Higher Education Research and Development (HERD) Survey

About the survey

The Higher Education Research and Development (R&D) Survey is the primary source of information gauging the national level R&D expenditures at U.S. colleges and universities. The survey collects information on R&D expenditures by field of research and source of funds and also gathers information on types of research and expenses, and headcount of R&D personnel.  The survey results help the federal government and others analyze trends and assist in determining R&D priorities.  This information also forms the basis of a report which ranks institutions according to their R&D expenditures.   For these reasons, it is critical that principal investigators choose the correct type of work.  The first chart below, describes each type of work and also provides examples

Also very important to the information being correct in the HERD report is ensuring the appropriate discipline is selected. The second chart provides a list of the scientific disciplines available for selection.

For faculty and librarians who engage in research in the Arts, Architecture and Design, Business Management and Business Administration, Communication and Communications Technologies, Creative Writing, Education, Humanities, Law, Nursing, Public Health, Public Policy, Social Work, Visual and Performing Arts, and other non-STEM fields, please refer to this guide.

What type of work are you doing?


Research undertaken primarily to acquire new knowledge without any particular application or use in mind.

Research conducted to gain the knowledge or understanding to meet a specific, recognized need.

The systematic use of the knowledge or understanding gained from research directed toward the production of useful materials, devices, systems, or methods, including the design and development of prototypes and processes.




A researcher studies the history and human impact of glacial outburst floods in a country. A researcher examines past societies’ responses to catastrophic natural events in order to understand how contemporary society might better respond to global climate change. A researcher designs a new museum exhibit on the adaptations of past human societies to environmental changes.

A researcher studies how different languages interact.

A researcher examines the governing neurology of languages and how humans acquire language skills.

A researcher develops a tool for diagnosing autism in children based on their language acquisition, retention and use of signs.

A researcher develops a theory for understanding musical events.

A researcher uses techniques of experimental archaeology to recreate an ancient and long-disappeared musical instrument.

A researcher works to produce new pedagogical materials based on new discoveries in neuroscience and sound processing.

A researcher contributes to development of new risk theories.

A researcher investigates insurance contracts to cover new market risks or new types of savings instruments.

A researcher develops a new method to manage an investment fund.

A researcher analyzes the environmental determinants of learning ability.

A researcher evaluates national education programs aimed at reducing the learning gap experienced by disadvantaged communities.

A researcher develops tests for selecting educational programs for children with specific needs. 

A researcher is studying the heart chambers of various fish species.

A researcher is examining various levels of a toxic substance to determine the maximum safe level for fish in a stream.

A researcher has a contract with the U.S. government to design a new stream monitoring system that will incorporate the latest research findings on toxicity levels for fish.

A researcher is studying the social dynamics between captives that are being illegally trafficked.  

A researcher is looking into the effects of human trafficking in developing nations.

A researcher is using past research results to design an international online alert system for human trafficking.

A researcher is studying the factors that go into deciding compensation for higher level management in companies.     

A researcher is analyzing CEO compensation with stock performance of Fortune 500 companies to do determine if there is any relation. 

A researcher is creating an educational program on human resource factors that influence stock performance for young companies.

A researcher is studying how tax laws have developed over the years.

A researcher is studying how changes in tax law have affected people in different socioeconomic classes

A researcher is working with government officials to develop new measures on how tax laws will impact constituents. 

A researcher is identifying causes of abnormalities in posture.     

A researcher is studying how different posture abnormalities can be treated with physical therapy.

A researcher is working with a hospital to diagnose and correct abnormalities in posture.

A researcher is reviewing a court ruling and the decision behind it.

A researcher is studying how a court ruling affected a whole generation of people.

A researcher is developing a program to anticipate how different populations may be affected by future court rulings.

A researcher is studying how archeological files have been historically maintained throughout time. 

A researcher is preserving newly found archeological files based on best practices as identified in previous research.

A researchers is developing a digital repository that will house and maintain archeological files from around the world.


What scientific discipline does your project fall into?



Aerospace, Aeronautical, & Astronautical 

Bioengineering & Biomedical 



Electrical, Electronic, & Communications

Industrial & Manufacturing


Metallurgical & Materials

Other Engineering

Astronomy & Astrophysics


Materials Science


Other Physical Sciences

Atmospheric Sciences & Meteorology

Geological & Earth Sciences

Ocean & Marine Sciences

Other Geosciences, Atmospheric, & Ocean Sciences

Mathematics & Statistics

Computer & Information Sciences

R&D Field






Biological & Biomedical

Health Sciences

Natural Resources & Conservation

Other Life Sciences



Political Science & Government


Sociology, Demography, & Population Studies

Other Social Sciences

Other Sciences




Visual & Performing Arts

Business Management & Business Administration

Communication & Communication Technologies

Social Work

Other non-S&E fields