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CONCLUSIONS AND RECOMMENDATIONS 75 5 CONCLUSIONS AND RECOMMENDATIONS America's system of graduate education in science and engineering has set the international standard, especially in preparing students to work successfully at the cutting edge of research, and it must continue to do so. Graduate schools have also, increasingly in recent years, contributed to filling the nation's growing need for advanced expertise in diverse nonresearch positions. Nevertheless, the committee believes that there is room for substantial improvement in graduate education and that some immediate changes are needed in programs, information, and attitudes. These changes are recommended, in part, in response to contemporary stresses. In many important fields, employment in basic- research positions has not kept pace with expanding graduate enrollments, and this has led to unmet expectations among many graduates who have aspired to such positions. The available evidence on unemployment rates indicates that demand by less-traditional employers is growing fast enough to absorb most graduates. However, we note broad criticism from many such employers concerning graduates' immediate suitability for entry jobsâ criticism that is often based on a belief that students are too specialized, in view of the variety of tasks that they will confront, and that it is hard for them to adapt to the demands of nonacademic work. With only one-third of new PhDs expected to enter the academic tenure system, the needs of these alternate employees should be given more attention. There is also a broader concern: Although it is clear that human resources are the primary key to the nation's strength in science and technology, we have not, as a nation, paid adequate attention to the graduate schools as a system for meeting the full range of needs for advanced talent in science and engineering. That is perhaps seen most clearly in the fact that the United States has effectively lacked human-resources policy for advanced scientists and engineers. In effect, human resources have been taken for granted as a byproduct of our policies for the support of research. The simplifying assumptionâboth inside and outside the university communityâhas been that the dominant function of graduate programs is to produce the next generation of academic researchers. It is time for a fuller recognition, by academics and policy
CONCLUSIONS AND RECOMMENDATIONS 76 officials alike, of the changing way that graduate education in science and engineering contributes to the wide array of national needs. For many of these needs, it is a career in professional service, applied research, development, or consulting that graduates will find open to them. The committee concludes that improvement of three kinds is needed. First, graduate programs should add emphasis on versatility; we need to make our students more adaptable to changing conditions. This is mainly a matter of local initiative by the universities themselves, but there is a supporting role for government, too. Second, much better information should be routinely provided to students and their advisers so that students can make more realistic career decisions than is now practical. Third, there needs to be a deliberate national reconsideration of graduate education so that the open policy questions, the current information gaps, and the contemporary stresses are systematically addressed by a suitable blend of university, industry, professional society, and government. Those improvements can be made without disruption of the traditional commitment to excellence in basic research that has been, and must continue to be, a hallmark of the US system of graduate education. Although the universities are primarily responsible for implementing those changes, national and state government, industry, business, and others can help by providing opportunities to gain experience and exposure to a variety of occupations via internships, alternative certification programs, etc. We do not minimize the difficulty of effecting reform in a system as complex and diffuse as that of US universities. But we already have many relevant examples of the application of local imagination and initiative. We believe that most university leaders will find it in their own interest to reshape graduate education to meet students' career needs better and to ensure universities' vital role in the nation's steady progress toward a knowledge-based society. 5.1 NATIONAL OPTIONS The committee arrived at its preferred national strategyâemphasizing versatility and informationâafter considering alternative approaches. For example, it might seem tempting to remove any apparent imbalance between supply and demand by adjusting student enrollment. The reasons not to move toward anything like national enrollment quotas have been presented above (see Section 4.1). We found these arguments as persuasive when applied to discipline or fields as would be implied in suggestions to cut physics enrollments by X% or to increase the numbers of master's degrees in microbiology by Y%. Identifying the ârightâ number of graduates is chancy, to say nothing of administering nationwide compliance. Another version of this suggestion is that we should set out to adjust the mix of master's degrees and PhD degrees that are awarded. Some question, for example, whether PhD-holders are not overeducated for the positions they fillâespecially for nonresearch jobsâand whether a master's degree would suffice. But can one actually conclude that the PhD experience is
