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Research & Development in Contract Funding

Data Sources and Methodologies


This analysis was conducted using agency contract award data for the most recently completed fiscal year, which agencies report to Each reported contract includes information about the agency and sub-agency that awarded the contract, the amount obligated by the contract, and a Product and Service Code (PSC) that indicates the goods or services delivered as a result of the contract.

R&D assistance funding such as grants, loans, and scholarships were excluded from sections one, two, and three of our analysis because, unlike PSCs, they are tracked using the Catalog of Federal Domestic Assistance (CFDA) codes. Since one CFDA listing can be used for a range of purposes, it is difficult to identify and verify funding devoted to R&D within a given CFDA.

Data used throughout this analysis includes contract transactions that were classified as Research and Development (R&D) awards using the General Services Administration’s (GSA) PSC Manual for all CFO Act agencies. We excluded contract funding designated with PSCs that ended in 5 and 7, which represent Operational System Development (5) and Commercialization (7), since these codes fall outside of the Office of Management and Budget (OMB) definitions of R&D (see OMB Circular A-11, Schedule C, Section 84.2(c)). As such, we refer to R&D contract funding as limited to this group of contract transactions throughout this analysis. The COVID-19 Funding versions of each visualization were generated using the same subset of R&D, limiting the contract transactions included to those funded using funding specifically appropriated to address the COVID-19 pandemic. Contract transactions funded by COVID-19 appropriations can be tracked using the Disaster Emergency Fund Code (DEFC).

To create the R&D as a Portion of Total Federal Contract Funding by Agency graph, we looked at total contract funding issued by the 24 CFO Act agencies in the most recently completed fiscal year and calculated the percentage of contract funding with appropriate R&D PSCs. The COVID-19 R&D Contracts visualization calculates the total value of the COVID-19 funded R&D contract transactions as a percentage of total R&D contract funding for each agency.

The visualization of Categories of R&D Contract Funding grouped R&D contract funding into the 20 PSC sub-categories within the larger R&D PSC group, as reflected in the GSA’s PSC Manual. The categories include all PSCs used in the most recent fiscal year including codes that were retired or superseded in the October 2020 version of the manual but are still in use for contracts that were issued prior to the release of the revised PSC manual. All new contracts will be limited to using the updated PSCs.

The same subset of R&D data as above was used to generate the Top R&D Contracts by Category section, by identifying the contracts with the largest volume in obligations within each of the PSC categories for the most recently completed fiscal year.

The source data for the fourth visualization on Federal R&D obligations for 2010-2020 is from the National Center for Science and Engineering Statistics’ (NCSES) Survey of Federal Funds for Research and Development. The survey data from NCSES is collected during an annual census of federal agencies. 2020 values are preliminary figures and do not include obligations from supplemental COVID-19 related appropriations. It is noted that the source for this visualization is different than the rest of the analysis to show the larger trends in R&D funding that includes assistance funding.