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National Science Foundation National Center for Science and Engineering Statistics
Contents

General Notes

Data Tables

Appendix A. Technical Notes

Appendix B. Survey Materials

Suggested Citation, Acknowledgments



Kelly Kang,
Project Officer
(703) 292-7796
Human Resources Statistics Program

NCSES Home
Graduate Students and Postdoctorates in Science and Engineering: Fall 2009

 


Appendix A. Technical Notes

 

During the production of this report the America COMPETES Reauthorization Act of 2010 was signed into law. Section 505 of the bill renames the Division of Science Resources Statistics as the National Center for Science and Engineering Statistics (NCSES). The Center retains its reporting line to the Directorate for Social, Behavioral and Economic Sciences within the National Science Foundation. The new name signals the central role of NCSES in the collection, interpretation, analysis, and dissemination of objective data on the science and engineering enterprise.

Survey Universe

The Survey of Graduate Students and Postdoctorates in Science and Engineering (GSS) is an annual census of all known academic institutions in the United States that grant master's degrees or research doctorates in science and engineering (S&E) fields and in selected health fields.[1] The data collected in the 2009 GSS represent national estimates of graduate student enrollment and postdoctoral employment as of fall 2009.

In 2009 the survey universe consisted of 703 schools at 575 academic institutions: 493 schools at 366 doctorate-granting institutions, and 210 schools at 209 master's-granting institutions.[2] Data collected included demographic and funding information for graduate students and postdocs, as well as counts of doctorate-holding nonfaculty researchers, by sex.

Table A-1 shows the number of institutions, schools, and organizational units (e.g., departments, degree-granting programs), by degree level covered by the GSS, and shows estimated total annual enrollment in GSS-eligible fields between 1966 and 2009. Changes in the survey that affect comparability of these data are as follows:

  • 2007–09: In the 2007 survey cycle, three newly eligible fields were added, some degree-granting programs became ineligible, and others were reclassified. Data collected under this methodology since the 2007 survey cycle are not directly comparable with data from prior years. Tables in this report present data for 2007, the bridge year, in two ways. Data collected under the new methodology are shown as "2007new." For trend analysis, an estimate of 2007 data under the 2006 methodology is shown as "2007old."
  • 1975–2006: The data are intended to represent consistent coverage of S&E and selected health fields. In 1989 the National Science Foundation (NSF) revised the coverage of S&E fields in the survey. Some fields were excluded, and the data for 1975–88 subsequently were revised to reflect this change.
  • 1984–87: Data on master's-granting institutions were collected on a sample basis. Enrollment data for this period have been adjusted to account for the sampling and reflect estimated universe totals. Starting with the 1988 survey cycle, the GSS has attempted to cover all academic institutions that grant master's or doctoral degrees in S&E or selected health fields.
  • 1978: Master's granting institutions were not surveyed in 1978. Figures for 1978 for total enrollment and full-time enrollment in master's-granting institutions are estimates based on 1977 and 1979 data. Doctorate-granting institutions received a short form of the GSS that collected selected data items; the short form did not request any information on sex, citizenship, or mechanisms of support.
  • 1972–74: Eligibility definitions changed, affecting both S&E fields and types of institutions surveyed. These data are not comparable to data collected before 1972 or after 1974.
  • 1966–71: Totals are for the NSF Graduate Traineeship program only and are not comparable with data from 1972 through 2009.

Tables A-2 and A-3 show the number of units surveyed, by detailed field, in doctorate-granting and master's-granting institutions. Table A-4 shows the unit response rates from 1975 through 2009. Tables A-5 through A-12 show imputed data and/or imputation rates for different categories.

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Survey Instrument and Procedures

A Web survey system was the primary mode of 2009 data submission. The survey cycle was launched in October 2009 and concluded in May 2010.

The 2009 GSS Web survey consisted of two parts. Part 1 required the identification of organizational units ("units") within the reporting school. Part 1 could be completed only in the Web survey system.

Part 2 collected counts of graduate students, postdocs, and other doctorate-holding nonfaculty researchers. A paper worksheet was provided for preparing figures to later be entered in Part 2 of the Web survey. To assist with the transfer of information, the content and format of the data collection grid on the paper worksheet were identical to Part 2 of the Web survey. A small number of school coordinators chose to submit Part 2 data using the paper worksheet.

Institutions select a coordinator for each school that grants a graduate degree in an eligible field. School coordinators for the GSS are responsible for the following:

  • Identifying all eligible units (e.g., departments, degree-granting programs)
  • Reporting GSS data or delegating reporting to unit respondents, such as department personnel or personnel in nonacademic departments (e.g., the financial aid office or the registrar's office)
  • Submitting the data for all units to the GSS survey contractor
  • Providing data by field of study from administrative records

Revisions Affecting Survey Universe
The data collection methods, survey, and data products are unchanged from the 2008 survey cycle. However, the GSS underwent a redesign in the 2007 and 2008 survey cycles, as described below.

Units. The Web survey was redesigned in 2007 in an effort to include and appropriately classify all eligible units and to exclude ineligible units. See the Technical Notes section of the 2007 report for more detail.

Fields of study and degree-granting programs. In 2007 a comprehensive review of GSS eligible fields led to several changes to the classification scheme. GSS-eligible degree-granting programs were updated from the 1990 to the 2000 Classification of Instructional Programs (CIP) taxonomy of the National Center for Education Statistics (NCES). Degree-granting programs that had previously been represented by a four-digit CIP code are now represented at the six-digit level of specificity. Three newly eligible fields were added to the survey, some programs became ineligible, and others were reclassified. See the Technical Notes section of the 2007 report for more detail.

