Human Resources
NSF 95-304


Human Resources

Surveys of Individuals
Surveys of Employers
Industry
Federal Government
Universities and Colleges
Other Nonprofit Institutions

This National Patterns is the first to include revised U.S. data on scientists and engineers (S&Es) engaged in R&D activities. The national series consists of separate survey estimates of R&D S&Es employed in industry and in the Federal Government and of doctorate holding R&D S&Es employed in educational institutions and in nonprofit organizations. The industry series are for S&Es employed on a full time equivalent basis (defined below). Totals for the other sectors reflect the primary work activity of S&Es.

A variety of surveys and estimation techniques are used to gather information on the numbers and characteristics of persons engaged in science and engineering activities in all sectors of the economy. In general, two types of surveys are used in reporting worker inputs for R&D: surveys directed at individuals and surveys directed at employers.

Surveys of Individuals

These surveys (in this report, of scientists and engineers holding doctorate degrees) result in data on the primary work activities and demographic and economic characteristics of the respondents. In the survey of doctoral scientists and engineers, respondents are asked to report their primary work activity i.e., the activity on which they spend the largest proportion of their time, but that is not necessarily a full time activity. This survey is conducted only in odd numbered years. The latest tabulated data are available for 1991 and are summarized in table B-18. Details on survey methods, coverage, concepts, definitions, and reliability of the estimates associated with these S&E data are in Characteristics of Doctoral Scientists and Engineers in the United States: 1991 (NSF 94-307).

Surveys of Employers

These surveys generally are focused on the amount of time-in terms of person years devoted to the performance and management of R&D. In this report, data on the number of S&Es not just those holding doctoral degrees-employed by industry on an full time equivalent (FTE) basis in R&D are summarized in table B-32. For example, if each of two scientists/engineers spends 50 percent of the workday on R&D, the equivalent is one FTE R&D job.

Previously, the National Patterns provided national estimates of FTE R&D scientists and engineers. At one point, SRS had survey data for FTE estimates in all sectors of the economy. Currently, SRS collects such data only for the industrial sector. The last FTE R&D manpower survey of the academic sector was for 1985, and the last manpower survey of the nonprofit sector was for 1973, although a small telephone survey was conducted for 1983. The loss of such survey data had necessitated increased reliance on analytically derived figures (including the use of regression equations) that were based largely on estimating assumptions that could not be empirically tested for their continued validity. Consequently those estimated series are replaced here with survey counts of the number of doctorate holding S&Es who self report their primary work activity as R&D or R&D management. How well these head counts might approximate an FTE estimate is unknown. On the one hand, these head counts may provide an overestimate of FTE activity since many of the surveyed S&Es are not engaged in R&D full time even though it is their primary work activity. On the other hand, this approach may underestimate FTE R&D personnel since it does not account for S&Es engaged in R&D who do not hold a doctorate degree. Sources for the revised estimates and comparison with the 1985 and 1989 figures published in National Patterns: 1992, are described and summarized in table A-6. For the total United States, the revised figures for 1989 (924,200) are 3 percent lower than previously reported (949,300).

Industry . This is the only sector for which FTE R&D S&E survey estimates are available. Firms report (Industry R&D) FTE employment levels for January of each year, and a simple 2 year moving average is used for the national R&D S&E series. For example, the total reported for 1989 (733,000) is the average of the level reported by firms for January 1989 and January 1990. Except for minor data revisions resulting from the inclusion of wedged statistics, the industry totals reported here do not differ from those reported previously. As detailed above for the industry expenditure data, improvements in the sample design for 1991 and later years resulted in data that now better reflect R&D performance among firms in the nonmanufacturing industries and small firms in all industries.

Federal Government . For the Federal sector, survey data on civilian scientists and engineers are collected annually (Federal Scientists and Engineers, NSF 89-322). The estimates are compiled from the U.S. Office of Personnel Management's (OPM's) Central Personnel Data File on all white collar civilian jobs and are reported in terms of primary work activities. Scientists or engineers are included in the National Patterns totals if their primary work activity is research or development. These head counts exclude (1) military personnel (but include civilian S&Es employed in defense agencies) and (2) Federal employees classified in a management occupational code, even if they manage an R&D program. The earliest year for which these OPM statistics have been compiled is 1985. Data for 1985-89 published in the previous National Patterns included estimates for R&D managers, which estimates are no longer included in the Federal totals. For years prior to 1985, the figures reported were based on NSF surveys since discontinued.

Universities and Colleges . For the academic sector two series are reported: doctoral scientists and engineers and graduate students doing research. The head counts for research students are from the Survey of Graduate Students and Postdoctorates in Science and Engineering and are for full time science and engineering graduate students in all institutions whose major financial support is research assistantships. In this revised series FTE estimates are derived assuming a 50 percent workload (or working half time on R&D), whereas previously a 47 percent workload assumption was used.

Academic institutions were previously surveyed for estimates of FTE R&D S&Es; however, 1985 is the most recent year for which this survey was conducted. Since then the academic estimates published in National Patterns were derived, usually, from a regression of the 1975-85 academic FTE survey data on (1) academic R&D expenditures and (2) the number of academic doctoral S&Es who reported R&D as their primary work activity. The revised series directly utilizes reported employment levels from the Survey of Doctorate Recipients (SDR). The academic R&D employment totals are of doctoral scientists and engineers employed in all educational institutions who self report their primary work activity as "research," "development or design," or the "management or administration of R&D." No adjustments are made to derive full time equivalents. For 1989 the revised primary work activity total (83,500) is about 10 percent less than the FTE figure (93,700) last published in National Patterns. Since the doctoral data are collected only biennially, the revised national FTE series also are reported biennially.

NSF introduced a number of improvements into the 1991 SDR (for example, changes in the age based cohorts collected and in the definition of doctoral scientists and engineers) that may affect comparability with SDR data published for prior survey years. The academic S&E total for those reporting R&D as their primary work activity for 1989 is 83,500 and the total for 1991 is 74,600. Whether changes in the survey design or in actual employment patterns caused the academic R&D S&E decline is unknown. Users should consult the report, Characteristics of Doctoral Scientists and Engineers in the United States: 1991 (NSF 94-307) for more information on these methodological changes.

Other Nonprofit Institutions . The last survey of the nonprofit sector was for 1973. Since then the nonprofit estimates published in National Patterns generally were based on survey data from the early seventies and trends in the ratio of national R&D expenditures to FTE R&D S&Es. In the revised series nonprofit R&D employment levels are taken from the Survey of Doctorate Recipients. The figures are for doctoral scientists and engineers employed in nonprofit organizations who self report their primary work activity as "research," "development or design," or the "management or administration of R&D." No adjustments are made to derive full time equivalents. For 1989 the revised primary work activity total (9,200) is about 75 percent less than the FTE figure (34,500) last published in National Patterns. The effect on the Nation's total FTE estimate is about a 2.7 percent downward revision.

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