Survey OverviewBullet 1 Key Survey InformationBullet 2 Survey DesignBullet 3 Data Collection and Processing Bullet 4 Survey Quality MeasuresBullet 5 Data Availability and ComparabilityBullet 6 Data ProductsBullet 7 Contact Information

1. Survey Overview (2014 survey cycle) Top of Page.

  1. Purpose: The Survey of Graduate Students and Postdoctorates in Science and Engineering (GSS) is an annual census of all U.S. academic institutions granting research-based master’s degrees or doctorates in science, engineering, and selected health (SEH) fields as of fall of the survey year. The survey, sponsored by the National Science Foundation (NSF) and the National Institutes of Health (NIH), collects the total number of graduate students, postdoctoral appointees (postdocs), and doctorate-level nonfaculty researchers (NFRs) by demographic and other characteristics, such as source of financial support. Results are used to assess shifts in graduate enrollment, postdoc appointments, and trends in financial support.
  2. Data collection authority: The National Science Foundation Act of 1950, as amended, and the America COMPETES Reauthorization Act of 2010, and collected under Office of Management and Budget control number 3145-0062, expiration date 30 November 2017.
  3. Major changes to recent survey cycle: In 2014, the survey frame was updated following a comprehensive frame evaluation study that identified potentially eligible but not previously surveyed U.S. academic institutions with master's- or doctorate-granting science, engineering, and selected health (SEH) programs. A total of 151 newly eligible institutions were added, and two private for-profit institutions offering mostly practitioner-based graduate degrees were removed as no longer eligible.

2. Key Survey Information Top of Page.

  1. Frequency: Annual.
  2. Initial survey year: 1966.
  3. Reference period: Fall 2014.
  4. Response unit: Organizational units (academic departments, degree-granting programs, university-affiliated research centers, and health care facilities) in academic institutions.
  5. Sample or census: Census.
  6. Population size: 14,845 units at 706 academic institutions.
  7. Sample size: Not applicable.
  8. Key variables: Key variables of interest are listed below.

3. Survey Design Top of Page.

  1. Target population: The GSS target population is all academic institutions in the United States and its territories (Guam and Puerto Rico) that grant master’s degrees or doctorates in SEH fields. This population includes data for branch campuses, affiliated research centers and health facilities, and separately organized components, such as medical or dental schools, schools of nursing, and schools of public health.
  2. Sample frame: Eligible academic institutions identified primarily through IPEDS.
  3. Sample design: Not applicable; all eligible units are surveyed.

4. Data Collection and ProcessingTop of Page.

  1. Data collection: GSS data are collected from the coordinators at eligible schools. When a new coordinator is needed, schools are asked to designate the coordinator most knowledgeable about the graduate or postdoc data for their school. Some schools chose to assign a separate graduate student coordinator and postdoc coordinator, whereas others chose to have one coordinator report all data.

    Once coordinators are confirmed, they are provided access to the GSS Web survey to report aggregate counts on graduate students, postdocs, and doctorate-holding nonfaculty researchers in each eligible unit, as of the fall term of academic year 2014. A hard copy of the survey worksheets and GSS-eligible code lists are also mailed to the school coordinators as reference. A Web survey is the primary mode of data submission.

    Based on the review of respondent data and explanatory comments by the respondents, follow-up telephone calls are made to improve the accuracy of responses.
  2. Data processing: All data submitted by the academic institutions are reviewed to ensure that all data fields are complete and that data are internally consistent. Data from any institution that are more than 20% above or 20% below that institution’s corresponding prior-year data are flagged for review by the survey staff. If additional information or corrections are needed, GSS coordinators are contacted by telephone or e-mail and are asked to correct and resubmit the survey data.
  3. Estimation techniques: The survey is a census of eligible units; therefore, weighting for sampling is not necessary. Imputation rather than weighting is used to adjust for unit nonresponse; imputation is also used for item nonresponse.

5. Survey Quality Measures Top of Page.

  1. Sampling error: Not applicable.
  2. Coverage error: Due to the availability of comprehensive lists of the master’s and doctorate granting institutions in the United States and their high levels of participation in the survey, coverage error of institutions is minimal. The universe of higher education institutions is regularly reviewed to identify new potentially eligible institutions.
  3. Nonresponse error: GSS typically has high response rates. In 2014, 99.7% of units provided complete or partial data and the overall institutional response rate was 99.0%. Of the 355 data items collected in the GSS, the item nonresponse rates ranged from 0.81% to 7.05%.
  4. Measurement error: Potential sources of measurement errors include reporting of graduate students working toward practitioner degrees, particularly in health fields, difficulty in reporting of financial support data, and difficulty in distinguishing nonfaculty researchers from postdocs and other type of researchers employed in the units.

6. Data Availability and Comparability Top of Page.

  1. Data availability: NSF has collected graduate enrollment and postdoc data for SEH fields since 1966. Not all data items were collected from all institutions in all survey years, and eligibility criteria for institutions and fields have undergone periodic revision. For these reasons, only the latest trend data should be used in historical analyses.
  2. Data comparability: In 2014, the survey frame was updated following a comprehensive frame evaluation study. The study identified potentially eligible but not previously surveyed academic institutions in the United States with master’s- or doctorate-granting programs in SEH. Eligible units at new institutions were added, and private for-profit institutions offering mostly practitioner-based graduate degrees were determined to be ineligible. See “Technical Information” in Graduate Students and Postdoctorates in Science and Engineering: Fall 2014 data tables at for more information. NSF encourages analysts intending to do trend analyses to contact the NSF project officer for additional information. For details on the historical changes, see the technical information that accompany the Graduate Students and Postdoctorates in Science and Engineering data tables.

7. Data Products Top of Page.

  1. Publications: NSF releases the data from this survey annually through InfoBriefs and data tables in the National Center for Science and Engineering Statistics (NCSES) series Graduate Students and Postdoctorates in Science and Engineering. The information from this survey is also included in Science and Engineering Indicators and Women, Minorities, and Persons with Disabilities in Science and Engineering.

    NSF includes selected data items from this survey for individual doctorate-granting institutions in the NCSES Academic Institution Profiles series (
  2. Electronic access: Data for the years 1973–2014 are available as public use files ( and in the WebCASPAR system (

8. Contact Information Top of Page.

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

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