Higher Education Research and Development Estimates (HERD)

Record number:

Higher Education Research and Development (HERD) estimates outlines a new method for calculating higher education Research and Development (R&D) expenditures which is part of the initiative to improve estimates in an area that also includes estimates of the number of personnel engaged in higher education R&D, Gross Expenditures on Research and Development in the Health Field (Health GERD), and U.S. and international comparisons.

Detailed information for 2011

Data release - July 8, 2013


Quality estimates of R&D activities in the higher education sector are of increasing importance to policy developers, to the major funders of these activities, and also to the performing institutions. A working group was created in the fall of 1999 to examine current HERD and health GERD estimation methods, to recommend revisions where appropriate, and to produce a framework for an improved estimation program.

Funders of HERD include the Federal Government; the provincial governments and provincial research organizations; the business sector; the private non-profit sector; foreign sources; and of course the universities and affiliated institutions (such as teaching hospitals). The HERD portion of the GERD series may be of assistance in answering various questions for policy analysts, HERD funders and others.

Statistical activity

Research and experimental development (R&D) comprise creative work undertaken on a systematic basis in order to increase the stock of knowledge, including knowledge of people, culture and society, and the use of this stock of knowledge to devise new applications.

Science and technology (S&T) and the information society are changing the way we live, learn and work. The concepts are closely intertwined: science generates new understanding of the way the world works, technology applies it to develop innovative products and services and the information society is one of the results of the innovations.

People are looking to Statistics Canada to measure and explain the social and economic impacts of these changes.

The purpose of this Program is to develop useful indicators of S&T activity in Canada based on a framework that ties them together in a coherent picture.

Reference period:
fiscal year


  • Human resources in science and technology
  • Research and development
  • Science and technology

Data sources and methodology

Target population

The Higher Education sector is composed of all universities, colleges of technology and other institutes of post secondary education, whatever their source of finance or legal status. It also includes all research institutes, experimental stations and clinics operating under the direct control of, or administered by, or associated with, the higher education establishments.


This survey is a census.

Data are collected for all units of the target population, therefore no sampling is done.

Data sources

Data are extracted from administrative files and derived from other Statistics Canada surveys and/or other sources.

Statistics Canada works closely with the Canadian Association of University Business Officers (CAUBO) in its efforts to improve the reporting of financial information, particularly with respect to sponsored research funding and inter-institutional awards. The latter is necessary to avoid double counting where several institutions working on the same project may report the same funds.

Two of the main areas of interest in HERD are the sectors funding R&D and the fields of science being funded. The methods by which source of fund allocations are made and also those by which allocations to the three fields of science are determined are described in the document "Estimation of Higher Education Research and Development Estimates" available in the documentation section below.

Disclosure control

Statistics Canada is prohibited by law from releasing any information it collects which could identify any person, business, or organization, unless consent has been given by the respondent or as permitted by the Statistics Act. Various confidentiality rules are applied to all data that are released or published to prevent the publication or disclosure of any information deemed confidential. If necessary, data are suppressed to prevent direct or residual disclosure of identifiable data.

Data accuracy

Indirect expenditures: The assumptions concerning what constitutes indirect expenditures and also the assumption that sponsored research expenditures include 5% in indirect cost reimbursement will remain open to discussion, particularly among the established users of these data and those who have constituted the review and support partnership. The 5% estimate is particularly arbitrary because CAUBO does not have any information on the amount of indirect costs covered by reported sponsored research grants and contracts. These may be reported by universities as sponsored research or elsewhere under other types of expenditures. It is known that some of the indirect costs are covered by business and private not-for-profit awards and that Quebec covers 15% of indirect costs in its awards (but universities do not necessarily report these funds under sponsored research). The Quebec figure suggests that the 5% estimation overall for that province is likely low. Project staff will continue to work closely with CAUBO and the universities and related associations in the future to improve estimates in this area.

Historical continuity of data series: HERD estimates are based on the revised estimation procedure first used for 1998-1999 estimates. During the 1999-2000 estimation procedure, revised faculty time coefficients on research were used. These new coefficients were then applied to the 1998-1999 estimates as we feel those new coefficients better reflect university research activity levels. During the 2000-2001 estimation procedure a better analysis of "teaching hospitals" expenditures was completed. Some overlap between the private non-profit sector and the higher education sector was discovered and modified. One will see historical revisions in both sectors back as far as 1991-1992.

During the 2001-2002 estimation procedure the one-time grant awarded to the universities for indirect costs related to sponsored research was reviewed. Our estimation system had to be modified to ensure those costs were firstly sourced to the federal government and secondly were not double counted. In 2003-2004 the indirect costs grant awarded from the federal government became an annual payment to universities. The estimation system ensures these payments are not included in the indirect costs so there is no double counting.