1291.0 - A Guide to Major ABS Classifications, 1998  
ARCHIVED ISSUE Released at 11:30 AM (CANBERRA TIME) 03/09/1998   
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Contents >> RESEARCH: Australian Standard Research Classification (ASRC)


The Australian Standard Research Classification (ASRC) is the collective name given to a set of three related classifications designed for use in measurement and analysis of research and experimental development undertaken in both the private and public sectors in Australia. It aims to facilitate the comparison of research and development data between sectors of the Australian economy (e.g. general government, private non-profit organisations, businesses and educational institutions).

Research and development is defined according to the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) standard as comprising 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.

A Research and development activity is characterised by originality. It has investigation as a primary objective, the outcome of which is new knowledge, with or without a specific practical application, or new or improved materials, products. devices, processes or services. Research and development ends when work is no longer primarily investigative.

Purpose of the classifications

The three classifications in the ASRC are:

      • Type of Activity;
      • Research Fields, Courses and Disciplines; and
      • Socio-economic Objective.

The classifications are used in conjunction with industrial and institutional sector classifications to produce a set of official statistics which support a variety of user interests.

Type of Activity classification (TOA)

This classification allows Research and Development activity to be categorised according to the type of research effort namely, pure basic research, strategic basic research, applied research and experimental development.

Research Fields, Courses and Disciplines classification (RFCD)

This classification allows both research and development activity and areas of study to be categorised. It allows Research and Development activity to be categorised according to the field of research undertaken. In this respect, it is the nature of the Research and Development which is being examined.

The categories in the classification include recognised academic disciplines and related major sub-fields taught at universities or tertiary institutions, major fields of research investigated by national research institutions and organisations, and emerging areas of study.

Socio-Economic Objective classification (SEO)

This classification allows research and development to be categorised according to the purpose of the Research and Development as perceived by the data provider (researcher). It consists of discrete economic, social, technological or scientific domains for identifying the principle purpose of the research and development. The attributes applied to the design of this classification comprise a combination of processes, products, health, education and other social and environmental aspects of particular interest.

Structure of the classifications

Type of Activity Classification (TOA)

Four types of activity applicable to research and development are recognised in this classification:

      • Pure basic research;
      • Strategic basic research;
      • Applied research; and
      • Experimental development

Pure basic research is experimental and theoretical work undertaken to acquire new knowledge without looking for long term benefits other than the advancement of knowledge.

Strategic basic research is experimental and theoretical work undertaken to acquire new knowledge directed into specified broad areas in the expectation of useful discoveries. It provides the broad base of knowledge necessary for the solution of recognised practical problems.

Applied research is original work undertaken primarily to acquire new knowledge with a specific application in view. It is undertaken either to determine possible uses for the findings of basic research or to determine new ways of achieving some specific and predetermined objectives.

Experimental development is systematic work, using existing knowledge gained from research or practical experience, that is directed to producing new materials, products or devices, to installing new processes, systems and services, or to improving substantially those already produced or installed.

Research Fields, Courses and Disciplines classification (RFCD)

The classification is arranged in a hierarchical structure. It has 24 Divisions, 139 Disciplines and 898 Subjects. The Divisions of the classification are:


Science - General
220000Social Sciences, Humanities and Arts - General
230000Mathematical Sciences
240000Physical Sciences
250000Chemical Sciences
260000Earth Sciences
270000Biological Sciences
280000Information, Computer and Communication Sciences
290000Engineering and Technology
300000Agricultural, Veterinary and Environmental Sciences
310000Architecture, Urban Environment and Building
320000Medical and Health Sciences
350000Commerce, Management, Tourism and Services
360000Political Science and Policy
370000Studies in Human Society
380000Behavioural and Cognitive Sciences
390000Law, Justice and Law Enforcement
400000Journalism, Librarianship and Curatorial Studies
410000The Arts
420000Language and Culture
430000History and Archaeology
440000Philosophy and Religion

Following is an example of the structure of the classification.


Astronomical Sciences.
240101Astronomy and Astrophysics
240102Cosmic Ray Physics
240199Astronomical Sciences not elsewhere classified
Theoretical and Condensed Matter Physics
240201Theoretical Physics
240202Condensed Matter Physics - Structural Properties
240203Condensed Matter Physics - Electronic and Magnetic Properties; Superconductivity
240204Condensed Matter Physics - Other

Socio-Economic Objective Classification

This classification is arranged in a heirarchical structure. It has 5 Divisions, 18 Subdivisions, 107 Groups and 594 Classes.

The Divisions and Subdivisions are:

Division 1 - Defence
Subdivision 610000
Division 2 - Economic Development
Subdivision 620000
Plant Production and Plant Primary Products
Subdivision 630000
Animal Production and Animal Primary Products
Subdivision 640000
Mineral Resources (Excl. Energy)
Subdivision 650000
Energy Resources
Subdivision 660000
Energy Supply
Subdivision 670000
Subdivision 680000
Subdivision 690000
Subdivision 700000
Information and Communication Services
Subdivision 710000
Commercial Services and Tourism
Subdivision 720000
Economic Framework
Division 3 - Society
Subdivision 730000
Subdivision 740000
Education and Training
Subdivision 750000
Social Development and Community Services
Division 4 - Environment
Subdivision 760000
Environmental Policy Frameworks and other aspects
Subdivision 770000
Environmental Management
Division 5 - Non-Oriented Research
Subdivision 780000
Non-Oriented Research

An example showing the structure of the classification follows.

Division 2 - Economic Development
Subdivision 620000 - Plant Production and Plant Primary Products

620100Field Crops
620104Other cereals
620108Grain legumes
620199 Field crops not elsewhere classified
620200Horticultural Crops
620201Stone fruit
620202Pome fruit
620205Tropical fruit
620206Berry fruit
620207Tree nuts
620209Ornamentals, Australian natives and nursery plants
620299Horticultural crops not elsewhere classified

Further information

Further information may be obtained through the following product:

  • Australian Standard Research Classification, Second edition (Cat. no. 1297.0)

ASRC Release Date:
The 2nd edition of the ASRC was released in August 1998.


      Assistant Director
      Research and Development Statistics

      Phone: (02) 6252 5627
      Fax: (02) 6252 7004

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