doctorates from the physical sciences. But, because there are so many applications from this discipline, only about one in five applicants with this background receive awards.
Preliminary analysis suggests that labs receive different amounts of applications and awards are not made uniformly across different labs. Some awardees do decline NIST/NRC Research Associateships, though the percentage of declined offers is often lower than that for the other RAPs and has declined over time.
Turning now to an assessment of the experiences of Research Associates, currently available data do not allow for a program evaluation of immediate outcomes of the Program. Little data are collected on Research Associates’ experiences or on research advisors’ evaluation of RAs. Data are also not collected on the value of the program to NIST or to the broader scientific and engineering community.
Second, with the caveat that this conclusion is based on very limited data that may be biased by nonresponse, NIST/NRC RAs are as productive as RAs in other Programs. NIST/NRC RAs statistically were more likely to receive an award or give domestic presentations than RAs in other Programs. Conversely, they published fewer journal articles. However, while these differences were statistically significant, they were not substantively large. NIST/NRC RAs patent or give international presentations comparably with RAs in other Programs. Finally, and subject to the same caveat, RAs are quite satisfied with the Program. On a scale of 1 to 10, with 10 being excellent, NIST/NRC RAs rated short-term and long-term value of the program; lab, advisor, administrative (NIST and NRC) support between 7.7 and 8.5. In half the categories NIST/NRC RAs and Research Asssociates in other programs reported statistically similar levels of satisfaction. In the other half, other RAs reported higher levels of satisfaction.
Finally, looking at the careers of former RAs, preliminary evidence—which is quite limited—suggests that RAs contribute to the pool of qualified applicants to permanent positions at NIST. About 45 percent of RAs reported that their immediate post-tenure position was at NIST as a permanent, temporary, or contract employee after their appointment—a higher percentage than RAs at other federal agencies. A survey of former RAs found that a higher percentage of former NIST/NRC RAs stayed at NIST than RAs at other federal agencies stayed at their host agency (37.6 to 28.1 percent). Second, evidence on the outcomes of the Program is largely lacking. Little data are collected on the career outcomes of former RAs; and the value of the program to NIST or to the broader scientific and engineering community.
NIST should conduct a more thorough evaluation of the NIST/NRC Research Associateship Program.
As a first step, NIST and the NRC should review specific goals of the program.
The evaluation should include the following components: an assessment of outreach to potential applicants; an assessment of individuals who decline to accept a Research Associate position; an assessment of the benefits of the program on the RAs after they complete their appointments; an assessment of the benefits to NIST of hosting RAs; and an assessment of benefits of the Program to the broader scientific and engineering community.
NIST should conduct an evaluation of outreach efforts.
To conduct such an evaluation, data need to be collected. In this regard, the question on the application about how applicants hear about the program is