CONCLUSIONS AND RECOMMENDATIONS 77 unnecessary for such positions? From the information gathered by the committee (see Section 2.7 and Appendix F), the opposite seems to be true. Employers themselves ?ppear to be seeking the intellectual standards, resourcefulness, and initiative that come with the successful completion of original research in a PhD program. The complexity and sophistication of more and more positions appear to require the qualities gained in the advanced coursework and original-problem formation of graduate programs. Another possibility is the creation of a new form of degreeâa âdifferent doctorate,â perhaps, or a degree that is intermediate between a master's and a doctorate. In theory, a new degree could be better tuned to the class of nontraditional jobs that PhDs are increasingly filling-âfor example, it might require less-intensive or different types of research and dissertation experience and as a consequence take less time to complete. In practice, however, we are convinced that this approach would not work well. The proposal is reminiscent of the doctor of science (DSc) degree that some institutions have offered with the hope that it would catch on as the preferred degree for doctoral students who seek nontraditional careers. A key point is that employers report that they value the research experience required for the PhD degree. Without ready demand for a newly introduced degree, students risk investing substantial effort only to find that they receive a diploma regarded as inferiorâone that critics might think of as âPhD-lite.â It is more realistic, we conclude, to adapt the PhD degree than to try to invent and introduce a hybrid degree. In opting for a strategy of making graduates much more versatile and informed, we believe we have a solution that allows the system to self-adjust continuously in a way that does not depend on the accuracy of an assessment of the number of graduates needed in the national aggregate or in particular fields. Thus, for example, if better- informed students conclude that the PhD is inappropriate or unnecessary for the jobs they want, enrollments will decline accordingly. 5.2 TOWARD GREATER VERSATILITY Once enrolled, a graduate student might find many reasons to select a relatively narrow subject for intensive study. A student might be fascinated by a particular field of knowledge and see specialization as the surest route to a research position. If the selected field aligns with the research interests of a professor, the student might have an exciting and educationally enriching chance to work as an assistant on a path-breaking research team; this can enrich the student's educational experience immeasurably and can provide fresh ideas and energy to the research team as well. The disadvantages of overspecialization in graduate school, although not immediately apparent, are real for both the student and the nation, whether or not the student becomes a researcher. Excessive concentration in a particular subfield can limit a person's later research contributions and affect later career choices. It is difficult to gauge whether a specialty chosen early in graduate school will be desirable in the job market or still be in the exciting forefront
CONCLUSIONS AND RECOMMENDATIONS 78 of research when the graduate years conclude. And midcareer changes might be desirable later, whether or not the person starts off in a research position; too narrow an educational experience makes later changes difficult, especially in the direction of nontraditional types of employment. 5.2.1.To produce scientists and engineers who are versatile, graduate programs should provide options that allow students to gain a wider variety of academic and other career skills. A number of universities have set up innovative programs designed to promote interactions between academe and industry. One example is the Leaders for Manufacturing Program at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, organized around the School of Engineering and the Sloan School of Management. The program seeks to create collaborative processes for problem identification, discovery, and knowledge transfer. It attempts to promote leadership skills (communication, motivation, decision-making, and change management), practice, and reflection. A survey of industry partners involved in the program estimated that in the first 5 years they had saved more than $28 million and incorporated 40% of the thesis work into practice. Box 5â1: University-Industry Interactions Graduate programs should offer options that equip students for a wide array of eventual career opportunities. These options are beginning to appear on some campuses but need to be expanded to promote students' ability to adapt. Adaptability can be enhanced in two ways. First, graduate students can benefit from a wider variety of academic preparation. For students who choose to enter a research career within the discipline studied in graduate school, it is important to have a grounding in the broad fundamentals of the field and some personal familiarity with several subfieldsâa breadth that might be much harder to gain after graduation. For such positions, if students become overspecialized in graduate school, they can later suffer from an inability to recognize and enter newly emerging kinds of research. For nonresearch positions, too, one's value to employers is likely to be enhanced by breadth in a related field, gained through coursework or, better, a minor. For example, a chemist might minor in computer science or a biologist in mathematics. Second, there is value in experiences that supply career skills beyond those gained in the laboratory and classroom. More students should, for example, have off-campus experiences to acquire the skills desired by an increasing number of employers, especially the ability to communicate complex ideas to nonspecialists and the ability to work in teams of interdependent workers. The internship in off-campus settings is one option that needs to be expanded. Project-oriented teams in corporations provide potential opportunities for collaborative interactions and exposure to challenging practical problems. Joint industry-university projects should be explored as part of some students' preparation, with the possibility that students complete their dissertation
