Chapter 5: Academic Research and Development

Doctoral Scientists and Engineers in Academia

The pursuit of new knowledge, the training of the people in whom that knowledge is embodied, and its use in generating innovation make academia a national resource whose vitality rests in the scientists and engineers who study and work there. Especially important are those with doctorates who do the research, teach and train the students, and stimulate or help to produce innovation.[19]

Employment and research activity at the leading research-performing universities in the United States merit special attention.[20] These institutions have a disproportionate influence on the nation's academic science, engineering, and R&D enterprise. Although they enroll only 22% of full-time undergraduates and award 32% of all bachelor's degrees, they award 39% of bachelor's degrees in S&E fields. Of U.S. S&E doctorate holders with a U.S. baccalaureate degree, research universities are the source of 55% of all of them and the source of more than 60% of those who are employed in academia and report R&D as their primary work activity. Moreover, these institutions conduct more than 80% of academic R&D (as measured by expenditures) and produce the bulk of both academic articles and patents. (See "Outputs of S&E Research: Articles and Patents" later in this chapter.)

Growth in academic employment over the past half century reflected both the need for teachers, driven by increasing enrollments, and an expanding research function, largely supported by federal funds. Trends in indicators related to research funding are presented earlier in this chapter. This section presents indicators about academic personnel. Unless otherwise indicated, the discussion is limited to those who received their S&E doctorate at a U.S. institution. Because of the complex interrelationship between academic teaching and research, much of the discussion deals with the overall academic employment of S&E doctorate holders, specifically, the relative balance between faculty and nonfaculty positions, demographic composition, faculty age structure, hiring of new doctorate holders, trends in work activities, and trends in federal support. The section also examines the academic research workforce: its definition and size; its deployment across institutions, positions, and fields; and the extent to which it is receiving federal support. Finally, a previously mentioned sidebar, "Has Academic R&D Shifted Toward More Applied Work?," briefly discusses whether a shift away from basic research toward more applied R&D activities has been occurring.

The main findings are a relative shift in the employment of S&E doctorate holders away from the academic sector toward other sectors; a slower increase in full-time faculty positions than in postdoc and other full- and part-time positions; a relative shift in hiring away from white males toward women and minorities; an increasing proportion of foreign-born faculty and postdocs; an aging academic doctoral labor force; a decline in the share of academic researchers who report receiving federal support; and growth of an academic researcher pool outside the regular faculty ranks.

Trends in Academic Employment of Doctoral Scientists and Engineers

Academic employment of S&E doctorate holders reached a record high of 258,300 in 2003.[21] However, long-term growth in the number of these positions between 1973 and 2003 was slower than in either business or government. Growth in the academic sector was also much slower between 1983 and 2003 than it was between 1973 and 1983 (table 5-4 table.). As a result, the share of all S&E doctorate holders employed in academia dropped from about 55% to 45% during the 1973–2003 period (table 5-5 table.). Beginning in the 1990s, the share of those with recently awarded degrees (that is, a degree awarded within 3 years of the survey year) employed in academia was generally substantially higher than the overall academic employment share for S&E doctorate holders, possibly reflecting the relatively large number of young doctorate holders in postdoc positions. In 2003, more than half of recent doctorate holders were employed in academia.

Academic Hiring

Employment growth over the past decade was much slower at the research universities than at other academic institutions. Appendix table 5-22 Excel table. breaks down academic employment by type of institution. From 1993 to 2003, doctoral S&E employment at research universities grew by 1.2% annually, whereas employment at other institutions increased by 2.6% annually. During the same period, employment increased slightly less rapidly at public universities and colleges than at their private counterparts (1.2% versus 1.4% a year) and employment at both public and private research universities grew much more slowly than overall employment (figure 5-18 figure.; table 5-4 table.; appendix table 5-23 Excel table.).

