S&E workforce trends on a monthly basis in the same manner as the aggregation of ACS cases will provide on an annual analysis, although it is recognized that the CPS will not provide the sort of detail on S&E workers by disability and gender that the current mandates require and thus will not substitute for the ACS.
In sum, the ACS is a promising option for efficiently fulfilling a major part of NSF’s mandate. However, the ACS affords much more than an opportunity to do business-as-usual better. It provides an opportunity to repurpose SESTAT to overcome some of the current conceptual limitations that cause analysts to view S&E workers as a well-defined and time-invariant segment of the labor force. The ACS would permit measuring all workers who could, at some set of wage rates and product demands, become S&E workers. In the process, NSF would be able to fulfill its mandate to understand the S&E labor force in a more efficient and timely manner that would release resources to invest in more policy-relevant work.
The ACS with a field-of-degree question can affect the mission of NSF with regard to S&E workforce data; indeed, the ACS with field-of-degree information may eventually provide much of the data needed by NSF to produce its mandated reports. If so, then NSF would be afforded a unique opportunity to redesign SESTAT in support of innovative analysis to enhance understanding of the key issues regarding S&E human resources.
A redesigned SESTAT may include its current components, such as the NSCG, for which the ACS could have a large impact as a more efficient sample frame; or SESTAT may become more reliant on the ACS, supplemented by a series of targeted surveys based on trends visible with ACS data, or it may include both. A redesigned SESTAT may even integrate CPS (if a field-of-degree question were added) to provide timely information on income data to frame the important questions of the S&E workforce. It is not too early to begin thinking about the many exciting possibilities that are emerging with the inclusion of a field-of-degree question on the ACS.
Recommendation 7.6: The National Science Foundation should conduct a careful assessment of internal and user priorities for studying the science and engineering workforce to capitalize on the expanded analytical opportunities afforded by the addition of field-of-degree question to the American Community Survey.