CONCLUSIONS AND RECOMMENDATIONS 79 work off campus. Such projects also acquaint faculty members with the needs and organizational cultures of nonacademic employers. Graduate programs should also expand on-campus opportunities to allow their students to attain a broader range of career skills. Outstanding people in a large variety of careers can be brought to campuses for presentations and made available to students. And communication skills might be sharpened through organized presentations to people outside the discipline and through older students' mentorship of younger students, for example. 5.2.2. To foster versatility, government and other agents of financial assistance for graduate students should adjust their support mechanisms to include new âeducation/training grantsâ that resemble the training grants now available in some federal agencies. âCompared with fellowships and traineeships, research assistantships are a very imprecise instrument for producing human resources for science and engineering. First, because students are in effect bound to their faculty mentors for financial support, they have less flexibility to pursue innovative learning experiences, such as participating in collaborative research with private corporations. In addition, research funding could play a larger strategic role in developing human resources for science and technology, particularly in attracting and cultivating more students from groups in the U.S. population that have traditionally been underrepresented in science and engineering. This has taken on added importance now that the majority of new entrants to the workforce are women and [members of] minorities.â Source: Good and Lane, 1994. The United States has a sound tradition of investing generously in the graduate education of scientists and engineers. Federal agencies, private foundations, industries, and other granting agencies can support the efforts of both students and their graduate programs to enhance the versatility of new graduates. Most federal support for students is provided through research assistantships. Research assistantships have proved important for bringing graduate students into federally funded research projects, and they will continue to remain a major form of federal assistance. Research assistantships can bring great educational benefits to students, but they are not specifically designed to enhance the versatility of graduate students. Assistantships are usually administered by the faculty researchers who receive the research grants, so the needs of the funded projects themselves are likely to be paramount in guiding students' work assignments.
CONCLUSIONS AND RECOMMENDATIONS 80 We recommend increasing the relative emphasis on education/training grants, a concept adapted from the training grants1 that are now awarded in selected agencies. Training grants are awarded competitively to institutions and departments, which use them to enrich students' educational experience in diverse ways. They have been used effectively to meet a variety of national objectives, and they can be tuned to the goal that we emphasize: the development and sustenance of locally conceived program innovations that enhance versatility in the graduate population. We recognize that, in a period of constrained funds, increased emphasis on education grants could reduce the number of research assistantships that are available. In recent years, the engineering directorate of the National Science Foundation (NSF) has developed innovative programs that support the goals outlined in this report. One example is the Industry Partnerships in Research and Education program, which includes 18 engineering research centers, 25 science-technology centers, and 53 cooperative research centers. The purpose of these activities is to increase industry- university interactions. NSF recently announced a new program to allow students receiving NSF postdoctoral fellowships in chemistry to work in a US industrial laboratory. The purposes of the program are to facilitate the transfer of knowledge and technology between industry and academe and to give new PhDs experience in private industry. Applicants are required to negotiate agreements on intellectual property with the sponsoring company and to write a research plan that can be pursued after the fellowship is completed. Box 5â2: New NSF Graduate-Education Initiatives The essential features of education/training grants would be: â¢ The grants are awarded, on the basis of competitive proposals, to departments and programs, rather than to individual faculty members. â¢ Evaluation criteria feature the proposer's plan to improve the versatility of students, both through program and curriculum innovations and by upgrading faculty advice to acquaint students with the full range of future employment options. The experience with training grants at the National Institutes of Health over the last few decades shows that this type of mechanism can be successful in establishing productive interdisciplinary programs and in encouraging students to enter emerging fields of research. We encourage the growth of this program in a way that further enhances students' command of subjects and skills needed by nontraditional employers. 1 Training grant is the traditional term to describe many grants to universities and departments. However, we propose the term education/training grant as more appropriate for the mechanism set forth in this report. The difference in meaning between education (âlearning how to think and learnâ) and training (âlearning how to doâ) underlies our preference for adding the word education. Training grants are used to meet several ends. Education/training grants, in contrast, would be aimed at one goal: greater student versatility.