All Academic S&E Doctoral Employment

Trends in academic employment of S&E doctorate holders suggest continual movement away from the full-time faculty position as the academic norm. Overall academic employment of S&E doctorate holders grew from 118,000 in 1973 to 258,300 in 2003 (appendix table 5-24 Excel table.). However, during this period, full-time faculty positions increased more slowly than postdoc and other full- and part-time positions. This trend accelerated between 1993 and 2003, with the full-time faculty growth rate at less than two-thirds the overall growth rate (table 5-6 table.).

Figure 5-19 figure. shows the resulting distribution of academic employment of S&E doctorate holders. The overall faculty share was 75% of all academic employment in 2003, down from 87% in the early 1970s. The share of full-time senior faculty fell from just over 60% of total employment in 1993 to less than 55% in 2003. The share of junior faculty fluctuated between 18% and 21% between 1983 and 2003. These employment trends, particularly during the 1993–2003 period, occurred as real spending for academic R&D rose by two-thirds, retirement of faculty who were hired during the 1960s increased, academic hiring of young doctorate holders showed a modest rebound, and universities displayed greater interest in the practical application of academic research results (discussed later in this chapter).[22]

Nonfaculty ranks, that is, full- and part-time adjunct faculty, lecturers, research and teaching associates, administrators, and postdocs, increased from 41,400 in 1993 to 64,200 in 2003. This 55% increase stood in sharp contrast to the 13% rise in the number of full-time faculty. Both the full-time nonfaculty and part-time components grew rapidly between 1993 and 2003. Postdocs rose more slowly during this period and, in fact, actually declined after 1997 after quite substantial growth up to that year.[23] Part-time employees accounted for only a small share (between 2% and 4%) of all academic S&E doctoral employment throughout most of the period before rising to just above 5% in 2003 (appendix table 5-24 Excel table.).

Recent S&E Doctorate Holders

The trends discussed above reflect the entire academic workforce of S&E doctorate holders. Another picture of current trends can be found by looking at the academic employment patterns of those with recently awarded S&E doctorates (degrees earned at U.S. universities within 3 years of the survey year).

Recent S&E doctorate holders who entered academic employment at research universities were more likely to be in postdoc than in faculty positions (figure 5-20 figure.; appendix table 5-25 Excel table.). Between 1973 and 2003, the share of recent doctorate holders hired into full-time faculty positions fell by more than 40%, from 74% to 44%. The decline in such employment at research universities was slightly steeper, from 60% to 31%. Conversely, the overall share of recent S&E doctorate holders who reported being in postdoc positions rose from 13% to 34% (from 22% to 48% at research universities). However, after increasing throughout the 1990s, the share of recent S&E doctorate holders in postdoc positions reached its peak level in 1999, after which it declined overall and at research universities.

Young Doctorate Holders With a Track Record

For those employed in academia 4–7 years after earning their doctorates, the picture looks quite similar: about 65% had faculty rank in 2003, compared with about 89% in 1973. Before increasing slightly between 2001 and 2003, the trend had been continuing downward since 1991. A little more than half of these doctorate holders were in tenure-track positions in 2003, with about 13% already tenured. The shares of both those in tenure-track positions and those with tenure declined between 1991 and 2001 and increased in 2003. Whether or not the 2003 figures mark the beginning of a trend remains to be seen (figure 5-21 figure.). Trends at research universities were similar. However, at the research universities, the share of those in faculty, tenured, or tenure-track positions was much smaller than at other academic institutions (appendix table 5-25 Excel table.).

Shift in Employment

The relative shift toward nonfaculty employment affected almost every major S&E degree field. The share of all doctoral employment held by full-time faculty was lower in 2003 than in 1993 in every broad S&E field. However, in many of these fields, the relative shift toward nonfaculty positions appears to have slowed or leveled off toward the end of this period (appendix table 5-24 Excel table.).

