2017 Survey of Doctorate Recipients

Frequently Asked Questions




What is the Survey of Doctorate Recipients (SDR)?

SDR is an ongoing survey of doctorate recipients who received their degrees from U.S. academic institutions and are living and working around the world. The survey has been conducted regularly since 1973.

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What is the purpose of the SDR?

The SDR is designed to provide demographic and career history information about science, engineering, and health doctorate holders. Government agencies and academic researchers use data and reports from the SDR to make planning decisions regarding science and engineering research, training, and employment opportunities. Employers also use the SDR to understand trends in employment sectors, industry types, and salary. Students who want to learn about the relationship between graduate education and careers often obtain valuable information from the SDR.

This study is the only comprehensive source of data on the careers of science, engineering, and health doctorate holders from U.S. academic institutions. It serves as an essential and irreplaceable resource on the training, work experience, and career development of a highly educated population.

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Who sponsors and who collects data for the SDR?

The SDR is sponsored by the National Science Foundation (NSF) and the National Institutes of Health (NIH). The NSF and NIH are independent agencies of the United States government. The missions of the NSF and NIH are to promote the progress of science; to advance the national health, prosperity, and welfare; and to secure national defense. Through grants and contracts, NSF and NIH sponsor scientific research, develop programs designed to strengthen scientific potential, support educational programs, and appraise the impact of research upon industrial development and innovation.

The NSF has contracted with NORC at the University of Chicago to collect data for the SDR. NORC is a self-governing, not-for-profit corporation affiliated with the University of Chicago. Founded in 1941, NORC serves the public interest and improves lives through objective social science research that supports informed decision-making. NORC is one of the oldest and most respected social science research organizations in the United States, employing subject matter experts and survey professionals, and using innovative study designs, research methods, and technical applications to derive meaningful and accurate results. National policy-makers utilize results from many NORC studies as an aid in planning and decision-making.

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Who is included in the SDR?

This survey is completed by individuals who have received a doctorate in science, engineering, or health from a U.S. academic institution. This includes those who received a doctorate in the biological, agricultural, and environmental life sciences, computer and information sciences, mathematics and statistics, the physical sciences, psychology, the social sciences, engineering, and health.

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Approximately how many people participate in the SDR?

About 124,000 out of 1.1 million (approximately 11.0%) science, engineering and health doctorate holders have been asked to participate in the 2017 SDR.

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When will data collection for the next round of the SDR begin?

In mid-2017, the SDR survey will be available online, via mailed hardcopy, or by telephone.

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How did the SDR get my name?

Your name came from the Doctorate Records File (DRF). The DRF is a database that contains the name and degree information for all individuals who earned a research doctorate in the United States. You were scientifically and randomly selected from this database to be part of the SDR.

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Where did you get my contacting information/phone number/email/address?

It is important to the National Science Foundation to reach all sampled doctorate holders selected for the SDR. To reach everyone, NORC uses publicly available sources online to obtain contacting information.

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Why should I complete the SDR?

The SDR tracks career interests and employment trends for a very important portion of the population: science, engineering, and health doctorate holders. Since we cannot interview the entire population of doctorate holders, we scientifically selected a sample from it, including you, to be part of the survey. Your responses represent not just you, but also many other highly educated individuals like you; if you do not share your career and work history with the SDR, you and those that you represent will not be accounted for. Your participation helps to ensure that SDR information is valid and complete.

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How are the SDR data used?

The SDR is the only national, comprehensive source of data on the careers of science, engineering, and health doctoral degree holders educated in the U.S. Completing the survey is an easy way to contribute to your educational community and to the public interest.

  • Data from SDR help government, business, academic, and industrial leaders to forecast labor demand and supply in many fields--your participation increases the accuracy of these data.
  • Educational institutions use data from SDR to establish and modify scientific or technical curricula--your participation helps these institutions make better decisions.
  • Many U.S. government agencies use data from SDR to get an overall sense of scientific, engineering, and health resources, and then formulate STEM policies in view of these resources--your participation increases the accuracy of the data on which these policy decisions are made.
  • Private industry uses SDR data to understand employment and salary trends and to develop recruitment strategies and benefits packages that are effective--your participation helps industry leaders better understand the scientific and technical workplace.
  • College students use information from SDR to help make decisions about graduate study and about careers--your participation makes the data more useful to these students.

