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National Science Foundation National Center for Science and Engineering Statistics

General Notes

Data Tables

Appendix A. Technical Notes

Appendix B. Fields of Study

Appendix C. Survey Questionnaire

Suggested Citation, Acknowledgments

Susan T. Hill,
Project Officer
(703) 292-7790
Human Resources Statistics Program

S&E Doctorate Awards: 2005


Appendix A. Technical Notes


Survey Overview

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 the following:

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/other Pacific Islander" category; Native Hawaiians/other Pacific Islanders are included in the "other/unknown" category; and multiple race/ethnicity response data are included in the other/unknown race/ethnicity response data. Data in the "Cuban" category are combined with those in the "other Hispanic" category.

Data Collection

The population for the 2005 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 2005. The total universe consisted of 43,354 persons in over 400 institutions that conferred research doctorates in 2005.

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 survey 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, volume 1 (available at http://www.nsf.gov/statistics/mapping/).

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.


Of the 43,354 new research doctorates granted in academic year 2005, 92.1 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 26 percent of the total nonrespondents.

Item nonresponse rates in 2005 for the most frequently used variables ranged from 0.1 percent for sex to 7.4 percent for postgraduation location. No imputation was performed for missing data items.

Key variable Item response rate (%)
Sex 99.9
Citizenship 94.0
Country of citizenship of non-U.S. citizens 93.5
Race/ethnicity 93.5
Postgraduation location (U.S. or foreign) 92.6

A complete quality profile for the 2005 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

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 http://www.nsf.gov/statistics/doctorates/. 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 http://www.nsf.gov/statistics/.

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 2005). The report is available on the Web at http://www.norc.uchicago.edu/issues/docdata.htm. 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, available at http://www.nsf.gov/statistics/nsf06319/.

Selected summary data from this survey are available by institution from the NSF WebCASPAR database at http://webcaspar.nsf.gov. Access to restricted data for researchers interested in analyzing microdata can be arranged through a licensing agreement.

S&E Doctorate Awards: 2005
Detailed Statistical Tables | NSF 07-305 | December 2006