Research and Development Funding:

Reported Gap Between Data From Federal Agencies and Their R&D Performers Results From Noncomparable Data

GAO-01-512R: Published: May 9, 2001. Publicly Released: May 9, 2001.


James E. Wells, Jr
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A January report by the National Science Foundation (NSF) identified a $5 billion gap between the amount of money that federal agencies reported as research and development (R&D) support and the amount of money that those who did the R&D work reported as spent in 1998. According to NSF, federal agencies earmarked about $72 billion for R&D support in 1998, while those who carried out the R&D reported spending about $67 billion. GAO found that this gap results primarily from annually comparing two separate and distinct types of financial data--federal obligations and performer expenditures--that are not comparable. In addition, R&D funding are collected on a yearly basis, but,in reporting, the period that defines a year can vary. Furthermore, agencies and performers do not always agree on what type of activities fall under the category of R&D. Because the gap results from comparing two dissimilar types of financial data, it does not necessarily reflect poor-quality data, nor does it reflect whether performers are receiving or spending all the federal R&D funds obligated to them. Thus, even if the data collection and reporting issues were addressed, a gap would still exist.

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