Malaysian Research and DevelopmentClassification System



The Malaysian Research and Development Classification System (MRDCS) was first introduced in the 1992 National Survey of Research and Development. It was designed for classifying and describing research activities in Malaysia to the highest detail and accuracy. These classifications provide the basis for the measurement and analysis of R&D activities and statistics that are useful guidelines to the government policy makers, industrialists and researchers. It is also a useful indicator on the direction of R&D and technological change. As technological advances become increasingly dynamic, there are no limitations to the introduction of new researchable areas. The sixth edition of MRDCS is seen as a continuation and latest updates to address any presence of technological gaps and barriers. The standard framework set up in these classifications support distinct and highly distinguishable related R&D activities for ensuring efficiency and effectiveness in setting priorities, providing funds, maximising national R&D efforts and also as indicators for international comparisons.


Two internationally recognised system were used in conjunction with the OECD, ‘Frascati Manual’ but further improved to support a variety of user interests within the Malaysian R&D context. The classifications are:

1. Field of Research (FOR) represents R&D activities classified according to their scientific and academic disciplines. These disciplines tend to be universally applicable, with national variations arising from the grouping of different research fields.

2. Socio-Economic Objective (SEO) allows R&D activities to be categorised according to their purpose or presumed sectoral benefits as perceived by the researchers. It consists of discrete economical, social, environmental, technological or scientific domain for identifying the principal purpose of the R&D. This system shows greater national variation according to a nation’s profile and development priorities.

The two classification systems must be considered in tandem as they cover the same activity but from two different and important perspectives.


The Field of Research (FOR) and Socio-Economic Objective (SEO) follows a hierarchal structure and are uniquely assigned Special code F and S respectively. The remaining descending characters indentify its Division, Category, Group and Area. The higher the hierarchy, the broader the subject area or research discipline. The FOR and SEO classifications hierarchy are assigned specific sub-codes to further portray the hierarchical differences in the classifications structure. The FOR has four hierarchical levels, starting at the Division (broadest level), Category, Group and Area (finest and where research project is allocated). Each level is identified with a unique number or code for easy reference. The illustration below show the approach to the FOR hierarchical structure;



Example (FOR) : F1040301
1 : Natural Sciences,Technologies and Engineering ( DIVISION )
04 : Earth Sciences (CATEGORY)
03 : Geochemistry (GROUP)
01 : Bio geochemistry (AREA)

Example (SEO): S2010400
S : Socio-Economic Objective (SYSTEM OF CLASSIFICATION )
2 : Economic Development ( DIVISION )
01 : Plant Reproduction and Plant Primary Products (CATEGORY)
04 : Forestry (GROUP)

n.e.c. - not elsewhere classified

SN - Scope Notes


There are 9 possible Divisions which represent broad subject areas or research disciplines, while Categories, Groups and Areas at the lowest level represent more detailed dissections of the categories which allow entry of more possible areas for future expansion.

The classification hierarchical manner is achieved by first determining the Division in which the which the research is being performed, followed by the most relevant Category within that Division and moving lower to the relevant Group within the Category.

A research project or activity is located at the lowest end of the hierarchy, the AREA level. To achieve the classification hierarchy, it is vital for the researcher, first to identify from this Area level and progress to the higher level of the hierarchy (Group, Category and Division). There are identical titles within the different Group and Categories which might be useful indicators not to be missed by researchers. These guidelines are applicable to both the FOR and SEO classifications.


The classifications have been designed primarily to meet the needs in classifying research projects in a more consistent and structured manner. MRDCS would be able to provide to provide considerable flexibilities to variety of users, addressing multidisciplinary works to be applied to one or more different purposes. The system used in this document would among others be applicable but not limited to the following activities:

  • Conducting the National Survey of Research and Development.
  • Applying for R&D funds such as TechnoFund and ScienceFund; and
  • Identifying and codifying of the research projects and experts in database development.

This classification allows R&D activity to be categorised according to the types of research efforts, namely Basic Research, Applied Research and Experimental Development. The definitions and guidelines and scope of R&D activity are as follows:

Research and Development

The Frascati Manual “Proposed Standard Practice for Surveys on Research and Experimental Development” 2002 defined the term R&D as comprising creative work undertaken on systematic basis in order to increase the stock of knowledge, including knowledge of man, culture and society, and the use of this stock of knowledge to devise new applications.

