Several data sources on the biomedical workforce are referenced throughout this report. Each has deficiencies that limit the ability to gather appropriate statistics.
Survey of Earned Doctorates (SED). The SED is completed by each person receiving his or her first research doctorate at a U.S. institution.a Forms are distributed, collected, and submitted by the institutions themselves, and completed by the individual when the degree is awarded. In addition to collecting demographic information about the PhD recipient and the individual’s field of study, the SED asks about postdoctoral plans. Thus, the SED can provide information about work plans at receipt of the PhD, but does not provide an accurate count of actual postdoctoral activities.
Survey of Doctorate Recipients (SDR). The SDR is conducted on an 8 percent sample of respondents to the SED under age 76 living in the United States. The survey is designed to provide longitudinal demographic and career-history information on individuals holding PhDs from U.S. institutions. Advertised as “the only source of national data on the careers of the science and engineering doctorate holders,” the SDR excludes those with doctorates from non-U.S. institutions or those with non-research doctorates (such as MDs).b
Survey of Graduate Students and Postdoctorates in Science and Engineering (GSS). The GSS is a survey of 600 U.S. academic institutions with data collected at the level of departments. It collects demographic information on full- and part-time graduate students and postdoctoral scholars. Summary information on other doctorate non-faculty research personnel is also collected. The GSS provides the only information about foreign doctorate-holders working at U.S. institutions. However, the survey only includes those working in formal departments at academic institutions and excludes those in government, industrial, nonprofit, and other non-academic settings. Further, since it relies on reporting by individual departments and institutions, which may fail to follow survey definitions, it may not count individuals correctly.