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Retirement of S&E Doctoral Workforce

The trend toward relatively fewer full-time faculty and relatively more full-time nonfaculty and postdoc positions is especially noteworthy because academia is approaching a period of increasing retirements. In the 1960s, the number of institutions, students, and faculty in the United States expanded rapidly, bringing many young doctorate holders into academic faculty positions. This growth slowed sharply in the 1970s, and faculty hiring has since continued at a more modest pace. The result is that an increasing number and proportion of faculty are today reaching or nearing retirement age.[24]

The Age Discrimination in Employment Act of 1967 became fully applicable to universities and colleges in 1994.[25] It prohibits the forced retirement of faculty at any age, raising concerns about the potential ramifications of an aging professoriate. Sufficient data have now accumulated to allow examination of some of these concerns. Figure 5-22 figure. shows the age distribution of academic S&E doctorate holders, and figure 5-23 figure. displays the percentage that are age 60 or older.

The data indicate that until recently, individuals age 65 or older (and 70 years or older) constituted a growing share of the S&E doctorate holders employed in academia, suggesting that the Age Discrimination in Employment Act may in fact have had some impact on the age distribution of the professoriate. The data also show that the share of those ages 60–64 was rising well before the act became mandatory, leveled off in the early 1990s, and began to rise again after 1995, reaching just below 12% in 2003. A similar progression can be seen for those age 65 or older, who in 2003 made up over 5% of the research universities' full-time faculty and less than 4% of other institutions' full-time faculty. The employment share of those older than 70 also rose during most of the past three decades, reaching more than 1% of all S&E doctorate holders and all full-time faculty employed in academia in 2001 before dropping to just below 1% for both groups in 2003 (figure 5-23 figure.; appendix tables 5-26 Excel table. and 5-27 Excel table.).

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Increasing Role of Women and Minority Groups

Women and underrepresented minority groups constitute a pool of potential scientists and engineers that has not been fully tapped and that, in the case of underrepresented minorities, represents a growing share of U.S. youth, estimated to reach 36% of the college-age population by 2020 (see appendix table 2-4 Excel table.). An accumulating body of research points to the importance of role models and mentoring to student success in mathematics, science, and engineering, especially for women and underrepresented minorities.[26] Thus, the presence of women and underrepresented minorities among faculty on college campuses may be a factor in the recruitment of students from both groups to the S&E fields.


The academic employment of women with S&E doctorates rose sharply between 1973 and 2003, reflecting the increase in the proportion of women among recent S&E doctorate holders. The number of women with S&E doctorates in academia increased more than sevenfold during this period, from 10,700 in 1973 to an estimated 78,500 in 2003 (appendix table 5-28 Excel table.), as compared with about a 70% increase for men. This increase is reflected in the rising share of women among S&E doctorate holders in academic positions. In 2003, women constituted 30% of all academic S&E doctoral employment and just below 28% of full-time faculty, up from 9% and 7%, respectively, in 1973. Women made up a smaller share of total employment at research universities than at other academic institutions at both the beginning and end of this period, with the differential diminishing marginally throughout the period (table 5-7 table.). Compared with male faculty, female faculty remained relatively more heavily concentrated in the life sciences, social sciences, and psychology, with correspondingly lower shares in engineering, the physical sciences, and mathematics.

Women hold a larger share of junior faculty positions than positions at either the associate or full professor rank. However, their share of all three positions rose substantially between 1973 and 2003. In 2003, women constituted 18% of full professors, 31% of associate professors, and 40% of junior faculty, the latter roughly in line with their share of recently earned S&E doctorates[27] (figure 5-24 figure.; appendix table 5-28 Excel table.). These trends reflect the recent arrival of significant numbers of women doctorate holders in full-time academic faculty positions.

Underrepresented Minority Groups

The U.S. Census Bureau's demographic projections have long indicated an increasing prominence of minority groups among future college- and working-age populations. With the exception of Asians/Pacific Islanders, these groups tended to be less likely than whites to earn S&E degrees or work in S&E occupations.[28] Private and governmental groups have sought to broaden the participation of blacks, Hispanics, and American Indians/Alaska Natives in these fields, with many programs targeting their advanced training through the doctorate level.

