Importance of Participation

Importance of participation

A high response rate among institutions and graduates is essential to the statistical integrity of the data. High-quality data ensure that analyses and policy decisions are based on all research doctorate recipients. Further, participation in the SED ensures your institution’s doctorate recipients are represented in the Doctorate Records File, a data bank on U.S. doctorate recipients reaching back to 1920.

Data from the SED can be used by institutions to compare their graduates with national statistics. Using recent data, researchers have learned:

  1. Over the past 20 years, the rate of underrepresented minority groups earning doctorates has grown significantly, with a 70% increase in the number of doctorates awarded to black or African American students while the number of doctorates earned by Hispanic or Latino students more than doubled.
  2. Debt load varies by field of study; in 2014, 68% of doctorate recipients in life sciences and 76%–78% of those in engineering and physical sciences reported graduating with no graduate debt. In social sciences, humanities, and education, the proportion with no debt was less than 50%.
  3. In 2014, about 61% of doctoral recipients reported commitments for employment or postdoctoral study when they completed the SED. Postgraduation commitment rates for humanities, engineering, and life sciences graduates were 54%–58%, while about two-thirds of physical sciences, education, and social sciences graduates reported similar commitments.
Benefits of participation

The results of this annual survey provide an objective basis for policy decisions that aim to improve our system of doctoral education. Maintaining a high response rate is essential to the statistical integrity of the SED data and, thus, to the legitimacy of the policy decisions that rely on these data. Consequently, the SED project team works closely with each Graduate School Dean and their staff to help them distribute and collect the SED in ways that facilitate student cooperation without creating undue burden.

In addition to contributing to an accurate and complete data resource, participation in the SED gains your institution access to an institution profile (containing summary information) and an institution dataset.