Notes from the 47th Annual Meeting of the Association of Graduate Schools (AGS) When the graduate deans from the 60 AAU institutions met at Penn on October 1-3, 1995--for the first time in Philadelphia--their agenda touched on federal funding policy, the perceived overproduction of Ph.D.s, the controversial COSEPUP proposals to change the Ph.D. curricula and methods of funding, the NRC rankings just issued, and the future of postdoctoral education. Below, the University's Vice Provost for Graduate Education amd the Assistant Vice Provost summarize the proceedings.

Notes from the 47th Annual Meeting of the Association of Graduate Schools

by Janice F. Madden and Karen Lawrence

OCTOBER 1, 1995

Plenary Session I: Research Policy in the 104th Congress

Congressman Robert Walker, Representative from the Sixteenth District in Pennsylvania, Vice Chair of the House Budget Committee, and Chair of the House Committee on Science.

Congressman Walker spoke about the changing priorities of the federal government, the commitment to balancing the budget within seven years, and the need to prioritize spending within the context of a balanced budget. He said that the government will still be spending hundreds of billions of dollars for science during the next seven years, but that a clearer prioritization is critical to guide that spending. What should be the right way to prioritize, he asked. He also expressed concern that the process of consensus-building in the academic community may inhibit what he saw as the proper priorities for funding science, citing inertia in support for priorities such as NASA's Mission to Planet Earth.

Rep. Walker said that Congress has made a fundamental decision, given limited resources, to assign basic science a higher priority than applied science and that some programs have been "de-prioritized" (i.e., advanced technology program). NSF, NASA, Energy research, and NOAA will be "held harmless" from cuts and may see some increase in funding over the next seven years.

The Congressman argued strongly for a comprehensive government approach to science and a Department of Science that would include the NSF, NASA, Energy research programs, and the core science programs in the Department of Commerce. In advance of such a department, he in-tends to bring to the House floor a single, comprehensive science authorization bill that includes each of these programs.

Rep. Walker also advocated holding down taxes (including lowering the capital gains tax that inhibits investment in long-term research), litigation, and regulations which reduce the positive impacts of basic science and technological achievements. He supported permanent R&D tax credits for investment in research programs and infrastructure and the creation of internationally funded partnerships for large scale R&D projects.

The Congressman concluded by citing two issues that must be resolved in the next year. First, he cited the need for a change in the indirect cost algorithm in order to provide a more equitable sharing of costs and savings with the federal government. Second, he expressed concerns about the peer review process. Although he supports peer review, Walker reported that many of his colleagues strongly object to a system that provides the vast majority of funding for research to a few elite universities that are geographically concentrated in only a few congressional districts.

In the question and answer exchange which followed Walker's talk, Walker strongly supported immigration policies which keep our universities open to the best students, researchers, and faculty, regardless of their citizenship or national origin. He also supported the proposal to close the National Endowment for the Arts and the National Endowment for the Humanities because these efforts are of lower priority and must be cut to balance the budget.

Plenary Session II: Research and Education Policy: The AAU Agenda

Cornelius J. Pings, President, Association of American Universities

Dr. Pings described the process involved in approving the federal budget (appropriations, reconciliation, handling the debt ceiling) and warned that we may not have a final budget until halfway through the fiscal year. Regarding funding for research, Pings expects that NIH will receive a 3.6% increase and that NSF funding will be off slightly (but very little cut in the basic research budget). He worried, however, that the "protection" of basic research may be threatened if there is a budget "showdown" resulting in intense negotiations and political trade- offs made in more private arenas. Dr. Pings confirmed that peer review is under attack in Congress. He also reported that certain areas of basic research (i.e., fetal research) are vulnerable. The Department of Education's budget will be substantially cut, with the graduate fellowship programs that the department supports (Javits and Patricia Roberts Harris) particularly vulnerable.

Dr. Pings cited the perceived overproduction of Ph.D.s, the recruitment and postgraduate placement of international students, the level of support for graduate students (relative to postdocs), prohibition against charging RA tuition to the fringe benefits pool, and the support of international students on research grants, as the major national issues in graduate education. Dr. Pings mentioned a variety of other issues affecting research universities including the cost of medical education, student loan programs, and direct lending programs. He urged that members lobby key congressmen to "invest in new minds and the new economy." Dr. Pings concluded by pointing to some key areas for research universities to work on with Congress: indirect costs; Department of Education programs; telecommunications policy; accreditation; postdoctoral education; reform of K-12 science education; and affirmative action.

