What is the impact of the Program on the Research Associates, NIST, and relevant scientific fields in general?2
In addition, the committee determined to offer recommendations where appropriate regarding data collection on applicants to the Program; on the experiences of current and former NIST Research Associates; and on the views of Research Associates and NIST employees towards the value of the Program to Research Associates, to NIST, and to science and engineering broadly.
Multiple sources of information were identified and used in preparing this report. The primary source of information was data collected by the NRC’s Fellowships Office, including: application data, data from final reports prepared by the Research Associates, and a directory of past Research Associates. In addition, the committee collected original data from three expert panels. In general, however, the data were inadequate to draw definitive conclusions.
This report is divided into five chapters. Chapter One describes the program and the approach and scope of the study. Chapter Two examines applicants to the NIST/NRC RAP and compares them to applicants to other Research Associateship Programs. It also examines applications and awards disaggregated across several dimensions, such as gender or doctoral-granting institution. Chapter Three examines the experiences of NIST/NRC Research Associates and Research Associates at other federal agencies, as well as Research Associates’ views on the value of the program they participated in. Chapter Four examines the careers of former Research Associates. Chapter Five presents an overall summary of preliminary results and recommendations.
Outreach efforts produce more qualified applicants than NIST has slots to fill for Research Associates; and the pool of applicants includes many from top research institutions and is increasingly diverse. Overall, 22 percent of applicants to NIST were awarded an appointment—a lower awards ratio than for other RAPs overall. The award ratios for NIST and other RAP applicants vary by gender, race, and field. Across all fields, the proportion of women and underrepresented minorities in the applicant pool and as awardees has grown over time, however less so than the proportion among Ph.D.s and those intending to be postdoctorates. Personal communication is the primary way that NIST/NRC Research Associates heard about the program.
NIST/NRC Research Associates appear to be about as productive as Research Associates in other Programs. On average, NIST/NRC Research Associates publish about two articles, give about four presentations, but rarely receive a patent or award during their appointments. They are more likely to give a domestic presentation or win an award, less likely to publish journal articles, and as likely to receive a patent or give an international presentation. Productivity data, though, are derived from a survey with a low response rate and possible nonresponse bias.
Research Associates are quite satisfied with the program. For those Research Associates who provided information on their final reports, on a scale of 1 to 10, with 10 being excellent, NIST/NRC Research Associates rated short-term and long-term value of the program; lab, advisor, administrative (NIST and NRC) support between 7.7 and 8.5.