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INTRODUCTION

This report has been developed to assist the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) in responding to a Congressional request to evaluate the feasibility of initiating a National Scholars Program. In it, the committee provides a detailed design for a National Scholars Program to increase the number of underparticipating minorities earning Ph.D.s in mathematics, the physical sciences, and engineering.

As initially described in Public Law 102-195, which called for the feasibility study, the distinctive characteristics of the proposed program are (1) a continuum of academic and financial support for participants beginning in high school and continuing through Ph.D. study, and (2) coordination with other science education initiatives funded by NASA and/or other agencies, organizations, and institutions.

In proposing the design of a National Scholars Program, the committee provides detailed recommendations. They are not intended to be prescriptive. In this, as in any program, there are assumptions and values as well as practical considerations that shape our recommendations. We have sought to relate our thinking and rationale for our decisions and to highlight examples that illustrate possible options.

We recommend that NASA implement a National Scholars Program because the proposed program is well suited to NASA's mission, specific interests, and capabilities. However, such a program could also be implemented by others. The principles underlying the proposed program are generic in the sense that they could be adapted to a range of settings and sponsors. The organizational structure is intended to be flexible in order to build on and collaborate with existing initiatives that already have an infrastructure and some elements of the program we propose. We view the National Scholars Program as a mechanism to permit other institutions or organizations to contribute to a broad-based effort that they could not otherwise mount acting alone. While our principles and goals are firm, we see a wide range of opportunities and resources to accomplish the stated purposes.

NASA asked the National Research Council to address, among other issues, the following matters:

  • Whether NASA could adequately implement the National Scholars Program.

  • Different options for structuring the National Scholars Program, including its establishment as a pilot program.



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THE NATIONAL SCHOLARS PROGRAM: EXCELLENCE WITH DIVERSITY FOR THE FUTURE: PROGRAM DESIGN 1 INTRODUCTION This report has been developed to assist the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) in responding to a Congressional request to evaluate the feasibility of initiating a National Scholars Program. In it, the committee provides a detailed design for a National Scholars Program to increase the number of underparticipating minorities earning Ph.D.s in mathematics, the physical sciences, and engineering. As initially described in Public Law 102-195, which called for the feasibility study, the distinctive characteristics of the proposed program are (1) a continuum of academic and financial support for participants beginning in high school and continuing through Ph.D. study, and (2) coordination with other science education initiatives funded by NASA and/or other agencies, organizations, and institutions. In proposing the design of a National Scholars Program, the committee provides detailed recommendations. They are not intended to be prescriptive. In this, as in any program, there are assumptions and values as well as practical considerations that shape our recommendations. We have sought to relate our thinking and rationale for our decisions and to highlight examples that illustrate possible options. We recommend that NASA implement a National Scholars Program because the proposed program is well suited to NASA's mission, specific interests, and capabilities. However, such a program could also be implemented by others. The principles underlying the proposed program are generic in the sense that they could be adapted to a range of settings and sponsors. The organizational structure is intended to be flexible in order to build on and collaborate with existing initiatives that already have an infrastructure and some elements of the program we propose. We view the National Scholars Program as a mechanism to permit other institutions or organizations to contribute to a broad-based effort that they could not otherwise mount acting alone. While our principles and goals are firm, we see a wide range of opportunities and resources to accomplish the stated purposes. NASA asked the National Research Council to address, among other issues, the following matters: Whether NASA could adequately implement the National Scholars Program. Different options for structuring the National Scholars Program, including its establishment as a pilot program.

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THE NATIONAL SCHOLARS PROGRAM: EXCELLENCE WITH DIVERSITY FOR THE FUTURE: PROGRAM DESIGN The cost of the program, with annual cost estimates for the first 10 years of the program. Alternative funding sources for the program. The criteria for selecting students for participation in the program. The appropriate number of students for annual participation in the program. The possible ways in which the program or its concepts can be extended to other federal agencies, state agencies, educational institutions, and private organizations. The existence of any current public or private sector programs which are similar to the program, the benefits and disadvantages of those similar programs, and whether a new program would unnecessarily duplicate current efforts. The extent to which existing federal, state, and other science education programs and activities could be used to complement or supplement the program. OVERVIEW OF THE NATIONAL SCHOLARS PROGRAM We propose that a National Scholars Program implement from 20 to 30 consortiums. Each consortium will provide a continuum of program support from precollege through doctoral study. Linkages between educational levels and partnerships among colleges and universities, precollege science initiatives, scientific societies, and the private sector will form the organizational framework of a consortium. A consortium must provide a set of essential educational elements, including mentoring, research participation, prefreshman bridge programs, academic advisement, tutoring, structure teaching, and enrichment. A National Scholars Coordinating Council will provide national leadership and oversight for the program. When we speak of a consortium, linkages, and program elements, we intend a genuine and serious effort to bring together key people in institutions and organizations that are committed to the goals of the program, not complexity. The program should be guided by two principles. The first is academic excellence. The National Scholars Program should be identified first with high academic achievement and then as a program to advance minority scholarship. Second, science faculty must be involved in all aspects of the development of the program and in interactions among consortium partners. In the report that follows, the committee sets forth both an organizational structure for a National Scholars Program and a description of the educational principles that should underlie the program. Then the committee sets forth recommendations pertaining to the selection of students and consortiums, the number of participants, costs, and next steps.