different surveys. In the case of the SDR and NSOPF, both of which have been carried out multiple times, the questions, how the survey is implemented, the sample size, and the response rate may all change. The NSF notes regarding the SDR:
There have been a number of changes in the definition of the population surveyed over time. For example, prior to 1991, the survey included some individuals who had received doctoral degrees in fields outside of S&E or had received their degrees from non-U.S. universities. Since coverage of these individuals had declined over time, the decision was made to delete them from the 1991 survey. The survey improvements made in 1993 are sufficiently great that SRS staff believe that trend analyses between the data from the 1990s surveys and the surveys in prior years must be performed very cautiously, if at all.5
A more difficult task is comparing several university studies. Myriad approaches have been taken by universities in evaluating and assessing characteristics of their faculty, but concerns over comparability somewhat reduce the usefulness of the information gathered.
Fourth, in the interest of preserving confidentiality, surveys often provide aggregated information rather than the raw (i.e., individual) data. Certainly confidentiality is critical, but it means that some studies are less transparent in describing how the study was conducted and who was surveyed, making it more difficult to replicate or disaggregate the data and examine it differently. Readers are constrained by the findings reported by the scholars who put the data together.
Numerous factors have been used in the past to assess the status of male and female faculty in their careers. Characteristics that are often explored, aside from gender, are age, marital and family status, citizenship, field of study, educational experience (including highest degree and doctorate-granting institution), and employment experience (including number and types of previous jobs and characteristics of a faculty member’s current position, such as rank or tenure status). The research on a few of these factors is highlighted here.
In general, women as a group were younger than male faculty. Women are more recent entrants into academia than men, therefore women’s representation among academic faculty was conditioned not only on the number of new Ph.D.s being granted to women, but also on the initial age and sex composition of faculty members and changes in the number of faculty positions (Hargens and Long,
“Survey Methodology: Survey of Doctorate Recipients,” NSF Web site at http://www.nsf.gov/sbe/srs/ssdr/sdrmeth.htm [accessed on March 17, 2004].