Attrition of Scientists and Engineers at Seven Agencies

RCED-84-142: Published: May 29, 1984. Publicly Released: Jun 28, 1984.

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Pursuant to a congressional request, GAO provided information on the attrition of scientists and engineers between 1979 and 1983 from seven agencies: the Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC), the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), the Food and Drug Administration (FDA), the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA), the National Bureau of Standards (NBS), the National Institutes of Health (NIH), and the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA).

GAO found an inconsistent pattern when changes in the scientific workforce were compared with changes in the nonscientific work force. At CPSC, EPA, and OSHA, attrition was higher for scientists and engineers than for the nonscientific work force; at FDA, NASA, and NBS, the attrition rate for scientists and engineers was lower. Both of the work forces increased at NIH, but the scientific work force increased at a lesser rate. Agency reduction in force (RIF) actions were a factor in the attrition of scientific personnel at CPSC, EPA, NASA, NBS, and OSHA, while FDA and NIH had no separations directly attributable to a RIF. Some voluntary separations might have been due to the announcement of an impending RIF. Trends in scientific employment by occupation and by type of work that scientists and engineers engaged in varied by agency. CPSC was the only agency reviewed that showed a decline in its top five scientific occupations.

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