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Measuring Return on Investment for Government Programs and Agencies

Program/Project Management Resource List #68

Revised Dec. 2010

"The same prudence which in private life would forbid our paying our own money for unexplained projects, forbids it in the dispensation of the public moneys." - Thomas Jefferson

Government agencies are among the major drivers in the American economy. It behooves them to demonstrate that their programs will benefit the citizens. However, some programs will have it easier than others: A program to fix storm-damaged lighthouses will have an easier time demonstrating its usefulness than a program for installing sculptures in city parks. Often, the intangible benefit to society from programs such as the latter is termed social return on investment. This webpage is a list of resources that will help the reader to measure the return of investment in government programs.

For information on how NASA's inventions and discoveries flow into America's economy as profitable products, please see Benefits of Space Exploration and Diffusion of Innovations. For information on how the return on investment in NASA programs has improved NASA's image, please see Public Opinion of the American Space Program. For information on the economic impact of NASA centers and other federal research centers, please see The Economic Impact of Federal Research and Development Facilities. You may also find useful material in our webpages on The Government Performance and Results Act and Measuring Organizational Effectiveness in Research and Development Organizations.

All items are available at the Headquarters Library, except as noted. NASA Headquarters employees and contractors: Call x0168 or email Library@hq.nasa.gov for information on borrowing or in-library use of any of these items. Members of the public: Contact your local library for the availability of these items. NASA Headquarters employees can request additional materials or research on this topic. The Library welcomes your comments or suggestions about this webpage.

Contents: Books E-books Articles and Reports Internet Resources


Olsen, Sara, and Jeremy Nicholls. A Framework for Approaches to SROI Analysis. San Francisco, CA: Social Venture Technology Group, 2005.
HHD60 .F736 O474 2005 PPM-STACKS
Phillips, Patricia Pulliam. The Bottomline on ROI: Basics, Benefits, and Barriers to Measuring Training and Performance Improvement. Silver Spring, MD: International Society for Performance Improvement, 2002.
HF5549.5 .T7 P43 2002 PPM-STACKS
__________. Measuring ROI in the Public Sector: Ten Case Studies From the Real World of Training. Alexandria, VA: ASTD, 2002.
JK718 .M43 2002 PPM-STACKS


All e-books listed here are available to NASA civil servants and contractors through the Books 24x7 service of SATERN.
Berman, Jeff. Maximizing Project Value: Defining, Managing, and Measuring for Optimal Return. AMACOM, 2007.
Carton, Robert B. and Charles W. Hofer. Measuring Organizational Performance: Metrics for Entrepreneurship and Strategic Management Research. Edward Elgar Publishing, 2006.
Kodukula, Prasad, and Chandra Papudesu. Project Valuation Using Real Options: A Practitioner’s Guide. J. Ross Publishing, 2006.
Phillips, Jack J. and Patricia Pulliam Phillips. Return on Investment (ROI) Basics. ASTD, 2005.
__________. Show Me the Money: How to Determine ROI in People, Projects, and Programs. Berrett-Koehler Publishers, 2007.
The e-books listed below are available to the general public through the National Academies Press.
Chemical Sciences Roundtable. Assessing the Value of Research in the Chemical Sciences, 1998.
Committee on Benefits of DOE R&D on Energy Efficiency and Fossil Energy. Energy Research at DOE: Was It Worth It? Energy Efficiency and Fossil Energy Research 1978 to 2000, 2001.
The e-book listed below is available to the general public through Rand.
Williams, Valerie L., Elisa Eiseman, Eric Landree, and David M. Adamson. Demonstrating and Communicating Research Impact: Preparing NIOSH Programs for External Review, 2009.

Articles and Reports

Acosta, Edmundo O., Wesley L. Nolden, II, and Thomas V. Gross. "A Useful Methodology for Cost-Benefit Evaluations of Cognitive Process Improvements in Complex C2 Endeavors", in: 13th International Command and Control Research and Technology Symposium, Seattle, WA, June 17-19, 2008.
(ADA486780: (Oct. 2008) DTIC)
Dumbacher, Daniel L. "An Extraordinary Year for Managing Technology", in: Conference on Aerospace and Space Science Technology Access Technology Across Indiana, Upland, IN, July 24, 2006.
(20060047575: (June 2007) NTRS)
Heher, A.D. "Return on Investment in Innovation: Implications for Institutions and National Agencies", The Journal of Technology Transfer, vol. XXXI, no. 4 (July 2006), p. 403-414.
Heng, Kwok Y. A Methodological Approach for Conducting a Business Case Analysis (BCA) of Zephyr Joint Capability Technology Demonstration (JCTD). Naval Postgraduate School, Monterey, CA, 2008.
(ADA494056: (Dec. 2008) DTIC)
Hertzfeld, Henry R. "Measuring the Economic Returns from Successful NASA Life Sciences Technology Transfers", The Journal of Technology Transfer, vol. XXVII, no. 4 (Dec. 2002), p. 311-320.
Lane, Julia. "Assessing the Impact of Science Funding", Science, vol. CCCXXIV, no. 5932 (June 5, 2009), p. 1273-1275.
Lane, Julia, and Stefano Bertuzzi. "Measuring the Results of Science Investments", Science, vol. CCCXXXI, no. 6018 (Feb. 11, 2011), p. 678-680.
Lee, R., et al. Estimating the Benefits of Government-Sponsored Energy R&D: Synthesis of Conference Discussions. R03-118572. Oak Ridge National Laboratory, Oak Ridge, TN, 2003.
(885698: (Nov. 2003) DOE Information Bridge)
Lingane, Alison, and Sara Olsen. "Guidelines for Social Return on Investment", California Management Review, vol. XLVI, no. 3 (Spring 2004), p. 116-135.
Link, Albert N., and John T. Scott. "Evaluating Public Sector R&D Programs: The Advanced Technology Program's Investment in Wavelength References for Optical Fiber Communications", The Journal of Technology Transfer, vol. XXX, no. 1-2 (Dec. 2004), p. 241-251.
Moore, M.C., D.J. Arent, and D. Norland. R&D Advancement, Technology Diffusion, and Impact on Evaluation of Public R&D. NREL/TP-620-37102. National Renewable Energy Laboratory, Golden, Co, Jan. 1, 2005.
(15011719: (Feb. 2008) DOE Information Bridge)
Tassey, Gregory. "Underinvestment in Public Good Technologies", The Journal of Technology Transfer, vol. XXX, no. 1-2 (Dec. 2004), p. 89-113.

Internet Resources

Public ROI-Advancing Return on Investment Analysis for Government IT. Center for Technology in Government. 2009. [Dec. 8, 2010].
R&D Dashboard. 2011 [Feb. 14, 2011]
REDF Tools. The Roberts Enterprise Development Fund. 2008 [Dec. 8, 2010]
The ROI Institute. 2010 [Dec. 8, 2010]
Social Venture Technology Group. 2010 [Dec. 8, 2010]
Tremper, Nadine. Office of the Chief Financial Officer. April 3, 2010 [Dec. 8, 2010].
Valuing What Matters. Programme Areas. New Economics Foundation. 2010 [Dec. 8, 2010]

Last Updated: Dec. 2010