Outlook for Expanding the Federal Research in Progress System

RCED-85-15: Published: Oct 22, 1984. Publicly Released: Nov 21, 1984.

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In response to a congressional request, GAO conducted a study of the National Technical Information Service's (NTIS) Federal Research In Progress System (FEDRIP) to determine how the information systems of major federal research and development (R&D) agencies related to FEDRIP, and to provide information on how the Japanese and European governments promote the availability of this type of information.

GAO found that policies for what data to collect, how to classify R&D projects, and how to disseminate such information are the responsibility of each R&D funding agency. FEDRIP is a voluntary reporting system to allow these agencies a public information outlet on research-in-progress. Currently, 28 of the 36 R&D funding agencies do not report to FEDRIP. Both the National Science Foundation and the Department of Defense do not report. Agencies that elect to use FEDRIP are not required to report funding data on individual research projects. Consequently, the four major R&D agencies that report to FEDRIP do not include funding data in their reports. Further, contributing agencies incur most of the costs for FEDRIP. GAO found that the need for agency-level manipulation and interpretation of data about ongoing research projects would be eliminated by a central, comprehensive technical database. However, two previous studies had conflicting views on the need for and benefits of a centralized database versus an alternative network of decentralized databases. Adequate information does not exist to determine whether one of those alternatives or a combination of the two is preferable. To make FEDRIP a comprehensive R&D database, all applicable agencies would have to report both project and funding information to NTIS. GAO found that England, France, and West Germany do not have central databases of ongoing, government-funded R&D. However, the Japanese government operates a central database which is administered by a corporation which reports to the government.

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