Doctoral Scientists and Engineers in Academia
- Trends in Academic Employment of Doctoral Scientists and Engineers
- The Aging Professoriate and Trends in Retirement
- Recent S&E Doctorate Holders
- Academic Researchers
- Government Support of Academic Doctoral Researchers
The role of research in U.S. universities is both to create new knowledge and to educate students who will become the future generations of researchers and teachers (Association of American Universities 2006). Doctoral scientists and engineers in academia, and in particular faculty in U.S. colleges and universities, are an important aspect of academic R&D, as they generally engage in both research and teaching. The focus of this section is on the research aspects of doctoral scientists and engineers in academia. Teaching aspects of faculty employment are more thoroughly covered in chapter 2.
This section examines trends in employment and research activity of doctoral scientists and engineers in U.S. universities and colleges, with special attention paid to faculty in research universities. Research universities have a disproportionate influence on the U.S. academic R&D enterprise. Research institutions, although few in number, are the leading producers of S&E bachelor’s, master’s, and doctoral degree recipients (see chapter 2) and the doctorate-granting source of more than three-quarters of faculty with S&E doctorates (NSF/SRS 2006). These institutions also conduct more than 80% of academic R&D (as measured by expenditures) and produce the bulk of both academic articles and patents (see section "Outputs of S&E Research: Articles and Patents" later in this chapter).
Trends in Academic Employment of Doctoral Scientists and Engineers
Academic employment of S&E doctorate holders reached a record high of 274,200 in 2006
All Academic S&E Doctoral Employment
Growth in academic employment was stronger for life scientists than for other scientists and engineers. In engineering and many other science fields, growth in academic employment slowed in the early 1990s, but increased from 1995 to 2006
Trends in academic employment of S&E doctorate holders suggest continual movement away from the full-time faculty position as the academic norm
Nonfaculty ranks (i.e., full- and part-time adjunct faculty, lecturers, research associates, administrators, and postdocs) increased from 41,400 in 1993 to 76,600 in 2006. This 85% increase stood in sharp contrast to the 15% rise in the number of full-time faculty. Both the full-time nonfaculty and part-time components grew between 1993 and 2006. The number of postdocs rose more slowly during most of this period, remaining at 16,000–19,000 from 1995 to 2003 before increasing to about 23,000 in 2006.
Public universities account for almost two-thirds of S&E doctorate holders employed in academic institutions and an even higher fraction of full-time S&E faculty. Within private research universities, postdocs make up a larger fraction of S&E doctorate holders (22%) than they do within public research universities (12%)
Women in the Academic Doctoral S&E Workforce
The academic employment of women with S&E doctorates rose sharply between 1973 and 2006, 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 eightfold during this period, from 10,700 in 1973 to an estimated 90,700 in 2006
This increase is reflected in the rising share of women among S&E doctorate holders in academic positions. In 2006, women constituted 33% of all academic S&E doctoral employment and 30% of full-time faculty, up from 9% and 7%, respectively, in 1973. Roughly similar percentages of male and female doctoral S&E faculty are employed in research institutions
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 2006. In 2006, women constituted 19% of full professors, 34% of associate professors, and 42% of junior faculty, the latter slightly higher than their share of recently earned S&E doctorates
Underrepresented Minorities in Academic Doctoral Workforce
The Census Bureau’s demographic projections have long indicated an increasing prominence of minority groups, especially Hispanics, 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. 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
Underrepresented minorities constituted a smaller share of total employment at research universities than at other academic institutions throughout this period
Asians/Pacific Islanders in Academic Doctoral S&E Workforce
Asians/Pacific Islanders more than tripled their employment share in the S&E academic doctoral workforce between 1973 and 2006, increasing from 4% to 14%
Compared with whites, Asians/Pacific Islanders 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 2006, Asians/Pacific Islanders constituted 29% of academic doctoral computer scientists and 27% of engineers
Whites in Academic Doctoral S&E Workforce
The relative prominence of whites, particularly white males, in the academic S&E doctoral workforce diminished between 1973 and 2006
Foreign-Born S&E Doctorate Holders
Much of the discussion in this chapter is of academic employment of S&E doctorate holders with U.S. doctorates. Because many foreign-born S&E doctorate holders in U.S. academic institutions did not earn their doctorate in the United States, the data in this section are taken from the Department of Education’s National Survey of Postsecondary Faculty, which, although it has a smaller sample size and thus less detail by field and other employment characteristics, has information on faculty with non-U.S. doctorates.