The absolute rate of conferral of S&E doctorates on members of underrepresented minority groups has increased, as has academic employment; but taken together, blacks, Hispanics, and American Indians/Alaska Natives remain a small percentage of the S&E doctorate holders employed in academia (appendix table 5-29 Excel table.). Because the increases in hiring come from a very small base, these groups constituted only about 8% of both total academic employment and full-time faculty positions in 2003, up from about 2% in 1973. Underrepresented minorities constituted a smaller share of total employment at research universities than at other academic institutions throughout this period (table 5-7 table.). However, among recent doctorate holders, they represented almost 9% of total academic employment and nearly 12% of full-time faculty positions.

These trends are similar for all underrepresented minorities and for those who are U.S. citizens (figure 5-25 figure.). Compared with whites, blacks tended to be relatively concentrated in the social sciences and psychology and relatively less represented in the physical sciences; the earth, atmospheric, and ocean sciences; mathematics; and the life sciences. The field distribution of Hispanic degree holders is similar to that of white degree holders.

Asians/Pacific Islanders

Asians/Pacific Islanders more than tripled their employment share in the S&E academic doctoral workforce between 1973 and 2003, increasing from 4% to 13% (appendix table 5-29 Excel table.). However, a distinction needs to be made between those who are U.S. citizens and those who are not because the latter group constituted close to 40% of this group's doctorate holders in the academic S&E workforce in 2003.[29] The employment share of Asians/Pacific Islanders who are U.S. citizens grew from about 2% of the total academic S&E doctoral workforce in 1973 to just above 9% in 2003, a magnitude of growth similar to that of underrepresented minorities (figure 5-26 figure.). Asians/Pacific Islanders, whether or not they are U.S. citizens, represent a larger percentage of total employment at research universities than at other academic institutions (table 5-7 table.). Limiting the analysis to recent S&E doctorate holders leads to even more dramatic differences between Asians/Pacific Islanders who are U.S. citizens and those who are not. Whereas the Asian/Pacific Islander share of all recent S&E doctorate holders employed in academia rose from 5% in 1973 to almost 22% in 2003, the share of those who are U.S. citizens increased from 1% to 8% (figure 5-26 figure.).

Compared with whites, Asians/Pacific Islanders as a whole are more heavily represented in engineering and computer sciences and represented at very low levels in psychology and social sciences. This finding holds both for U.S. citizens and for all Asians/Pacific Islanders. In 2003, Asians/Pacific Islanders constituted 29% of academic doctoral computer scientists and more than 23% of engineers (appendix table 5-29 Excel table.)


The relative prominence of whites, particularly white males, in the academic S&E doctoral workforce diminished between 1973 and 2003 (figure 5-27 figure.). In 2003, whites constituted 79% of the academic doctoral S&E workforce, compared with 91% in 1973 (table 5-8 table.; appendix table 5-29 Excel table.). The share of white males declined from about 83% to about 55% during this period. The decline in the shares of whites and white males who recently received their doctorates was even greater, from 91% to 68% and from 80% to 38%, respectively. Part of the decline is due to the increasing roles played by women, underrepresented minorities, and Asians/Pacific Islanders. However, the decline in share is not the whole story. During the 1990s, the absolute number of white males in the academic doctoral S&E workforce who recently received their doctorates was virtually unchanged.

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Foreign-Born S&E Doctorate Holders

An increasing number and share (23%) of S&E doctorate holders who earned U.S. degrees and are employed at U.S. universities and colleges are foreign born (appendix table 5-30 Excel table.). Like other sectors of the economy, academia has long relied extensively on foreign talent among its faculty, students, and other professional employees. This reliance increased fairly steadily between 1973 and 2003. Figure 5-28 figure. divides holders of U.S. S&E doctorates employed in academic institutions into native-born and foreign-born individuals.[30] However, in addition to foreign-born individuals who hold S&E doctorates from U.S. institutions, U.S. universities and colleges also employ a substantial number of foreign-born holders of S&E doctorates awarded by foreign universities. Preliminary estimates from the 2003 National Survey of College Graduates indicate there are approximately 36,000 in the latter group, which would increase the share of foreign-born doctoral-level scientists and engineers employed at U.S. universities and colleges to closer to 33%. The following discussion is based on holders of U.S. doctorates only unless otherwise noted. More information on foreign-born doctorate holders working in the United States can be found in chapter 3.