Due to these adjustments to the taxonomy and other methodological changes introduced in 2007, data collected since that year are not directly comparable with data from previous years. For trend analyses, the detailed statistical tables (DSTs) provide estimates of the counts that would have been collected in 2007 had the 2006 methodology been used (see "Bridge Year Calculation and Display," below).

Revisions to Instructions and Definitions
The definition for first-time graduate students was revised in 2008 to refer to students who were enrolled in the unit for the first time. The previous definition was "Graduate students enrolled for credit at the institution at which they are pursuing a graduate degree for the first time as of fall 2007. All other students should not be considered first-time students." A new definition was cognitively tested prior to its introduction in 2008: "Those students enrolled for credit in a graduate degree program in this organizational unit for the first time in fall 2008. This may include graduate students previously enrolled in another graduate degree program at your institution or at another institution. It may also include students that already hold another graduate or professional degree."

Due to the rise in online degree programs, NSF received a number of questions about how to treat students who were enrolled in an online degree program but were not U.S. citizens, permanent residents holding green cards, or foreign nationals holding temporary visas. A clarification was introduced in 2008 to exclude non–U.S. citizens residing outside the United States who are enrolled in an online degree program at a U.S. institution.

Students doing thesis or dissertation research away from a U.S. campus were included beginning with the 2008 survey. The instructions read, "Count all students enrolled in a U.S. institution for credit in a graduate degree program doing thesis or dissertation research work regardless of their location."

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Bridge-Year Data Calculation and Display

Due to the methodological changes introduced in 2007, including modifications to the set of GSS-eligible fields, most DSTs provide data for 2007 in two ways: "2007old" and "2007new." Data shown under 2007old provide estimates of the counts that would have been collected in 2007 had the 2006 methodology been used. Counts reported under 2007new were collected using the methodology introduced in 2007.

To derive counts for 2007old, all units that were reported in the 2006 data collection and retained in 2007 were assigned the same GSS field as in 2006. This is consistent with the 2006 GSS coding because the Web survey system before 2007 did not have a direct mechanism for changing GSS codes, and very little recoding was done. Any new unit added in 2007 was given the GSS field code assigned to it, with the following exceptions:

  • Added units coded as "communication," "family and consumer sciences/human sciences," or "multidisciplinary/interdisciplinary studies" were not included in 2007old because these codes were newly eligible science fields in 2007 (unavailable in 2006).
  • Added units coded as "architecture" in 2007 were reassigned to "civil engineering" in 2007old because "architecture" was subsumed within "civil engineering" in the 2006 GSS taxonomy.
  • Added units coded as "neuroscience" in 2007 were reassigned to "neurology" in 2007old because "neuroscience" was subsumed within "neurology" in the 2006 GSS taxonomy.

The 2007old counts are based on a subset of the 2007 data due to the first exception listed above. A comparison of 2007old with 2007new data reflects differences due to the addition of the three newly added science fields and recoding of units from their 2006 fields to other fields.

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Response Rates

The deadline for Part 1, the update of the unit list, was 30 November 2009. Schools that missed this Part 1 deadline received special attention from the survey contractor early in the survey cycle. The deadline for submitting data for Part 2 was 26 February 2010.

Units
The method for calculating the response rate for units for the 2007–09 survey cycles was different than the prior method. Some units that would have been considered complete respondents under the previous methodology are now more accurately classified as partial respondents. As in previous years, classification was based on responses to the survey's data collection grids (part-time and full-time graduate student counts, by race/ethnicity; full-time graduate student counts, by sources/mechanisms of support; and counts of postdocs and nonfaculty researchers). However, the criteria for classifying a unit's response were more stringent:

  • Units that required no imputation for any of the grids were counted as complete respondents.
  • Units that required partial imputation for any of the grids were considered partial respondents.
  • Units that required total imputation for all grids were counted as nonrespondents.

From 2004 through 2006 a unit was considered a complete respondent if it reported complete row and column totals in the data collection grids and a partial respondent if it reported only grand totals for these grids. Any unit that did not meet the requirements for complete or partial respondent status was considered a nonrespondent. Beginning in 2007, in order to receive complete response status, a unit needed complete row and column totals for all grids as well as all details summing to the totals. Units that had only complete row and column totals for all grids were counted as partial respondents. As in previous years, units that reported only grand totals for all tables were counted as partial respondents.

As in previous years, data-collection grids in the Web survey were prefilled with zeros. Prior to the 2007 survey cycle, prefilled zeros were considered legitimate responses if the grid was visited and left with all zeros in place. Beginning in 2007, a checkbox was placed above the grids on each of these screens. The respondent was required to check this box to acknowledge explicitly that the unit had no individuals to report for that particular grid, allowing true zeros to be distinguished from nonresponse for the grid. Grids with a marked checkbox, indicating no individuals to report, contributed to a complete response for the unit. Grids with unchanged, prefilled zeros and a blank checkbox disqualified the unit from complete response status.

Beginning in the 2007 survey cycle, an allowance was made for units that provided complete or partial data for at least one (but not all) of the grids. These units were counted as partial respondents.

These new response rate calculations adhere to American Association for Public Opinion Research standards for computing response rates.[3]

In 2009 the GSS received complete responses from 11,709 (88.1%) of the 13,285 eligible units. An additional 1,478 units (11.1%) were partial respondents. The remaining 98 units (0.7%) were nonrespondents.

