It is unlikely to quiet the burgeoning cries of alarm about a perceived crisis  in American scientific competitiveness. But a new report from the National Science Foundation  offers some evidence both of progress and of continued problems.
The report finds that the number of science and engineering Ph.D.'s awarded by American universities in 2005 reached an all-time high of 27,974, surpassing the previous record of 27,273 from 1998. Also peaking in 2005 were the number of doctorates granted to women, to Asian Americans and to members of underrepresented minority groups, and the number awarded in several of the so-called "STEM" fields.
But the sharpest growth of all occurred among non-U.S. citizens, who earned 13.4 percent more doctorates from American universities in 2005 than they had the year before, and who have seen their share of all doctorates grow since 2001. In 2005, foreign-born researchers earned 41 percent of the science and engineering Ph.D.'s awarded by American universities, up from 36 percent in 2001 and 39 percent in 2004, as seen in the table below:
Science and Engineering Doctorates Awarded by U.S. Universities, 2001-5
|2001||2002||2003||2004||2005||% of 2005 total|
(Note: Those whose gender, ethnicity or citizenship are unknown are excluded from subtotals.)
The report released by the National Science Foundation Friday contains summary data from the Survey of Earned Doctorates that is produced each year by six federal agencies: the NSF, the National Institutes of Health, the U.S. Department of Education, the U.S. Department of Agriculture, the National Endowment for the Humanities, and the National Aeronautics and Space Administration.
A broader report,  the annual Doctorate Recipients from U.S. Universities: Summary Report 2005, was also made available this weekend.
Numerous fields saw more Ph.D.'s awarded in 2005 than in any other previous year, including engineering, the biological sciences, mathematics and computer sciences. The increase in engineering Ph.D.'s was spread across most of the major subdisciplines, with the biggest gains occurring in electrical engineering (to 1,852 from 1,650), chemical (to 875 from 725), civil (to 757 from 673) and mechanical (to 978 from 852).
The number of doctorates awarded in non-science fields actually declined in 2005, the report finds, falling to 15,380 from 15,845 in 2004. Most of that drop occurred in education, with a slight uptick in health fields, as seen in the table below:
Doctorates Awarded by Discipline, Selected Years, 1996-2005
|Non-science and engineering||15,197||15,161||15,371||15,380|
Although women are continuing to make up an increasing proportion of all doctoral degrees awarded, the distribution is uneven, as the table below shows:
Proportion of Ph.D's Earned by Women in Selected Fields, 1996-2005
A total of 416 institutions in the United States and Puerto Rico awarded at least one of the 43,354 doctorates in 2005. But the top 10 percent of institutions awarded nearly half of all Ph.D.'s. The top 20 universities in doctorates awarded are:
|1. U. of California at Berkeley||802|
|2. U. of Texas at Austin||716|
|3. U. of Michigan||711|
|4. U. of Wisconsin at Madison||664|
|5. U. of California at Los Angeles||651|
|6. U. of Minnesota||644|
|7. Stanford U.||642|
|8. U. of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign||637|
|9. Pennsylvania State U.||606|
|10. Ohio State U.||591|
|11. Massachusetts Inst of Technology||581|
|12. U. of Florida||574|
|13. U. of Southern California||554|
|14. Purdue U.||522|
|15. Texas A&M U.||511|
|16. U. of Washington||511|
|17. Harvard U.||510|
|18. U. of Maryland||499|
|19. Michigan State U.||475|
|20. Columbia U.||472|