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What are some recent publications and research done using the SDR?

The National Science Foundation (NSF) produces a variety of publications; some are congressionally mandated. NSF publications can be found on the National Center for Science and Engineering Statistics (NCSES) website, http://www.nsf.gov/statistics.

SDR Data in Action includes an extensive list of publications that use SDR data.

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How do I complete the SDR survey?

You may complete the 2017 SDR survey in one of three ways:

(1) online via a secure connection to the Internet,

(2) on a paper version of the survey, or

(3) by telephone with a professional interviewer.

Please contact the survey contractor, NORC, toll-free at 1-800-685-1663 or send an email to SDR@norc.uchicago.edu. Let us know your preference, and we will be happy to accommodate you.

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I am now retired. Why do you still need my information in the SDR?

The study includes people in a variety of employment situations. Learning that you've retired--whether you've retired but have since returned to work part time or full time, or whether you've stopped working entirely--is important information that makes SDR trend data more complete and more useful. The National Science Foundation is especially interested in how the career paths of retirees may change over time and in the current economy--an economy in which some retirees need to return to work, perhaps in fields that are very different from the fields of their doctoral degrees, and in which some workers may retire either earlier or later than planned. The only way to track such career changes and trends is to include all respondents in the study, even those retired individuals who intend to stay retired. Your participation can help to ensure that our information genuinely represents a complex and changing workforce.

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I do not work in my doctorate field of study. Why do you still need my information in the SDR?

The SDR includes people working in a variety of industries and fields. Some people still work in their doctorate degree field and others do not. People work outside of their field of study for a variety of reasons and the National Science Foundation is interested in understanding the career pathways of all individuals who earned a doctorate degree whether they are still working in field or not. Your participation will help ensure the career pathways of all doctorate degree-holders are represented.

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I do not live or work in the United States. Why do you still need my information in the SDR?

Scientists and engineers with doctoral degrees are highly trained and mobile. Many move from one country to another to take advantage of opportunities in their fields. Understanding the employment opportunities and career paths of science, engineering, and health doctorate holders is important no matter where they live or work.

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Does SDR also seek to survey scientists and engineers who live abroad?

Absolutely! Anyone who earned a science, engineering, or health research doctorate degree from a U.S. academic institution is eligible for the SDR regardless of where they currently live or work.

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Why does the SDR ask about the week of February 1, 2017?

This survey is conducted over a period of several months. In order to standardize data collection procedures, the National Science Foundation selected the week of February 1 as a reference to assure that everyone who participates will be asked about the same time period. It has no other special significance.

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How was I selected to participate in the SDR?

The SDR sample was randomly selected from the Doctorate Record File (DRF), a database containing the name and degree information of all individuals who earned research doctoral degrees from U.S. academic institutions. Sample members serve as representatives of the entire U.S.-trained doctoral population in the fields of science, engineering and health.

Upon completing your doctoral degree, you were asked to complete a Survey of Earned Doctorates (SED) questionnaire and this information was added to the DRF. From among those listed in the DRF up through academic year 2015, you were randomly selected to participate in the Survey of Doctorate Recipients. The most recent doctorate recipients listed in the DRF are added to the overall SDR sample every time the survey is conducted in order to fully represent the current U.S.-educated doctorate population.

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I participated in the SDR just a few years ago. Why do I need to answer essentially the same questions again?

Because the SDR is a panel study--a study of a group of individuals over a number of years--it is critical for SDR to interview the same individuals over time. Examining results over time allows researchers and policy makers to more clearly understand the decisions made by science, engineering, and health doctorate holders over time.

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Nothing has changed since I last took the survey. Why can't you just use my answers from last round?

