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Research and Experimental Development, Higher Education Organisations, Australia methodology

Reference period
2020

Explanatory notes

Introduction

The statistics presented in this release have been compiled from data collected in the Survey of Research and Experimental Development, Higher Education Organisations. The Survey of R&D, Higher Education is a biennial collection based on a calendar year reference period.

Definition of R&D

R&D, as collected by the ABS, is defined in accordance with the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) standard as "creative and systematic work undertaken in order to increase the stock of knowledge - including knowledge of humankind, culture and society - and to devise new applications of available knowledge".

For a more comprehensive interpretation of the definition of R&D, see the Australian and New Zealand Standard Research Classification (ANZSRC), 2020 or refer to the OECD publication The Measurement of Scientific and Technological Activities: Proposed Standard Practice for Surveys of Research and Experimental Development - Frascati Manual 2015.

Respondents report and self-classify R&D survey information based on their interpretation of OECD and ABS definitions and classifications. The ABS makes every effort to ensure correct and consistent interpretation and reporting of these data by applying consistent processing methodologies. See also the Non-Sampling Error and Revisions sections of the Technical Note for more information.

Australian and New Zealand Standard Research Classification (ANZSRC)

Type of Activity and Fields of Research statistics presented in this release have been collected and compiled based on the Australian and New Zealand Standard Research Classification (ANZSRC), 2020.

This release is the first time Fields of Research information was compiled using the Australian and New Zealand Standard Research Classification (ANZSRC), 2020. Previous releases of this issue used the Australian and New Zealand Standard Research Classification (ANZSRC), 2008.

In 2020, Socio-Economic Objectives (SEO) information was not collected. This was part of the ABS commitment to reduce the load on data providers during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Scope and coverage

The OECD definition of the higher education sector encompasses universities and other institutions of post-secondary education regardless of their source of finance or legal status. The scope of the ABS R&D survey is based on the OECD definition but excludes colleges of Technical and Further Education. A total of 42 Australian higher education institutions were in scope and reported for this collection.

Intramural expenditure, which is defined as expenditure for R&D performed by in scope institutions during the reference period irrespective of the source of funds, is included in the survey. Expenditure made outside the institution but in support of intramural R&D is included. For further information, refer to the OECD Frascati Manual 2015. Intramural expenditure includes research performed by institutions:

  • as a participant in unincorporated Cooperative Research Centres (CRCs); and

  • on behalf of other legal entities where the institution maintains full management and control of the project.

R&D performed on an institution's campus, where the R&D is controlled by other legal entities, is excluded from the survey. The R&D performed by these entities will be in scope of the relevant R&D sector (business, government or private non-profit).

R&D performed overseas by Australian higher education institutions is included. Due to the very small amount of overseas expenditure, it is not separately identified.

Location of expenditure

Location of expenditure relates to the main campus or head office location of the reporting institution, except for the Australian Defence Force Academy (ADFA), which is part of the University of New South Wales but is shown against the Australian Capital Territory.

Derived expenditure estimates

Total cost of R&D undertaken is equivalent to direct expenditure plus indirect (overhead) expenditure.

Institutions were required to indicate whether overheads had been included in reported data. In cases where data did not include overheads, an estimate was calculated by either:

  • the institution identifying the value of R&D related overhead costs to be apportioned across relevant projects/schools; or

  • the ABS, using a methodology agreed to by institutions and Universities Australia.

Gross Domestic Product (GDP) and Gross State Product (GSP)

The most recent GDP and GSP values available were used to calculate the R&D expenditure/GDP and R&D expenditure/GSP ratios presented in this issue. These values are referenced in the table below and have been revised from those used to calculate ratios in previous issues.

GROSS DOMESTIC PRODUCT, current prices
 2012-13 ($m)2014-15 ($m)2016-17 ($m)2018-19 ($m)2020-21 ($m)
Gross Domestic Product1,536,4541,623,2071,759,3141,946,2282,068,287

Source: Australian National Accounts: National Income, Expenditure and Product, December 2021

GROSS STATE PRODUCT, current prices
 NSW ($m)Vic. ($m)Qld ($m)SA ($m)WA ($m)Tas. ($m)NT ($m)ACT ($m)
2018-19624,947461,445366,025109,624287,14231,78425,06340,200
2020-21643,145474,161366,277117,739361,76134,84525,08743,993

Source: Australian National Accounts: State Accounts, 2020-21

GDP is estimated by the ABS according to the international standards System of National Accounts, 2008 (2008 SNA) and is not directly comparable to GDP for countries where these standards have not been applied.

