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National Science Foundation National Center for Science and Engineering Statistics
Federal Scientists and Engineers: 2003–05


Appendix A. Technical Notes



This report presents data on the demographic and employment characteristics of scientists and engineers employed by the U.S. government during the years 2003 through 2005. This population consists of individuals in selected white-collar civilian occupational groups who hold at least a bachelor's degree.

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Data Sources

Data for Department of Defense (DOD) agencies are from the Defense Manpower Data Center (DMDC). Data for federal agencies that are not part of the DOD are from the Central Personnel Data File (CPDF) of the Office of Personnel Management (OPM).

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Agency Coverage

The CPDF does not contain information for the following federal civilian employees (these data are excluded from this report): members and employees of Congress; Architect of the Capitol; Botanic Gardens; Library of Congress; Government Accountability Office; Congressional Budget Office; John C. Stennis Center for Public Service Training and Development; Office of Compliance; U.S. Court of Appeals to Veterans Claims; Commission on Security and Cooperation in Europe; members and employees of the Judicial Branch; White House Office; Office of the Vice President; Office of Policy Development; Board of Governors of the Federal Reserve System; Panama Canal Commission; Central Intelligence Agency; National Security Agency; National Imagery and Mapping Agency; U.S. Postal Service; Postal Rate Commission; the Tennessee Valley Authority; Department of Homeland Security; and foreign nationals employed overseas.

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Occupation Coverage

For this report, scientists and engineers were classified by the major and minor occupational groups used by the Scientists and Engineers Statistical Data System (SESTAT) of the National Science Foundation (NSF) and further classified by the corresponding OPM occupational series for science and engineering (S&E) positions in the federal government. Appendix B provides a crosswalk listing the SESTAT occupational groups and the corresponding OPM federal occupational series and codes for S&E occupations.

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The following lists the work activities and their definitions that OPM uses in gathering information on the work activities of federal scientists and engineers:

  • Clinical practice, counseling, and ancillary medical services
  • Construction
  • Data collection, processing, and analysis
  • Design
  • Development
  • Installation, operations, and maintenance
  • Management
  • Natural resources operations
  • Planning
  • Production
  • Regulatory enforcement and licensing
  • Research
  • Research contracts and grants administration
  • Scientific and technical information
  • Standards and specifications
  • Teaching and training
  • Technical assistance and consulting
  • Testing and evaluation
  • Other, not elsewhere classified
Clinical practice, counseling, and ancillary medical services
The provision of direct clinical and related services to patients and clients, including examining, testing, diagnosis, treatment, therapy, casework, counseling, disability evaluation, and related patient care services.

The original erection, repair, and improvement of structures that provide shelter for people and activities, support transportation systems, and control natural resources. The work involves surveillance and control of construction operations carried out in-house or under federal grants, contracts, or loans through the following activities:

  1. Conducting site surveys.
  2. Reviewing and interpreting project plans and specifications.
  3. Making cost analyses and estimates.
  4. Laying out and scheduling operations.
  5. Investigating materials, methods, and construction problems.
  6. Negotiating with utilities, contractors, and agencies involved.
  7. Inspecting work in progress and completed work and final acceptance of completed work.
Data collection, processing, and analysis

The collection, processing, and analysis of general-purpose scientific data describing natural and social phenomena. General-purpose scientific data include newly gathered statistics, observations, instrument readings, measurements, specimens, and other facts obtained from such activities as statistical and field surveys, exploration, laboratory analyses, photogrammetry, and compilations of operating records for use by others. The following activities are involved:

  1. Determining data needs and data processing requirements.
  2. Planning, directing, and evaluating collection activities performed in-house or under contract.
  3. Designing overall processing plans and systems to handle, control, operate, manipulate, reduce, store, check, and retrieve data.
  4. Analyzing raw and processed data for validity and subject-matter interpretation.
  5. Providing analytic services, such as chemical analyses.
  6. Forecasting and projecting data conditions.
  7. Summarizing and presenting data for general use.

Excluded from this category are collection and analysis of data only for R&D projects and internal operating or administrative purposes, such as policy formulation or planning.


The planning, synthesis, and portrayal for purposes of fabrication or construction of structures, equipment, materials, facilities, devices, and processes that will perform useful functions or be suitable for certain duties. The work involves the following activities:

  1. Investigating, analyzing, and determining needs and design considerations.
  2. Planning, synthesizing, and proportioning the structure of mechanisms so that the result is achieved with safety and economy.
  3. Preparing design criteria, detailed designs, specifications, cost estimates, and operating instructions.
  4. Reviewing and evaluating design proposals and designs prepared by others including the management of architectural and engineering contracts. For present purposes, design in an R&D organization is the application of the known state of the art in the form of standard guidelines and references to prepare the detailed working plans and data required for fabrication, assembly, and production.