Even when no changes come to mind initially, there may be minor changes in your situation that contribute to a more comprehensive understanding of your situation. We have often found that re-asking these questions uncovers these subtle changes. The SDR seeks to develop aggregate trend data. Whether all or some of your responses stay the same, change a little or a lot, your participation over time allows analysts and policy makers to better understand the circumstances of the most highly trained individuals in our population.

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I was retired during the last round of the SDR and am still retired. Do you still need me to answer these questions?

Yes. The SDR includes people in every employment situation. Tracking whether you've retired and returned to work, or whether you remain retired, is essential information that makes the SDR trend data more complete and useful. The only way to track such career decisions is to include all respondents in the study, even retired individuals who plan to stay retired.

Your responses will give SDR researchers crucial information about the retirement activities and labor force status of doctorate holders, which can aid analysts and policy makers in the decisions that shape the recruitment, training, and employment policies of doctorate recipients.

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Will my answers to the SDR be confidential?

Definitely. The National Science Foundation (NSF) and NORC at the University of Chicago maintain the highest standards of confidentiality. Your name and other identifying information, as well as that of all other participants, will be kept strictly confidential by the NSF and NORC as required by the National Science Foundation Act of 1950 as amended, and the Confidential Information Protection and Statistical Efficiency Act of 2002.

No information obtained in the course of this study may be disclosed in a manner in which the individual supplying the information is identifiable, except to a very small number of authorized staff at NSF and NORC, and then only for survey administrative purposes, not for dissemination. Any violation of your confidentiality is subject to penalties of up to five years in prison and/or as much as a $250,000 fine.

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How is my privacy protected? What assurances can you make that information I provide to the SDR will remain confidential?

All information captured in the SDR is treated as confidential, protected under the Privacy Act of 1974 and the Confidential Information Protection and Statistical Efficiency Act (CIPSEA) of 2002. Both statutes mandate that SDR data must be exclusively used for statistical purposes. Under CIPSEA, data may not be released to unauthorized persons. Willful and knowing disclosure of protected data to unauthorized persons is a felony punishable by up to five years imprisonment and up to a $250,000 fine.

Per the Federal Cybersecurity Enhancement Act of 2015, your data are protected from cybersecurity risks through screening of the Federal systems that transmit your data.

Participation in the SDR is also entirely voluntary, and there are no penalties for failing to answer any particular question(s). A respondent's answers are never reported individually, but instead are grouped with answers from other persons in the study to create statistical and analytical reports. In short, at no point does SDR identify individual respondents and NSF never publishes individual responses.

For more information, see Privacy Information.

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I know you say that all of my information is kept confidential, but didn't the Patriot Act change all of that?

The survey sponsor, the National Science Foundation (NSF), goes to great lengths to make sure that it does not maintain any databases that contain personal identifying information for SDR. NSF contracts with outside survey research firms to conduct data collection efforts so that NSF never has personal identifying information on its sample members. The contractor that wins the NSF bid for SDR receives the personal and demographic information necessary to conduct the survey from the previous contractor. Thus sample member information is forwarded from survey contractor to survey contractor--never to the NSF. The NSF maintains this protocol to honor its confidentiality agreement with sample members.

NSF contracted with NORC at the University of Chicago to collect SDR data. NORC is not a government agency, but instead is an affiliate of the University of Chicago. While not an educational institution, NORC is a non-profit organization dedicated to conducting high quality social science research in the public interest.

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What authority does the National Science Foundation (NSF) have to collect this information?

Within the NSF is the National Center for Science and Engineering Statistics (NCSES), a federal statistical agency. As mandated by the America COMPETES Reauthorization Act of 2010, the mission of NCSES is to serve as a central Federal clearinghouse for the collection, interpretation, analysis, and dissemination of objective data on science, engineering, technology, and research and development. To accomplish this mission, NCSES is tasked to collect, acquire, analyze, report, and disseminate statistical data related to the science and engineering enterprise in the United States and other nations that is relevant and useful to practitioners, researchers, policymakers, and the public, including statistical data on--

  1. research and development trends;
  2. the science and engineering workforce;
  3. United States competitiveness in science, engineering, technology, and research and development; and
  4. the condition and progress of United States STEM education.

