S&E doctorate holders in academia influence the nation's academic R&D enterprise in two key ways. They work in institutions that conduct academic R&D and produce the bulk of academic articles and patents. Moreover, they teach individuals who then go on to earn S&E doctorates, many of whom will work in academia and contribute to academic R&D. The focus of this section is on the research aspects of the employment of doctoral scientists and engineers in academia.
This section examines trends in the doctoral S&E academic workforce in terms of its demographic composition and its deployment across institutions, positions, and fields. Particular attention is paid to the component of the academic workforce that is more focused on research, including graduate assistants, those employed in postdoctoral positions, and researchers receiving federal support.
The discussion in this section is limited to individuals, including foreign-born individuals, who received their S&E doctorate at a U.S. institution. (More than two-thirds of foreign-born doctorate holders employed in the United States earned their doctorate degree from a U.S. institution; see chapter 3 for more information on foreign-born doctorate holders working in the United States). Owing to the complex interrelationships among faculty and nonfaculty positions that jointly produce R&D outcomes, much of the discussion addresses the overall academic employment of S&E doctorate holders, including those in nonfaculty positions. At various points the characteristics of full-time faculty are discussed.
Academic employment of doctoral scientists and engineers grew over the past three decades and reached a record high of 272,800 in 2008, about the same as the employment numbers in 2006 (appendix table
The academic doctoral S&E workforce includes those with a doctorate in an S&E field and employed in the following positions: full and associate professors (referred to as "senior faculty"); assistant professors and instructors (referred to as "junior faculty"); postdoctoral researchers (referred to as "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.
Full-time faculty positions continue to be the norm in academic employment, but S&E doctorate holders are increasingly employed in other full-time positions, postdocs, and part-time positions (figure
The proportion of full-time faculty among S&E doctorate holders in higher education fell in all fields during 1973–2008, with the life sciences and psychology experiencing the largest relative declines. Growth in postdoc positions and other full-time positions accounted for the declining share of full-time faculty positions in the life sciences, whereas the growth in part-time and other full-time positions explained the drop in share of faculty positions in psychology (appendix table
Over the past three decades, growth in the number of life scientists with academic employment was consistently stronger than for doctorate holders in other S&E fields (figure
The number of women with S&E doctorates employed in academia grew from 10,700 in 1973 to 93,400 in 2008, more than an eightfold increase. In comparison, the number of male S&E doctorate holders increased 67% over the period, from 107,200 in 1973 to 179,400 in 2008 (appendix table
These differential rates of increase are reflected in the steadily rising share of women in the academic S&E workforce. Women constituted 34% of all academic S&E doctoral employment and 31% of full-time faculty in 2008, up from 9% and 7%, respectively, in 1973 (table
Compared with their male counterparts in the academic doctoral S&E workforce, women were more heavily concentrated in the fields of life sciences, social sciences, and psychology, with correspondingly lower shares in engineering, the physical sciences, mathematics, and computer sciences. Women's share of doctorate holders in each of these fields grew during the 1973–2008 period (appendix table
Although the number of academic S&E doctorate holders who are members of underrepresented minority groups (i.e., blacks, Hispanics, and American Indians/Alaska Natives) has increased over time, they remain a small percentage of the total (appendix table
Underrepresented minorities were concentrated in different degree fields and different types of institutions than whites. Compared with white S&E doctorate holders employed in academia, underrepresented minorities were relatively concentrated in the social sciences and relatively less represented in the physical sciences and the life sciences (appendix table
The share of Asians/Pacific Islanders employed in the S&E academic doctoral workforce grew dramatically over the past three decades, rising from 4% in 1973 to 14% in 2008. Asians/Pacific Islanders were heavily represented in engineering and computer sciences, where they constituted 27% and 35%, respectively, of the S&E academic doctoral workforce in 2008. Far smaller proportions of Asians/Pacific Islanders were present in social sciences (8%) and psychology (5%) (appendix table
Academia has long relied on foreign-born doctorate holders, many of them with doctorate degrees from U.S. universities, to staff faculty and other academic positions. No current information is available about the number of foreign-born individuals with foreign doctorates who are employed at U.S. universities and colleges. The following discussion is limited to foreign-born individuals with U.S. doctorates.
Academic employment of foreign-born U.S. S&E doctorate holders has increased continuously since the 1970s at a rate that has exceeded the growth in academic employment of U.S.-born S&E doctorate holders (figure
Of the 39,000 Asian/Pacific Islander doctorate holders employed in academia in 2008, 9% were native-born U.S. citizens, 44% were naturalized U.S. citizens, and 47% were noncitizens. In 2008, Asians/Pacific Islanders represented 50% of the foreign-born faculty employed full-time in the United States and 62% of the foreign-born doctorate holders with postdoc appointments. In contrast, only 1% of native-born full-time faculty and 5% of native-born postdocs were Asians/Pacific Islanders.
The interconnectedness of research, teaching, and public service activities in academia makes it difficult to assess the precise size and characteristics of the academic research workforce by examining the employment trends in academic positions, because individuals employed in the same position may be involved in research activities to differing degrees or not involved in research. Therefore, self-reported research involvement is a better measure than position title for gauging research activity. This section limits the analysis to "academic researchers"—academic S&E doctorate holders who reported that research is either their primary work activity (that is, the activity that occupies the most hours of their work time during a typical work week) or their secondary work activity (the activity that occupies the second most work hours per week).