Employment in higher education of foreign-born S&E doctorate holders has increased continuously, both in number and share, since the late 1970s. Academic employment of foreign-born S&E doctorate holders rose from an average of about 11% of the total in 1973 to 23% in 2003, with some fields, especially computer sciences (44%) and engineering (40%), reaching considerably higher proportions. In 2003, the overall percentage of foreign-born postdocs with S&E doctorates was 43%. The percentage in the physical sciences was 57% and in engineering, 63% (appendix table 5-30 Excel table.).[31]

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Size of Academic Research Workforce

The interconnectedness of research, teaching, and public service in academia makes it difficult to measure the size of the academic research workforce precisely.[32] For example, a researcher may be doing full-time research in a lab and report research as his or her only activity but mentor several graduate students, which many consider a form of teaching even though no classroom instruction is involved. Two estimates of the number of academic doctoral researchers are presented here: (1) a count of those who report that research is their primary work activity and (2) a higher count of those who report that research is either their primary or secondary work activity.[33]

Postdocs and those in nonfaculty positions are included in both estimates.[34] To provide a more complete measure of the number of individuals involved in research at academic institutions, a lower bound estimate of the number of full-time graduate students who support the academic research enterprise is included, based on those whose primary mechanism of support is a research assistantship (RA). This estimate excludes graduate students who rely on fellowships, traineeships, or teaching assistantships for their primary means of support as well as the nearly 40% who are primarily self-supporting. Many of these students are also likely to be involved in research activities during the course of their graduate education.[35]

Research as Primary Work Activity

The growth of academic researchers with S&E doctorates who report research as their primary work activity has been substantial, from 27,800 in 1973 to 102,900 in 2003 (appendix table 5-31 Excel table.). During this period, the number of those with teaching as their primary activity increased much less rapidly, from 73,300 to 105,900. Figure 5-29 figure. displays the resulting shifting proportions in the academic workforce. After many years of increase, the proportion of those reporting research as their primary activity began to level off in the mid-1990s, although it increased again in 2003. The drop in the proportion of those reporting teaching as their primary activity has been fairly continuous since the early 1990s.

The different disciplines have distinct patterns of relative emphasis on research, but the shapes of the overall trends are roughly the same. The life sciences stand out, with a much higher share identifying research as their primary activity and, correspondingly, a much lower share reporting teaching as their primary activity. Conversely, mathematics and the social sciences had the largest shares identifying teaching as their primary activity and the lowest shares reporting research as their primary activity (figure 5-30 figure.).

Research as Either Primary or Secondary Work Activity

The number of academic S&E doctorate holders reporting research as their primary or secondary work activity also showed greater growth than the number reporting teaching as their primary or secondary activity. The former group increased from 82,300 in 1973 to 178,700 in 2003, whereas the latter group increased from 94,900 to 160,000 (appendix table 5-32 Excel table.).[36]

The life sciences accounted for much of this trend, with researchers growing from 26,000 to 65,100 and teachers from about the same base (25,300) to 43,500. The other fields generally included fewer researchers than teachers in the 1970s and early 1980s, but this pattern reversed after that time in the physical sciences; the earth, atmospheric, and ocean sciences; and engineering.

Graduate Research Assistants

The close coupling of advanced training with hands-on research experience is a key strength of U.S. graduate education. To the count of S&E doctoral researchers for whom research is a primary or secondary work activity can be added an estimate of the number of S&E graduate students who are active in research. Among the almost 400,000 full-time S&E graduate students in 2003, many contributed significantly to the conduct of academic research.

