Postdocs at Federally Funded Research and Development Centers: Fall 2021
These data were compiled from the fall 2021 Survey of Postdocs at Federally Funded Research and Development Centers (FFRDC Postdoc Survey). The survey is intended to identify all FFRDCs that employed postdoctoral researchers (postdocs) as of October 1 of the survey year and to collect aggregate information on the demographic characteristics and fields of research of the postdocs employed at each FFRDC. The FFRDC Postdoc Survey began in 2005 and is administered in odd-numbered years as part of the Survey of Graduate Students and Postdoctorates in Science and Engineering.
The 2021 Master Government List of FFRDCs used for this data collection can be found at http://www.nsf.gov/statistics/ffrdclist/. For data on R&D expenditures at FFRDCs, see the R&D Expenditures at FFRDCs report series at http://www.nsf.gov/statistics/ffrdc/. For data on federal R&D obligations and funding to FFRDCs, see the Federal Funds for R&D report series at http://www.nsf.gov/statistics/fedfunds/.
Survey Overview (2021 Survey Cycle)
Purpose. The Survey of Postdocs at Federally Funded Research and Development Centers (FFRDC Postdoc Survey) is intended to identify all FFRDCs that employed postdoctoral researchers (postdocs) as of 1 October of the survey year and to collect aggregate information on the demographic characteristics and fields of research of the postdocs employed at each FFRDC. The survey is conducted as part of the Survey of Graduate Students and Postdoctorates in Science and Engineering, which is sponsored by the National Center for Science and Engineering Statistics (NCSES) within the National Science Foundation (NSF) and by the National Institutes of Health.
Data collection authority. The information collected in the FFRDC Postdoc Survey is solicited under the authority of the National Science Foundation Act of 1950, as amended, and the America COMPETES Reauthorization Act of 2010. The Office of Management and Budget (OMB) control number is 3145-0062 and expires on 31 August 2023.
Survey contractor. RTI International.
Survey sponsors. The FFRDC Postdoc Survey is conducted as part of the Survey of Graduate Students and Postdoctorates in Science and Engineering, which is sponsored by the National Center for Science and Engineering Statistics (NCSES) within the National Science Foundation and by the National Institutes of Health. The Department of Energy provided funding until 2010.
Key Survey Information
Initial survey year. 2005.
Reference period. 1 October 2021.
Response unit. Establishment.
Sample or census. Census.
Population size. 43 FFRDCs.
Sample size. Not applicable.
Target population. The survey target population includes all FFRDCs that employed postdocs as of 1 October 2021.
Sampling frame. The survey is a census of all FFRDCs in the Master Government List of FFRDCs in the United States as of March 2021.http://www.nsf.gov/statistics/ffrdclist/). NCSES maintains the master list by querying all federal agencies annually to determine changes, additions, or deletions to the list. FFRDCs are engaged in basic research, applied research, development, or management of R&D activities, either on direct request of the government or under a broad charter from the government—in both cases, under the monitorship of the government.The list is maintained by NSF (
Sample design. Not applicable.
Data Collection and Processing Methods
Data collection. On 3 February 2022, before starting data collection, prior survey coordinators were contacted via e-mail to confirm whether they were still the most appropriate contact. Additional follow-up contacts through e-mails and telephone calls were made to staff at those FFRDCs that did not immediately confirm the contact person. These efforts resulted in identifying a contact person for all returning FFRDCs. On 14 February 2022, FFRDC directors were sent an e-mail inviting their FFRDC to participate in the 2021 survey. On 15 February 2022, the FFRDC coordinators received a survey launch e-mail that provided them with their Web access information and indicated the due date of 25 March 2022. Two FFRDCs requested additional time to complete the survey, which ultimately closed on 8 April 2022. Two of the FFRDCs that have only ever reported zero postdocs did not respond in 2021. No evidence of postdocs was apparent through online searches of either of the nonresponding FFRDCs' websites.
Mode. Self-administered online questionnaire (Web).
Response rates. All but 2 of the 43 FFRDCs responded to the survey, including all of the FFRDCs that employed postdocs in 2019. Thus, the overall FFRDC response rate was 95.3%, and the response rate for FFRDCs that employed postdocs was 100%. The response rate calculations adhere to American Association for Public Opinion Research standards for computing response rates.
Data editing. All data submitted by the FFRDCs were reviewed to ensure that all data fields were completed and that data were internally consistent. Any FFRDC with cell counts that differ by more than 20% from its corresponding prior-year data was flagged for edit verification. In cases where survey staff determined that confirmation was needed, FFRDC respondents were contacted by e-mail and asked to correct and resubmit the survey data.
Imputation. No imputation was applied to data collected in the 2021 survey cycle.
Weighting. Not applicable.
Variance estimation. Not applicable.
Survey Quality Measures
Sampling error. Not applicable.
Coverage error. There is no coverage error for this survey other than that, if any, from the Master Government List of FFRDCs maintained by NSF.
Nonresponse error. The survey typically has high response rates. In 2021 95.3%, FFRDCs provided complete or partial data.