Full-time doctoral S&E faculty are increasingly foreign born. In 2003, 28% of all full-time doctoral S&E faculty and 33% of full-time doctoral faculty in research institutions in the United States were foreign born, up from 21% and 25%, respectively, in 1992
The Aging Professoriate and Trends in Retirement
From 1993 to 2003, retirement rates among doctoral scientists and engineers employed in academic institutions remained relatively stable, despite the application of the Age Discrimination in Employment Act of 1967 to colleges and universities in 1994.
Although retirement rates changed little, the age distribution of academic S&E doctorate holders has changed over the past several decades
Recent S&E Doctorate Holders
Trends in academic employment patterns of those with recently awarded S&E doctorates show a decrease in the share of recent doctorate holders in full-time faculty positions and an increase in postdocs
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 61% had faculty rank in 2006, compared with 89% in 1973
This section examines the number and characteristics of academic S&E doctorate holders for whom research is either a primary or secondary work activity. Note that estimates of the total number of academic researchers would include S&E faculty and postdocs as well as research assistants (see chapter 2,
Research as Either Primary or Secondary Work Activity
From 1973 to 2006, the number of academic S&E doctorate holders reporting research as their primary or secondary work activity showed greater growth than the number reporting teaching as their primary or secondary activity. The former group increased from 82,300 in 1973 to 184,400 in 2006, and the latter group increased from 94,900 to 164,000
The life sciences accounted for much of this trend, with researchers growing from 26,000 to 67,100 and teachers from about the same base (25,300) to 45,800
Relative to all S&E doctoral employment, the number of academic S&E doctorate holders reporting research as either their primary or secondary activity declined between 1973 and 1977; was relatively constant at about 60% from 1977 to 1985, when R&D funds grew relatively slowly; then rose again in 1987 to about 74%, dropped to about 70% in 1993, remained relatively constant at that level until 2003, and dropped slightly in 2006
Research universities employ about 43% of all S&E doctorate holders employed in academic institutions and more than half of those whose primary or secondary work activity is research. They also employ about 76% of S&E postdocs, almost all of whom have research as a primary or secondary work activity
Time Spent in Research
In 2003, full-time doctoral S&E instructional faculty spent about 27% of their time in research, 52% of their time teaching, and 20% of their time engaged in other activities. The average percentage of time spent in research did not change between 1992 and 2003, but the average percentage of time spent in teaching increased
The fraction of full-time doctoral S&E instructional faculty engaged primarily in research increased during the past decade
Government Support of Academic Doctoral Researchers
Academic researchers rely on the federal government for a substantial share (more than 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.")
Academic Scientists and Engineers Who Receive Federal Support
In 2006, 47% of all S&E doctorate holders in academia and 58% of those for whom research was a primary or secondary activity reported federal government support
The percentage of S&E doctorate holders in academia who received federal support differed greatly across the S&E fields. In 2006, this percentage ranged from about 58% in the life sciences and 56% in the physical sciences to 23% in the social sciences
Full-time faculty and other full-time doctoral employees received federal support less frequently than postdocs. In 2006, about 46% of full-time faculty, 47% of other full-time employees, and 71% 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
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. In 2006, S&E doctorate holders with recently earned doctorates (i.e., doctorates earned within 3 years of the survey) who were in full-time faculty positions were less likely to receive federal support than those in postdoc or other full-time positions
In 2006, about half of those with recently earned doctorates received federal support, with 30% of those in full-time faculty positions, 51% of those in other full-time positions, and 69% of those in postdoc positions
Among full-time faculty and postdocs in 2006, 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, those who had received their doctorate 4–7 years earlier were also less likely to receive support in 2006 than in 1991
 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 associates, and administrators; and part-time positions of all kinds. Academic employment is limited to those employed in 2-year or 4-year colleges or universities. 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.
 It is impossible to establish causal connections among these developments with the data at hand.
 These data include only U.S.-trained postdocs. The number of postdocs with temporary visas and presumed non-U.S. doctorates increased greatly in the 1990s. For data on trends in U.S.- and foreign-trained postdocs in U.S. academic institutions, see the discussion of postdocs in chapter 2. For more information on employment aspects of postdoctoral appointments, see the discussion of postdocs in chapter 3.
 The inclusion or exclusion of those on temporary and permanent visas has little impact on the analysis (see figure 5-20).
 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.
 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.
 This measure was constructed slightly differently in the 1980s and in the 1990s, starting in 1993, and is not strictly comparable across these periods. In the 1980s, the survey question asked the respondent to select the primary and secondary work activity from a list of activities. Beginning in 1993, respondents were asked on which activity they spent the most hours and on which they spent the second most hours. Therefore, the crossing over of the two trends between 1991 and 1993 could partly reflect a difference in methodology. However, the faster growth rate for researchers in both the 1973–91 and 1993–2006 periods means that changes in question wording cannot fully explain the observed trend. Because individuals may select both a primary and a secondary work activity, they can be counted in both groups.