Graduate Students and Postdoctorates in Science and Engineering: Fall 2002

Appendix A: Technical Notes

Survey Universe top

The data collected in the 2002 Survey of Graduate Students and Postdoctorates in Science and Engineering[1] represent national estimates of graduate enrollment and postdoctoral employment as of fall 2002 in all academic institutions in the United States that granted doctorates or master's degrees in any science, engineering, or health-related field. The survey collects data for all branch campuses, affiliated research centers, and separately organized components, such as medical or dental schools, nursing schools, and schools of public health. The survey universe consisted of 715 reporting units (schools) at 594 graduate institutions: 234 reporting units at 234 master's-granting institutions, and 481 reporting units at 360 doctorate-granting institutions.

Data on graduate science and engineering (S&E) enrollment and postdoctoral appointees have been collected since 1966. From fall 1966 through fall 1971, the NSF Graduate Traineeship Program collected these data from a limited number of doctorate-granting institutions and requested data on only those S&E fields supported by NSF. The NSF Universities and Nonprofit Institutions Studies Group began collecting these data with the 1972 survey. Between 1972 and 1975, eligibility definitions were changed to include health-related fields and to increase the number of S&E fields surveyed, and the survey was broadened to include all institutions known to have programs leading to a master's or doctoral degree. Because of these changes, data for 1974 and earlier years are not comparable with 1975 and later data.

Table A-1 shows the number of institutions, reporting units, and departments at each level included in the data, as well as the total enrollment reported for each year between 1966 and 2002. The data for 1966–74 have not been inflated to reflect universe totals. Beginning with the fall 1984 academic year, the survey included master's-granting institutions on a sample basis. From 1984 through 1987, the survey design incorporated a stratified random sample with a certainty stratum that included all doctorate-granting institutions; all master's-granting, historically black colleges and universities; and all land-grant institutions. NSF divided the remaining master's-granting institutions into two sample strata based on enrollment size. In 1988 NSF reestimated data for sampled institutions for the years 1984–87 on the basis of 1983 and 1988 data. During the 1989 survey cycle, NSF revised the S&E field definitions, resulting in the deletion of some departments. NSF adjusted data for 1975–88 to conform to the revised definitions. The fall 1988 survey universe included for the first time since 1983 all eligible institutions, not just a sample. Since 1988 the survey universe has included any institution that has established an S&E and health-related master's or doctoral program and has excluded any that has closed all of its S&E graduate programs. (See Survey Methodology.)

Tables A-2 and A-3 present data on departmental coverage by S&E and health-related fields for doctorate- and master's-granting institutions for the years 1995–2002.

Survey Instruments top

The 2002 and 2001 survey instruments were essentially the same. The survey package included the questionnaire proper, with instructions, and the following:

Survey Methodology top

The contractor mailed the survey packages by 4 November 2002. For the fifth year, schools (reporting units) had the option of providing data using the NSF-NIH Graduate Student Survey Web-Based Data Reporting System, and 516 reporting units elected to do so. The survey universe consisted of 715 reporting units at 594 graduate institutions.

In addition to the verification information cited above, the acknowledgment postcard also requested that institutional coordinators indicate how the data were collected, whether the data were maintained centrally or collected from individual departments, and whether they were derived from a computerized database or were hand tabulated. Of the 715 reporting units, 98.5 percent have provided this information during the past 10 years. The majority of reporting units indicate a combination of sources for their data. Over the years, the use of computerized systems has shown a gradual but small increase.

Institutional coordinators review the departmental listing provided in the survey packet and indicate any changes in their departmental structure, such as departments newly formed, phased out, split, or merged; they check off any departments that had neither graduate students nor postdoctorates and for which survey questionnaires would therefore not be submitted. Institutional coordinators returned the revised Form 811s to the survey contractor for use as a checklist in tracking departmental responses.

Institutions completed a survey questionnaire for each department either centrally or at the department level and returned the questionnaire to the survey contractor for data entry, editing, and tabulation. The survey contractor referred arithmetic errors, inconsistencies between items, and sharp year-to-year fluctuations to the institutional coordinators for correction or clarification.

Response Rate top

Of the 715 reporting units included in the fall 2002 survey, 705 (98.6 percent) provided at least partial data, distributed as follows. The 705 reporting units represent, at the departmental level, 12,001 responding departments, or 99.0 percent of the 12,126 departments surveyed. Of these, 10,434 departments, or 86.0 percent of the total, provided complete responses. A total of 125 departments, or 1.0 percent of the departmental total, required complete imputation, and 1,567, or 12.9 percent, had one or more data cells imputed. Table A-4 presents the department response rates for earlier years for comparison.

The survey contractor imputed missing data for departments that provided partial responses using data from the previous year, where available, or from peer institutions if data had not been reported the previous year. The contractor imputed data for nonrespondent departments (those that did not provide any data) using data from the previous year, where available. Tables A-5 and A-6 show the number of departments in doctorate- and master's-granting institutions that required total or partial imputation, graduate enrollment and post-doctorates imputed, and imputation rates. Table A-7 provides imputation rates by data item.

Changes in Data Items top

Over time, changes have been made to the content of the survey to keep it relevant to the needs of the data users. Such changes prevent precise maintenance of trend data. Therefore, some data items are not available for all institutions in all years. Major changes in the data collected are listed below by the year the changes became effective.

These changes are also not reflected in the 2002 published tables. In each of the 4 years of collecting these data, only about 8 percent of the departments reported data in any of the new categories. For this year's table production, as in the previous 3 years, the data reported in the new categories are combined into previous survey categories. The data are combined for the tables as follows: the "Asian" category and the "Native Hawaiian/Pacific Islander" category form the Asian/Pacific Islander category; the "One Race Only Hispanic/Latino" category and the "More than One Race Hispanic/Latino" category form the "Hispanic" category; and the "More than One Race Non-Hispanic" category and the "Unknown" category form the "Other or Unknown" category.

Data Revisions top

List of Technical Tables top

Table Table Name Excel Spreadsheet (.xls) Portable Document Format  (.pdf)
A-1 The National Science Foundation data collection series: 1966–2002 .xls .pdf
A-2 Science, engineering, and health departments in doctorate-granting institutions, by detailed field: 1995–2002 .xls .pdf
A-3 Science, engineering, and health departments in master's-granting institutions, by detailed field: 1995–2002 .xls .pdf
A-4 Departmental response rates: 1975–2002 .xls .pdf
A-5 Imputation for nonresponse in doctorate-granting institutions, by field and graduate enrollment or postdoctoral status: 2000–02 .xls .pdf
A-6 Imputation for nonresponse in master's-granting institutions, by field and graduate enrollment or postdoctoral status: 2000–02 .xls .pdf
A-7 Imputation rates for all departments at all graduate institutions: Fall 2002 .xls .pdf
A-8 Comparison of graduate enrollment data as originally published and as modified through the fall 2002 graduate student survey cycle: 1975–2002 .xls .pdf


[1] See for a more detailed discussion of the methodology used in this survey.

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