This survey is designed to provide a comprehensive picture of training of future scientists and engineers in US graduate schools and is used to assess future supply and demand. Graduate students counted in the survey are enrolled for credit in science and engineering master's-degree and PhD programs in the fall term of the survey year, and MD, DO, DVM, and DDS candidates are reported only if they will also receive a PhD. The survey also includes information on postdoctoral appointees and other nonfaculty researchers in academic departments and programs.
The survey is distributed to departments through an institutional coordinator and information is provided on students that are associated with departments. Nearly 10,400 graduate departments at 730 institutions are surveyed. Students in interdisciplinary or interinstitutional programs are reported only by their primary department. Therefore, information about individual programs could be distributed across departments, and data would be aggregated for departments with multiple degree programs.
The following types of information are requested:
The NSF requests that the survey form be returned by January 31 for data on the previous fall enrollments. The data are reported in a series of reports, many of which are available online through the Internet, on the different aspects of education by institution and field within the institution. However, data tapes will provide more detailed information on separate departments.
Data in table E.3, and figures 2.3 and 2.6 are taken from this NSF survey and are not directly comparable with other data, from the SED and SDR, used throughout the report. The NSF survey counts only persons at academic institutional whereas the SDR counts PhDs in all work environments. Furthermore, NSF definitions of fields differ somewhat from those used in this report (Appendix D). Those differences are not important when addressing questions about graduate students, because students are at academic institutions where NSF performs its survey. However, large differences in the count of postdoctoral fellows can exist between the NSF survey and the SDR. We have used the NSF count of postdoctoral fellows at academic institutions as a starting point because NSF counts both US citizens and foreign nationals, whereas the SDR excludes foreign nationals who have not received their PhD in this country. We have then estimated the number of postdoctoral fellows who might be in government, industry, and other nonacademic laboratories to obtain an estimate of the overall number of postdoctoral fellows in the United States.
The quality of the survey data depends on the knowledge of the persons at the department level who complete the survey.