Graduate RAs were the primary means of support for more than one-fourth of these students. Table 5-9 table., which shows the distribution of all full-time S&E graduate students and graduate research assistants (full-time graduate students whose primary mechanism of support is an RA) by field between 1973 and 2003, demonstrates that the number of research assistants has grown considerably faster than graduate enrollment, both overall and in most fields. In both graduate enrollment and the distribution of RAs, there was a shift away from the physical sciences and social sciences and into the life sciences, computer sciences, and engineering. In engineering and the physical sciences, the proportion of RAs was high relative to graduate enrollment. In the life sciences, the proportion of RAs relative to enrollment was more balanced, possibly reflecting the heavier reliance of these fields on postdoctoral researchers.

Adding graduate research assistants to the count of S&E doctoral researchers for whom research is either the primary or secondary activity yields a more complete lower bound measure of the number of individuals involved in academic research. As noted above, many more graduate students than those with an RA as their primary mechanism of support are carrying out research activities. In addition, more departments are involving undergraduate students in research. With these caveats, the estimated number of academic researchers in 2003 was approximately 293,000 (figure 5-31 figure.; appendix table 5-33 Excel table.). It is worth noting that in both computer sciences and engineering, the number of graduate research assistants exceeded the number of doctoral researchers.

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Deployment of Academic Research Workforce

This section discusses the distribution of the academic research workforce across types of institutions, positions, and fields. It also examines differences in research intensity by looking at S&E doctorate holders involved in research activities relative to all S&E doctorate holders employed in academia.

Distribution Across Types of Academic Institutions

The majority of the research workforce is concentrated in the research universities. In 2003, the research universities employed 49% of all S&E doctorate holders in academic positions, 57% of those reporting research as their primary or secondary activity, and 71% of those reporting research as their primary activity, as well as 80% of S&E graduate students for whom an RA was the primary means of support (appendix table 5-34 Excel table.).

Over the years, however, the research universities' shares of both S&E doctorate holders reporting research as their primary or secondary activity and of graduate research assistants have declined. Table 5-10 table. provides a long-term overview of the changes in these institutional distributions. These changes are occurring at the same time that research universities' shares of total and federal expenditures for academic research are decreasing. Both trends indicate a growing research presence at institutions not traditionally classified as research universities.

Distribution Across Academic Positions

A pool of academic researchers outside the regular faculty ranks has grown over the years, as shown by the distribution of S&E doctorate holders reporting research as their primary or secondary activity across different types of academic positions: faculty, postdoctoral fellows, and all other types of appointments (table 5-11 table.; appendix table 5-35 Excel table.). The faculty share of researchers declined from about 88% in 1973 to about 77% in 2003 (approximately the same as the faculty share of all academic employment). For those reporting research as their primary activity, however, the faculty share changed little during this period. The overall decline in faculty share was offset by increases in the shares for both postdocs and those in other nonfaculty positions. Although there have been shifts in the shares of both postdocs and those in other nonfaculty positions during the 30-year period, their respective shares show little difference at the beginning and end of the period. For both those who report research as their primary or secondary activity and those who report it as their primary activity, most of the distributional change across types of academic positions occurred by the mid-1990s.

Distribution Across S&E Fields

Table 5-12 table. indicates that the distribution across fields of total academic S&E doctoral employment and those who report research as their primary or secondary activity are quite similar. However, the distribution of those who report research as their primary activity differs considerably from the other two distributions in several fields. Notably, it is greater in the life sciences and smaller in mathematics and the social sciences.