Prior to the America COMPETES Reauthorization Act of 2010, information for the SDR was collected under authority provided to NSF in the National Science Foundation Act of 1950. That Act states, "The National Science Foundation is authorized to provide a central clearinghouse for the collection, interpretation, and analysis of data on scientific and engineering resources and to provide a source of information for policy formulation by other agencies of the Federal government."

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I have a disability that makes completing the SDR online survey difficult. May I complete the survey in another way?

Certainly. As an alternative, you may complete the 2017 SDR survey either in a paper version or by telephone with a professional interviewer.

Please contact the survey contractor, NORC, toll-free at 1-800-685-1663 or send an email to SDR@norc.uchicago.edu. Let us know your preference, and we will be happy to accommodate you.

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I do not like to complete surveys online. May I complete the SDR in another way?

Certainly. As an alternative, you may complete the 2017 SDR survey either in a paper version or by telephone with a professional interviewer.

Please contact the survey contractor, NORC, toll-free at 1-800-685-1663 or send an email to SDR@norc.uchicago.edu. Let us know your preference, and we will be happy to accommodate you.

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Where may I see the results from prior SDR surveys?

The National Science Foundation publishes SDR results and data in two notable report series: Characteristics of Scientists and Engineers with U.S. Doctorates and Doctoral Scientists and Engineers: Profiles. Beyond these biennial reports, the NSF also publishes special topic reports relating to the doctoral workforce. These publications are available on-line at:

www.nsf.gov/statistics/srvydoctoratework

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Is additional information available?

For additional information about the Survey of Doctorate Recipients, please visit the National Science Foundation web site:

http://www.nsf.gov/statistics/srvydoctoratework

For additional information about the NORC at the University of Chicago's role in the Survey of Doctorate Recipients, or any other topic, please visit the NORC website:

http://www.norc.org/Research/Projects/Pages/survey-of-doctorate-recipients.aspx

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How do I contact the National Science Foundation?

If you have further questions about the SDR study, or if you would like information about the survey data, please contact the NSF Project Officer, Daniel Foley, via email at dfoley@nsf.gov.

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How is the survey contractor, NORC, concerned with the rights or welfare of those who may participate in the SDR?

NORC at the University of Chicago is committed to rigorous ethical guidelines in all interactions with study participants. As a result, NORC follows a series of principles that are stipulated in the Code of Federal Regulations, and has set up an Institutional Review Board (commonly referred to as an IRB) to oversee all concerns about human subjects in its research projects. This IRB is required to make decisions without regard to any financial concerns that NORC may face.

If you have questions about your rights as a survey participant, you may call the NORC IRB Administrator toll-free at 1-866-309-0542 or send an email to irb@norc.org.

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I am on the National Do Not Call Registry. Why do I still get calls about the SDR?

The primary objective of the National Do Not Call Registry is to stop telemarketing or sales calls. The National Science Foundation (NSF) is required by law to provide a central clearinghouse for the collection, interpretation, and analysis of data on scientific and engineering resources. Conducting the SDR and asking you to participate in the survey is one of the ways that NSF fulfills this lawful mandate. NORC is managing the survey on behalf of the NSF, and you have been scientifically selected to represent many doctoral degree holders similar to you--this is why you have been contacted and we hope that you will choose to participate in this important survey.

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I did not recently earn my doctorate, why are you contacting me now?

The 2017 SDR includes an updated sample design which will allow for improved estimation. As a result, individuals representing the U.S.-trained SEH doctorate population under age 76 are being asked to participate in the survey, including some who earned their degree many years ago.

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What if my question is not in this list of SDR Frequently Asked Questions?

The SDR sponsor, the National Science Foundation, has contracted for NORC at the University of Chicago to conduct data collection. If you have any further questions about the study, please contact NORC toll-free at 1-800-685-1663 or send an email to SDR@norc.uchicago.edu.

Alternately, you may reach us via U.S. mail at the following address:

2017 Survey of Doctorate Recipients
NORC
55 E Monroe St.
Ste. 1900
Chicago, IL 60603-9914

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Data collection contracted to