Why are HERD Survey trends so important for research development?

By May 21, 2024 No Comments
HERD Survey trends visual example

Research development is a strategic, rigorous, and complex process. As such, a professional working in this field has several end goals. One of the primary goals is to identify research funding. This process is essential because funding provides financial support to the institution. One important resource is the Higher Education Research and Development Survey, or HERD Survey. As we’ll discuss, an awareness of HERD Survey trends can improve factors such as strategic planning, benchmarking, and trendspotting, all of which are critical to success.

Before we jump into it, it’s important to explain why HERD Survey trend results are so valuable. As a general practice, institutions want to be competitive while building relationships with foundations, corporations, and other potential funders. This has practical implications. Namely, the better an institution understands the current ambitions of funders, the closer aligned it can be with potential benefactors.

What the HERD Survey Shows

After funding is dispersed and applied, the HERD Survey shows the annual outcomes. Specifically, the survey details growth and decreases in research expenditures across institutions, including aggregate trends over time. Having an awareness of these trends, and what they mean, makes it possible for institutions to identify and anticipate future opportunities. It allows them to shift focus where needed.

Ultimately, organizations that truly understand the HERD survey trends can be quicker to act. They can also be better poised for growth, positioning themselves higher within the research community. Additionally, they can gain new perspectives and vantage points outside of their own organization.

Here are the top five reasons why awareness of HERD survey trends is critical for research development:

1. Strategic Planning and Goal Setting

Strategic planning and goal setting are vital components for institutions that want to improve their research capabilities. By looking at HERD Survey data, institutions can consider a wide range of trends. By analyzing these trends and patterns, they can set up realistic yet ambitious goals, and strengthen their research development efforts. In addition, a careful trend analysis can help institutions to prioritize their research development activities based on predictive outcomes. This enables institutions to take a more focused approach to planning.

2. Improving Research Quality

As mentioned, HERD Survey trends can shed light on the research areas that led to the most impressive outcomes. This means that the HERD Survey can act as a kind of compass for institutions. By staying focused on the areas that matter, institutions can reserve their budgets and efforts to make an impact with the most certainty. As a result, institutions can elevate the quality of their research significantly. This can lead to better learnings across institutions, more productive teams, and overall scientific advancements.

3. Funding and Resource Management

Because HERD Survey trends span across institutions, the results can be important for benchmarking. For example, a university can see with clarity how institutions similar to their own are applying expenditures, down to specifics. This is because HERD Survey findings are public and widely available. With so much information readily available, those in research development have real-world numbers and metrics to draw from on demand. This knowledge can inform budget planning for research development efforts, ensuring that institutions are allocating their resources in the most efficient way possible.

4. Using HERD Survey Trends for Collaboration

Across institutions, finding common areas of research interest helps to build strategic connections. Working together, universities and research institutions can share in the funding, and also take shared responsibility for expenditures. With a little data finessing, the HERD Survey results can be studied to look at which collaborations were most fruitful throughout the year. Determining which institutions benefitted most from joining forces can add intelligence to the research development process. Perhaps an institution without a historical precedent for collaboration will be motivated to branch out, leading to new and exciting partnerships and sharing of talent.

5. Identifying New Research Areas

Research fields are not stagnant; they evolve over time. Year over year, HERD Survey trends pinpoint emerging research areas that are attracting more funding and attention than the year prior. Identifying these areas in a timely manner enables institutions to concentrate on new and potentially promising research fields. They can also use these trends to proactively develop strategies for world crises, such as was the case with COVID-19 research. Even in smaller ways, HERD Survey trends highlight significant opportunities for cross-disciplinary research, resulting in breakthroughs and entirely new areas of study.


As we have illustrated above, HERD Survey trends provide key insights for those in research development. The learnings from the HERD Survey are publicly available and open for the taking. However, it is incumbent on each institution to study the trends, make informed decisions, and advance their research development efforts. By applying the insights, institutions can perform strategic planning, which improves resource management and puts focus on the right expenditures.

Even though HERD Survey results are easily accessible, they can be tedious to work with. As a benefit to you, we invite you to make use of our HERD Visualizer, which has both a free Lite version and a full-featured PRO version for a nominal subscription fee.

To access the interactive HERD Visualizer, and receive your own data insights, please click here.