represent NSF policy, I consider them an important step for developing an agenda that will help ensure the health of the mathematical and physical sciences and provide greater opportunities for the next generation of scientists. These recommendations are currently under study within NSF. I invite you to participate in this ongoing dialogue.

William C. Harris

Assistant Director Directorate for

Mathematical and Physical Sciences


The heightened international economic and technological competitiveness of the post-Cold War world and the growing influence of domestic fiscal stringency are forcing the research university community to adjust to a changing environment. In particular, these new forces affect the training of graduate students in the physical sciences and mathematics, and so the Directorate of Mathematical and Physical Sciences (MPS) of the National Science Foundation (NSF) convened a Workshop to examine these forces and to consider issues that impact how MPS carries out its responsibilities as an important supporter of graduate education and research.

Although the infrastructure for training Ph.D.'s in the mathematical and physical sciences in the United States has been extremely successful, this infrastructure has only now begun to respond to the demands of the changed environment. The MPS-sponsored workshop included representatives of academia (faculty, administrators, and students), industry, professional societies, national laboratories, government agencies, and other stakeholder institutions to examine current approaches to graduate and postdoctoral training. This document is the Summary Report of that Workshop.

As is the case for all MPS-sponsored workshops, this report is meant to assist the Directorate in its planning and interactions with the scientific community. It was understood by the participants that any changes in MPS programs and procedures will have to be discussed by the MPS Advisory Committee and possibly approved by NSF management and the National Science Board before going into effect. It was moreover the consensus of the participants that any eventual changes be gradual and be preceded by a period of experimentation in which groups in the MPS community are invited to propose innovations and changes in the conduct of graduate training.

After discussions in separate groups, the participants met in plenary session and endorsed the following recommendations.

  1. Mechanisms should be found to encourage a broadening of the training and educational experience of MPS graduate students.
  2. Mechanisms should be examined for shortening the average time to the Ph.D. degree in the MPS fields.

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