U.S. Department of Commerce

Longitudinal Research Database

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To provide a company-level database containing detailed statistics on research and development activities; and support research on the issues of productivity, profitability, and the uses of research and development. The United States Code, Title 13, authorizes this data program. The National Science Foundation provides significant funding for the program and related research.

The R&D database information is confidential [Title 13 and Title 26, US Code]. All research is conducted in the Center for Economic Studies (CES) by persons permanent and specially sworn to uphold the confidentiality provisions ot Title 13 and Title 26.


The database contains detailed company-level research and development information compiled from the annual Industrial Research and Development survey for survey years 1972 through 2001. Over this period of time, the scope of the survey has been adjusted to reflect the changing nature of the U.S. economy. In earlier years, the emphasis was on the manufacturing sector of the economy; in more recent years, interest in the non-manufacturing sectors has increased.

Over the thirty-year period, the total sample for the survey size has varied considerably. The total sample size has been fairly stable at approximately 25,000 companies since 1992. However, in any given year, the number of sampled companies that actually conduct or sponsor R&D activities is generally in the 3,500 to 4,000 range. Due to the concentration of R&D activities among the larger companies, most companies with significant R&D activities remain in the sample for a number of years.


The database includes information on R&D spending and company characteristics, and data collected under both mandatory and voluntary survey response conditions. Mandatory data include total R&D, Federal versus company financed R&D, domestic net sales, domestic employment and R&D by State (starting in 2001). Voluntary data are more detailed and include the number of scientists and engineers; basic and applied research and development by Federal and company funds; contracted-out, foreign, and budgeted research; Federal research and development performed by principal government agency; R&D by major type of expense and technology area; contracted-out R&D by type of organization; Federal and company state R&D, energy R&D, R&D performed in collaboration with others by type of organization, and R&D by country.


The underlying survey data have been collected annually on a calendar year basis since 1957; however, only data from 1972 forward is available on the database. The R&D database is generally updated annually within 2 years after the survey reference year.


The sample design strategy has evolved over the years. The company has been defined as both the sample unit and the data collection unit since inception. Prior to 1992, a given sample would be used for a number of years before replaced. The probability of selection was a direct function of total company employment; companies with more than 500 employees were included with certainty. Companies with less than 500 employees had probabilities varying between .001 and .999. Sampled companies who reported that they did not engage in any R&D activity were removed from the sample.

A new sample has been selected for each cycle of the survey since the 1992 survey. This has improved the representativeness of the sample and has allowed us to introduce sample design enhancements in response to changes in the survey requirements or priorities. We continue to use a probability-proportionate-to-size approach for assigning the individual company probabilities; but the specific methodology has varied over the years.

The data is collected via a mail-out/mail-back process, with limited electronic or telephone collection. Upon receipt the response data is subjected to a series of edits designed to assure that the data is both reasonable and consistent.

Periodically, a limited number of visits to key companies are conducted to gain insight to the changing nature of R&D activities, to better understand any reporting difficulty the companies may have, and to determine the collectiblity of proposed new items.

R&D activity is a highly skewed activity. The largest 1,000 companies with R&D activity account for 90% of the total R&D expenditures in the U.S. Thus, the database is primarily comprised of larger companies.

The R&D database information is confidential and all research is conducted by permanent and specially sworn Census Bureau employees. All current research is done at the Center for Economic Studies (CES) in Suitland, Maryland.


The CES Discussion Paper series began in 1988, and periodically presents working papers based on R&D research. Current titles include Using Linked Census R&D-LRD Data to Analyze the Effect of R&D Investment on Total Factor Productivity Growth”, and Academic Science, Industrial R&D, and Growth of Inputs. The database is described in the title A Guide to R&D at the Center for Economic Studies. Most papers are revised and submitted for journal or commercial publications. Special tabulations of aggregated data from the R&D database are prepared in response to specific requests on a reimbursable basis.


The National Science Foundation has sponsored research to measure and assess the diverse effects of industrial R&D. Planned research will explore the lagged and concurrent relationships between university-sponsored R&D, firm-sponsored R&D, and firm productivity.


Economic Census

Annual Survey of Manufactures

Manufacturing Energy Consumption Survey

Monthly M3 Survey

Current Industrial Reports (Industrial Products)

Pollution Abatement Costs and Expenditures Survey




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