Graduate Students and Postdoctorates in Science and Engineering: Fall 2003.

Appendix A. Technical Notes

Survey Universe Top.

The data collected in the 2003 Survey of Graduate Students and Postdoctorates in Science and Engineering represent national estimates of graduate enrollment and postdoctoral employment as of fall 2003 in all U.S. academic institutions that granted doctorates or master's degrees in any science, engineering, or selected health-related field.[1] 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 712 reporting units (schools) at 591 graduate institutions: 226 reporting units at 226 master's-granting institutions, and 486 reporting units at 365 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 fall 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. In addition, the survey was broadened to include all institutions known to have programs leading to a master's or doctoral degree in science and engineering. 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 2003. The data for 1966–74 are not 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 institutions establishing S&E and selected health-related master's or doctoral programs and has excluded any that have closed all their 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 1996–2003.

Survey Instrument Top.

The 2002 and 2003 survey instruments are essentially the same. The survey instrument consists of two forms: Form 811, a list of departments provided in the previous survey cycle for the School Coordinator to update; and Form 812, a series of questions completed by the Departmental Coordinator that obtain counts of students and data on key characteristics of interest, such as race, sex, citizenship, and source of funding. In addition to the questionnaires, which include instructions, the survey package contains the following:

Since the 1998 survey, coordinators and departmental respondents have had the option of providing data using the NSF-NIH Graduate Student Survey Web-based Reporting system. In 2003, 595 of the reporting units elected to do so.

Survey Methodology Top.

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 712 reporting units, 99.6 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 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 712 reporting units included in the fall 2003 survey, 702 (98.6 percent) provided at least partial data. The 702 reporting units represent, at the departmental level, 12,052 responding departments, or 98.3 percent of the 12,261 departments surveyed.

Of the total departments surveyed, 10,343 departments (84.4 percent) provided a complete response, 1,709 (14.0 percent) had one or more data cells imputed, and 209 (1.7 percent) required complete imputation. 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 postdoctorates imputed, and imputation rates. Tables A-7 through A-9 provide imputation rates by specific data items.

Changes in Data Items Top.

Over time, changes have 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 and the year the changes became effective include the following:

Data Revisions Top.

During the fall 1988 survey cycle, a review of the survey universe and of the S&E definition resulted in the exclusion of those departments that were not primarily oriented toward granting research degrees. A number of departments—mostly those in the field of "Social sciences, not elsewhere classified"—were primarily engaged in training teachers, practitioners, administrators, or managers rather than researchers; thus, they were no longer eligible for the survey. During the 1989–2003 survey cycles this process continued, and adjustments were made to ensure trend consistency for the entire 1975–2003 period. These changes resulted in a reduction in total enrollments and social science enrollments for all years. Table A-10 shows the net effect on enrollment data of these adjustments over the years.

In fall 1992 an institution's previous year's data for highest S&E degree were changed to reflect the institution's highest S&E degree in the current year. This change resulted in a smaller decrease in enrollment at doctorate-granting institutions than at master's-granting institutions, given that over the years a number of master's-granting institutions had become doctorate granting institutions.

During the fall 1992 survey cycle, the definition of medical schools changed to include only those institutional components with membership in the Association of American Medical Colleges. Data collected before this change are not comparable with data collected after the fall 1992 survey.

List of Technical Tables top

Table Table Name Excel Spreadsheet (.xls) Portable Document Format  (.pdf)
A-1 The NSF data collection series: 1966–2003 .xls .pdf
A-2 Science, engineering, and health departments in doctorate-granting institutions, by detailed field: 1996–2003 .xls .pdf
A-3 Science, engineering, and health departments in master's-granting institutions, by detailed field: 1996–2003 .xls .pdf
A-4 Original departmental response rates: 1975–2003 .xls .pdf
A-5 Imputation for nonresponse in doctorate-granting institutions, by field and graduate enrollment or postdoctoral status: 2001–03 .xls .pdf
A-6 Imputation for nonresponse in master's-granting institutions, by field and graduate enrollment or postdoctoral status: 2001–03 .xls .pdf
A-7 Imputation rates of full-time graduate students at all graduate institutions, by source, mechanism of support, and sex: 2003 .xls .pdf
A-8 Imputation rates of all graduate students at all graduate institutions, by race/ethnicity, enrollment status, and sex: 2003 .xls .pdf
A-9 Imputation rates of S&E postdoctorates and nonfaculty research staff with doctorates at all graduate institutions: 2003 .xls .pdf
A-10 Comparison of graduate enrollment data as originally published and as modified through the fall 2003 graduate student survey cycle: 1975–2003 .xls .pdf


[1] See for additional survey information and for available data related to graduate students and postdoctorates in science and engineering.

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