Boundaries of R&D

In real terms, there is a wide range of scientific and related activities that are not R&D but very closely linked to R&D, both through flows of information and in term of operations, organisations, and resource allocation, which should be excluded when measuring R&D. These activities which do not have clear boundaries in support of R&D are listed below;

a) Education and Training of Personnel and Students

Postgraduate research including supervision of the research is considered to be R&D. The development of new teaching methods is also regarded as R&D. However, teaching and training students, using established methods and subject knowledge, is excluded.

b) Specialised Scientific and Technical Information Services

Specialised scientific and technical information services which are undertaken solely in support of R&D are regarded as R&D. Examples of these are scientific data collection, coding, recording, classification, dissemination, translation, analysis and bibliographic services.

These specialized services are excluded if they are undertaken independently and not solely in support of R&D.

c) General Purpose or Routine Data Collection

Collection data in support of R&D work is included in R&D. However, data collection of a general nature is excluded. This is normally carried out by government agencies to record natural, biological, economic or social phenomena of general public or government interest. Examples are national population censuses, surveys of unemployment, topographical mapping and routine geographical surveys or environmental surveys.

d) Maintenance of National Standards

Routine testing and analysis of materials, components, products, processes, soils, atmospheres, etc. for standard compliance is excluded from R&D.

e) Feasibility Studies

Feasibility studies undertaken in support of R&D are included. However, a feasibility study which involves gathering information about existing conditions, for use in deciding whether or not to implement a project, is excluded, e.g. a study to determine the viability of a petrochemical complex in a particular location.

f) Specialized Medical Care

R&D includes the development of new treatments and procedures, including such developments in conjunction with advanced medical care and examinations usually carried out by university hospitals.

g) Clinical Trials

Phase 1, 2 and 3 clinical trials are included in R&D. Phase 4 clinical trials are excluded form R&D, unless they bring about further scientific technological advance.

h) Patent and License work

Patent work connected directly with R&D projects in included in R&D. However, commercial, administrative and legal work associated with patenting, copywriting and licensing, is excluded.

i) Policy Related Studies

The boundary between certain policies related studies as described in the Frascati Manual and R&D is complex. In the Frascati Manual, policy related studies cover activities such as the ‘analysis and assessment of existing programmes, continued analysis and monitoring of external phenomena (e.g. defence and security analysis), legislative inquiry concerned with general government departmental policy or operations’. Rigour is required to separate policy related studies, which are not R&D from bona fide R&D policy work.

Studies to determine the effects of a specific national policy to a particular economic or social condition or social group have elements of R&D. Routine management studies or efficiency studies are excluded.

j) Marketing and Market Studies

Market research and opinion polls are excluded from R&D.

k) Mineral exploration

The development of new or vastly improved methods of data acquisition, processing and interpretation of data is included as R&D. Surveying undertaken as an integral part of an R&D project to observe geological phenomena is also regarded as R&D. However the search for minerals using existing methods is excluded from R&D.

k) Prototypes and Pilot Plants

The design, construction and testing of prototypes generally falls within the scope of R&D. However, trial production and copying of prototypes are excluded from R&D.

The construction and operation of pilot plants is part of R&D, provided this is used to obtain experience or new data for evaluating hypotheses.

Pilot plants are excluded as soon as the experimental phase is over or as soon as they are used as normal commercial production units even if they continue to be described as 'pilot plants'. If a pilot plant is used for combined operations, the component used for R&D is to be estimated.

Other activities, which are ancillary or consequential to R&D, are excluded. Examples of these are interpretative commentary using existing data, forecasting, operations research as a contribution to decision-making and the used of standard techniques in applied psychology to classify or diagnose human characteristics.

l) Types of Activity.

Three types of activity applicable to R&D are recognised in this classification:

  • Basic research (Pure Basic Research & Strategic Basic Research);
  • Applied Research; and
  • Experimental Development.

Pure basic research is experimental and theoretical work undertaken to acquire new knowledge without looking for long-term benefits other than the advancement of knowledge.

Strategic basic research is experimental and theoretical work undertaken to acquire new knowledge directed into specified broad areas in the expectation of new discoveries. It provides the broad base of knowledge necessary for the solution of recognized practical problems.

Applied research is also original work undertaken primarily to acquire new knowledge with a specific application in view. It is undertaken either to determine possible used for the findings of basic research or to determine new ways of achieving some specific and pre-determined objectives.

Experimental development is systematic work, using existing knowledge gained from research and/or practical experience, which is directed to producing new materials, products or devices, installing new processes, systems and services, or improving substantially those already produced or installed.