While statistics presented in this issue relate to the 2020 calendar year, financial year GDP and GSP data are used to ensure consistency with ratios published in other ABS R&D releases which use a financial year as the reporting period.

Chain volume measures

The chain volume measures appearing in this release are annually reweighted chain Laspeyres indexes referenced to the current price values in a chosen reference year (currently 2020). They can be thought of as current price values re-expressed in (i.e. based on) the prices of the previous year and linked together to form continuous time series. They are formed in a multi-stage process of which the major steps are described in Section 15 of the Information Paper: Australian National Accounts, Introduction of Chain Volume Measures and Price Indexes.

R&D deflators

With the implementation of the 2008 SNA, deflators used to calculate the chain volume measure of expenditure on R&D were revised to better capture changes in the unit value of labour used in the production of R&D services, and to increase and refine the number of products included in the deflators. The revised deflators have been used for Higher Education R&D statistics since the 2008 survey cycle.

Rounding

Where figures have been rounded, discrepancies may occur between the sum of the component items and totals.

Other related publications

Relevant OECD publications include:

Main Science and Technology Indicators

Acknowledgement

The ABS acknowledges the ongoing contribution made by the higher education institutions selected for the Survey of R&D, Higher Education.

ABS publications draw extensively on information provided freely by individuals, businesses, governments and other organisations. Their continued cooperation is very much appreciated; without it, the wide range of statistics published by the ABS would not be available. Information received by the ABS is treated in strict confidence as required by the Census and Statistics Act 1905.

ABS data available on request

As well as the statistics included in this and related publications, the ABS may have other relevant data available on request. For inquiries about these and related statistics, contact the Customer Assistance Service via the ABS website Contact Us page. The ABS Privacy Policy outlines how the ABS will handle any personal information that you provide to us.

Glossary

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Academics

Staff engaged in supporting R&D, who are defined as having an academic classification by the Department of Education, Skills and Employment.

Applied research

Original investigation undertaken in order to acquire new knowledge. It is, however, directed primarily towards a specific, practical aim or objective.

Australian Competitive Grants (ACG)

As a source of R&D funding, this includes R&D grants determined by applying the Department of Education, Skills and Employment self-assessment system. Funding in this category is split into Commonwealth and non-Commonwealth grants.

Business

As a source of R&D funding, this includes R&D grants (excluding Australian Competitive Grants) and payments for R&D projects funded by or carried out on behalf of businesses (irrespective of whether private or government owned).

Capital expenditure

Expenditure on the acquisition of fixed tangible assets such as land, buildings, vehicles, plant, machinery and equipment which is attributable to R&D activity.

Current expenditure

Expenditure on direct labour costs, scholarships, materials, fuels, rent and hiring, repairs and maintenance, data processing, etc. and the proportion of expenditure on general services and overheads which is attributable to R&D activity.

Donations, bequests and foundations

As a source of R&D funding, this includes research specific donations and bequests from non-profit organisations and Australian individuals.

Experimental development

Systematic work, drawing on knowledge gained from research and practical experience and producing additional knowledge, which is directed to producing new products or processes or to improving existing products or processes.

Fields of Research (FoR)

The FoR classification enables R&D to be categorised according to common knowledge domains and/or methodologies used in the R&D. It describes the nature of the research being performed and reflects the area of knowledge discovery.

General university funds

As a source of R&D funding, this includes funds from:

  • the Commonwealth Government (other than targeted research funding), including the portion of other revenue sourced from the Commonwealth spent on R&D but not identified as 'Competitive Research Grants' or 'Other commonwealth government'; and
  • fees and charges, income relating to Higher Education Contribution Scheme liabilities, income from non-research specific donations, bequests and foundations, investment income, reversions from provisions accounts, loans drawn down, income from the institution’s commercial operations and from sale of products or assets.

Human resources devoted to R&D

The effort of researchers, postgraduate students and other staff directly involved with R&D activity. Overhead staff (e.g. administrative and general service employees such as personnel officers, janitors, etc.) whose work indirectly supports R&D are excluded.

Labour costs

Expenditure relating to: wages and salaries; overtime earnings; penalty payments; shift allowances; employer contributions into superannuation; fringe benefits and payroll taxes; severance, termination and redundancy payments; workers compensation premiums/costs; provisions for employee entitlements; salaries and fees of directors and executives; retainers and commissions of persons who received a retainer; bonuses; annual and other types of paid leave.

Land, buildings and other structures

Expenditure on land, buildings and other structures acquired for R&D purposes including testing grounds, sites for laboratories and pilot plants, landscaping, site preparation works, fit-out costs for new buildings and major improvements and modifications.

Location

The region in which the institution is located (i.e. the main campus or head office location of the reporting institution, with the exception of the Australian Defence Force Academy (ADFA), which is part of the University of New South Wales but is shown against the Australian Capital Territory).

Overseas funds

As a source of R&D funding, this includes R&D grants and payments for R&D projects funded by or carried out on behalf of non-Australian or overseas entities.

Other Australian

As a source of R&D funding, this represents any other Australian sources of funds not included in the other categories.

Other capital expenditure

Expenditure on office and other equipment (including capitalised computer software licence fees), furnishings, vehicles, plant, machinery and equipment.

Other commonwealth government

As a source of R&D funding, this includes all other targeted research funding from Commonwealth agencies such as CRC grants (but excluding Australian Competitive Grants) and payments for R&D projects funded by or carried out on behalf of the Commonwealth Government. Other examples of funding included are:

  • Research Training Program (RTP)

  • Research Support Program (RSP)

Other current expenditure

All other non-staff expenditures including: materials, fuels and other inputs; rent, leasing and hiring expenses; repair and maintenance expenses; payments to outside organisations for use of specialised testing facilities or for analytical work, engineering or other specialised services in support of R&D projects carried out by the university; software for own account produced as part of R&D; academic services purchased from outside and any other current expenses which are not captured by labour costs or scholarships. Payments for patent searches and for purchases of technical know-how are excluded.

Other staff

Technicians, skilled and unskilled employees, secretarial and clerical staff directly associated with R&D activity.

Person years of effort (PYE)

One person year of effort is equal to a full-time employee whose time is wholly devoted to R&D for a whole year.

Postgraduate students

Postgraduate research students supporting R&D, who are defined as engaged in a Doctorate by research or a Masters by research by the Department of Education, Skills and Employment.

Pure basic research

Basic research carried out for the advancement of knowledge, without seeking long-term economic or social benefits or making any effort to apply the results to practical problems or to transfer the results to sectors responsible for their application.

R&D activity

Systematic investigation or experimentation involving innovation or technical risk, the outcome of which is new knowledge, with or without a specific practical application, or new or improved products, processes, materials, devices or services. R&D activity extends to modifications to existing products/processes. R&D activity ceases and pre-production begins when work is no longer experimental.

Scholarships

Comprises expenditure by the university on scholarships for research higher degrees.

Socio-Economic Objectives (SEO)

The SEO classification enables R&D to be categorised according to the intended purpose or outcome of the R&D as perceived by the researcher (or data provider). It describes purpose categories that may benefit or impact from the R&D.

State and local government funds

As a source of R&D funding, this includes R&D grants (excluding Australian Competitive Grants) and payments for R&D projects funded by or carried out on behalf of state and local government.

Strategic basic research

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

Type of Activity (ToA)

The ToA classification enables R&D activity to be categorised according to the type of research effort, namely, pure basic research, strategic basic research, applied research and experimental development.