Systematic application of scientific knowledge directed toward the creation of new or substantially improved equipment, materials, instrumentation, devices, systems, mathematical models, processes, techniques, and procedures that will perform useful functions or be suitable for particular duties. The work involves the following activities:

  1. Establishing requirements for technical objectives and characteristics.
  2. Devising and evaluating concepts for design approaches, criteria, parameters, characteristics, and interrelationships.
  3. Experimenting, investigating, and testing to produce new data, mathematical models, methods of testing concepts; formulating design criteria; and measuring and predicting natural and social phenomena and performance.
  4. Designing and developing prototypes, breadboards, and engineering models, including the direction of their fabrication as required.
  5. Developing standards and test plans to assure reliability.
  6. Managing specific developments being executed in-house or under contract.

Like research, development advances the state of the art but is further characterized by the creation of specific end-items in the form of equipment or equipment systems (hardware development) and/or methodologies, mathematical models, procedures, and techniques (software development).

Installations, operations, and maintenance

The installation, assembly, integration, and assurance of the proper technical operation and functioning of systems, facilities, machinery, and equipment. The work involves the following activities:

  1. Analyzing operating and environmental conditions in order to provide design inputs and feedbacks and modifying designs as necessary to adapt them to actual environments.
  2. Developing and determining logistic requirements, documentation, technical plans, procedures, controls, and instructions.
  3. Equipping, supplying, and commissioning facilities.
  4. Analyzing performance and cost data and developing actual performance and cost-data requirements.
  5. Integrating equipment installation and operating schedules.
  6. Managing onsite an operating facility, such as a power plant, test range, mission control center, irrigation station, data acquisition station, or flight control station.
  7. Managing installation, operations, or maintenance contracts.

The direction and control of S&E programs in any one or combination of functions in a line or staff capacity with responsibilities that have a direct and substantial effect on the organizations and programs managed. The work involves decisions, actions, and recommendations that establish the basic content and character of the programs directed in terms of program objectives and priorities, program initiation and content, funding, and allocation of organizational resources.

This category is not intended to cover those primarily engaged in the supervision or monitoring of work carried out through contracts and grants or in contracts and grants administration. Such positions are coded to the appropriate function.

Natural resources operations

The development and utilization of federally owned lands and natural resources for the purposes of bringing current use into balance with natural processes of renewal to assure sustained yields to meet present and future public needs. Natural resources include land, air, and water, and their related products or uses, such as soil, minerals, timber, forage, wildlife, power, and recreation. The work involves implementing programs and projects to inventory, classify, utilize, improve, conserve, regulate, protect, sell, lease, exchange, or market natural resources. Resource operations as defined here are concerned with managing and conserving the land and resources in specified geographic areas.


The study and projection of present and future needs and the formulation of alternative policies and ways of meeting these needs for the utilization of land; natural, social, industrial, material, and manpower resources; physical facilities; and social and economic services and programs. The work involves the following activities:

  1. Gathering, compiling, analyzing, and evaluating data.
  2. Projecting needs and establishing goals.
  3. Developing single or alternative plans, policies, programs, and recommendations and measures of their economic, social, and political costs, benefits, and feasibility.
  4. Reevaluating progress to assure that objectives are realized in putting the plans into effect.

This category includes physical, economic, and social planning for land population centers and mission, policy, and program planning.


The fabrication and manufacture of structures, equipment, materials, machines, and devices. The work involves surveillance and control of production operations carried out in-house or under contract through the following activities:

  1. Planning, directing, controlling, inspecting, and evaluating production processes, equipment, and facilities.
  2. Refining designs to adapt them to production facilities and processes.
  3. Devising, applying, and monitoring procedures to measure and assure quality.
Regulatory enforcement and licensing

The application and enforcement of laws, rules, regulations, orders, and governmental agreements through inspection, investigation, surveillance, licensing, certification, and similar activities. The work includes activities such as the following:

  1. Licensing power plants and radio stations.
  2. Enforcing plant- or animal-disease eradication programs.
  3. Examining applications for patents.
  4. Inspecting operations for compliance with requirements.
  5. Approving utility rates and services.
  6. Investigating aircraft accidents.
  7. Allocating radio frequencies.
  8. Determining compliance with engineering aspects of federal tax laws.

