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 (2016 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 academic institutions in the United States granting research-based master's degrees or doctorates in science, engineering, or selected health (SEH) fields as of the fall of the survey year. Sponsored by the National Center for Science and Engineering Statistics (NCSES) within the National Science Foundation and by the National Institutes of Health, the GSS collects counts of enrolled graduate students, postdoctoral researchers (postdocs), and other doctorate-holding nonfaculty researchers (NFRs) at these institutions by demographics and other characteristics, such as source of financial support. Results are used to assess shifts in graduate enrollment, postdoc and NFR appointments, and trends in financial support.
  2. Data collection authority: The information collected by the GSS 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 and expires on 30 November 2017.
  3. Major changes to recent survey cycle: The 2016 survey included a pilot data collection designed to assess the feasibility of (1) reporting master’s and doctoral student data separately, (2) using Classification of Instructional Programs (CIP) codes for reporting GSS data, and (3) expanding the use of file uploads for data submission. Data provided by pilot coordinators are included in the 2016 data products.

2. Key Survey Information Top of Page.

  1. Frequency: Annual.
  2. Initial survey year: 1966.
  3. Reference period: Fall 2016.
  4. Response unit: Organizational units (e.g., academic departments, degree-granting programs, university-affiliated research centers, and health care facilities) in academic institutions.
  5. Sample or census: Census.
  6. Population size: A total of 15,853 units at 714 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 survey target population is all academic institutions in the United States and its territories (Guam and Puerto Rico) that grant research-oriented master's or doctorate degrees in SEH fields. This population includes 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: The total universe in 2016 included 15,853 units at 714 academic institutions in the United States that granted research-based master's degrees or doctorates in SEH fields.
  3. Sample design: The GSS is a census in which eligible academic institutions are identified primarily through IPEDS.

4. Data Collection and ProcessingTop of Page.

  1. Data collection: The survey data are collected through coordinators at eligible institutions. Coordinators are assigned by their institution and are responsible for identifying all GSS eligible units, collecting the requested data, and submitting the data to the survey contractor.

    Coordinators are provided access to the GSS Web survey to report aggregate counts on enrolled graduate students, postdocs, and doctorate-holding NFRs in each eligible unit, as of the fall term of academic year 2016. A hard copy of the survey worksheets and GSS-eligible code lists are also mailed to the institution coordinators as reference. The coordinator may upload a file with requested data to the GSS website, which automatically aggregates the data and populates the cells of the Web survey instrument for each eligible unit. The 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 or e-mails sent to clarify responses, if needed.
  2. Data processing: All data submitted by institution coordinators are reviewed to ensure that data fields are complete and that data are internally consistent. Data that are substantially different from previously reported data are flagged for review by the survey contractor. If additional information or corrections are needed, institution 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 because the GSS is a census.
  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: The GSS typically has high response rates. In 2016, 99.5% of units provided complete or partial data and the overall institutional response rate was 98.5%.
  4. Measurement error: Potential sources of measurement errors include double counting by units that offer joint programs, reporting of graduate students working toward practitioner degrees, (particularly in health fields), difficulty in reporting of financial support data, and difficulty in distinguishing NFRs from postdocs and other type of researchers employed in the units.

6. Data Availability and Comparability Top of Page.

  1. Data availability: NCSES 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: The 2016 data are comparable to the 2014 and 2015 data. 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. As a result, the total number of institutions included in the GSS increased from 564 in 2013 to 706 in 2014. The total net increase in the number of GSS-eligible units was 826.

    For more information on survey frame update, see the special report Assessing the Impact of Frame Changes on Trend Data. NCSES encourages analysts intending to do trend analyses to contact the project officer for additional information. For details on the historical changes, see the Technical Information section that accompanies the Graduate Students and Postdoctorates in Science and Engineering data tables.

7. Data Products Top of Page.

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

    NCSES includes selected data items from this survey for individual doctorate-granting institutions in the Academic Institution Profiles series.
  2. Electronic access: Data for the years 1972–2016 are available as public use files. The file organization makes each year's institution, school, and organizational unit data available in a single record.

    Tabular data for recent years are available in mid-February 2018 in a new interactive data tool on the NCSES website; historical data will be added on a continuous basis until the full 1972–2016 series is complete. Users can create custom tables of the number of graduate students, number of postdoctorates, or number of NFRs. Access to the historical GSS data (1972–2015) is also available in WebCASPAR. The WebCASPAR system will continue to operate without new data updates until the end of 2018, at which point the data system will become inaccessible to users.

8. Contact Information Top of Page.

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

Mike Yamaner
Project Officer
Human Resources Statistics Program
National Center for Science and Engineering Statistics
National Science Foundation
2415 Eisenhower Avenue, Suite W14200
Alexandria, VA 22314

Phone: (703) 292-7815
E-mail: myamaner@nsf.gov