Measurement error. The most likely source of measurement error is from respondents’ misreporting of information. To minimize reporting errors, substantial changes in counts and inconsistent data survey responses are subject to follow-up contacts to verify changes and correct anomalies in the data. The survey Web instrument was also designed to allow respondents to indicate that they have postdocs but do not have the information about them for a particular grid, which allows missing information to be distinguished from the reporting of zero counts.
Data Comparability (Changes)
Changes in survey coverage and population. In 2021, the FFRDC Postdoc Survey started recording the following changes for the first time. The survey added the Green Bank Observatory, which was split out from the National Radio Astronomy Observatory in 2016; both retained FFRDC status. In October 2019, the National Optical Astronomy Observatory was renamed NSF's National Optical-Infrared Astronomy Research Laboratory. The new laboratory also incorporates operations of the International Gemini Observatory and the Vera C. Rubin Observatory. All other changes to the master list did not impact FFRDCs reporting postdocs.
In 2012, the Frederick National Laboratory for Cancer Research (FNLCR) was reorganized and renamed from the National Cancer Institute at Frederick and revised its postdoc reporting to include only FFRDC contract employees. Consequently, the total number of postdocs reported by the FNLCR dropped from 286 in 2010 to 25 in 2012. All comparisons of FFRDC postdoc data spanning this period need to account for these differences.
Changes in questionnaire. None.
Changes in reporting procedures or classification. Not applicable.
Ethnicity. OMB provides guidance to collect Hispanic ethnicity separately from race. In this survey, Hispanic ethnicity refers to whether an individual is of Hispanic or Latino descent.
Federal financial support. Postdoctoral support provided by a federal agency such as the Department of Defense, Department of Energy, National Institutes of Health, or National Science Foundation.
Field of research. The area of which a postdoc’s research was focused. It may or may not be the field in which a postdoc received his or her degree.
Hispanic or Latino ethnicity. Individuals of Cuban, Mexican, Puerto Rican, South or Central American, or other Spanish culture or origin, regardless of race.
Largest source of support. The source of funds that provides the largest amount (highest percentage) of financial support for postdocs.
Nonfederal financial support. Support from state and local government; support from institutions, such as stipends; support from foreign sources, such as foreign governments, foreign firms, and agencies of the United Nations; and support from other U.S. sources, such as support from nonprofit institutions, private industry, and all other nonfederal U.S. sources.
Postdoctoral researchers (postdocs). The definition of a postdoc varies by institution. Respondents were instructed to use their institution’s definition of a postdoc. NCSES defines a postdoc as meeting both of the following qualifications:
- Holds a recent doctoral degree, generally awarded within the past 5 years, such as PhD or equivalent (e.g., ScD or DEng), a first professional degree in a medical or related field (MD, DDS, DO, DVM), or a foreign degree equivalent to a U.S. doctoral degree.
- Has a limited-term appointment, generally no more than 5–7 years, primarily for training in research or scholarship and working under the supervision of a senior scholar in a unit affiliated with the institution.
Temporary visa holders. Individuals in the United States on temporary U.S. resident visas.
U.S. citizens and permanent residents. U.S. citizens, including those from Puerto Rico and the U.S. territories, and permanent residents holding permanent U.S. resident visas (Green Cards).
U.S. territories. American Samoa, Guam, the Federated States of Micronesia, the Northern Mariana Islands, and the U.S. Virgin Islands.
1The 2021 version of FFRDC list used for this data collection can be found at https://www.nsf.gov/statistics/ffrdclist/archive/ffrdc-2021.xlsx.
2See response rate 1 calculation in American Association for Political Opinion Research (AAPOR). 2016. Standard Definitions: Final Dispositions of Case Codes and Outcome Rates for Surveys. 9th ed., p. 61. Deerfield, IL: AAPOR.
Acknowledgments and Suggested Citation
Michael Yamaner of the National Center for Science and Engineering Statistics (NCSES) developed and coordinated this report under the guidance of Gary Anderson, acting NCSES Program Director, and leadership of Emilda B. Rivers, NCSES Director; Vipin Arora, NCSES Deputy Director; and John Finamore, NCSES Chief Statistician. Jock Black (NCSES) reviewed the report.
The 2021 Survey of Postdocs at Federally Funded Research and Development Centers was conducted as part of the Survey of Graduate Students and Postdoctorates in Science and Engineering with funds from NSF and the National Institutes of Health.
Under contract to NCSES, RTI International conducted the survey and prepared the tables. RTI staff members who made significant contributions include Caren Arbeit, Jack Stoetzel, and Jon Gordon. Publication processing support was provided by Devi Mishra, Christine Hamel, and Tanya Gore (NCSES).
National Center for Science and Engineering Statistics (NCSES). 2022. Postdocs at Federally Funded Research and Development Centers: Fall 2021. NSF 22-336. Alexandria, VA: National Science Foundation. Available at https://ncses.nsf.gov/pubs/nsf22336/.
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Survey of Postdocs at Federally Funded Research and Development Centers.
Browse the data collection for Postdoctorates at Federally Funded R&D Centers.