Schools
The method used in 2009 to calculate school response rate was consistent with the approach used from 2004 through 2008. A school was considered a complete respondent if 90% or more of its units provided complete or partial data. A school's response was considered partial if at least 50% but less than 90% of its units provided complete or partial data. Schools for which less than 50% of the units provided data were deemed nonrespondents. Of the 703 eligible schools, 696 schools (99.0%) were complete respondents, 2 schools (0.3%) were partial respondents, and 5 schools (0.7%) were nonrespondents.

Institutions
Institutional response rates were calculated using the same thresholds for unit response used for schools. Of the 575 eligible institutions, 570 institutions (99.1%) were complete respondents, 1 institution (0.2%) was a partial respondent, and 4 institutions (0.7%) were nonrespondents.

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Coverage

New data collection procedures introduced in the 2007 survey cycle (see the Technical Notes section of the 2007 report) appear to have greatly improved inclusion of eligible units and exclusion of ineligible units. The number of unit additions increased over threefold from 2006 to 2007 and leveled off in 2008 (table 1). School coordinators added fewer units in 2009, but there were still almost twice as many units added as in 2006. The number of units deleted more than doubled from 2006 to 2007. Although the number of units deleted in 2008 and 2009 declined from the number deleted in 2007, school coordinators still removed significantly more units than in the 2006 survey cycle. The dramatic increase in the number of units added and deleted in the 2007–09 data collections suggests that there was underreporting of GSS-eligible units and overreporting of ineligible units in previous survey years.

TABLE 1. Unit list modifications: 2006–08.

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Retrieval and Editing

Data quality is ensured by interactive edit checks built into the Web survey and a comprehensive review after the data are submitted by the school coordinator. The Web survey checks that the counts provided are internally consistent and within an expected range based on the previous year's data. Unit respondents are asked to explain the discrepancy whenever counts are substantially different from the response provided in 2008.

Five types of postsubmission data quality checks were implemented in 2009 to identify questionable data for further review. These checks included changes to the unit list, changes to total counts, changes to the distribution of counts, identical counts, and counts inconsistent with the unit's status. Changes to the unit list included all unit additions and deletions and also changes to the highest degree granted status, GSS code, and unit name. Total count changes were reviewed if they were flagged by the survey instrument, were greater than five and went to/from zero, or were more than two standard deviations away from the mean change for that total. Significant changes to the distribution of counts by race/ethnicity, gender, or primary funding type were also reviewed, as were all cases where the responses provided in any given grid were unchanged from the previous survey cycle or identical to the data provided for a different grid or unit in the same school in the same survey cycle. Finally, data that were inconsistent with a unit's status were examined, such as when all full-time students were reported as first-time students for an extant unit or when graduate students were enumerated for a non-degree granting unit.

Data fluctuations that were not sufficiently explained by the comments provided by the respondents during data collection were flagged for follow-up by telephone call to the school coordinator. Revisions were made directly in the Web survey by the school coordinator, unit respondents, or GSS contractor staff at the direction of the school coordinator. The data collected in the 2009 survey cycle were subject to the most rigorous review to date, resulting in one or more revisions within 4.7% of all reported units (629 of 13,285) spread across 26.0% of all schools (183 of 703). These figures are approximately triple the comparable 2008 figures (1.4% of units and 9.2% of schools) and demonstrate that the 2009 data review and retrieval process was effective in uncovering and correcting errors within the GSS data. As a proportion of overall counts before imputation for nonresponse, the number of part-time students saw the largest change (–3.4%), followed by counts of doctorate-holding nonfaculty researchers (1.8%); first-time, full-time graduate students (–1.6%); and full-time graduate students (–1.4%). The total count of postdocs was relatively unaffected by retrieval (0.2%). See "Known or Suspected Sources of Nonsampling Error" below for a discussion of the types of measurement error detected in the 2009 data review and retrieval process.

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Item Nonresponse and Imputation

Of the 216 items collected in the four data collection grids in the 2009 GSS, the mean item nonresponse rate was 4.2%. The item nonresponse rates ranged from 1.0% for total number of full-time students and part-time students to 7.1% for the number of male postdocs whose largest mechanism of support is a federal research grant. All missing data were imputed.

Different imputation techniques were used for extant units and new units. For units with at least 1 year of reported or imputed data, a carry-forward imputation method was used. Inflation factors were calculated for four key totals to account for year-to-year change. The previous year's key totals were then multiplied by these inflation factors to calculate the imputed values for the current year's key totals. Finally, all other variables were imputed by distributing the imputed key totals according to the previous year's proportions. The same procedure was used in the 2008 imputations. In 2007 the carry-forward method was used only if the unit reported data within the previous 5 years. This condition was lifted in 2008 because simulations using the 2007 data revealed that the carry-forward method performed better than other methods, even if the previous data were reported over 20 years ago.

When no reported or imputed data existed for a unit in a prior survey cycle, a different approach was needed. For new units with reported totals but no details in 2009, a nearest neighbor imputation method was used. In this method a donor unit that was "nearest" to the unit whose data were being imputed (imputee) was identified among all responding units having similar characteristics as the imputee (such as having the same GSS code and offering a PhD degree). When graduate student details were being imputed, the nearest neighbor selected had full-time and part-time graduate enrollments that were most similar to the imputee's enrollments. When postdoc and doctorate-holding nonfaculty researcher details were being imputed, the total number of postdocs was used to choose the nearest neighbor. The imputed values were calculated by adjusting the donor's values to account for the difference in full-time and part-time enrollment totals between the two units.

