Data Sources on Graduate Enrollment and Postdoctoral Appointments
At least four organizations conduct graduate-enrollment surveys, but their results are difficult to compare. The National Science Foundation (NSF) fields the Survey of Graduate Students and Postdoctorates in Science and Engineering (also known as the Graduate Student Survey, or GSS). The Department of Education fields the Integrated Postsecondary Education Data System (IPEDS); the International Institute of Education (IIE), the Open Doors survey; and the Council of Graduate Schools (CGS), the Graduate Enrollments and Degrees Survey. The surveys use different sampling methods and request different information. IPEDS uses institutional and student self-reported data. NSF, CGS, and IIE use institutional questionnaires; questions cannot be easily compared. The definition of graduate student differs: IIE reports on all master’s, doctoral, and first professional degrees; CGS includes only master’s and doctoral degrees and differentiates by field, degree, and institutional type; IPEDS provides similar but more comprehensive data. NSF surveys graduate departments and counts only master’s and doctoral program enrollment and doctoral degrees. Institutional coverage differs between surveys. Separate fields of study cannot be compared, because some surveys do not report on specific fields, and surveys that do may use different taxonomies. The most recent complete data from IIE are on the graduate class that entered in 2003; 2002 data are available from NSF, CGS, and IPEDS. For this report, we are using enrollment data available from the NSF Division of Science Resources Statistics WebCASPAR database system, http://caspar.nsf.gov. We used the IPEDS Completion Survey to examine master’s degree recipients.
Numbers of postdoctoral scholars are available from the GSS. That survey does not provide much demographic information and it provides no information on where the scholars received a doctoral degree. The NSF Survey of Earned Doctorates (SED) provides some information on the proportion of graduate students who intend to go on to postdoctoral appointments, and the NSF Survey of Doctoral Recipients (SDR) provides longitudinal information on careers and conversion to citizenship. However, both the SED and the SDR follow only postdoctoral scholars who earned their PhDs in the United States. For postdoctoral scholars who came to the United States after earning a degree elsewhere—which some estimate at about 50 percent of the total postdoctoral population—there is very little information. We turned to the Sigma Xi National Postdoctoral Survey to get information on this population, but the survey was fielded only in 2004, so longitudinal data are not available.