Volatility of the data. Among the issues that warrant additional investigation, according to several participants, is that of the volatility of the estimates when the cutoff of 25 rule is applied. The NSF proposal would be to reassess the fine fields every 3 years to identify fields to be added or deleted based on the number of doctorates in a field and the number of schools granting those doctorates. Currently, NSF adds 8 to 10 new fields and loses 2 or 3 fields as a result of these triennial reviews. The decision is usually a joint decision between NSF and the sponsoring agencies of the survey.

Informed consent. One means of avoiding the problem of potential identification of persons in the published small cells is to obtain the permission of individuals to have personal characteristics and other data published. This would be done by asking for their informed consent to make their data available. It was suggested that informed consent would be sought only for certain sensitive data items, such as gender, race, or ethnicity. This might avoid increased nonresponse that might accompany asking for informed consent for the whole array of data collected by the survey.

According to Cohen, the NSF legislation seems to prohibit requesting the informed consent of the respondents for release of their data. Although the Confidential Information Protection and Statistical Efficiency Act permits the solicitation of the informed consent of respondents, the NSF legislation and the data collection strategy militate against using this authority for SED. Nonetheless, Lynda Carlson agreed that it would be useful to test an application of informed consent to the SED to see if obtaining such consent would be feasible. If so, NSF would then be in a position to deal with the implementation of such a procedure.

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