Research Intensity of Academic Institutions

The number of academic S&E doctorate holders reporting research as their primary or secondary activity relative to all S&E doctoral employment declined between 1975 and 1977; was relatively constant at about 60% from the mid-1970s to the mid-1980s, when R&D funds grew relatively slowly; then rose again in 1987 to about 74%; dropped to about 70% in 1993; and remained relatively constant at that level until 2003 (figure 5-32 figure.; appendix table 5-36 Excel table.). On the other hand, the corresponding proportion of S&E doctorate holders in academia who reported research as their primary activity experienced a long-term upward trend from the mid-1970s through 2003, increasing from about 23% of total employment to about 40%. The latter trend is fairly similar for each of the broad S&E fields except the computer sciences, which is a new field relative to the others (table 5-13 table.). These data may indicate a growing emphasis on the research function in academia. However, since the two researcher measures tell somewhat different stories, the reader is cautioned that they are suggestive rather than definitive.

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Government Support of Academic Doctoral Researchers

Academic researchers rely on the federal government for a significant share (about 60%) of their overall research support. The institutional and field distributions of these funds are well documented, but little is known about their distribution among researchers. This section presents data from reports by S&E doctorate holders in academia about the presence or absence of federal support for their work. However, nothing is known about the magnitude of these funds to individual researchers. (See sidebar, "Interpreting Federal Support Data.")

Appendix table 5-37 Excel table. shows the percentage of academic S&E doctorate holders who received federal support for their work during the period 1973–2003, broken out by field. The analysis examines the overall pool of doctoral S&E researchers as well as young doctorate holders, for whom support may be especially critical in establishing a productive research career.

Academic Scientists and Engineers Who Receive Federal Support

In 2003, 46% of all S&E doctorate holders in academia, 72% of those for whom research was the primary activity, and 36% of those for whom research was a secondary activity reported federal government support (appendix table 5-37 Excel table.). As table 5-14 table. shows, for S&E as a whole and for each of the broad fields, the likelihood of receiving federal support in 2003 was either the same as in 1991 or lower.

The percentage of S&E doctorate holders in academia who received federal support differed greatly across the S&E fields. In 2003, this percentage ranged from about 63% in the earth, atmospheric, and ocean sciences to about 22% in the social sciences (table 5-14 table.; appendix table 5-37 Excel table.).

Full-time faculty received federal funding less frequently than other full-time doctoral employees, who, in turn, were supported less frequently than postdocs. In 2003, about 45% of full-time faculty, 48% of other full-time employees, and 78% of postdocs received federal support. As indicated earlier, these proportions were lower than those in 1991, but dropped less for full-time faculty than for postdocs or other full-time positions (appendix table 5-37 Excel table.). (See sidebar, "Has Academic R&D Shifted Toward More Applied Work?")

Federal Support of Young S&E Doctorate Holders in Academia

Early receipt of federal support is viewed as critical to launching a promising academic research career. The pattern of support for young researchers is similar to that of the overall academic S&E doctoral workforce: those in full-time faculty positions were less likely to receive federal support than those in postdoc or other full-time positions. However, for each of these three positions, the percentage reporting federal support in 2003 was higher for the overall academic S&E doctoral workforce than for those with recently earned doctorates (i.e., within 3 years of the survey) (appendix tables 5-37 Excel table. and 5-38 Excel table.).

In 2003, about 49% of those with recently earned doctorates received federal support, with 30% of those in full-time faculty positions and 45% of those in other full-time positions receiving support, compared with about 78% of those in postdoc positions (appendix table 5-38 Excel table.). As with all academic doctoral holders, younger researchers were less likely to report federal support in 2003 than in 1991. The share of postdocs receiving federal support was relatively low (below 70%) in some fields (e.g., the social sciences, psychology, and mathematics) and high (80% or more) in others (e.g., computer sciences; the life sciences; and the earth, atmospheric, and ocean sciences).

In 2003, young academics who had gained some experience (i.e., those who had received their doctorate 4–7 years earlier) were considerably more likely to receive federal support than those with recently earned doctorates. However, this group also was less likely to receive support in 2003 than in 1991 (table 5-15 table.; appendix tables 5-37 Excel table. and 5-38 Excel table.). It should be pointed out that the data provide no information about whether an individual reporting federal support is being supported as a principal investigator on a research project or is participating in a more dependent status rather than as an independent researcher.

