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AAAS Opposes Elimination of Person Question 12 in ACS


December 18, 2014

Dear Ms. Jessup:

On behalf of the American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS), I am submitting comments in regards to the proposed changes to the American Community Survey (ACS) published in the Federal Register, Volume 79, Number 211.  AAAS stands in opposition to the elimination of Person Question 12, which requests information regarding an individual’s undergraduate field of degree. 

AAAS is the largest general scientific society in the world, representing over 120,000 scientists of all disciplines; as well as the publisher of the peer-reviewed journal Science.  For decades AAAS has worked at the intersection of science and society, and the promotion of education and careers in STEM fields. 

The results of the Person Question 12 within the ACS survey is critical to enhancing our understanding of national trends in STEM at a time when other countries are expanding their own investments in research and generating an ever expanding number of graduates with degrees in STEM fields.  The results of the ACS survey and Question 12 in particular allows federal agencies, universities, industry, and non-profit organizations to make more informed decisions in the development of new programs, the recruitment of STEM graduates, and the determination of investment opportunities. 

In addition, this Question is a critical component to other congressionally mandated surveys and is a cost efficient way to gather important data that multiple stakeholders can utilize, including the federal government.  For example, Question 12 is a key data point in the National Science Foundation’s National Center for Science and Engineering Statistics (NCSES) National Survey of College Graduates (NSCG).   The Census Bureau should carefully weigh the added costs to other government surveys that will be impacted by its elimination.   

Removing Person Question 12 is not good for science and it is not good for an economy whose growth is driven by advances in science and technology.  We strongly recommend that it remain as part of the American Community Survey. 


      Alan I. Leshner