OCTOBER 2, 1995

Plenary Session III: Responses to the COSEPUP * Report: Reshaping the Graduate Education of Scientists and Engineers

Dean Richard Attiyeh, University of California at San Diego, Dean Susan Allen of Tulane University, Dean Graham Glass of Rice University, Vice Provost Janice Madden of Penn, and Dean George Walker of Indiana University

A panel of AGS representatives from several research universities led a discussion of the COSEPUP report and then prepared a written response from AGS to the report. The response acknowledges the COSEPUP report as helping to focus national attention on a number of important graduate education issues that have been of long concern to AGS. AGS acknowledges that there are changes occurring in the labor market and in scholarship that require some changes in graduate education, but argued strongly that the Ph.D. must remain a research degree. AGS made three specific recommendations: (1) AGS urged the AAU to carry out a review of graduate education that would include a re-examination of national goals and policies that influence graduate education, with particular attention to the federal role in funding graduate education. (2) AGS plans to form a task force to develop recommendations for institutional and departmental policies relating to time to degree, career advising, and professional skills training. (3) AGS emphasized the importance of continuing support for its Project on Doctoral Education, which has been collecting and analyzing data on doctoral education in 10 fields at the AAU institutions and that is providing important new insights on what influences success and failure in Ph.D. completion rates.

* Committee on Science, Engineering and Public Policy of the National Academy of Sciences, National Academy of Engineering, and Institute of Medicine

Plenary Session IV: Discussion of the NRC (National Research Council) Research Doctorate Assessment: Research-Doctorate Programs in the United States: Continuity and Change

Dr. Joseph Cerny, Provost for Research, Dean of the Graduate School at the University of California at Berkeley and Dr. John D'Arms, former Vice Provost for Academic Affairs and Dean of the Rackham School of Graduate Studies at the University of Michigan. Both are members of the committee that prepared the study.

Dean Cerny described the methodology used and reviewed selective findings. The study included a much larger number of participants (274 universities) compared to rankings produced by the popular press. The NRC rankings were the result of evaluations by the most widely respected faculty in their respective fields.

Dean Cerny also reported on some studies he had conducted comparing the differences between the rankings of program faculty and the effectiveness of graduate education to the reports of Ph.D. graduates of those programs on their own satisfaction with programs at Berkeley. There was no correlation.

Dr. D'Arms took note of some of the study's shortcomings: the absence of a survey of recent Ph.D.s, of international reviewers, and of "value-added" non-degree granting centers and institutes for research and other scholarly collections, etc. on our campuses. Dr. D'Arms noted that there is a strong correlation between faculty size and the quality ranking. Faculty size has increased across all programs at the same time that Ph.D. production has declined. Dr. D'Arms indicated that in the future, the review data will be broadened, they will consider input and output measures and will include faculty data on women and minorities. He reminded members that much of the data will soon be available on CD- ROM.

Finally, Dr. D'Arms reported on his study of how rankings within fields shifted between the last rankings in 1982 and the current rankings. The greatest change occur-red in Spanish, where the growing importance of cultural studies and of Latin America, created substantial changes in the ordering. English also experienced substantial reordering. Fields with less change in paradigm, such as physics and economics, had less change in the ranking of programs.

Questions and comments included: criticism that the structure of the process makes the rankings out of date by the time they are issued; concerns over whether the concept "graduate faculty" is universally understood; concern that users of the rankings may not appropriately take into account the increases in the numbers of programs (i.e., 45/92 is better than 45/45). It was noted that faculty size has more to do with undergraduate education than graduate education; faculty recruitment is not done by graduate deans.

Electrifying the Seminar

Dr. James O'Donnell, Professor of Classical Studies at Penn, provided the host institution's demonstration of resources used in graduate education.

Dr. O'Donnell discussed the uses of electronic communication in graduate teaching, and also demonstrated how his graduate courses on Augustine and Boethius were offered over the Internet.

Open Forum

The effects of political and judicial influences on admissions and fellowship programs that target students from minority groups was discussed by Vice Chancellor for Academic Affairs Claudia Mitchell- Kernan of UCLA and Associate Provost for Research Ilene Nagel of the University of Maryland. Dr. Nagel argued that the public does not want to interfere in progress toward equality of opportunity but it does want to change the balance of what is being done. She contended that fellowship programs are more likely to withstand legal challenge if the targeted groups are determined by underrepresention and if all underrepresented groups are targeted. Vice Chancellor Mitchell-Kernan described the actions by the University of California Board of Regents to eliminate race, ethnicity and gender as criteria for admissions or hiring. The Vice Chan-cellor anticipates significant decreases in the representation of African-Americans and Latinos on California campuses. Dean Leslie Sims of the University of Iowa reported that federal agencies plan to continue minority add-on programs but will be looking at the impact of legal challenges. Dr. John Vaughn, Executive Director of AGS, urged that educators articulate the benefits of broader educational diversity to justify these programs.

