Most R&D programs contain a mix of basic research, applied research and development. Agencies make determinations as to what proportion of a program’s R&D should be considered research. Agencies’ estimates are reflected in the “actual,” “estimated” and “request” figures. Congressional figures reflect AAAS estimates of basic and applied research based on extrapolation of historical trends in basic and applied research and congressional appropriations.

Note on Major Functional Categories of R&D: All activities in the federal budget are classified into 20 broad functional categories (AAAS separates the general science, space and technology function into its subfunctions of General Science and Space, but generally sticks to official function definitions in most cases). An agency’s activities are not necessarily included in only one function. Instead, the programs of one agency are typically distributed across functions, and each function often includes programs from multiple agencies. No overlap occurs between functions; therefore, each R&D program is assigned to only one function, even though the R&D activity may address several functional concerns. For example, NASA’s Earth Science program is classified under the Space function, even though its R&D is also closely related to natural resources and environment, as well as general science, while NASA's Aeronautics program is classified under the Transportation function. Homeland security is not a function; it is a cross-cutting priority that cuts across traditional government missions in administration of justice, health, and others.