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Survey of State Government Research and Development: FY 2021 | NSF

Survey of State Government Research and Development: FY 2021 | NSF

State government R&D totals can display considerable volatility between survey cycles. For example, state agency expenditures are influenced by several national and state-specific factors, and large changes (either increases or decreases) are not unusual, especially for discretionary spending items such as R&D. States often will create special funds to support specific research activities for a limited time. These funds may have a one-time appropriation from the legislature and expire within 2–5 fiscal years; state agencies obligate those funds for specific R&D projects, depending on availability and expiration of funding authority, as well as other program-specific and administrative considerations. Data reported are agency direct expenditures for R&D in a given fiscal year, not obligations. As such, in the case of multiyear grants to extramural performers, an agency’s expenditures for that fiscal year may be greater than its obligations because expenditures may include spending from the previous year’s appropriations, depending on the specific budget authority granted by the legislature. It is likely that some portion of the reported changes reflects measurement and coverage errors. In the case of R&D funds for extramural performers, some agencies were able to report only multiyear obligations rather than single-year expenditures.

The survey asked about state agencies’ expenditures for R&D at the end of FY 2021. Most states and Puerto Rico have a fiscal year that begins 1 July and ends the following 30 June. For example, FY 2021 is the state fiscal period beginning on 1 July 2020 and ending on 30 June 2021. There are, however, five exceptions to the 30 June fiscal year end: New York (ends 31 March), Texas (ends 31 August), and Alabama, the District of Columbia, and Michigan (end 30 September). For comparability, all states, the District of Columbia, and Puerto Rico are surveyed at the same time.

A state’s R&D priorities may be shaped by the state’s unique legislative and budgeting processes. State budget practices vary considerably due to both political and historical reasons. Nineteen states enact biennial budgets. Of these states, Montana, Nevada, North Dakota, and Texas have both biennial legislative sessions and biennial budgets. The remaining 15 states of Connecticut, Hawaii, Indiana, Kentucky, Maine, Minnesota, Nebraska, New Hampshire, North Carolina, Ohio, Oregon, Virginia, Washington, Wisconsin, and Wyoming hold annual legislative sessions but maintain biennial budgeting. Only North Dakota and Wyoming enact consolidated 2-year budgets; other biennial budget states enact two annual budgets at one time. As such, the nature of a state’s budget priorities for R&D may be determined on a biennial basis in some states; in others, however, it may be determined on an annual basis. In states with biennial budgets, the legislatures will often make supplemental appropriations to the second-year budget, which may result in further changes to the initial funding priorities.

The data exclude R&D expenditures by state governments that did not flow through state agencies’ budgets. The state totals do not include direct appropriations from state legislatures to colleges and universities. Higher education institutions’ expenditures from state government appropriations are available from NCSES’s HERD Survey ( For FY 2021, state government agencies reported $960 million in expenditures used to support R&D performance by academic institutions. A major factor for the difference between totals reported in NCSES’s HERD Survey and the Survey of State Government Research and Development is direct appropriations to state-run universities are included in the former but not in the latter. Another likely factor is the exclusion of R&D at agricultural experiment stations from the state survey totals because they are generally associated with land-grant colleges and universities and are canvassed on the HERD Survey.

Direct comparison of state agency expenditures should also be viewed with caution because state governments often reorganize departments and agencies such that some divisions and offices that were part of one agency may be moved to another agency. In other instances, entire departments may be reorganized into newly created departments. Although the FY 2021 Survey of State Government Research and Development encountered several instances of these organizational changes in several states, the survey itself is not designed to measure specific changes in state government organization. To account for these and other changes in the data, Census Bureau and NCSES staff conducted follow-up calls for agencies with major data changes depending on the type of agency and state, between FY 2020 and FY 2021, to ensure the accuracy of the survey data.

Data specific to state government agencies were first released with the FY 2009 survey results and are also included in the FY 2021 data tables. Specific agency-level data for FY 2006 and FY 2007 are not available.

