8111.0 - Research and Experimental Development, Higher Education Organisations, Australia, 2008 Quality Declaration 
Previous ISSUE Released at 11:30 AM (CANBERRA TIME) 26/05/2010   
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Statistics presented in this release have been compiled from data collected by the Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS) from higher education institutions in the Survey of Research and Experimental Development (R&D). The data were collected under the authority of the Census and Statistics Act 1905.

For information about the institutional environment of the ABS, including its legislative obligations, financing and governance arrangements, and mechanisms for scrutiny of ABS operations, please see ABS Institutional Environment.


This release presents statistics on R&D undertaken by Australian higher education institutions in respect of the calendar year ended 31 December 2008.

R&D statistics produced by the ABS enable the nature and distribution of R&D activity in Australia to be monitored and analysed for policy formulation, allocation of funds and determination of research priorities. The major users of R&D data are Commonwealth and State government organisations: mainly the Department of Innovation, Industry, Science and Research (DIISR) and the Department of Education, Employment and Workplace Relations (DEEWR). R&D data are also used extensively by the Productivity Commission and for international comparison purposes.

The release of the Australian System of National Accounts, 2008-09 (cat. no. 5204.0), in December 2009, treated R&D as capital formation for the first time. This resulted from the implementation of the new international standards System of National Accounts (SNA 2008) and represents a change in treatment of R&D (as intermediate consumption) from SNA 1993.

Field of research and socio-economic objective data presented in this issue have been collected and compiled based on the Australian and New Zealand Standard Research Classification (ANZSRC), 2008 (cat. no. 1297.0). Previous issues used the Australian Standard Research Classification (ASRC).


Data are collected from higher education institutions in the Survey of R&D on a biennial basis (even years), with the reference year being the calendar year (i.e. year ended 31 December). Statistics compiled from the data collected are released within 18 months of the reference period. The nature and complexity of the survey, including the level of detail required, means a number of people within institutions are typically involved in reporting data. The time involved in both coordinating data provision (within institutions) and processing of data (by the ABS), currently prevents earlier release of the statistics.


For the higher education sector, the Survey of R&D is a census of in-scope institutions (refer to the Scope and Coverage section of the Explanatory Notes).

As the survey is a census, the survey estimates are not subject to sampling error. However, other inaccuracies, collectively referred to as non-sampling errors, may affect the data. These errors can result from of a number of factors, including:

  • inadequacies in the collection instrument;
  • treatment of non-response;
  • inaccurate reporting of data by data providers;
  • errors in the application of survey procedures;
  • incorrect recording of answers; and
  • errors in data capture and processing.

Every effort is made to minimise non-sampling error by careful design and testing of the collection instrument, the use of efficient operating procedures and systems, and the use of appropriate methodologies.

For the Higher education sector, reliability and comparability of R&D statistics may be affected by the following specific non-sampling errors:
  • Many institutions provide estimates due to a lack of separately recorded data on R&D activity.
  • Data were self-classified by institutions to Field of research (FOR), Socio-economic objective (SEO) and Type of activity at the time of reporting. Some institutions may have experienced difficulty in classifying their R&D projects. The ABS makes every effort to ensure correct and consistent interpretation and reporting of these data by applying consistent processing methodologies.
  • The estimation method of R&D related overheads varied across institutions and reference periods.

Revisions to previous cycle data occur on discovery of errors in the data. Revisions are only applied, where the impact on:
  • R&D expenditure is equal to $5 million or more; or
  • Human resources devoted to R&D is equal to 25 person years of effort or more.

Users are advised to refer to the most recently released data cubes (which can be found on the Downloads page of this release), as revisions must be taken into consideration when interpreting results, particularly when comparing estimates over time.


There are no other data sources with which ABS higher education R&D data can be directly compared. However, some observations can be made which suggest the survey outputs give a reasonable indication of real world expectations and events. For example, trends in data aligning with expectations due to changes in the availability of research funds to universities.

While the ABS seeks to maximise consistency and comparability over time by minimising changes to the survey, sound survey practice requires ongoing development to maintain the integrity of the data, its relevance to the changing needs of users and the efficiency of the collection.

In addition to the non-sampling errors outlined in the Accuracy section, above, factors which may affect the comparability of 2008 estimates with those of previous cycles are described below:
  • Implementation of the Australian and New Zealand Standard Research Classification. Differences which exist between this and the previously used Australian Standard Research Classification means the change in research classification represents a break in series. Users should familiarise themselves with those differences by referring to the Australian and New Zealand Standard Research Classification (ANZSRC), 2008 (cat. no. 1297.0) if attempting to compare FOR and SEO data across reference periods.
  • Additional reporting requirements for Excellence in Research for Australia initiative have led to improved record keeping within higher education institutions. This resulted in more accurate reporting of data by a number of institutions for some R&D items in the 2008 survey. Previously these institutions could only provide estimates.


R&D as collected by the ABS is defined in accordance with the OECD standard as 'creative work undertaken on a systematic basis in order to increase the stock of knowledge, including knowledge of man, culture and society, and the use of this stock of knowledge to devise new applications'.

The ABS Survey of R&D also uses classifications specific to R&D: results presented in this release are based on ANZSRC 2008.

Statistics shown are classified by: Socio-economic objective; Field of research; and Type of activity. Data providers self-classify R&D expenditure based on their interpretation of OECD/ABS definitions. The ABS makes every effort to ensure correct and consistent interpretation and reporting of these data and applies consistent processing methodologies. See also the Reliability of Statistics and Revisions sections of the Technical Note.

Further important contextual information, to be considered when interpreting the results presented in this release, is provided in the Explanatory Notes (including the Technical Note and Glossary). Additionally, for a more comprehensive interpretation of the definitions and classifications relating to R&D activity, refer to:


In addition to main features (which include key findings commentary) resulting from the Survey of R&D for higher education institutions, a pdf version of the findings and time series data, in spreadsheet format, are included on the ABS website free of charge.

Links to other data releases relating to the ABS Survey of Research and Experimental Development can be found on the ABS website, via the Innovation, Science and Technology theme page under Topics @ a Glance/Industry.

If the information you require is not available as a standard product, inquiries can be made by contacting the National Information and Referral Service on 1300 135 070 or Fiona Manson on (08) 9360 5213