In rare circumstances when no data were available from a new unit, Integrated Postsecondary Education Data System (IPEDS) completions and enrollment data were used to estimate graduate student totals and details. This approach was instituted with the 2008 survey cycle based on research that demonstrated its superiority over a nearest-neighbor method under these conditions. Because IPEDS does not collect data on postdocs and doctorate-holding nonfaculty researchers, a nearest neighbor was selected from the 2009 GSS data to estimate these counts.

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Known or Suspected Sources of Nonsampling Error

Review of the data, cognitive interviews, usability tests, pilot tests, site visits, and other methodological activities with the institutions have pointed to a number of possible sources of measurement error. These are discussed below, along with any steps taken to minimize the impact on the data, where applicable.

Data review and telephone interviews conducted with school coordinators have revealed overreporting of graduate students working toward practitioner degrees, particularly in health fields. Starting with the 2007 survey cycle, survey materials indicated that students pursuing master's, DDS, or MD degrees in 24 specified fields should be excluded. After the change in survey materials, school coordinators often provided a comment explaining that they were deleting a unit because the degrees it offers are practitioner based. This provides some indication that these procedures may have reduced reporting error. However, the data quality control process in 2009 indicated that some school coordinators were still reporting graduate students in practitioner-based degree programs. Many school coordinators revised downward the total count of graduate students in fields with degree exclusions, particularly among nursing units, after being contacted about questionable data. Systematic checks for this type of measurement error ensure that school coordinators are aware of the degree exclusions and are reporting data appropriately.

Data review and retrieval indicated that zeros reported by respondents sometimes represent nonresponse rather than actual zero counts. Not distinguishing between the two could result in low estimates, given that data for a given variable are not imputed when item nonresponse is misinterpreted as a zero response. In 2007 to distinguish zero-entered responses from true nonresponses, a checkbox was added for the respondent to confirm a zero entry. Although this helped to reduce substantially the number of ambiguous zero counts, counts for the subgroups still had similar problems. In 2008 the survey was revised to collect the subgroup counts directly, reducing such instances. In 2009 all remaining ambiguous zero counts were reviewed, and follow-up calls with respondents were made to clarify responses, as needed.

As a result of data review and retrieval, zeros for the total number of full-time students; first-time, full-time students; and doctorate-holding nonfaculty researchers were replaced with a positive count in approximately one-quarter of the instances identified as needing review (22.3%, 26.9%, 25.3%, respectively). Zero counts for part-time students and postdocs were also revised fairly often (12.5% and 17.0%, respectively). Although some instances of nonresponse zeros masquerading as reported zeros were rectified during data review and retrieval in the past, the increased rigor of the process in the 2009 survey cycle minimized this type of reporting error. Moreover, with further revisions to the Web survey in the 2010 survey cycle, most instances of ambiguous zeros will be eliminated.

Methodological research, data review and retrieval, and feedback from respondents indicated that graduate students' financial support data were difficult for respondents to report and, therefore, more prone to measurement error than other survey data. These data are difficult for school coordinators to collect accurately, because the information may not be stored in one centralized database for the institution. Also, types of financial support that are not channeled through the institution, such as self-support, may be underreported, and foreign sources of support are not always known. Respondents may also have difficulty categorizing financial information by field, such as when a student is enrolled in one unit but receives support from another. Finally, institutions define mechanisms of support differently (e.g., fellowships vs. traineeships) and may report students according to the institution's definition rather than the definition provided by the GSS.

Usability tests conducted with respondents in 2008 revealed that there had been some misreporting of race and ethnicity. This was due to the unclear format of the GSS race/ethnicity questions. The format reflected NSF's interpretation of the Office and Management and Budget's (OMB's) 1997 revision of its standards on collecting these data. In 1999 GSS began collecting data on Hispanics of one race separately from data on multiracial Hispanics, although this was not necessary for compliance with the revised OMB standards. The cognitive interviews revealed that black Hispanics and white Hispanics were sometimes counted in the "Hispanic—More than one race" category rather than in the appropriate "Only one race—Hispanic" category. In 2008 these two Hispanic categories were collapsed into one, "Hispanic/Latino ethnicity (one or more races)." Subsequent cognitive interviews indicated that the new grouping was easier for respondents to understand.

Increasing numbers of students are choosing not to report their race to their institution, leading to growth over time in the "Unknown/race not stated" GSS category. This leads to gradual declines in the proportion of students reported in some racial and ethnic groups. This is a trend that is not unique to GSS.

Interviews and usability tests with respondents have found that data on postdocs and doctorate-holding nonfaculty researchers are particularly challenging for some respondents to report. Many respondents indicate in the Web survey that they are unable to provide data on their unit's postdocs or doctorate-holding nonfaculty researchers. A pilot study was conducted to evaluate alternative procedures for collecting these data so that more complete and accurate data may be collected in the future. Starting with the 2010 survey cycle, schools will be given the option of appointing a separate postdoc coordinator who may be more knowledgeable about the postdocs or appointees at their school to provide these data.

Anecdotal evidence indicated some double counting may have occurred when an institution had more than one school coordinator or offered joint programs, although written instructions emphasized that each individual should be counted only once. In order to reduce double counting, facilitate interinstitution communication, and allow sharing of reported data, a screen in the Web survey provides names and contact information for all school coordinators at the institution.