October 2: The Conference Dinner

As host to the AGS Dinner in the University Museum, Penn's President Judith Rodin said the system of research and graduate education that has produced such extraordinary scholars and practitioners is under considerable stress, producing "fissures in the system in need of a fundamental rethinking." She continued:

That process, begun in the COSEPUP study, which you are now evaluating, need not create an entirely new system of graduate education. Indeed, as both the COSEPUP report and the AGS response suggest, the American system of graduate education that integrates research and training is the "most effective system yet devised" for advanced training. And we must defend it. But an honest and critical evaluation must take into account a fundamentally different environment for research and graduate study than the one in which we were trained. Let me briefly enumerate where some of the fault lines may lie:

(1) Certainly the most prominent is the dramatic change in the political climate in Washington and the mounting pressure to eliminate the federal deficit by 2002. In combination with long-standing legislative and executive branch concerns about the high cost of research and declining support for graduate fellowships, one need not be clairvoyant to see fundamental changes in federal support for the research and graduate training enterprise.

(2) Even at current levels of funding, support for graduate research fellowships and traineeships is harder to come by...and...policies limiting payment of graduate student tuition and postdoctoral stipends under research and training grants are already in place or under consideration at the NSF and the NIH.

(3) The House Appropriations Committee, commenting on the indirect costs of research, recently concluded that "it does not believe that the status quo is sustainable or defensible in an environment of steady or declining resources."

As part of a larger strategy , Dr. Rodin urged the AGS to help to make the research and graduate training enterprise more understandable, and more compelling to people outside the university, and to "use your energy to develop new cost-effective means for graduate training."

-- J.F.M.

OCTOBER 3, 1995

Mass Media and Cynicism About Institutions

Dr. Kathleen Hall Jamieson, Dean, The Annenberg School for Communication, provided the host institution's guest academic presentation.

Dean Jamieson discussed the results of her studies (performed jointly with Professor Joseph Capella) of how the presentation of news by the media affects the public's perception of government. She presented results of their study of media coverage of the Philadelphia mayoral contest . She also analyzed the press treatment of the New Hampshire meeting between President Clinton and Speaker Gingrich and the Minnesota Compact which offers guidelines on the use of media in campaigns. She argued that news presentations that emphasize conflict or "scoring" or personal interest in outcomes when describing policy issues undermine public trust, but that news coverage emphasizing the substance of the discussion and the conceptual issues creates a more positive public response to institutions and candidates.

In the question and answer period, Dean Jamieson urged that education for journalists should be substantively based in traditional academic fields of study and not focused on journalism as a technique.

Plenary Session V: Postdoctoral Education

Steven B. Sample, President of the University of Southern California and Chair, AAU ad hoc Committee on Post Doctoral Education

President Sample presented a report from the committee . He defined postdoctoral training as essentially a research experience (not clinical training) involving work with a senior scholar at a research institution and publication of results. Based on an informal survey (See page 20 of this issue for the survey results.--Ed.) which the AAU conducted of 25 institutions, it is clear that approximately half of postdocs are U.S. citizens or Permanent Residents and half are foreign postdocs; how many of the foreign postdocs received their Ph.D. training in the U.S. is not known. Little is known about postdocs at the national or local level; they are uncounted and unregulated, with little uniformity of policy or monitoring even at the institutional level.

There has been a change in the nature of the postdoc position. Although it has been a stepping stone to a tenured position, it may now be a more permanent condition as tenured jobs become less available. This change has legal implications. Another related question, for which the answer may be changing, is: What is the purpose of a postdoctoral traineeship? Is it a holding pattern, an educational experience, or a way to get a low-cost worker?

The perceptions that we may be failing to self-regulate and that we are allowing too many foreign postdocs to remain in the U.S. are hot political issues. The fact that the majority of postdocs are supported on federal grants and the potential that foreign postdocs may be an avenue for the transfer of technology are related concerns.

During the discussion it was noted that M.D.s appointed as postdocs often do not have rigorous research training and require more training to become productive researchers. Postdoctoral employment can be used as an immigration holding pattern as well as a job holding pattern. Some institutions (MIT and Rutgers) treat their postdocs as employees. Stanford and Cal Tech charge tuition.

NRC plans a major study of postdoctoral education.


Tuesday, October 31, 1995
Volume 42 Number 10

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