Rock Talk

Helping connect you with the NIH perspective

New Data, New Data Book Updates

Besides our data and analyses here on Rock Talk, the NIH Data Book on should be your first stop when looking for longitudinal and historical data on budget, funding rates, and other facts about NIH funding.

The NIH Data Book also contains national biomedical workforce data such as statistics on graduate students and postdocs in the biomedical, behavioral, social and clinical sciences using data from the NSF-NIH Survey of Graduate Students and Postdoctorates in Science and Engineering. The latest data from this survey (2011) are available and reflected in the national graduate student and postdoc statistics sections of the Data Book. I wanted to point to this resource because biomedical research workforce issues are of interest to many Rock Talk readers.

This survey is conducted each year by the National Science Foundation’s National Center for Science and Engineering Statistics (NCSES).  As described in the America COMPETES Act, NCSES serves as a central Federal clearinghouse for the collection of data on science, engineering, technology, and research and development, including statistical data on the scientific workforce, collected through several surveys.

It’s interesting to note that the total enrollment of graduate students in all areas NIH funds (the biomedical, behavioral, social, and clinical sciences) has not been increasing in recent years.

Graph showing total graduate enrollment and first-time, full-time enrollment in all fields NIH funds (biomedical, clinical, behavioral and social sciences.) from 1985-2011. Please visit for the data table used to make this graph.

But looking a little deeper into the sub-field data, there’s no flattening of graduate enrollment in biomedical sciences specifically, as you can see from the chart below. The leveling off of total graduate enrollment shown in the first graph is due to the trends of graduate student enrollment in the behavioral and clinical sciences. For more information on how the survey classifies these areas, see this chart.

Graph showing total graduate enrollment and first-time, full-time enrollment in the biomedical sciences only, from 1985-2011. Please visit for the data table used to make this graph.

It is too early to draw conclusions about the reasons behind this and what the future trend will look like, but it’s worth watching as we continue to gather data on NIH-supported trainees and take on the challenge of improved data and a better understanding of the biomedical research workforce.

2 thoughts on “New Data, New Data Book Updates

  1. “too early to draw conclusions” about trends which have just the single interruption since 1985? When do you anticipate being able to consider tentative hypotheses for this phenomenon?

  2. “there’s no flattening of graduate enrollment in biomedical sciences”
    This is, of course, bad news. It means that the number of PhDs seeking funding from a shrinking budget, and the number competing for a shrinking number of job positions, is continuing to increase well past the number that can be supported. This bears mentioning since there are still people out there insisting that there’s a PhD deficit.

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