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Changes in Eligibility and Degree-Granting Status

Institutions are classified as doctorate granting if at least one GSS-eligible unit confers doctoral degrees. Twelve institutions changed GSS degree-granting status in 2009. The status of five institutions or schools changed from eligible to ineligible, based on criteria for inclusion in the GSS (see "Survey Universe," above).

Status changed to doctorate-granting from master's-granting, 10 institutions:

• A. T. Still University of Health Sciences • Ithaca College
• Bloomsburg University of Pennsylvania • Kean University
• Bradley University • Marymount University
• Gannon University • University of Evansville
• Grand Valley State University • University of Wisconsin–LaCrosse

 

Status changed to master's-granting from doctorate-granting, 2 institutions:

• University of Northern Iowa • McNeese State University

 

Status changed from eligible to ineligible, 4 institutions/schools:

• California University of Pennsylvania • Spalding University
• John F. Kennedy University • University of Richmond

 

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Institution Name Changes and Mergers

Four institutions reported a name change in 2009:

2008 name 2009 name
Loyola College Loyola University of Maryland
New York Medical College School of Public Health New York Medical College–School of Sciences and Practice
Pacific Graduate School of Psychology Palo Alto University
Polytechnic University Polytechnic Institute of New York University

 

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Data Revisions

In 2007 the GSS discontinued the practice of revising previous years' data based on changes the institutions report in units' eligibility and institutions' doctorate-granting status in the current survey cycle. Previously, reported counts for a given year fluctuated with each annual report because the current year's eligibility and doctorate-granting status changes were applied retrospectively to all years in the DSTs. Except for table 68, counts in the 2009 DSTs for 2003–06 reflect eligibility and doctorate-granting status as of fall 2006; they have not been adjusted to reflect changes in status that may have occurred between fall 2006 and fall 2009.

Table 68 historically has listed and ranked each institution that was doctorate-granting in the current survey cycle, regardless of doctoral-degree-granting status or eligibility in previous years. These rules have been continued in 2009. Thus, in table 68, data in years 2003–08 are counts of graduate students in those institutions that were doctorate granting in 2009, and totals for 2003–08 in this table differ from totals for 2003–08 in other tables for doctorate-granting institutions in this report.

When requested by the institution, the GSS will replace imputed estimates with actual data, but only for the most recent prior survey cycle. No such requests were made in the 2009 survey cycle.

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Definitions

Data collected in 2009 included demographic and funding information for graduate students, postdocs, and doctorate-holding nonfaculty researchers. Definitions of key terms follow.

Enrollment Status
Full-time and part-time—Respondents were instructed to use their institution's definition.

First-time—Those students enrolled for credit in a graduate degree program in an organizational unit for the first time in fall 2009. This may include graduate students previously enrolled in another graduate degree program at the institution or at another institution. It may also include students who already hold another graduate or professional degree.

Race/Ethnicity
The GSS uses definitions of race/ethnicity that are based on the OMB's "Standards for the Classification of Federal Data on Race and Ethnicity":

American Indian or Alaska Native—A person having origins in any of the original peoples of North and South America (including Central America) and who maintains tribal affiliation or community attachment.

Asian—A person having origins in any of the original peoples of the Far East, Southeast Asia, or the Indian subcontinent, including, for example, Cambodia, China, India, Japan, Korea, Malaysia, Pakistan, the Philippine Islands, Thailand, and Vietnam.

Black or African American—A person having origins in any of the black racial groups of Africa.

Native Hawaiian or Other Pacific Islander—A person having origins in any of the original peoples of Hawaii, Guam, Samoa, or other Pacific islands.

White—A person having origins in any of the original peoples of Europe, the Middle East, or North Africa.

Hispanic or Latino[4]—A person of Cuban, Mexican, Puerto Rican, South or Central American, or other Spanish culture or origin, regardless of race.

Non-Hispanic/Latino, more than one race—Institutions report persons who indicate more than one race and are non-Hispanic into that category on the GSS form. The reports and DSTs combine multiracial non-Hispanics with those of unknown race because no more than 0.2% of graduate students are identified as such.

Although the survey forms began collecting Asian and Native Hawaiian/Other Pacific Islander data separately in 1999, reports and DSTs have continued to combine these categories as Asian/Other Pacific Islander because less than 0.5% of graduate students have been reported in the Native Hawaiian/Other Pacific Islander category.

From 1999 through 2007 the survey forms collected counts of Hispanics of one race separately from counts of Hispanics reporting two or more races. However, reports and DSTs in these years combined these data in a single Hispanic or Latino category because no more than 0.5% of graduate students were classified as multiracial Hispanics. In 2008 the survey forms combined these categories into a single Hispanic or Latino category.

Historically black colleges and universities (HBCUs)
Historically black colleges and universities (HBCUs)—Institutions of higher education that have been historically considered to enroll predominantly black students. An official list of HBCUs is maintained by the Department of Education. This list, which is reviewed annually, serves as the basis by which institutions are considered to have HBCU standing for the Graduate Student Survey.

Graduate Student Mechanisms of Support
Graduate fellowship—Any competitive award (often from a national competition) given to a student that requires no work of the recipient.

Graduate traineeship—An educational award given to a student selected by the institution.

Graduate research assistantship—An assistantship where most of the student's responsibilities are devoted to research.