From 1973 to 2008, the number of academic researchers grew from 82,300 in 1973 to 184,700 in 2008 (appendix table
A different picture emerges when only considering researchers who report research as their primary work activity. In contrast to the declining share of academic employees who reported research as their primary or secondary work activity, the share who reported research as their primary work activity steadily increased from 1973 to 2008 (figure
Among full-time doctoral S&E faculty, the increased share of doctorate holders reporting research as their primary work activity reflects a shift in priority from teaching to research for many faculty. From 1973 to 2008, the proportion of full-time faculty identifying research as their primary work activity climbed from 19% to 36%, while the share with teaching as their primary activity fell from 68% to 47% (figure
A similar pattern prevailed in most degree fields—the share of faculty who indicated that research was their primary work activity increased through the early career cohorts and then fell as faculty approached mid-career. Research was more frequently a primary work activity for early career faculty in engineering and computer sciences than for faculty in other fields (table
Research in many fields has increasingly involved collaboration. This section describes S&E doctorate holders' self-reports of their collaboration with others using data from the 2006 Survey of Doctorate Recipients. Information on trends in coauthorship can be found later in this chapter under "Coauthorship and Collaboration."
In 2006, roughly 70% of S&E full-time research faculty employed in academic institutions reported working with an immediate work team or with others working elsewhere in the same organization, nearly 60% worked with individuals in other organizations in the United States, and nearly one-third worked with individuals located in other countries. Team work is most common among life scientists, physical scientists, and engineers, and least common among mathematicians and social scientists.
International collaboration was more common among foreign-born S&E full-time research faculty. Communication by e-mail or telephone was, by far, the most commonly used mode of international collaboration, followed by travel to the United States by the foreign collaborator(s), foreign travel by the U.S.-based collaborator, and communication through web-based or virtual technology.
For a more extensive discussion of these topics, see the "Collaborative Research" section in chapter 5 of the 2010 edition of Indicators (NSB 2010). For data on international collaborative activity in the S&E workforce more generally, see the "International Engagement by the Domestic S&E Workforce" in chapter 3.
The close coupling of advanced training with hands-on research experience is a key strength of U.S. graduate education. Many of the 434,100 full-time S&E graduate students in 2008 (table
The number of research assistants (RAs)—full-time graduate students whose primary mechanism of financial support is a research assistantship—has grown faster than graduate enrollment, both overall and in most fields. Graduate research assistantships were the primary means of support for 27% of graduate students in 2008, up from 22% in 1973. In the field 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 in 2008, the proportion of RAs was high relative to graduate enrollment; 42% of graduate students in the physical sciences and 40% of engineering graduate students were supported in their graduate study primarily by research assistantships. In the life sciences, the proportion of RAs relative to graduate enrollment was similar to the overall proportion across all fields (27%), possibly reflecting the heavier reliance on postdoctoral researchers rather than RAs in the life sciences fields (table
The majority of the academic research workforce remains employed in the intensive and very intensive research universities, although the research universities' shares of both academic researchers and of RAs have declined since 1973. (See chapter 2 sidebar, "Carnegie Classification of Academic Institutions," for a brief description of the Carnegie categories.) During the 2003–2008 period, the research universities employed 48% of all S&E doctorate holders in academic positions, 57% of those reporting research as their primary or secondary activity, and 79% of S&E graduate students for whom an RA was their primary means of support (table
The number of S&E doctorate holders employed in academic postdoc positions climbed from 4,000 in 1973 to 18,000 in 2008 (appendix table
The demographic profile of individuals employed in academic postdoc positions has changed dramatically over time. The proportions of postdocs held by women, racial/ethnic minorities, and foreign-born individuals has climbed since 1973 (table
A temporary postdoc appointment is a common stop along the career path of S&E doctorate holders, particularly during their early career stages. In 2008, 36% of recently degreed S&E doctorate holders in academia were employed in postdoc positions, a figure that approached the share (42%) employed in full-time faculty positions (appendix table
The vast majority of academic postdocs are employed at very high research activity universities. In 2008, the share of all academic postdocs employed at these institutions reached 75% (table
In comparison to 1995, a larger share of S&E doctorate holders employed in academia in 2006, 45% versus 41%, had held a postdoc appointment at some point in their career, and a slightly larger share than in 1995 had been employed in postdoc positions two or more times (table
The federal government provides academic researchers with a substantial portion of overall research support. This section presents data from S&E doctorate holders in academia who reported on the presence or absence (but not magnitude) of federal support for their work.
In 2008, 45% of all S&E doctorate holders in academia and 56% of those for whom research was a primary or secondary activity reported federal government support for their work (appendix table
Faculty and other full-time S&E doctoral employees were less likely than postdocs to receive federal support. Throughout the 1973–2008 period, fewer than half of full-time S&E faculty received federal support, whereas the share of postdocs receiving federal support was above 70%. Since 1991, the share of academic S&E doctorate holders receiving federal support has declined in all position categories (appendix table
Federal support is more prevalent in very high research activity universities and medical schools. More than 60% of S&E doctorate holders and full-time faculty employed in research universities and medical schools received federal support in 2008 (appendix table
Federal support has been less available to early career S&E doctoral faculty than to more established faculty, and the percentage of early career S&E faculty with federal support has declined. From 1973–2008, S&E doctorate holders with recently earned doctorates (i.e., doctorates earned within 3 years of the survey) employed in full-time faculty positions were far less likely to receive federal support than those in postdoc positions (figure
S&E doctorate holders employed as full-time faculty who had received their doctorate 4–7 years earlier were more likely to receive federal support than those with more recently earned doctorates, and the same was true of those employed in postdoc positions (figure