Science and Engineering Doctorate Awards: 2004.

Appendix A: 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. Graduate schools are responsible for submitting completed forms and for sending them to be compiled in the Doctorate Records File.

Key variables of the survey include:

Academic institution attended
Citizenship status at graduation
Country of birth
Country of citizenship
Birth year
Disability status
Educational attainment of parents
Educational history after high school
Field of degree specialty (N = 287)
Field of employment
Financial support (e.g., fellowship, research assistantship)
Kind of academic institution that conferred degree (e.g., Carnegie classification, size, public or private)
Kind of employment planned (e.g., postdoctoral appointment, employment sector)
Marital status
Number of dependents
Place of birth
Postgraduation plans
Race and Hispanic ethnicity (by subgroup)
Work activity planned after doctoral degree

The race and ethnicity questions on the survey form were revised in 2001. For the years 2001 and later, the data in the "Asian" category excludes the "Native Hawaiian/Pacific Islander" category; Native Hawaiians/Pacific Islanders are included in the "other/unknown" category; and multiple race/ethnicity response data were included in the other/unknown race/ethnicity response data. Data in the "Cuban" category were combined with those in the "other Hispanic" category.

Data Collection Top.

The population for the 2004 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 30 June 2004. The total universe consisted of 42,155 persons in over 400 institutions that conferred research doctorate awards in 2004.

Survey instruments were mailed to institutional coordinators in eligible graduate schools who then distributed the survey forms to individuals receiving a research doctorate. The institutional coordinators collected the forms and returned them to the contractor for editing and processing. The contractor also performed a follow-up if critical items or forms were missing.

Because the survey collects a complete college education history, and one-third of doctorate recipients from U.S. universities are from foreign countries, coding of institutions is very important. Institutional coding for the SED is done using a coding manual for foreign institutions of higher education developed by the U.S. Department of Education entitled Mapping the World of Education: The Comparative Database System.[1]

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

Nonresponse Top.

Of the 42,155 new research doctorates granted in academic year 2004, 90.8 percent of degree recipients returned their completed survey instruments. Limited records (containing field of study, doctoral 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 2004 for the most frequently used variables ranged from 0.2 percent for sex to 8.7 percent for postgraduation location. No imputation was performed for missing data items.

Key variable Item response rate (%)
Sex 99.8
Citizenship 93.8
Country of non-U.S. citizens 93.5
Race/ethnicity 93.5
Postgraduation location (U.S. or foreign) 91.3

A complete quality profile for the 2004 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 in the SED data file (Doctorate Records 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 NSF website at These reports focus on science and engineering fields of study. (A list showing how fields of study are grouped for this report is in appendix B.) 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; Science and Engineering Indicators; and Women, Minorities, and Persons With Disabilities in Science and Engineering; and in special occasional publications, such as Undergraduate Origins of Recent (1991–95) Science and Engineering Doctorate Recipients (NSF 96-334), all of which are available at

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 agencies in 2004). The report is available on the Web at Also new in 2006 is the publication of the interagency report entitled U.S. Doctorates in the 20th Century, which provides an overview of the development of the American system of doctoral education from 1900 to 1999.

Selected summary data from this survey are available by institution from the NSF WebCASPAR database at Access to restricted data for researchers interested in analyzing microdata can be arranged through a licensing agreement. For more information about this survey, contact

Susan T. Hill
Human Resources Statistics Program
Division of Science Resources Statistics
National Science Foundation
4201 Wilson Boulevard, Suite 965
Arlington, VA 22230
(703) 292-7790


[1] Hunt, E.S. 1994. Washington, DC: U.S. Department of Education; National Science Foundation. ISBN 0161452414.

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