Overview  Survey Design  Survey Quality Measures  Trend Data  Data Availability

1. Overview (2010 survey cycle) Top of Page.

a. Purpose

The Survey of Postdocs at Federally Funded Research and Development Centers is a census of all federally funded research and development centers (FFRDCs) in the United States that employed postdoctoral researchers (postdocs) as of 1 October of the survey year. The survey collects the total number of postdocs in each FFRDC by sex, ethnicity, race, citizenship, source of financial support, and field of research. The FFRDC Postdoc Survey is conducted as part of the Survey of Graduate Students and Postdoctorates in Science and Engineering (GSS), which is sponsored by the National Science Foundation (NSF) and the National Institutes of Health (NIH).

b. Respondents

The FFRDC Postdoc Survey is an establishment survey completed by FFRDC staff. The majority of respondents are administrative staff in the FFRDC director's office.

c. Key Variables

The postdoc count data are available by the following characteristics:

2. Survey Design Top of Page.

a. Target Population

The survey target population includes the FFRDCs in the Master Government List of FFRDCs in the United States, maintained by NSF (http://www.nsf.gov/statistics/ffrdclist/). FFRDCs are eligible for the FFRDC Postdoc Survey if, at the time of the survey, they employed one or more postdocs as of 1 October in the survey year.

b. Sample Design

The survey is a census of all eligible FFRDCs. In 2010 there were 39 FFRDCs: 13 were administered by academic institutions, 20 administered by nonprofit organizations, and 6 administered by industrial firms. Twenty-two FFRDCs were eligible for the survey, and 17 FFRDCs indicated they did not have a postdoc program. FFRDCs without postdoc programs were funded primarily by agencies within the Department of Defense and within the Department of Homeland Security.

c. Data Collection Techniques

Survey coordinators at the FFRDCs who responded to the previous survey were contacted during the first 2 weeks of February 2011 by telephone to verify whether they would be respondents for the 2010 survey. Follow-up contacts by e-mail messages and telephone calls were made to the prior-year respondents to confirm their status and to the FFRDC directors to identify a new coordinator if the prior-year respondent was no longer available. As a result of these efforts, a survey coordinator was identified for all 39 FFRDCs.

Web survey access information was sent to confirmed coordinators by e-mail on 14 February 2011, with a due date of 14 March 2011. Follow-up contacts were made with the FFRDC coordinators who did not complete the survey until the last center responded to the survey, on 5 April 2011. These follow-up contacts included both e-mail messages and telephone calls.

Surveys were completed via the Web by all 22 FFRDCs that employed postdocs as of 1 October 2010. For each of these FFRDCs, completed survey data were compared with the prior-year's data. For any substantive disparities, respondents were sent customized e-mail messages asking them to confirm or correct the data before the final processing and tabulation of data.

d. Estimation Techniques

The survey is a census of all eligible FFRDCs, and has a 100% response rate. No estimation is necessary.

3. Survey Quality Measures Top of Page.

a. Sampling Variability

The survey is a census and is not subject to sampling variability.

b. Coverage

FFRDCs are identified through the NSF master list of FFRDCs. NSF is responsible for maintaining the master list and queries all federal agencies annually to determine changes, additions, or deletions to the list. There is no coverage error for this survey.

c. Nonresponse

The response rate for this survey was 100%, so there is no unit nonresponse bias. Of 22 eligible FFRDCs, 21 reported complete data; 1 center reported only the total number of postdocs by citizenship. Item nonresponse rates ranged from 0% for citizenship to 12% for ethnicity/race of the postdocs.

d. Measurement

The most likely source of measurement error is lack of administrative data for the categories requested on the survey. For example, in the 2010 survey, one center could not report postdoc data by sex. The survey instrument is designed, however, to allow respondents to indicate that they do not have information, which allows missing information to be distinguished from the reporting of zero counts.

4. Trend Data Top of Page.

Postdoc data from FFRDCs are available for 2005–07, 2009, and 2010. The 2010 survey was the first time the trend data were published.

5. Availability of Data Top of Page.

a. Publications

NSF releases the data from this survey through InfoBriefs and Detailed Statistical Tables in the National Center for Science and Engineering Statistics publication series Postdoctorates in Federally Funded R&D Centers.

b. Electronic Access

Data for the 2010 survey are available upon request. Data from prior years are available only in aggregate form.

c. Contact for More Information

To obtain additional information about this survey or the methodology report, contact:

Kelly H. Kang
Project Officer
Human Resources Statistics Program
National Center for Science and Engineering Statistics
National Science Foundation
4201 Wilson Boulevard, Suite 965
Arlington, VA 22230
Phone: (703) 292-7796
E-mail: kkang@nsf.gov