Key Survey Information   Major Changes to the Survey  Key Variables  Survey Design  Data Collection and Data Processing  Survey Quality Measures  Data Comparability  Data Products  NCSES Contact Information 

1. Key Survey Information Top of Page.

  1. Purpose: The Survey of Doctorate Recipients (SDR) is a longitudinal survey designed to provide demographic and career history information about individuals who earned a research doctoral degree in a science, engineering, or health (SEH) field from a U.S. academic institution.
  2. Authority under which NCSES collects the data: The information is solicited under the authority of the National Science Foundation Act of 1950, as amended, and the Confidential Information Protection and Statistical Efficiency Act of 2002.
  3. Frequency of the data collection: Biennial
  4. Initial year of survey: 1973
  5. Most recent year of available data: 2013
  6. Response unit: Individuals
  7. Sample or census: Sample survey
  8. Approximate population size: 840,000
  9. Approximate sample size: 47,000

2. Major Changes to the Survey - None Top of Page.

3. Key Variables Top of Page.

4. Survey Design Top of Page.

  1. Target population
    The population of the SDR consists of all individuals who were younger than 76 years of age, who received an SEH research doctorate from a U.S. academic institution, and who were not institutionalized or terminally ill.
  2. Sample frame
    Survey of Earned Doctorates (SED)
  3. Sample design
    The SDR, which began in 1973, uses a fixed-sample panel design with a sample of new doctoral graduates added in each biennial survey cycle. The 2013 SDR sample includes respondents living in the United States (National SDR) or abroad (International SDR or ISDR).

5. Data Collection and Data Processing Top of Page.

  1. Data collection
    The SDR uses a trimodal data collection approach: self-administered questionnaire (via mail), self-administered online survey, and computer-assisted telephone interview (CATI). Sample members are started in one mode depending on their past preference and their available contact information. At any time during data collection, sample members can choose to complete the survey using any of the three modes.
  2. Data processing
    The data collected in the SDR are subject to both manual and automated data processing and correction procedures, such as editing and imputation. For items with missing data, the SDR uses a combination of logical and hot-deck imputation techniques.
  3. Estimation techniques
    The SDR is based on a complex sampling design and uses sampling weights that are attached to each respondent’s record to produce accurate population estimates. The final analysis weights were calculated to account for differential sampling rates, adjust for unknown location or unknown eligibility, adjust for nonresponse, and align estimates with post-stratification control totals.

6. Survey Quality Measures Top of Page.

  1. Sampling error
    The SDR is subject to sampling error. However, estimates based on the total sample have relatively small sampling errors. Estimates of sampling errors associated with this survey are included in the methodology report for the survey.
  2. Nonsampling error
    Like most surveys, the SDR is subject to nonsampling error, which includes (1) nonresponse error, which arises when the characteristics of respondents differ systematically from nonrespondents; (2) measurement error, which arises when the variables of interest cannot be precisely measured; (3) coverage error, which arises when some members of the target population are excluded from the frame and therefore do not have a chance to be selected for the sample; (4) respondent error, which occurs when respondents provide incorrect data; and (5) processing error, which can occur at the point of data editing, coding, or data entry.
  3. Response rates
    Response rates associated with this survey are included in the technical notes for the survey (

7. Data Comparability Top of Page.

The definition of the SDR survey target population has changed over time. For example, surveys conducted before 1991 included individuals who received doctoral degrees in fields other than SEH and individuals who received their degrees from non-U.S. universities. Caution is recommended when considering any analysis of trends that span pre- and post-1991 surveys. Individuals who wish to explore such analyses are encouraged to discuss this issue further with the survey project officer listed below

Detailed information on the above categories can be found in in the technical notes for the survey (

8. Data Products Top of Page.

9. NCSES Contact Information Top of Page.

Daniel Foley
Project Officer
Human Resources Statistics Program
National Center for Science and Engineering Statistics
Phone: (703) 292-7811