The current Survey of State Government Research and Development has been conducted for FY 2006, FY 2007, FY 2009, FYs 2010–11, FYs 2012–13, FYs 2014–15, FY 2016, FY 2017, FY 2018, FY 2019, FY 2020, and FY 2021. (No survey was conducted for state governments for FY 2008.) Data presented in trend tables in this report are from the most recently completed survey cycle. References to prior-year data should be restricted to those published in this report for two reasons: (1) when completing the current year’s survey, survey respondents may revise their prior year’s data, and (2) NCSES reviews data for prior years for consistency with current-year responses and, if necessary, may revise these data in consultation with respondents.

NCSES has collected state government R&D data for FY 1964, FY 1965, FY 1967, FY 1968, FY 1972, FY 1973, and FY 1977 in collaboration with the Census Bureau’s Census of Governments and related programs. For FY 1987, FY 1988, and FY 1995, data collections of state government R&D were conducted by nonfederal organizations that were supported by NSF grants. As a result of differences in the survey populations, in definitions of covered R&D activities, and in collection methods over time, the results of these historical surveys are not comparable with the statistics collected for the FY 2006 and subsequent Surveys of State Government Research and Development.

Changes in survey coverage and population. Each year, state coordinators update the universe of agencies most likely to have funded or performed R&D based on changes in funding authority, organization changes within the government, or other initiatives by the legislature. No survey was conducted for state governments for FY 2008. Beginning with the FY 2009 survey cycle, state coordinators were no longer able to overwrite the aggregate R&D data reported by state agencies to correct or modify the state total. Any changes or revisions were now required to be made at the state government agency level.

Changes in questionnaire.

  • FY 2009. The FY 2009 questionnaire was the first to collect state government R&D activities by governmental functions of agriculture, environment and natural resources, health, transportation, and other.
  • FYs 2010 and 2011. The survey was reorganized as a biennial survey and collected 2 fiscal years of data on one questionnaire. In addition, the energy category was added to the list of specific government functions of R&D.
  • FYs 2012 and 2013. A minor change to the instructions in question 1 for extramural performers was made from “R&D done for your department/agency” to “R&D funded by your department/agency” to ensure that all R&D-related projects that the agency funds regardless of the end result (i.e., grants) were properly included.
  • FYs 2014 and 2015. The survey was revised to collect additional details about R&D funding and performance to better align with the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) 2002 Frascati Manual, the most recent edition available at survey launch. These changes include source of funds for extramural R&D performance supported by federal funds, state funds, or other funds. For all federal funds received for both intramural and extramural R&D, respondents were asked how much was received from specific federal agencies. For intramural R&D performance, respondents were asked how much of federal, state, and other funding was classified as basic research, applied research, or experimental development.
  • FY 2016. Survey reporting period changed from a biennial to annual survey. Questions remained the same with some minor additions to examples and wording changes. A remarks box was added for respondents to provide comments.
  • FY 2017. The “other” category for Internal Sources of R&D was split into multiple categories: nonfederal government funds, nonprofit organizations, businesses, and higher education institutions.
  • FY 2018. No changes were made.
  • FY 2019. A question asking about the amount of time it takes to complete survey. This question was added for administrative purposes.
  • FY 2020. Two new questions were added asking for the number of intramural R&D personnel and the full-time equivalents for researchers, technicians, and support staff. Data from these new questions are not available this year.
  • FY 2021. The survey was restructured to group related questions together. For example, questions on expenditures for R&D performed internally by type of R&D, internal R&D employees, and internal full-time equivalent R&D personnel were moved to follow the internal R&D expenditures question. Similarly, questions on expenditures for R&D performed externally and expenditures for R&D performed externally by type of entity were moved to follow the internal R&D questions. All questions asking for crosscuts on the total R&D expenditures were moved to follow both internal and external R&D-related questions.

Changes in reporting procedures or classification.

  • FY 2018. Online reporting was replaced with a fillable PDF with automated summations and edits built into the survey instrument.
  • FYs 2019–21. No changes were made.

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