doctoral training in those fields (see Box 1-1 for the full statement of task). NIH is the major federal agency to fund biomedical training of both doctoral students and postdoctoral scholars in the United States. Funding for institutional and individual training grants exceeds $700 million per year. In 2005, 5,707 predoctoral fellows and trainees in biomedical sciences were supported by National Research Services Awards (NSRAs). This constituted approximately 20 percent of the eligible2 biomedical science students in the Assessment.

Box 1-1 Statement of Task

A panel of the Committee on An Assessment of Research Doctorate Programs (BHEW-Q03-01-A) will examine data from the 2010 assessment with specific reference to the biomedical sciences. The panel will report on findings for each of the biomedical sciences fields with respect to variation in the characteristics of doctoral programs, specifically time to degree, completion rates, program size, diversity, and research productivity. Comparisons will be made among Ph.D. programs in the same field housed in medical schools and in faculties of arts and sciences. Some of the questions to be addressed are:

1) In fields such as biochemistry, where programs are housed in both medical schools and in arts and sciences faculties, are there apparent differences in time to degree and completion rates?

2) What correlations exist between student time to degree and completion rates and other characteristics of the programs, e.g.,

a)   What is the correlation between students’ time to degree and the publication rates of faculty in their program?

b)   What is the correlation between GRE scores and student time to degree and completion rates?

c)   Do programs that offer additional student activities, such as writing workshops, career seminars, etc., have longer times to degree, on average?

3) What are the correlations between the diversity of a program’s faculty and the diversity of its students, both with regard to underrepresented minorities and women?

4) A large number of programs in the biomedical sciences classified themselves as “Integrated biological science” programs and span the biomedical sciences. Are these programs different in observed characteristics from the programs in which students specialize in a specific area from the outset of doctoral study?

Other issues may be raised by the panel on which the study data can throw light. The panel will issue a consensus study report with findings but with no recommendations.


2 International students, about 30% of total enrollment in the biomedical sciences, are not eligible for funding on NRSA grants.

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