Systematic, critical, intensive investigation directed toward the development of new or fuller scientific knowledge of the subject studied. It may be with or without reference to a specific application. The work involves theoretical, taxonomic, and experimental investigations or simulation of experiments and conditions for several purposes. The following list identifies these activities:

  1. Determining the nature, magnitude, and interrelationships of natural and social phenomena and processes.
  2. Creating and developing theoretical or experimental means of investigating such phenomena or processes.
  3. Developing the principles, criteria, methods, and a body of data of general applicability for use by others. Excluded from this research category is work concerned primarily with the administration and monitoring of research contracts and research grants.
Research contract and grant administration

The administration and monitoring of research contracts and research grants.

Scientific and technical information

Processing and disseminating published and unpublished technical documents and information on work to facilitate their use. The work involves developing and implementing information systems through numerous activities:

  1. Providing for the selection, acquisition, compilation, exchange, and storage of scientific and technical information.
  2. Cataloging, abstracting, and indexing information for retrieval and dissemination.
  3. Providing reference, literature search, and bibliographic services for information users.
  4. Interpreting, evaluating, and briefing on the significance and relevance of information.
  5. Disseminating information through briefings, technical publications, and other communications media.
  6. Classifying and declassifying technical information where use must be controlled in the national interest.
Standards and specifications

The preparation and determination of mandatory and/or voluntary standards including rules, regulations, and codes. Some of the purposes for which these standards are developed include the following:

  1. Drafting government codes and regulations.
  2. Assuring the acceptability, quality, and/or standardization of products, materials, and parts as required for design, production, purchasing, logistics, and documentation. The work involves the developing of performance criteria, test and inspection methods, and data for the application of the standards to technological products and services.
Teaching and training

The teaching of scientific and technical subjects; the education and training of scientific and technical personnel in-house and through programs consisting of fellowships, traineeships, and training grants; and the development of curriculums, training materials, and aids.

Technical assistance and consulting

The provision of scientific and technical expert assistance, consultation, and advice to other scientific personnel; foreign governments; government agencies at the federal, state, or local level; private industry; organized groups; and individuals. The work involves advising and promoting application of the results of research and specialized program knowledge.

Testing and evaluation

Testing of equipment, materials, devices, components, systems, and methodologies under controlled conditions, and the systematic evaluation of test data to determine the degree of compliance of the test item with predetermined criteria and requirements. This work is characterized by the development and application of test plans to be carried out in-house or under contract or grant, utilizing one or more of the following kinds of tests: physical measurement techniques; controlled laboratory, shop, and field (demonstration) trials; and simulated environmental techniques. Activities included in this category are as follows:

  1. Development testing to determine the suitability of the test item for use in its environment.
  2. Production and postproduction testing to determine operational readiness.
  3. Testing in regulatory programs to determine compliance with laws, regulations, and standards.
  4. Testing in the social sciences, using demonstration or experimental and control groups to determine the effectiveness of new methodologies or practices.
Other, not elsewhere classified

This category is to be used for the following positions:

  1. Those with highly specialized activities that are not covered in any of the other categories.
  2. Those of such generalized nature that a primary function cannot be identified.
  3. Trainee positions without functional assignments.

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Limitations of the Data

Federal white-collar employees were classified as scientists and engineers by examining the occupation definitions of federal occupational groups and series and determining whether those descriptions meet NSF criteria. General job series rather than individual job descriptions were examined and categorized; employees within these series or groups are not necessarily working as scientists and engineers or doing S&E work. Conversely, there are some occupations that have not been classified as S&E occupations. For example, patent examiners have not been included in S&E occupations, even though some of the employees within this occupation are trained as scientists and engineers. In prior years, data for all agencies included in this report were obtained from a single source, the CPDF; because data were obtained from two sources for this report (the DMDC and the CPDF), data may not be strictly comparable to that published in previous Federal Scientists and Engineers reports.

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Data Quality and Availability

For further information on data quality, survey methodology, and error analyses on the data provided to NSF by OPM, refer to FedScope at http://www.fedscope.opm.gov/datadefn/acpdf.asp.

The OPM website on federal civilian workforce statistics can be accessed at http://www.opm.gov/Statistics_Information_Instructions/. The DMDC website can be accessed at http://www.dmdc.osd.mil/. NSF data on federal scientists and engineers are available at http://www.nsf.gov/statistics/fedworkforce/.

Federal Scientists and Engineers: 2003–05
Detailed Statistical Tables | NSF 09-302 | December 2008