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Introduction

This report presents the findings, conclusions, and recommendations of the National Research Council’s Committee to Review the 2000 Decade Design of the Scientists and Engineers Statistical Data System (SESTAT). SESTAT is an integrated database resulting from a system of surveys, developed and maintained by the Science Resources Statistics (SRS) division of the National Science Foundation (NSF) to provide timely information about the numbers and characteristics of scientists and engineers in the United States. The committee was convened by the NRC’s Committee on National Statistics (CNSTAT) in response to a request by the NSF to review various design options being considered by the SRS staff for SESTAT in the 2000 decade. The committee was charged to conduct a 1-day workshop to bring together SRS, academic, and other experts to examine and discuss the advantages and disadvantages of three analytic designs for SESTAT proposed by SRS. The committee was also charged to conduct a 1-day closed meeting to deliberate on the designs and to produce a brief report of their findings and recommendations.

The committee’s information-gathering process included review of Surveying the Nation’s Scientists and Engineers: A Data System for the 1990s (National Research Council, 1989), as well as careful reading of three key papers sponsored by SRS (Westat 2002a, 2002b, 2002c), which summarize the SRS’s deliberations to date on statistical issues pertaining to design options for SESTAT; current and alternate sources of data on the science, engineering, and technical workforce; and comparison of SESTAT esti-



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1 Introduction This report presents the findings, conclusions, and recommendations of the National Research Council’s Committee to Review the 2000 Decade Design of the Scientists and Engineers Statistical Data System (SESTAT). SESTAT is an integrated database resulting from a system of surveys, developed and maintained by the Science Resources Statistics (SRS) division of the National Science Foundation (NSF) to provide timely information about the numbers and characteristics of scientists and engineers in the United States. The committee was convened by the NRC’s Committee on National Statistics (CNSTAT) in response to a request by the NSF to review various design options being considered by the SRS staff for SESTAT in the 2000 decade. The committee was charged to conduct a 1-day workshop to bring together SRS, academic, and other experts to examine and discuss the advantages and disadvantages of three analytic designs for SESTAT proposed by SRS. The committee was also charged to conduct a 1-day closed meeting to deliberate on the designs and to produce a brief report of their findings and recommendations. The committee’s information-gathering process included review of Surveying the Nation’s Scientists and Engineers: A Data System for the 1990s (National Research Council, 1989), as well as careful reading of three key papers sponsored by SRS (Westat 2002a, 2002b, 2002c), which summarize the SRS’s deliberations to date on statistical issues pertaining to design options for SESTAT; current and alternate sources of data on the science, engineering, and technical workforce; and comparison of SESTAT esti-

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mates of the scientist and engineers population with those from the Current Population Survey. The committee also convened a 1-day workshop with NSF staff and contractors and SESTAT users, representing government and private organizations. The agenda for the workshop is in the appendix to this report. The committee was not asked, nor did it attempt, to perform an analysis of cost and implementation factors associated with various design options for SESTAT, examine the content of the surveys that support SESTAT, nor revisit the question of how the population of scientists and engineers should be defined.