Skip to main content

Demographic data collection in STEM organizations

Cite this dataset

Burnett, Nicholas et al. (2022). Demographic data collection in STEM organizations [Dataset]. Dryad.


Professional organizations in STEM (science, technology, engineering, and mathematics) can use demographic data to quantify recruitment and retention (R&R) of underrepresented groups within their memberships.  However, variation in the types of demographic data collected can influence the targeting and perceived impacts of R&R efforts - e.g., giving false signals of R&R for some groups.  We obtained demographic surveys from 73 U.S.-affiliated STEM organizations, collectively representing 712,000 members and conference-attendees.  We found large differences in the demographic categories surveyed (e.g., disability status, sexual orientation) and the available response options.  These discrepancies indicate a lack of consensus regarding the demographic groups that should be recognized and, for groups that are omitted from surveys, an inability of organizations to prioritize and evaluate R&R initiatives.  Aligning inclusive demographic surveys across organizations will provide baseline data that can be used to target and evaluate R&R initiatives to better serve underrepresented groups throughout STEM.


We surveyed 164 STEM organizations (73 responses, rate = 44.5%) between December 2020 and July 2021 with the goal of understanding what demographic data each organization collects from its constituents (i.e., members and conference-attendees) and how the data are used.  Organizations were sourced from a list of professional societies affiliated with the American Association for the Advancement of Science, AAAS, (n = 156) or from social media (n = 8).  The survey was sent to the elected leadership and management firms for each organization, and follow-up reminders were sent after one month.  The responding organizations represented a wide range of fields: 31 life science organizations (157,000 constituents), 5 mathematics organizations (93,000 constituents), 16 physical science organizations (207,000 constituents), 7 technology organizations (124,000 constituents), and 14 multi-disciplinary organizations spanning multiple branches of STEM (131,000 constituents).  A list of the responding organizations is available in the Supplementary Materials.  Based on the AAAS-affiliated recruitment of the organizations and the similar distribution of constituencies across STEM fields, we conclude that the responding organizations are a representative cross-section of the most prominent STEM organizations in the U.S.  Each organization was asked about the demographic information they collect from their constituents, the response rates to their surveys, and how the data were used.

Survey description

The following questions are written as presented to the participating organizations. 

Question 1:  What is the name of your STEM organization?

Question 2:  Does your organization collect demographic data from your membership and/or meeting attendees?

Question 3:  When was your organization’s most recent demographic survey (approximate year)?

Question 4:  We would like to know the categories of demographic information collected by your organization.  You may answer this question by either uploading a blank copy of your organization’s survey (linked provided in online version of this survey) OR by completing a short series of questions.

Question 5:  On the most recent demographic survey or questionnaire, what categories of information were collected?  (Please select all that apply)

  • Disability status
  • Gender identity (e.g., male, female, non-binary)
  • Marital/Family status
  • Racial and ethnic group
  • Religion
  • Sex
  • Sexual orientation
  • Veteran status
  • Other (please provide)

Question 6:  For each of the categories selected in Question 5, what options were provided for survey participants to select?

Question 7:  Did the most recent demographic survey provide a statement about data privacy and confidentiality?  If yes, please provide the statement.

Question 8:  Did the most recent demographic survey provide a statement about intended data use?  If yes, please provide the statement.

Question 9:  Who maintains the demographic data collected by your organization? (e.g., contracted third party, organization executives)

Question 10:  How has your organization used members’ demographic data in the last five years?  Examples: monitoring temporal changes in demographic diversity, publishing diversity data products, planning conferences, contributing to third-party researchers.

Question 11:  What is the size of your organization (number of members or number of attendees at recent meetings)?

Question 12:  What was the response rate (%) for your organization’s most recent demographic survey?

*Organizations were also able to upload a copy of their demographics survey instead of responding to Questions 5-8.  If so, the uploaded survey was used (by the study authors) to evaluate Questions 5-8.

Usage notes

Demographic questions that were not surveyed are listed as "NOT SURVEYED"

Information that was not provided by the organizations is listed as "NOT GIVEN"

Within the data-use section (Column header pre-fix = "Data-use"), "NA" indicates that the organization had no data managment available; "No" indicates that data management information was available but the queried item was not included; "Yes" indicates that data management information was available and the queried item was included.