Key Survey Information
Data Collection and Processing
Survey Quality Measures
Data Availability and Comparability
1. Survey Overview (2015 survey cycle)
- 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 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.
- 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 and expires on 30 November 2017.
- Major changes to recent survey cycle: None.
2. Key Survey Information
- Frequency: Annual.
- Initial survey year: 1966.
- Reference period: Fall 2015.
- Response unit: Organizational units (e.g., academic departments, degree-granting programs, university-affiliated research centers, and health care facilities) in academic institutions.
- Sample or census: Census.
- Population size: 15,202 units at 711 academic institutions.
- Sample size: Not applicable.
- Key variables: Key variables of interest are listed below.
- Full-time graduate students by demographic and financial support characteristics
- Part-time graduate students by demographic characteristics
- Postdocs by demographic and financial support characteristics, and type and origin of doctoral degree
- NFRs by sex and type of doctoral degree
- Institutions by name, location, highest degree granted, and other institutional characteristics (e.g., historically black college or university, Carnegie Classification, public or private control)
- Schools by name, Integrated Postsecondary Education Data System (IPEDS) unique identifier, type (e.g., graduate school, medical school), and other characteristics (e.g., Carnegie Classification)
- Units by name, field, and highest degree granted
3. Survey Design
- Target population: The survey target population is all academic institutions in the United States and its territories (Guam and Puerto Rico) that grant 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.
- Sample frame: The survey is a census in which eligible academic institutions are identified primarily through IPEDS.
- Sample design: Not applicable.
4. Data Collection and Processing
- 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 graduate students, postdocs, and doctorate-holding nonfaculty researchers in each eligible unit, as of the fall term of academic year 2015. A hard copy of the survey worksheets and GSS-eligible code lists are also mailed to the school coordinators as reference. 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 to clarify responses, if needed.
- Data processing: All data submitted by institution coordinators 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.
- 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
- Sampling error: Not applicable.
- 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.
- Nonresponse error: The GSS typically has high response rates. In 2015, 99.5% of units provided complete or partial data and the overall institutional response rate was 98.6%.
- 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 nonfaculty researchers from postdocs and other type of researchers employed in the units.
6. Data Availability and Comparability
- 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.
- Data comparability: The 2015 data are comparable to the 2014 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
- 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.
- Electronic access: Data for the years 1972–2015 are available as public use files at the series page and in the WebCASPAR system.
8. Contact Information
For additional information about this survey, or the methodology report, contact the Project Officer:
Kelly H. Kang
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