CONCLUSIONS AND RECOMMENDATIONS 81 What would be a âwinningâ education/training-grant proposal, according to the committee? A winning proposal might include (1) an interdepartmental or program activity that would improve the versatility of graduate students, such as an interdisciplinary degree program that allowed a mathematics PhD student to obtain an MS in engineering; (2) a program element, such as an internship program, that improved the adaptability of graduate students by increasing their exposure to different ways of working in different employment sectors; (3) a program element that exposed students to the wide variety of employment opportunities open to them via career-opportunity and skill seminars, job fairs, and graduate career counseling; and (4) a program to reduce time to degree by 1 year. One example of a winning proposal would be a grant that would be provided to both a university and an industry for a collaborative research program. One could imagine a collaborative program between the University of Washington and Boeing Corporation to develop a program in which the University of Washington would provide solid grounding in elementary and particle physics and Boeing would provide background in aerospace applications of physics. Another possibility is a grant to a university and a state K-12 authority to provide teacher leadership training in science curricula. Box 5â3: Education/Training-Grant Proposal The National Science Foundation (NSF) is reviving the training-grant program that it supported until the 1970s. In its initial stage, only a few hundred of the 20,000 students supported by NSF grants are receiving traineeships. By means of its training grants, NSF hopes to serve a variety of distinct purposes, including promotion of emerging fields, interdisciplinary programs, industry involvement, and the participation of women and minority-group members. We encourage deliberate expansion of this effort for the special purpose of fostering broader graduate experiences, which could well include industry involvement and emerging research that is particularly valued in expanding job markets. Some of the new education/training grants should be administered as demonstration grants for particularly innovative programs; if successful, demonstration grants should be expanded at NSF and replicated in other agencies. Other federal agencies could use education/training grants effectively. The Atomic Energy Commission and the National Aeronautics and Space Administration once used what they called training grants to help to augment the national pool of nuclear and aerospace engineers; today, the Environmental Protection Agency and the Department of Energy, for example, could use this type of grant to induce more young researchers to address issues in environmental protection and remediation. Similarly, one goal of the recently launched technology- transfer programsâthe Advanced Technology Program and the Technology Reinvestment Programâis to foster science-based technologies in industry. Those programs now operate by means of cost-shared research grants, but a worthy national objective could be the development of human resources as a component of technology transfer, and a portion of program funds could be devoted to education/training grants. Education/training grants need not be restricted to federal agencies. For example, corporate sponsors could design grants to expose students to industrial research, development, and problem-solving. Foundations and state governments could fund graduate education/training grants with the aim of producing secondary-school teachers and science-curriculum specialists. In summary, these suggestions are intended to encourage a better balance among the alternative types of grants: continuing fellowships for the top research-oriented students,
CONCLUSIONS AND RECOMMENDATIONS 82 expanding education/training grants to catalyze the development of innovative programs, continuing a substantial number of research assistantships, and continuing institution-supported teaching assistantships. 5.2.3. In implementing changes to promote versatility, care must be taken not to compromise other important objectives. At Drexel University, PhD programs are relatively new. The first efforts, beginning in the 1960s, were interdisciplinary biomedical programs. Today, Drexel produces 70â80 PhDs per year, mostly in science and engineering. An unusual aspect of the program is that students spend 18 months of the 5-year program doing cooperative work with industry. Dennis Brown, provost at Drexel, told the committee that half the full-time faculty are involved in collaborative industry-faculty research. In Dr. Brown's opinion, today's scientists and engineers need more knowledge about business, pedagogy, multidisciplinary approaches, and policy environments. He summarized the Drexel approach as a âvalue-added PhD,â which includes â¢ More intimate knowledge of business and commerce and ability to develop and market ideas. â¢ Less emphasis on research during graduate school and more emphasis on education. â¢ Interdisciplinary PhDs in such areas as environmental science and engineering and biomedicine. â¢ Combining traditional PhDs with policy studies through traineeship programs. Other current efforts at Drexel include master's-degree cooperative placements, new programs in engineering management and software development, increased employer support for advanced training, and a practice-oriented master's degree in engineering. Box 5â4: A âValue-Added PhDâ Introducing measures to enhance versatility will require care and imagination. They should be instituted in a way that allows universities to attain other endsâenumerated belowâat the same time. Maintaining Local Initiative. The changes that we recommend will likely come from local institutional initiatives and should show considerable local variation. We would not expect or want all universities to offer the same or similar options to their students. Programs should build on their own strengths and interests. Some universities and departments might want to focus on particular career paths (e.g., secondary-school teaching or subject fields of interest to local business and industry). Others might emphasize the development of particular career skills or cross-disciplinary combinations. Different university programs across the United States play different roles now, and that should continue. Maintaining Excellence in Research. We are not recommending that all students be prepared for nonresearch careers. Opportunities appear to be growing in nonresearch jobs now;