Graduate teaching assistantship—An assistantship where most of the student's responsibilities are devoted to teaching.

Other types of support—All other mechanisms of support for full-time students, including self-supported students and members of the armed forces whose tuition is paid by the U.S. Department of Defense.

Postdoctoral Researchers (Postdocs)
Postdoc—An individual who meets both of the following qualifications:

(1) Holds a recent doctoral degree, generally awarded within the last 5 years, such as

  • PhD or equivalent (e.g., ScD or DEng)
  • First-professional degree in a medical or related field (MD, DDS, DO, or DVM)
  • Foreign equivalent to a U.S. doctoral degree

(2) Has a limited-term appointment, generally from 5 to 7 years,

  • Primarily for training in research or scholarship
  • Working under the supervision of a senior scholar in a unit affiliated with the institution

Mechanisms of Postdoc Support
Federal fellowship—Any competitive award from the U.S. government (often from a national competition) that requires no work of the recipient.

Federal traineeship—An educational award from the U.S. government given to a postdoc selected by the institution.

Federal research grant—A type of financial assistance award from the U.S. government to an organization or individual to conduct specific research activities.

Nonfederal support—Support from state and local government; the academic institution; foreign sources (e.g., foreign governments, foreign firms, and agencies of the United Nations); and other U.S. sources, such as support from nonprofit institutions, private industry, and all other nonfederal U.S. sources.

Doctorate-Holding Nonfaculty Researchers
Doctorate-Holding Nonfaculty Researchers—All doctorate-holding researchers who (a) are not considered either postdocs or members of the faculty and (b) are involved principally in S&E or health research activities.

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Historical Changes

Changes have been made to the coverage and content of the GSS to keep it relevant to the needs of 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 (with the year in which changes became effective) include the following:

Data Revisions

1988–2006 Retrospective revisions of estimates based on changes in unit eligibility began in 1988 and continued through 2006. Data for units no longer eligible were removed from the counts that were originally published from 1975 through 1988, and revised estimates were produced. These changes resulted in a reduction in total enrollments and social science enrollments for all years.
1992–2006 Starting in 1992, annual reporting was revised retrospectively to reflect the degree-granting status (master's or doctorate) of the institution responding to the current survey cycle. Over the years, a number of master's-granting institutions became doctorate-granting institutions and a few doctorate-granting institutions became master's-granting institutions. As a consequence, the enrollment data in these institutions were reclassified to reflect their degree-granting status as of the most recent survey cycle. This practice was discontinued in 2007.

Demographic Characteristics

Sex
1975 Master's-granting institutions were first requested to provide data on full-time graduate students by sex.
1977 Data on part-time graduate students by sex were collected from master's-granting institutions for the first time.
1978 Doctorate-granting institutions received a short form of GSS that collected selected data items, the short form did not request any information on sex, and 1978 figures in the DSTs represent estimates based on 1977 and 1979 data. Master's-granting institutions were not surveyed.
1979 Data on sex were requested for all graduate students at all institutions.
1993 GSS began collecting race/ethnicity data by sex.
2008 The GSS began collecting the number of first-time, full-time male graduate students by race/ethnicity; full-time male graduate students by source of support; male postdocs by source of support; and male doctorate-holding nonfaculty researchers. Previously, the number of men was inferred by subtracting the number of women from the total.
Race/ethnicity
1979 The GSS began collecting race/ethnicity data for full-time and part-time graduate students who were U.S. citizens as an optional data item; collection of this information became an official part of the GSS in 1980.
1992 The GSS began including permanent residents with the counts of U.S. citizens. Beginning in 1992, the race/ethnicity data collected for full-time and part-time graduate students include permanent residents.
1993 The GSS began collecting race/ethnicity data by sex.
1999 The GSS presented respondents with new race/ethnicity categories. The "Asian/Other Pacific Islander" category used in previous years' surveys became two categories: "Asian" and "Native Hawaiian/Other Pacific Islander." In addition, the survey included two new categories: "more than one race Hispanic/Latino" and "more than one race non-Hispanic/Latino." The 1999 survey excluded the "other" category that had been included in previous years' surveys.

Although new race/ethnicity categories were added in 1999, reports and DSTs combined the data into the previous categories because no more than 0.5% of graduate students were reported in the "Native Hawaiian/Other Pacific Islander" and the "more than one race" categories each year. Since 1999 data reported in the new categories have been combined as follows: the "Asian" and "Native Hawaiian/Other Pacific Islander" categories form the "Asian/Other Pacific Islander" category, the "one race only Hispanic/Latino" and "more than one race Hispanic/Latino" categories form the "Hispanic" category, and the "more than one race non-Hispanic/Latino" and "unknown or did not state" categories form the "other or unknown" category.
2008 The race/ethnicity categories were revised to correspond to IPEDS by combining the "Hispanic/Latino, one race only," and "Hispanic/Latino, more than one race," categories into "Hispanic/Latino (one or more races)."
Citizenship
1972–79 The GSS collected citizenship data for graduate students selectively in these years. These data are not included on the data file.
1977 The GSS began collecting citizenship data for postdocs.
1978 Doctorate-granting institutions received a short form of the GSS that did not collect any data on postdocs. Master's-granting institutions were not surveyed.
1980 Citizenship data were collected for all graduate students enrolled full-time. These data have been included on the data file since 1980.
1982 Citizenship data were collected for all graduate students enrolled part-time. These data have been included on the data file since 1982.
1992 GSS changed the definitions of foreign students and U.S. citizens to match those used by NCES. Starting in 1992, it began including permanent residents with the count of U.S. citizens instead of with the count of foreign students.
2008 GSS instructions to institutions were clarified to specifically exclude counting of non-U.S. citizens residing outside the United States who were enrolled in the institution's online degree program(s).