Abbreviations

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$'000thousand dollars
$mmillion dollars
ABSAustralian Bureau of Statistics
ACGAustralian Competitive Grants
ACTAustralian Capital Territory
ADFAAustralian Defence Force Academy
ANZSRCAustralian and New Zealand Standard Research Classification
ASRCAustralian Standard Research Classification
Aust.Australia
CRCCooperative Research Centre
excl.excluding
FoRFields of Research
GDPGross Domestic Product
GSPGross State Product
HERDHigher Education Expenditure on R&D
NSWNew South Wales
NTNorthern Territory
OECDOrganisation for Economic Co-operation and Development
PYEPerson Years of Effort
QldQueensland
R&DResearch and Experimental Development
SASouth Australia
SEOSocio-Economic Objectives
SNASystem of National Accounts
Tas.Tasmania
ToAType of Activity
Vic.Victoria
WAWestern Australia

Quality declaration - summary

Institutional environment

Statistics presented in this release have been compiled from data collected by the Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS) from Australian higher education institutions in the Survey of Research and Experimental Development (R&D), Higher Education Organisations. 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.

Relevance

This release presents statistics on R&D undertaken by Australian higher education institutions in respect of the 2020 calendar year.

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.

Since the release of the 2008-09 Australian System of National Accounts, R&D has been treated as capital formation. This resulted from the implementation of the new international standards System of National Accounts, 2008 (2008 SNA) and represents a change in treatment of R&D (as intermediate consumption) from SNA 1993.

Accuracy

The ABS aims to produce high quality data from its research and experimental development collections, while minimising the reporting burden on higher education institutions. To achieve this, extensive effort is put into survey and questionnaire design, collection procedures and processing.

The Survey of R&D, Higher Education is a census of in-scope institutions (refer to the Scope and coverage section of the Explanatory Notes for more information). The survey achieved a response rate of 100%.

For information about non-sampling errors, please refer to the Technical Note.

Coherence

The ABS seeks to maximise consistency and comparability over time by minimising changes to the survey. However, 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 non-sampling errors, factors which may affect the comparability of current estimates with those of previous cycles are described below:

  • Improved record keeping by higher education institutions.

  • From the 2020 cycle, Type of Activity and Fields of Research data have been collected and compiled based on the Australian and New Zealand Standard Research Classification (ANZSRC), 2020. Prior to this, these data were based on the Australian and New Zealand Standard Research Classification (ANZSRC), 2008 and the Australian Standard Research Classification (ASRC). The implementation of updated classifications in the 2000, 2008 and 2020 reference periods represent breaks in the relevant time series.

  • Socio-Economic Objectives data were not collected in 2020. This was part of the ABS commitment to reduce the load on data providers during the COVID pandemic.

Interpretability

R&D as collected by the ABS is defined in accordance with the OECD standard as "creative and systematic work undertaken in order to increase the stock of knowledge - including knowledge of humankind, culture and society - and to devise new applications of available knowledge".

The ABS Survey of R&D, Higher Education also uses classifications specific to R&D: results presented in this release are based on the Australian and New Zealand Standard Research Classification (ANZSRC), 2020.

Respondents report and self-classify R&D survey information based on their interpretation of OECD and ABS definitions and classifications. The ABS makes every effort to ensure correct interpretation and reporting of these data by applying consistent processing methodologies.

Further important contextual information, to be considered when interpreting the results presented in this release, is provided under the Explanatory notes, Technical note and Glossary.

Additionally, for a more comprehensive interpretation of the definitions and classifications relating to R&D activity, refer to:

Accessibility

In addition to the main features, data (in spreadsheet format) are included on the ABS website.

For inquiries about these and related statistics, contact the Customer Assistance Service via the ABS website Contact Us page. The ABS Privacy Policy outlines how the ABS will handle any personal information that you provide to us.

Technical note - data quality

Non-sampling error

Non-sampling errors may arise as a result of errors in the reporting, recording or processing of data. These errors can be introduced through inadequacies in the questionnaire, treatment of non-response, inaccurate reporting by respondents, errors in the application of survey procedures, incorrect recording of answers and errors in data capture and processing.

The extent to which non-sampling error affects the results is difficult to measure. 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.

When interpreting the statistics in this release, the reliability and comparability of the estimates may be affected by the following specific non-sampling errors:

  • Many institutions provided estimates due to a lack of separately recorded data on R&D activity.

  • Data were self-classified by institutions to Type of Activity and Fields of Research 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 interpretation and reporting of these data by applying consistent processing methodologies.

  • The estimation method for R&D related overhead costs varied across institutions and reference periods.

Revisions

In the event of new information being identified and revisions made, revised figures will be indicated by a footnote. Revisions must be taken into consideration when interpreting results, particularly when comparing estimates over time.