CONCLUSIONS AND RECOMMENDATIONS 83 but we will continue to need many of the best students to dedicate themselves to research in academic and nonacademic settings, and they will need the depth and quality of graduate experience that basic researchers have long enjoyed. Furthermore, we are not espousing what some call vocationalism. The idea is not to slot every student into a particular career path and then âtrainâ him or her accordingly. Among other problems, that would bind students to jobs that can change or decline in number while they are in graduate school. What is needed is not additional specialization. We need a graduate system that is well tuned to the central feature of contemporary life: continuous change. Change is happening both within the research world and outside, and work in both spheres requires constant readiness to adapt. Our objective, therefore, is a breadth of experience so that graduates can keep career options open and have the capacity to switch career tracks both at the beginning of and throughout their professional lives. Controlling Time to Degree. The recommended changes should not be construed as additional requirements that would in themselves extend a student's time in a graduate program. The steadily lengthening time to degree âand, more important, the time to first employmentâis already too long, for whatever reasons. Many ways of fostering versatility, including several noted above, can easily be introduced within the time that graduate students now spend after registration. An industrial assignment, for example, might replaceâand not supplementâan on- campus research assignment. We are aware of some strain between broadening the graduate experience and controlling its duration. Both solutions are needed, even if considerable administrative energies are required. Although long average time to degree is often decried, faculty and administrators have not generally made the disciplined effort that is needed to tighten graduate programs. Whatever the nature of a specific graduate program, it is crucial to establish the principle that each student is the responsibility of a department, not of a single faculty member. Thus, a small faculty group (including the adviser) should meet often with each student working for a PhD degree; this faculty group, not the student's faculty adviser acting alone, should determine when enough work has been accomplished for the PhD degree. Some observers have suggested fixed limitsâ5 years, perhaps, which is about 2 years shorter than the current averagesâfor a doctoral-education career. In the abstract, it is not obvious why such a period, which would allow 2 years of coursework and 3 years for a dissertation, should not suffice for most full-time PhD candidates. However, we are not prepared to espouse strict limits, in part because today's more-diverse student population requires flexibility to accommodate family and other personal factors. However, we do believe that the âTwo Plus Three Plus Xâ model for doctoral education ought to be evaluated and debated within the academic community. The idea is that preparation for a career in research has three discrete phases. The first, which should require no more than 2 years (assuming adequate preparation and suitable adjustment for part-time students), is for developing a broad command of the field. The second, for which the norm might be 3 years, is for making an original contribution to research as reflected in the dissertation. The third, for refining research skills and specialized knowledge that might be required for a first research
CONCLUSIONS AND RECOMMENDATIONS 84 position, should be left to postdoctoral assignments. Our concern is that the second and third phases are often merged in current practice. We urge institutions to set their own standards on time to degree. This could be done at the departmental or program level, and it could accommodate the features of individual disciplines and the character of the student body. The standards should be clearly communicated to students and advisers, and responsibility for enforcement should be accepted by university administrators. Paula Hammond, a postdoctoral engineering student at Harvard University and recent PhD graduate of MIT, sees the need to improve the mentorship provided to all graduate students, but especially to women minority-group members. As a black woman, she has also seen how helpful are such opportunities as fellowships, student travel to professional conferences, and undergraduate training programs for minority- group members. Such activities are effective in encouraging careful planning, providing improved access to professors, and âshowing minority-group students the ropes.â Box 5â5: Minority Issues: Suggestions for Improvement Attracting Women and Minority-Group Members. It is essential that a fair share of the best students be attracted to each discipline in science and engineering. If it appears that the numbers of women and minority-group members are low in particular fields, an effort must be made to determine whether there are barriers to entry, including issues perceived as barriers by members of the group in question. If so, steps to encourage increased participation should be devised and implemented. 5.3 TOWARD BETTER CAREER INFORMATION AND GUIDANCE The committee is concerned about the lack of organized and timely career information and guidance that is available to students and their advisersâespecially about the absence of reliable information on the less- conventional career paths of scientists and engineers. âOur message is a simple one: Everyone who teaches and counsels future scientists and engineers must give careful consideration to the many profound changes in career paths in these fields and in the economy and workforce generally.â Source: Good and Lane, 1994 Faculty attitudes have sometimes favored academic research careers, and some students have come to feel that other career paths were less worthy. During their graduate years, students by themselves have access to little more than anecdotal information about career options. Many proceed through these years presuming that research jobs will be available in sufficient numbers to allow them some freedom of choice. They might see no urgency to investigate alternative careers when actual job entry is several years away and few sources of information about such careers are available. Their faculty advisers, having spent most of their time interacting with other academic researchers, might have little personal knowledge about alternatives and thus no basis to advise