Enrollment Status

1975 Graduate institutions that granted only master's degrees were asked to provide estimates for the number of full- and part-time students.
1999 GSS began collecting data on first-time, full-time enrollment by race/ethnicity and sex; these citizenship data were first reported in 2000.

Graduate Student Support

1978 The GSS did not collect data on mechanisms of support but did collect data on sources of support for full-time students. Because actual mechanisms of support were unknown, data were reported only as "other." Master's-granting institutions were not surveyed.
1979 The GSS began collecting separate data on mechanisms of support for fellowships and traineeships. (Prior years had combined these mechanisms.)
1985 The GSS began collecting separate data on students receiving their primary support from the U.S. Department of Agriculture.
1996 The GSS began collecting separate data on students receiving their primary support from the National Aeronautics and Space Administration.
1999 The GSS began collecting separate data on students receiving their primary support from the U.S. Department of Energy.
2008 Data were no longer collected for National Institutes of Health (NIH) teaching assistantships because NIH does not offer financial support to graduate students through this mechanism.
2008 The GSS began collecting the number of full-time graduate students whose largest source of support came from a non-U.S. source via a teaching assistantship.

Instrument

1975–77 Data for master's-granting institutions were collected on an abbreviated form of the GSS (short form).
1978 Doctorate-granting institutions received a short form of the GSS collecting selected data items; master's-granting institutions were not surveyed. Figures for 1978 for total enrollment and full-time enrollment in master's-granting institutions are estimates based on 1977 and 1979 data.
1979 All graduate institutions were surveyed using the same form; the full-scale survey was resumed.
1998 The GSS made a Web-based reporting system available to school coordinators and departmental respondents.

Postdocs and Doctorate-Holding Nonfaculty Researchers

1972 The GSS began collecting sources and mechanisms of support for postdocs and/or research associates as one combined category.
1977 The GSS began collecting information on citizenship for postdocs and/or research associates.
1979 The GSS changed "research associates" to "nonfaculty research staff with doctorates" and began collecting separate data on postdocs and nonfaculty research staff. It also began collecting information by sex. At this time, the variable "sources of support, by mechanism of support" was collected only for postdocs; it was not collected for other nonfaculty research staff with doctorates.
1979 The GSS began collecting separate data on mechanisms of support for fellowships and traineeships. (Prior years had combined these mechanisms.)
1983 The GSS began collecting information on medical degree status.

Survey Universe

Institutions Surveyed
1966–71 Data were collected from a limited number of doctorate-granting institutions through the NSF Graduate Traineeship Program. Data are not comparable with data from 1972 through 2007.
1972–74 Beginning with the 1972 survey, NSF assigned this data collection effort to the Universities and Nonprofit Institutions Studies Group and gradually expanded the effort during 1972–74 to include all institutions known to have programs leading to a doctorate or master's degree. These data are not comparable to data collected before 1972 or after 1974. NSF has not inflated the data for 1966–74 to reflect universe totals.
1975 Graduate institutions that granted only master's degrees in science, engineering, and health fields were asked to provide estimates for the number of full- and part-time students and the number of postdocs or research associates.
1975–77 Data for master's-granting institutions were collected on an abbreviated form of the GSS (short form).
1978 Doctorate-granting institutions received a short form of the GSS collecting selected data items; master's-granting institutions were not surveyed. Figures for 1978 for total enrollment and full-time enrollment in master's-granting institutions are estimates based on 1977 and 1979 data.
1979 All graduate institutions were surveyed using the same form; the full-scale survey was resumed.
1984–87 The survey design was changed to 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. The remaining master's-granting institutions were divided into two sample strata, based on enrollment size. Enrollment data for 1984–87 have been adjusted to reflect universe totals.
1988 Surveying the entire eligible survey population was resumed for the first time since 1983. Since 1988 the GSS has attempted to cover all academic institutions that grant master's degrees or research doctorates in science, engineering, and selected health fields.
1992 The definition of medical schools was revised during the fall 1992 survey cycle to include only those institutional components that are members of the Association of American Medical Colleges (AAMC). Tables generated after the fall 1992 survey differ from their counterparts in earlier years in that they exclude schools of nursing, public health, dentistry, veterinary medicine, and other health-related disciplines, and they should not be compared with tables from earlier years.
2005 Due to Hurricane Katrina, data for Tulane University and Loyola University New Orleans were not included, and Louisiana State University (LSU) data are for the Graduate School (Baton Rouge) and Health Sciences Center (Shreveport) only; the two New Orleans campuses of LSU were closed. Data from these schools were not available and were not imputed.
2008 Three members of the AAMC were added to the GSS. These were Northeastern Ohio Universities Colleges of Medicine and Pharmacy, Universidad Central del Caribe School of Medicine, and University of Missouri–Kansas City School of Medicine.