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[19] Innovation is the generation of new or improved products, processes, and services. For more information, see chapter 6.

[20] This set of institutions constitutes the Carnegie Research I and II institutions, based on the 1994 classification. These institutions have a full range of baccalaureate programs, have a commitment to graduate education through the doctorate, award at least 50 doctoral degrees annually, and receive federal support of at least $15.5 million (1989–91 average); see Carnegie Foundation for the Advancement of Teaching (1994). The other Carnegie categories include doctorate-granting institutions, master's (comprehensive) universities and colleges; baccalaureate (liberal arts) colleges; 2-year community and junior colleges; and specialized schools such as engineering and technology, business and management, and medical and law schools. The classification has since been modified, but the older schema is more appropriate to the discussion presented here.

[21] The academic doctoral S&E workforce includes those with a doctorate in an S&E field in the following positions: full and associate professors (referred to as senior faculty ); assistant professors and instructors (referred to as junior faculty ); postdocs; other full-time positions such as lecturers, adjunct faculty, research and teaching associates, and administrators; and part-time positions of all kinds. Unless specifically noted, data on S&E doctorate holders refer to persons with an S&E doctorate from a U.S. institution, as surveyed biennially by NSF in the Survey of Doctorate Recipients. All numbers are estimates rounded to the nearest 100. The reader is cautioned that small estimates may be unreliable.

[22] It is impossible to establish causal connections among these developments with the data at hand.

[23] For more information on this subject, see the discussion of postdocs in chapter 3.

[24] See also the discussion of retirements from the S&E workforce in chapter 3.

[25] A 1986 amendment to the Age Discrimination in Employment Act of 1967 (Public Law 90-202) prohibited mandatory retirement on the basis of age for almost all workers. Higher education institutions were granted an exemption through 1993 that allowed termination of employees with unlimited tenure who had reached age 70.

[26] For more information about the effects of mentoring, see Diversity Works: The Emerging Picture of How Students Benefit (Smith et al. 1997).

[27] See chapter 2, "Doctoral Degrees by Sex."

[28] See chapter 2, "S&E Bachelor's Degrees by Race/Ethnicity."

[29] Both the number and share of Asian/Pacific Islander S&E doctorate recipients employed in academia are probably larger than is reported here because those who received S&E doctorates from universities outside the United States are not included in the analysis.

[30] In 2003, 58% of those who were foreign born were U.S. citizens.

[31] For a more thorough discussion of the role of foreign scientists and engineers, including the possible impact of security policies set in place after September 11, 2001, see chapters 2 and 3.

[32] Public service includes activities established primarily to provide noninstructional services beneficial to individuals and groups external to the institution. These activities include community service programs and cooperative extension services.

[33] The survey question on which this analysis is based encompasses four separate items that are considered to be academic research: basic research, applied research, development, and design. In the following discussion, unless specifically stated otherwise, the term research refers to all four.

[34] For technical reasons, the postdoc number excludes holders of S&E doctorates awarded by foreign universities. Data from NSF's Survey of Graduate Students and Postdoctorates in Science and Engineering suggest that in 2003, the number of postdocs in U.S. academic institutions with doctorates from foreign institutions was approximately twice that of those with U.S. doctorates. Most of them could be expected to have research as their primary work activity.

[35] For a more detailed treatment of graduate education in general, including the mix of graduate support mechanisms and sources, see chapter 2.

[36] This measure was constructed slightly differently in the 1980s and in the 1990s, starting in 1993, and is not strictly comparable across these periods. Therefore, the crossing over of the two trends in the 1990s could reflect only a methodological difference. However, the very robust trend in the life sciences, in which researchers started outnumbering teachers much earlier, suggests that this methodological artifact cannot fully explain the observed trend. Individuals can be counted in both groups.

National Science Board.