CONCLUSIONS AND RECOMMENDATIONS 85 students about them. Former students who have taken nonresearch jobs are often less visible to their graduate departments than former students in traditional positions and are too seldom available as career models for current students. Departments generally do not adequately track information on nonacademic nonresearch employment so that it will be available to potential and current students. Graduate students in science and engineering have insufficient current information on careers and employment. Some academic institutions and societies are now offering seminars and other programs on this topic. To judge by attendance, student interest is high. For example, Stanford University recently held a symposium on education and careers in biomedicine. The symposium was described as âan interactive forum to address the issues that have been generated by the current shortage of academic positions and to identify alternative and traditional career opportunities as well as educational needs for both predoctoral and postdoctoral fellows.â Presenters included persons in government, academe, industry, and law. Similarly, Princeton University recently held a seminar on careers in chemistry. Industry representatives, entrepreneurs, and representatives of professional societies provided an overview of nontraditional careers. The organizers offered information on resume-writing, job-interview skills, and job-search techniques. Box 5â6: Career Seminars for Graduate Students The lack of reliable and timely information impedes the adjustments of the supply of graduate scientists and engineersâboth upward and downwardâto the demands of the job market. The committee stresses that departments should not assume that the burden of learning about realistic career options rests with students. They have an affirmative obligation both to know what the full range of options is and to impart that knowledge to students. 5.3.1. Graduate scientists and engineers and their advisers should receive more up-to-date, accurate, and accessible information to make informed decisions about professional careers. Broad electronic access to such information should be provided. We recommend that a national database on employment options and trends be established. The database information, intended for both students and their advisers, should include, by field, data on career tracks, graduate programs (including financial aid), time to degree, and placement rates. Given the diversity of the information for which there is a need, it is clear that the responsibility for providing data must be shared by all partners in the graduate-education enterprise, including the universities, federal and state agencies, and professional societies. The rapid development of information networksâcollectively called the Internetâmakes it possible to organize employment and career information so that two important principles are maintained: the information made available in the information system retains decentralized âgrass rootsâ and therefore more currency than information previously assembled into central compendia; and timely information is available where it is most neededâin the hands of the
CONCLUSIONS AND RECOMMENDATIONS 86 ultimate consumers, doctoral students, graduates, and their mentors and advisers. In the past (for example, as recently as the downturn in aerospace employment in the 1970s), it would not have been possible to construct an employment-information system that recognized those principles. The new technologies can and should be deployed to improve nationwide access to accurate, germane, and timely education and employment information. The National Science Foundation should coordinate the federal participation needed to organize the database. However, it is preferable that the database be designed and managed within the research community itself so that it has accurate and timely information that is credible to students and other users, some of it collected from university departments and professional societies. A national organization that covers the many fields of science and engineering could be a catalyst in establishing the database. 5.3.2. Academic departments should provide employment information and career advice to prospective and current students in a timely manner and should help students see career choices as a series of branching decisions. Students should be encouraged to consider discrete alternative pathways when they have met their qualifying requirements. To help graduate students to make career choices, some universities provide information on the employment of their graduates. For example, business school at the University of Chicago provides an overview of the placement, salary, and demographics of its graduates by industry, function, geographic region, undergraduate major, years of work experience, and recent employers. This information is distributed to potential and current students and to potential employers. A few universities provide useful information about science and engineering graduates. Michigan State University indicates the employment sector, geographic distribution, salary trends, and unemployment rate of its science and engineering graduates. Although some universities collect employment information, they rarely provide it to those attempting to decide whether to enter graduate-degree programs. Doing so could allow students to make better decisions about courses, programs, and, ultimately, careers. Box 5â7: Employment Information for Students Graduate students typically devote years of intense effort to their education, and they deserve thoughtful, individual advice about career options. Many faculty members find that advising and mentoring are among the most important and most rewarding of their responsibilities. But more can be done to make sure the advice that is given is both pertinent and complete. Advice for students should not be limited to the personal knowledge of the faculty member who serves as a student's adviser. Departments should both understand and convey the employment prospects of their graduates. One way to start is to trackâperhaps with the assistance of alumni affairs officesâtheir own past graduates systematically. Use of information in the national database recommended above could help. We hope, in addition, that some of the