GSS-Eligible Fields
1966–71 Data were collected only for S&E fields supported by NSF from a limited number of doctorate-granting institutions through the NSF Graduate Traineeship Program. NSF has made no attempt to inflate the data for 1966–71 to reflect universe totals.
1972–75 Beginning with the 1972 survey, NSF assigned this data collection effort to the Universities and Nonprofit Institutions Studies Group and gradually expanded the effort during the period 1972–75 to include additional S&E fields and selected health fields. Due to this expansion, data for 1974 and earlier years are not strictly comparable with data from 1975 and later. NSF has not inflated the data for 1972–74 to reflect universe totals.
1988 NSF reviewed and tightened the criteria for including departments in the survey universe. NSF considered those departments that were not primarily oriented toward granting research degrees as no longer meeting the definition of S&E. As a result of this review, NSF determined that a number of departments, especially in the field of "social sciences, not elsewhere classified," were engaged primarily in training teachers, practitioners, administrators, or managers rather than researchers; consequently NSF deleted these departments from the database. NSF continued this process throughout 1989–2006 and expanded it to ensure trend consistency for the entire period from 1975 through 2006. As a result of these changes, total enrollments and social science enrollments were reduced for all years.
2007 NSF reviewed and updated the classification scheme of GSS-eligible S&E and health fields. The new scheme was first used in the 2007 survey cycle. Three newly eligible fields were added, some degree-granting programs became ineligible, and others were reclassified. Practitioner-based fields were deemed ineligible.

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Data Availability

NSF's National Center for Science and Engineering Statistics (NCSES) releases the data from this survey annually in its Graduate Students and Postdoctorates in Science and Engineering InfoBrief and DSTs series. The information from this survey is also included in the publications Science and Engineering Indicators and Women, Minorities, and Persons with Disabilities in Science and Engineering. NSF includes selected data items from this survey for individual doctorate-granting institutions in the NCSES Academic Institutional Profiles series (http://www.nsf.gov/statistics/profiles/).

Data from this survey are available through the WebCASPAR data system. Public-use data files in Excel, SAS, and SPSS formats and the guide to the public-use data files are available for the years 1972–2009 at http://www.nsf.gov/statistics/srvygradpostdoc/pub_data.cfm.

The GSS public-use data structure was modified in the 2007 survey cycle. Significant changes include dropping the multirecord structure at the organizational unit level and combining all information associated with the organizational unit into a single-record-per-unit structure. Another notable addition is the inclusion of the IPEDS UNITID, which is a unique number for all postsecondary institutions to facilitate linkages to other data files. For more information, see the guide to public-use data files.

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Notes

[1] The research doctorate is a research degree that (1) requires an original contribution of knowledge to a field (typically, but not always, in the form of a written dissertation) and (2) is not primarily intended for the practice of a profession. For additional survey information and available data related to graduate student enrollment and postdocs in S&E, see http://www.nsf.gov/statistics/srvygradpostdoc/.

[2] In this report, the term "school" refers to a graduate school, medical school, dental school, nursing school, or school of public health; an affiliated research center; a branch campus; or any other organizational component within an academic institution that grants an S&E or selected health degree.

[3] See response rate 3 calculation, page 45, in American Association for Public Opinion Research (AAPOR). 2011. Standard Definitions: Final Dispositions of Case Codes and Outcome Rates for Surveys. 7th ed. AAPOR.

[4] The OMB standards treat Hispanics as an ethnic group rather than a racial group. Following these standards, "Hispanic" is not counted as a race in GSS. Cognitive interviews with respondents have revealed that this is a source of considerable confusion. For example, black Hispanics and white Hispanics may be counted as "Hispanic—More than one race" rather than "Only one race—Hispanic." In 2008 these two Hispanic categories were collapsed into one, "Hispanic/Latino ethnicity (one or more races)." The race/ethnicity categories were made to match IPEDS by combining the "Hispanic/Latino, more than one race" and "Hispanic/Latino, one race only" categories.

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Technical Tables


  Table Title Excel PDF
A-1 The NSF data collection series: 1966–2009 view Excel. view PDF.
A-2 Science, engineering, and health organizational units in doctorate-granting institutions, by detailed field: 2003–09 view Excel. view PDF.
A-3 Science, engineering, and health organizational units in master's-granting institutions, by detailed field: 2003–09 view Excel. view PDF.
A-4 Response rates for science, engineering, and health organizational units: 1975–2009 view Excel. view PDF.
A-5 Imputation for nonresponse in doctorate-granting institutions, by field and graduate enrollment or postdoctoral status: 2007–09 view Excel. view PDF.
A-6 Imputation for nonresponse in master's-granting institutions, by field and graduate enrollment or postdoctoral status: 2007–09 view Excel. view PDF.
A-7 Imputation rates of full-time graduate students in science, engineering, and health fields, by source and mechanism of support: 2009 view Excel. view PDF.
A-8 Imputed full-time graduate students in science, engineering, and health fields, by source and mechanism of support: 2009 view Excel. view PDF.
A-9 Imputation rates of graduate students in science, engineering, and health fields, by citizenship, race/ethnicity, enrollment status, and sex: 2009 view Excel. view PDF.
A-10 Imputed graduate students in science, engineering, and health fields, by citizenship, race/ethnicity, enrollment status, and sex: 2009 view Excel. view PDF.
A-11 Imputation rates of postdoctorates in science, engineering, and health fields, by source of support, and imputation rates of nonfaculty research staff with doctorates: 2009 view Excel. view PDF.
A-12 Imputed postdoctorates in science, engineering, and health fields, by source of support, and imputed nonfaculty research staff with doctorates: 2009 view Excel. view PDF.
 
Graduate Students and Postdoctorates in Science and Engineering: Fall 2009
Detailed Statistical Tables | NSF 12-300 | December 2011