The standard definition of 'research' from the Frascati Manual
For the purposes of various statutory returns (such as research income figures returned under the Research Activity Survey and published by the Higher Education Statistics Agency), research is defined by the conventions set out in the Frascati Manual.
The Frascati Manual is the internationally recognised methodology for collecting and using R&D statistics.
Definition of research
Research and experimental development (R&D) comprise creative and systematic work undertaken in order to increase the stock of knowledge – including knowledge of humankind, culture and society – and to devise new applications of available knowledge.
To qualify as R&D, an activity must be all of the following:
transferable and/or reproducible
The term 'R&D' covers three types of activity: basic research, applied research and experimental development.
Basic research is experimental or theoretical work undertaken primarily to acquire new knowledge of the underlying foundations of phenomena and observable facts, without any particular application or use in view.
Experimental development is systematic work, drawing on knowledge gained from research and practical experience and producing additional knowledge, which is directed to producing new products or processes or to improving existing products or processes.
The Frascati Manual lists types of activities that are excluded from R&D and examples of borderline cases for different areas of research.
Activities that should normally be excluded include: