• Become an SSTI Member

    As the most comprehensive resource available for those involved in technology-based economic development, SSTI offers the services that are needed to help build tech-based economies.  Learn more about membership...

  • Subscribe to the SSTI Weekly Digest

    Each week, the SSTI Weekly Digest delivers the latest breaking news and expert analysis of critical issues affecting the tech-based economic development community. Subscribe today!

Useful Stats: S&E Grad Students & Post-Docs by State, 2002

March 28, 2005

The National Science Foundation (NSF) has released Graduate Students and Postdoctorates in Science and Engineering: Fall 2002, a collection of 54 statistical tables presenting the distribution of graduate students in science and engineering (S&E) across population segments, fields of science or engineering, and by college and state. Overall long-term trends for S&E graduate students from 1975 to 2002 and short-term trends from 1995 to 2002 by detailed fields are presented as well.

Using this report and NSF data regarding 2002 federal R&D obligations to academic institutions, SSTI has prepared a table presenting the average federal R&D obligation by state standardized by S&E graduate student. While federal R&D obligations to colleges and universities are not a function of the number of students enrolled at the institutions, the measure of federal R&D obligations per student seems potentially more relevant for comparison among states than a measure of federal R&D obligations to academic institutions based on population or "per capita."

A case could be argued that S&E students attending R&D-intensive institutions (i.e. with higher federal R&D obligations per student) may be more engaged in research-related activities while attending school. Thus, they may be more likely to pursue research-related occupations after graduation and/or may be more involved in research leading to innovation and commercialization (i.e. technology entrepreneurship) than students in institutions with lower-than-average R&D obligations. [NOTE: SSTI invites any of the academic researchers and econometrically-minded policy wonks among the Digest readership to add a few appropriate variables and do the regression for us.]

The measure may not be as explanatory as hoped, however. For instance, federal R&D obligations per S&E student for Maryland and Vermont are, respectively, $127,590 and $123,940. These figures are nearly triple the national average and are $30,000 higher than third-ranked Washington at $95,800.

In Maryland's case, R&D expenditures at Johns Hopkins University represent 87.6 percent of the state total, yet the institution's science and engineering student base is only 19.8 percent of the total. This may be due in large part by the presence of Applied Physics Laboratory at Johns Hopkins University. The Lab does not have an academic mission but falls within the school's R&D total, making JHU the top institution for federal S&E obligations each year by more than doubling the total for second-place University of Washington. JHU alone captures 16.7 percent of all defense S&E obligations to universities.

While technically different from the Applied Physics Lab, the very similar Federally-Funded R&D Centers (FFRDCs) are excluded from the NSF data, leaving JHU's figures as a significant outlier from the rest of the institutions and skewing Maryland's results.

In the case of Vermont, the high figure results in part from the small population of 601 S&E grad students in the denominator. More rigorous statistical analysis involving academic-related entrepreneurial activities would be required to see if these students and tech entrepreneurship in Vermont are benefiting from the apparently research-intensive surroundings.

The table presenting all 50 states, Puerto Rico and the District of Columbia is available at: http://www.ssti.org/Digest/Tables/032805t.htm

Graduate Students and Postdoctorates in Science and Engineering: Fall 2002 is available at: http://www.nsf.gov/statistics/nsf05310/htmstart.htm

Comments on the measure and outcome of the regression may be sent to skinner@ssti.org.