CONCLUSIONS AND RECOMMENDATIONS 87 demonstration effort funded under a program of education/training grants would allow departments to invent and try other novel means of improving the advice that students receive. In the past, when most students were destined to become professors, graduate school was more accurately construed as a step on a simple career ladder. We are concerned that that perception is still held in some places. Departments should help students to conceive of their time in graduate school as a series of deliberate decision branches. Leonard Carter is an older graduate student at Boston University pursuing a PhD in astrophysics. He has extensive work experience in government and for-profit and nonprofit corporations. He believes that the most-effective preparation for a career is a combination of academic studies and working apprenticeships. To this end, he suggested increasing partnerships among industry, academe, and government. In line with his own experience, he advocates flexible career preparation. Students should be encouraged to do apprentice work in a variety of areas to understand the full range of employment options and the work culture of industry. He suggests that universities assist in this effort by tracking PhDs, obtaining feedback from them 3â5 years after graduation, and providing this feedback to current students. Box 5â8: Viewpoint of an Older Student Academic departments can focus attention on the importance of career choice at two particular points. The first is the application stage. It would be helpful if more departments, in describing their programs to potential students, routinely provided more data relevant to career choice, such as location of job placements, salaries, and unemployment rates for the department and the discipline as a whole. Departments should report on the careers of all their graduates and provide the relevant information to prospective and current students. Such information could help to prevent unrealistic expectations among students. The second point is the beginning of the research phase, which usually begins with the passage of the qualifying examination for doctoral students. That is when departmental advisers can help students to evaluate each of three distinct options: â¢ Some might conclude that a master's degree is sufficient, given their aspirations and the current employment demand for PhDs. â¢ Some might elect to proceed toward a PhD and try for a position in research. â¢ Students interested in nontraditional careers could design dissertations that meet high standards for originality but require less time than would be customary for a career in academic research. The last of those options is often neglected. Implementing the first, which is typically undervalued, might require some reshaping of the master's program to ensure that those who switch from the doctoral program receiveâand are perceived to receiveâsomething more than a consolation award. Among other advantages, this counseling approach will require that the leading faculty members come to respect the alternative careers that are available to their students.
CONCLUSIONS AND RECOMMENDATIONS 88 Professional societies are often in the best position to gather nationwide employment information on scientists and engineers by field. Someâthe Graduate Student Packet of the American Physical Society and American Institute of Physics is a good exampleâhave made impressive starts in this direction. University departments should help to communicate their results to students and advisers. 5.3.3. The National Science Foundation and National Research Council should continue to improve the coverage, timeliness, and analysis of data on the education and employment of scientists and engineers to support better national decision-making about human resources in science and technology. Scientific and engineering societies provide helpful career guidance about current trends. This information is often obtained by surveys of the membership and published by the societies. For example, the American Chemical Society annually offers data on career opportunities, an overview of the current workforce, information on jobs, job-hunting tips, an analysis of help-wanted ads, a salary survey, and sources of information on career planning. Another example is an excellent document produced by the American Physical Society (APS) and the American Institute of Physics (AIP) for graduate students in physics; entitled Graduate Student Packet (APS, 1995), it provides information on employment statistics, corporations employing the largest numbers of physicists, how to write a resume and cover letter, interview tips, a list of nontraditional positions held by physicists, and a list of resource books, bulletins, and directories. Also included are interesting biographical sketches of people in nontraditional occupations. Besides general biographical information, the persons profiled indicate what careers are like, give career path information, and give general career advice. The document is provided free by APS and AIP to anyone on request. Society information tends to be more current and specific than information published by the federal government. For graduate students who maintain membership, it offers overviews of the employment market throughout their student careers. Universities can help by disseminating this information to students who are not members. Box 5â9: Disciplinary Societies and Career Information NSF has the responsibility for collecting, analyzing, and disseminating information on the science and engineering enterprise. In addition to the series of biennial reports on science and engineering indicators, NSF publishes a number of more specialized reports on the production and use of scientists and engineers at all degree levels. Through such activities, it holds the lead role in providing policy-related information to national decision- makers in government, industry, academe, and scientific societies. Some of the data collection related to graduate education, including the Survey of Doctorate Recipients, is done by the National Research Council. In preparing this report, we have been limited in various ways by the lack of timely and relevant information that policy-makersâand students and their advisersâshould have. NSF should address the following:
CONCLUSIONS AND RECOMMENDATIONS 89 Timeliness. Databases and reports should be made available soon after the data are collected. Nonacademic employment. NSF should increase the degree of detail of data on nonacademic employment, which now accounts for most new scientists and engineers. More information is also needed on the career tracks followed by scientists and engineers, both inside and outside universities. Extramural research. In addition to strengthening its own data collection and analysis, NSF should expand its support of extramural research on career patterns in advanced science and engineering. 5.4 TOWARD IMPLEMENTATION OF A NATIONAL POLICY In preparing our last report, Science, Technology, and the Federal Government: National Goals for a New Era (COSEPUP, 1993), it became clear that no coherent national policy guides the education of advanced scientists and engineers, even though the nation depends heavily on them. That recognition was an important stimulus for the present report. A casual observer might say that federal policy should simply be to fund the best research and that sound graduate education is an automatic byproduct. There is some validity to that view, but we believe that it is time to reconsider the stewardship of our human resources separately. The nation's graduate programs must prepare scientists and engineers for contributions not only to the nation's basic research, but also to a wide array of other national objectives. Simply to let the development of human resources be guided by the workings of the relevant labor markets is an inadequate policy, given the long lead times required to make career decisions. At present, there is neither the conceptual clarity nor the factual basis for us to lay out a coherent policy. We are concerned that many prevailing views are obsolete or obsolescent. 5.4.1.A searching national discussion that includes representatives of government, universities, employers, and professional organizations should examine the goals, policies, conditions, and unresolved issues pertaining to graduate-level human resources. Graduate education is the responsibility of private and state-supported universities; of the federal and state governments, which support many students; of the corporate sector, which increasingly employs those who complete it; and of public and private foundations, which
CONCLUSIONS AND RECOMMENDATIONS 90 support its conduct and study its workings. All those parties need to be involved in a continuing reconsideration of graduate education and its national purposes. Three kinds of issues are suggested as worthy of a searching national discussion: â¢ National goals and policy options. â¢ System characterization. â¢ Contemporary issues. National Goals and Policy Options. How can we judge the overall adequacy of the national system of graduate education in science and engineering? Our 1993 Goals report suggested three goals to keep in mind in assessing the nation's performance in research. Goal 1 is for the United States to be among the world leaders in all major fields of research. Goal 2 is for the United States to maintain clear leadership in selected fields. Goal 3 is for the United States to cede technological leadership in no technology because of technical backwardness alone. Whether that framework suggests a corresponding set of goals for graduate education or whether some other goals are appropriate should be considered. With better agreement on goals, participants could productively refine the roles and responsibilities of each sectorâuniversity, state and federal government, professions, corporations âin meeting them. Policies and goals for graduate education, to be truly national, must be the shared objectives of allâthe research and teaching institutions, state leaders, the federal agencies responsible for support of research and education, and Congress. Developing a shared national view of such goals (and not just a federal view) could lead to a series of policies and actions taken by all the partners in the system. The science and engineering graduate-education enterprise, which serves multiple national objectives, should be measured against several yardsticks. It should ensure a steady supply of precollege and college teachers, of university faculty, and of researchers in academic, government, and industrial laboratories. It should meet the expanding need for advanced scientists and engineers in careers outside research. And it should offer a diverse vision of education and employment that inspires future generations of American students to strive for careers in science and technology. System Characterization. What are the key trends in graduate education with respect to employment patterns, career paths, financial support from public and private sources, program evolution, and so on? What are the determinants of those trends? The national discussion could examine whether underemployment is widespread, how nontraditional employers view new PhDs, the growth of postdoctoral positions, and how people choose careers. It could also monitor progress on innovations, such as the measures recommended in this report, and it might thus serve as a clearinghouse for information on university programs intended to foster versatility, including those stemming from demonstrations
CONCLUSIONS AND RECOMMENDATIONS 91 funded by education/training grants, and facilitate the development of a national database for better career decision-making. Contemporary Issues. Finally, the national discussion could examine current issues on which opinions diverge across the sectors, including the difficult issuesâtime to first job and sources of new studentsâdiscussed in Chapter 4. 5.5 CONCLUSION In conclusion, the committee believes that science and engineering graduate programs will be improved if â¢ Science and engineering programs are made more flexible and provide more options for students so that they are more versatile. â¢ Graduate-student support is shifted to education/training grants. â¢ Time to degree is controlled. â¢ More women and minority-group members are attracted to them. â¢ Better and more-timely career information and guidance are provided while diversity and excellence in research are maintained. How can reforms like this work in a system as decentralized as graduate education? The committee feels that there is one especially good way: for the major participantsâuniversities, government, industry, and foundations âto come together to discuss these issues. Although some major universities have been slow to consider reforms, there has in fact been tremendous innovation, and our specific recommendations for institutional change are being implemented somewhere. This should be better known. The committee feels strongly that having a national dialogue could strengthen an educational process that must change at least as fast as the world around it.
CONCLUSIONS AND RECOMMENDATIONS 92