Despite some significant increases in R&D funding for science agencies in FY17, official federal R&D expenditures figures from the White House Office of Management and Budget (OMB) are more than $20 billion less than prior to 2017. This is largely due to a newly refined definition of R&D and R&D categories by the OMB, which has narrowed the terms of what R&D is. The change was largely brought upon a 2015 report from the OECD, which is the global organization that establishes standards for calculating R&D. The “D” has historically stood for experimental development, and the change in definition more unambiguously excludes pre-production development. Pre-production development is defined as “non-experimental work on a product or system before it goes into full production, including activities such as tooling and development of production facilities.” Experimental development is still included in the definition, and is described as “creative and systematic work, drawing on knowledge gained from research and practical experience, which is directed at producing new products or processes or improving existing products or processes.” Therefore, experimental development still includes technology demonstrations, which is when a technology system is unveiled and demonstrated for the first time, and feedback R&D following the demonstration. The main agency affected by this change in definition of R&D is the Department of Defense, for which the result was a decline of more than $20 billion from the agency’s R&D total. NASA’s R&D totals were cut by approximately $2.7 billion in FY17. The change is expected to improve the comparability of US R&D data with other member countries in the OECD, which all follow this definition of R&D. Source: American Association for the Advancement of Science

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