Science and Engineering Doctorate Awards: 2003.

Technical Notes

Survey Overview top

The Survey of Earned Doctorates (SED) is designed to obtain data on the number and characteristics of individuals receiving research doctoral degrees from U.S. institutions. The results of the survey are used to assess trends in doctorate production. This information is vital for educational and labor force planners within the Federal Government and in academia. The survey has been completed by individuals receiving research doctorates since 1958. The graduate schools are responsible for submitting completed forms and sending them to be compiled in the Doctorate Records File (DRF).

Key variables of the survey include:

Academic institution attended
Citizenship status at graduation
Country of birth
Country of citizenship
Date of birth
Disability status
Educational attainment of parents
Educational history after high school
Field of degree specialty (N = 287)
Field of employment
Field of science and engineering
Level of degree
Marital status
Number of dependents
Place of birth
Postgraduate plans
Primary type of financial support
Race and Hispanic ethnicity (by subgroup)
Type of academic institution that conferred degrees
Type of employment planned
Type of financial support (e.g., Fellowship, research assistantship)
Type of institutional control (public versus private)
Work activity planned after doctoral degree

The race and ethnicity questions on the survey form were revised in 2001. To maintain time series in this report, as was done in the two previous reports, data in the new categories were combined into the pre-2001 categories for table production. For the years 2001 and later, the data in the "Asian" category were combined with those in the "Native Hawaiian/Pacific Islander" category; data in the "Cuban" category were combined with those in the "Other Hispanic" category; and multiple racial/ethnic response data were combined with the unknown racial/ethnic responses.

A complete questionnaire is contained in the next section.

Data Collection top

The population for the 2003 survey consisted of all individuals who received research doctorates (only first doctorates are included) from U.S. academic institutions in the 12-month period ending on June 30, 2003. The total universe consisted of 40,710 persons in over 400 institutions that conferred research doctorate awards in 2003.

Survey instruments were mailed to institutional coordinators in the graduate schools who distributed the survey forms to individuals receiving a research doctorate. The institutional coordinators also collected the forms and returned them to the contractor for editing/processing. Followup of missing critical items and forms is also conducted.

Because the survey collects a complete college education history, coding of institutions is very important. One-third of doctorate recipients from U.S. universities are from foreign countries, therefore a coding manual for foreign institutions of higher education was developed by the U.S. Department of Education, entitled "Mapping the World of Education: The Comparative Database System" (3 Volumes).

The survey was conducted by the National Research Council of the National Academy of Sciences under contract to the National Science Foundation until 1997; the National Opinion Research Center (Chicago, IL) currently conducts the survey under contract to the National Science Foundation.

Nonresponse top

Of the 40,710 new research doctorates granted in 2003, 91.3 percent of degree recipients returned their completed survey instruments. Limited records (containing field of study, doctorate institution, and sex) for nonrespondents are constructed based on information collected from administrative lists of the university—commencement programs, graduation lists, and other similar public records. Nonresponse was concentrated in certain institutions; graduates from 10 institutions accounted for 29 percent of the total nonrespondents.

Item nonresponse rates in 2003 for the most frequently used variables ranged from 0.3 percent for sex to 7.3 percent for race/ethnicity. No imputation was performed for missing data items.

Key variable Item response rate
Sex 99.7%
Citizenship 94.9%
Country of non-U.S. citizens 94.5%
Race/ethnicity 93.5%
Postgraduation location (U.S. or foreign) 92.7%

A complete quality profile for the 2003 SED is available upon request. A complete list of methodological research concerning the Survey of Earned Doctorates is also available upon request.

Availability of Data top

The survey has collected information on doctoral recipients annually since 1957. More limited information is contained on the SED data file for research doctorate recipients from 1920 to 1956.

The data from this survey are published annually in detailed statistical tables in the series Science and Engineering Doctorate Awards, available on the SRS Web site at

These reports focus on science and engineering fields of study. (The list of how fields of study are grouped for this report is shown at the end of the Technical Notes.) Companion data from this survey for earlier years (1960–91) were published in detailed statistical tables in the report Science and Engineering Doctorates: 1960–91 (NSF 93-301). This report is out of print, but tables from it are available on request.

Information from the survey is also included in the report series, Science and Engineering Degrees; in Science and Engineering Indicators; in Women, Minorities, and Persons With Disabilities in Science and Engineering; and in special occasional publications such as Undergraduate Origins of Recent Science and Engineering Doctorate Recipients.

Results are also included in a publication series on all fields of study—Doctorate Recipients from United States Universities: Summary Report; this interagency report is sponsored by the Federal agencies that support the Survey of Earned Doctorates (six in 2003). The report is available on the Web at

Selected summary data from this survey are available on the SRS Web site and in the WebCASPAR database by institution. Access to restricted data for researchers interested in analyzing microdata can be arranged through a licensing agreement. Additional information about this survey can be obtained by contacting:

Joan S. Burrelli
Acting Director, Doctorate Data Project
Human Resources Statistics Program
Division of Science Resources Statistics
National Science Foundation
4201 Wilson Boulevard, Suite 965
Arlington, VA 22230

Phone: (703) 292-7793

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