Survey Overview (2019 Survey Cycle)

Top of Page.

The Survey of Postdocs at Federally Funded Research and Development Centers (FFRDC Postdoc Survey) is intended to identify all FFRDCs that employed postdoctoral researchers (postdocs) as of 1 October of the survey year and to collect aggregate information on the demographic characteristics and fields of research of the postdocs employed at each FFRDC. The survey is conducted as part of the Survey of Graduate Students and Postdoctorates in Science and Engineering, which is sponsored by the National Center for Science and Engineering Statistics (NCSES) within the National Science Foundation (NSF) and by the National Institutes of Health.

Data collection authority.

The information is solicited under the authority of the National Science Foundation Act of 1950, as amended, and the America COMPETES Reauthorization Act of 2010. The Office of Management and Budget (OMB) control number is 3145-0062, expiration date 31 October 2020.

Major changes to recent survey cycle.


Key Survey Information

top of page.


Initial survey year.


Reference period.

1 October of the survey year.

Response unit.


Sample or census.


Population size.

42 FFRDCs.

Sample size.

Not applicable.

Key variables.
Key variables of interest are listed below.
  • Sex and citizenship

  • Source of financial support

  • Ethnicity and race for U.S. citizens and permanent residents

  • Field of research

  • Administrative type of the FFRDC (university, nonprofit, industry)

Survey Design

top of page.
Target population.

The survey target population includes all FFRDCs that employed postdocs as of 1 October of the survey year.

Sample frame.

The survey is a census of all FFRDCs in the Master Government List of FFRDCs in the United States as of May 2019. The list is maintained by NSF (

Sample design.

Not applicable.

Data Collection and Processing

top of page.
Data collection.

The survey data are collected via a Web instrument. Before data collection begins, prior survey coordinators at each FFRDC are contacted via e-mail to confirm their status as the most appropriate contact person. Directors at the FFRDCs are notified about the survey launch and those at newly established FFRDCs are asked to designate a contact person for the survey. The survey access information is then e-mailed to the appropriate contact person.

Data processing.

All data submitted by the FFRDCs are reviewed to ensure that all data fields were completed, and that data are internally consistent. Data from any FFRDC that differ from the prior-year data at that FFRDC by more than 20% are flagged for review by the survey staff. If additional information or data corrections are needed, FFRDC respondents are contacted by telephone or e-mail and asked to provide additional information or to correct data.

Estimation techniques.

Weighting is not required because the survey is a census of all eligible FFRDCs. In 2019, only one FFRDC required imputation due to an intentional partial response.

Survey Quality Measures

top of page.
Sampling error.

Not applicable.

Coverage error.

There is no coverage error for this survey other than that, if any, from the Master Government List of FFRDCs maintained by NSF.

Nonresponse error.

The survey typically has high response rates. In 2019, 97.6% of FFRDCs provided complete or partial data.

Measurement error.

Potential sources of measurement errors include incomplete administrative data or data misreported by the respondent.

Data Availability and Comparability

top of page.
Data availability.

Postdoc data from FFRDCs are available for 2005–07, 2009–10, 2012–13, 2015, 2017, and 2019. The FFRDC survey data were first published in 2010.

Data comparability.

The FFRDC postdoc counts in 2012 and subsequent years are not comparable with the counts reported in 2010 and prior years because the Frederick National Laboratory for Cancer Research (FNLCR) revised its postdoc reporting to include only FFRDC contract employees after it was reorganized and renamed from the National Cancer Institute at Frederick in 2012. Consequently, the total number of postdocs reported by FNLCR dropped from 286 in 2010 to 25 in 2012. All comparisons of FFRDC postdoc data spanning this period need to account for this difference.

Data Products

top of page.

NCSES releases the data from this survey through InfoBriefs and detailed tables in the publication series Postdoctorates at Federally Funded R&D Centers (

Electronic access.

To obtain data files, contact the Project Officer.

Contact Information

top of page.

For additional information about this survey, or the methodology report, please contact:

Michael Yamaner
Survey Manager
Human Resources Statistics Program, NCSES
Phone: (703) 292-7815

National Center for Science and Engineering Statistics
Directorate for Social, Behavioral and Economic Sciences
National Science Foundation
2415 Eisenhower Avenue, Suite W14200
Alexandria, VA 22314
Tel: (703) 292-8780
FIRS: (800) 877-8339
TDD: (800) 281-8749