. "Executive Summary." Using the American Community Survey for the National Science Foundation's Science and Engineering Workforce Statistics Programs. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press, 2008.
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Using the American Community Survey for the National Science Foundation’s Science and Engineering Workforce Statistics Programs
form with the ACS as a sampling frame for the NSCG and other human resources surveys and, specifically, to consider options for survey design in this new environment. The workshop had the additional objective of identifying issues for the collection of field-of-degree information on the ACS with regard to goals, content, statistical methodology, data quality, and data products. Finally, the committee was asked to consider the relevance and adequacy of ACS products for meeting current and emerging data needs for NSF. This report responds to that statement of work.
FINDINGS AND CONCLUSIONS
There are several important mandated uses embedded in the legislation that established NSF that direct the periodicity of the data and the kind of detail to be provided: updates are required every 2 years, and the main subpopulations of interest are females, minorities, and disabled people. In addition to these mandated uses, NSF in recent years has faced escalating demands for science and engineering (S&E) workforce data in response to such issues as globalization, competitiveness, the role of the S&E workforce in national economic growth, the dynamic nature of S&E workforce flows, and federal interventions to improve the health of U.S. science and engineering. Those uses require a robust collection of data on S&E workers. They also call for reexamination of the kind of data that have been collected in light of those uses.
This rethinking takes place in the context of an integrated database—the Scientists and Engineers Statistical Data System (SESTAT)—that includes data from three surveys that together offer a comprehensive picture of the S&E workforce. It is appropriate to reconsider elements of this system, particularly the design and content of the National Survey of Recent College Graduates (NSRCG), when data on the S&E workforce with field-of-degree information become available on a flow basis from the ACS. In these and other ways, the ACS is expected to have a major effect on the NSF’s S&E workforce statistics program.
The committee finds that the upcoming changes for the NSF surveys are potentially very positive for NSF. These changes provide an opportunity to improve the NSCG sample and to enhance the timeliness, frequency, and quality of the S&E workforce data. Yet the transition to the ACS as a sample frame and as a source of data on the S&E workforce will create some challenges. There are significantly larger margins of error in ACS estimates than in estimates from the decennial census because of smaller sample sizes even when estimates are cumulated over 5 years. On balance, however, the committee concludes that the replacement of the decennial census long form with the ACS offers an opportunity for realizing NSF goals and objectives for the SESTAT Program.