Strategic Uses of HERD Survey Data for Research Administrators

By February 21, 2024 No Comments
HERD Survey Data for research admins

In today’s data-driven world, there are many insightful resources available to help research administrators make actionable decisions. For example, the HERD Survey is conducted annually by the National Center for Science and Engineering Statistics (NCSES). This comprehensive survey enables research administrators to make data-informed decisions crucial for cultivating innovation and advancing research agendas nationwide. The HERD survey also has a long and interesting history. But have you ever wondered why HERD survey data findings are rarely ever applied to their fullest potential?

In this article, we’ll explore some possible uses of the HERD Survey data. We’ll cover ways to use the HERD survey as a strategic tool for advancing your institutional research and development processes. Let’s get started.

HERD Survey Data Applications

As mentioned, despite its significance, the full potential of the HERD Survey as a strategic resource for research administrators remains underexplored. This is a shame, because the survey comes from no less an expert than NCSES, which is part of the National Science Foundation (NSF). However, because the raw HERD Survey data is notoriously challenging to work with, the survey isn’t applied as widely as it could be.

With the technical challenges out of the way, here are some unexpected ways the HERD Survey can offer meaningful insights.


The HERD Survey data is used for benchmarking purposes. It allows research administrators to compare their institution’s research expenditures with other institutions. In doing so, administrators are able to identify areas of strength and opportunities for improvement. For example, by analyzing HERD Survey data, a research administrator may discover that their institution’s expenditure on a specific research field is significantly lower compared to other institutions. An insight like this would likely prompt the institution to reallocate resources to capitalize on emerging research opportunities. In doing so, they may be able to preserve their competitive advantage.


The HERD Survey data can be a great source for research administrators to track funding trends over time and anticipate future opportunities. It can support the development of institutional policies related to research funding, compliance, and reporting by providing extensive information on national trends and regulations. Additionally, it may be used to support grant applications by presenting evidence of institutional research capabilities and strengths.

Strategic Planning

Furthermore, HERD Survey data can inform strategic planning efforts by identifying emerging research areas. This can help pinpoint other institutions with similar interest areas. Devoting resources to trending focus areas can increase the visibility and impact of the institution. Over time, the annual results can help administrators to assess the effectiveness of their research investments and initiatives.

Exploring the Latest HERD Survey Data

By utilizing the HERD Survey data in the ways outlined above, research administrators can enhance decision-making processes, optimize resource utilization, and support the advancement of research within their institutions. But the potential for insights is even greater. Here are some key findings pertaining specifically to the most recent HERD Survey data that take its usefulness even further as a resource.

Key Findings:

  • Federally funded R&D at universities totaled almost $54 billion in FY 2022, which is 55% of total academic R&D expenditures. This is evidence of the crucial role that federal funding plays in supporting research activities within institutions.
  • 2022 HERD Survey data shows that private institutions accounted for 52% of foreign-funded academic R&D, $50 million more than public institutions. This finding signifies the substancial contribution of private institutions to foreign-funded research activities and highlights the financial advantage they hold in this particular funding category compared to public institutions.
  • Johns Hopkins University headed the list of academic institutions with $3.42 billion in total R&D, as it has for decades. This emphasizes that Johns Hopkins University is maintaining its ongoing commitment to research and development activities and keeping its consistent position at the top of the list of academic institutions.

Added Insights:

  • When we look at the leading academic fields based on Fiscal Year 2022 R&D funding, Health Sciences topped the list with a total of $31.87 billion in expenditures. This highlights the importance and priority that the Health Sciences field has received in 2022 in terms of research and development funding.
  • In fiscal year 2022, 29 universities surpassed the one billion dollar R&D mark. In fiscal year 2022, only 24 universities did so. This comparative data highlights the growth in research investment among universities. It also shows that a higher number of institutions are allocating significant resources to research and development activities compared to previous years.
  • R&D spending by academic institutions in fiscal year 2022 totaled $97.8 billion in current dollars, an increase of $8.0 billion from fiscal year 2021. This is the largest annual growth on record as measured in current dollars.

Overall, the significant expansion in research investment within academic institutions suggests that the increased research investment within institutions is likely to continue for the foreseeable future.

Other Uses of HERD Survey Data

In addition to research administrators, the HERD Survey data is widely used by other such as policymakers, funding agencies, and private institutions. For instance, policymakers can stay on top of changing trends in research, and assess the impact of research activities at the national level. Also, funders can utilize the HERD Survey data to identify emerging research areas to shape their grants and funding allocations. Having the HERD Survey as a single source of truth, across industries and disciplines, is what makes it so important.

Final Takeaways from the 2022 HERD Survey Data

As we have shown, the HERD Survey data can serve as a valuable resource for research administrators and others. The survey results provide help in understanding research funding and activity within higher education institutions. The survey can also inform the decision-making processes related to research management and policy advocacy.

As software developers for research administration, Streamlyne pays close attention to the benchmarks that matter for our user base. We congratulate the 29 institutions that crossed over into the billion-dollar threshold, for example. However, many institutions still need help to reach their ultimate goals, including those with high expenditures.

That’s why we approach every implementation with a partner mentality. We not only celebrate milestones but help others to achieve them. Although we are software developers, we think like research administrators, and the HERD Survey is one tool we use ourselves to shape our approach to research admin software.

Our Free HERD Funding Visualizer

We know that HERD data can be a chore to work with. That’s why we created the HERD visualizer, which has a free version you can use right away. This interactive tool (no download required) lets you play with the HERD survey data in a much more engaging and meaningful way. It’s one small example of the development and innovation we do at Streamlyne.

Get the Streamlyne HERD Visualizer