The requests for proposals (RFPs);
Data contained in proposals submitted by departments in the mathematical sciences;
Reports from NSF site visits to the departments that submitted proposals;
Results of NSF proposal review panels;
Annual reports submitted by awardees;
Reports from NSF 3rd-year site visits to awardees, which provide input into decisions on whether or not to continue grants into the 4th and 5th years;
Final reports submitted by awardees;
Enrollment data and information on degrees awarded, which are collected by the American Mathematical Society;
Information collected by the Department of Education’s National Center for Education Statistics through its Integrated Postsecondary Education Data System (IPEDS);
Information collected by the committee:
The information from a conference call conducted with members of VIGRE site-visit teams;
Presentations at full committee meetings; and
A survey conducted by the committee of all PhD-granting mathematics, applied mathematics, and statistics departments in the United States.
Chapter 1 defines the committee’s interpretation of its charge, its sources of information, and the scope and approach of its evaluation. Chapter 2 documents the wide range of concerns that contributed to the creation of the VIGRE program, as reflected in a series of high-level reports published between 1994 and 1998. These reports provide a context for understanding and evaluating the VIGRE program. Chapter 3 describes the VIGRE award process and reviews the progression of VIGRE goals from the inception of the program until the present, indicating that although the core goals have remained consistent over time, the program’s emphasis has changed, as have goals outside the core.
In Chapter 4, the committee reviews NSF’s administration of the VIGRE program, and in Chapter 5 the committee uses information generated from its data sources and its own expertise to review the achievements of the program. In Chapter 6, on the basis of its review of the VIGRE program and its accomplishments, the committee develops nine recommendations, which it presents below in this Summary and which are discussed more fully in Chapter 6.
Recommendations 1 and 2 respond to the committee’s first charge, to review the goals of VIGRE, and to its third charge, to draw conclusions about the program’s achievements. The committee finds that, although some clarification is needed, the goals of the program are worthwhile and the VIGRE program is an appropriate way to foster those goals. Impressive examples show that VIGRE has had a meaningful impact on the educational programs of departments, leading to the kind of systemic change called for when the program was conceived. With the changes described in this report, VIGRE will serve a valuable purpose that is consistent with its original design.
Recommendation 8 is in response to the second and fourth charges, to evaluate current practices for steering and assessing VIGRE and to develop plans for future data-driven assessments and collection.
The committee regrets that the committee itself was not allowed access to some NSF source documents, such as proposals submitted to the VIGRE program and reviews of departments with VIGRE grants. Conflicting requirements exist between the NSF, whose policy is that these documents not be made public, and the NRC, which is required by law to make public most documents received by a committee in the course of a study. Although access was allowed to NRC staff, who reviewed and summarized some of these documents and provided some statistical analysis, direct access by committee members would have aided the committee in formulating conclusions and recommendations.