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NSF Promises to Release Missing Doctorates Data

Last week, we reported on this blog that that National Science
Foundation has stopped reporting data on numbers of minorities earning
doctorates in some scientific specialties if those numbers fall below a certain
threshold. NSF told us yesterday they plan to release the missing data,
including those in its latest survey.

The Survey of Earned Doctorates (SED), an annual
survey of doctoral awardees conducted for NSF and five other federal agencies by
the National Opinion
Research Center, no longer displayed data for table cells where NSF believes the
reporting of small numbers in those cells may divulge personal or confidential
information. We then asked NSF for its rationale for the decision.
In response to our inquiry, Bobbie Mixon, a
spokesperson for NSF, said …

SRS [NSF’s
Division of Science Resources Statistics]
has instructed the contractor
to release all data collected for the Survey of Earned Doctorates (SED), as in
previous years.  There are privacy and confidentiality issues that must be
addressed, particularly in the context of small data sets.  The question of how
to aggregate the data in future years will be addressed with the data user
community over the next few months and new tables will be used for the 2007 SED
Summary Report.

Mixon subsequently said NSF would release the data in
the latest (2006) report, noting that "The contractor will release all SED data
collected for the 2006 SED."

NSF did not give us a timetable for any of these
actions. However, we will monitor the SED and report when the missing data
appear.