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Protecting and Accessing Data from the Survey of Earned Doctorates: A Workshop Summary
Survey of Earned Doctorates
The Survey of Earned Doctorates (SED) surveys all individuals who earned research doctorates from accredited U.S. institutions between July 1 and June 30 of the preceding year. A researchdoctorate is a doctoral degree that (1) requires the completionof an original intellectual contribution in the form of a dissertation oran equivalent project of work (e.g., a musical composition) and (2) isnot primarily intended as a degree for the practice of a profession.The most common research doctorate degree is the Ph.D. The total universe in the 2007 survey comprised more than 48,000 research doctorate recipients from over 420 accredited U.S. doctorate-granting institutions. The response rate is usually about 92 percent, but every recipient of a research doctorate degree in the reporting year is included in the survey, whether or not they responded to it. For nonrespondents, limited records (containing field of study, doctorate institution, sex, and baccalaureate degree) are constructed on the basis of information collected from commencement programs, graduation lists, and other similar public records.
by users, in part precisely because of their rarity. The data items that were suppressed pertained to race/ethnicity, gender, and subfields—all of which were of interest to policy makers, researchers, and educational institutions. The organizations and institutions that had previously relied on these data to assess progress in this most important measure of achievement and equality suddenly found themselves without a yardstick with which to measure progress. Since the elimination of the data came without warning and for reasons that were not made clear to data users, their reaction was negative.
In response to these user concerns, NSF took a number of steps: gathering information from users, reconsidering the means by which confidential data can be protected from disclosure, and securing outside review of its decisions. The workshop that is summarized in this report is one of those initiatives. The goal of the workshop was to address the appropriateness of the decisions that SRS made and to help the agency and data users consider future actions that might permit release of useful data while protecting the confidentiality of the survey responses.