Future Directions

Alan Tupek

TUPEK: Thanks. That is a good lead-in to our final discussion on future directions. I want to take a few minutes to discuss some of the possible topics. We haven't set a date for our next meeting, but I believe, based on the discussions we have had today, that we need to continue to communicate with each other, understanding each of our data sources better. This is a good forum for continuing this exchange and I'd like to schedule another meeting six months from now or perhaps in the late spring meeting. One of the things we need to talk about now is what topics we should present. I have got a few suggestions. Obviously, the work group that Roman talked about on the underutilization issue. I could hear a lot of enthusiasm for a continuation of that work, either from that work group or another follow-on work group.

You heard about SESTAT data today from the NSF surveys. At the last meeting there was some discussion about doing a demo on SESTAT, because it is something that we want all of you to be able to use. We have designed the system to be easy to use and to give you access to individual records, without identifying information, so that you will be able to run whatever analysis you feel is appropriate. I am sure by the time we meet again, we can set up something where we have a demonstration session and walk people through it. I have used it myself and a lot of us who don't usually have the time to do analyses can learn the system in a matter of minutes and then go away for a month and come back and be able to run tabulations without having to pick up the code book and figure out how this whole thing works. So it is pretty exciting.

There are issues related to women and minorities that were touched on today in the various presentations that we could elaborate more on. Another area that we collect data on are R & D expenditures and performance data. This topic would get away from some of the work force issues, but I think there may be some interest in it.

I'm also open for other suggestions for things that we ought to focus on. Was this the right mix of presentations -- a combination of association presentations and some of the latest results from the NSF and other surveys.

ELLIS: Does SRS contemplate hosting this kind of thing twice a year indefinitely?

TUPEK: At the moment, I believe.

GADDY: It was around six months from the last meetings. It seems like there was a lot of new information -- so that periodicity seems to be a good one.

TUPEK: That is sort of the sense we have so far and based on today's meeting I can see there was a lot of good information exchanged.

BAKER: Is this too simplistic? There is an interest in just sharing not just the data but how to present data, different ways of presenting it? Sort of using electronic media, using print, using how fancy, how complex, how simple, how much meta data? How much front stuff do you have to put on for people to use it? And what are you all doing now when you share information? I'm not primarily a data person so those of you who are that may be just sort of 101 and you've done all that.

It seems like there are lots of new ways to present data and we've got audiences like graduate students that most of us haven't thought of as a primary audience -- though certainly many of you in societies have. We, at the NRC, are struggling with how do we massage and transform these huge books of tables into something that is usable. And we have advisory groups saying, just give us one number, we just want one number. How do you bridge that gap?

SYVERSON: Yes. I think you have hit on a great topic. The problem is that we all know what we do, but none of us know how effective it is. Well, maybe somebody in here knows how effective different varieties of things are. We all sort of figure we need some texts and some graphs and some tables and try to make them clear. We try to produce the tables under certain principles that most of us follow.

But I'm not sure we are the group that will be able to answer the question about which of these techniques is effective. We sort of have this fantasy user group out there that likes what we do.

BROWN: Maybe we should have a user come in, maybe we should have someone, some high-level policy maker come in and tell us what kind of data they want that they are not getting, etc.

JORDAN: Two other issues I think we could get into are immigration and citizenship. I think these are reasonably hot politically. Another one would be to actually focus on the COSEPUP recommendations that we are looking into right now, that is the nonacademic employment of Ph.D.'s to get a better sense of what is it that they are doing.

BROWN: For the policy maker I think possibly somebody from the office of science and technology policy who deals with these issues and these data fed into them they could tell us what sorts of data, what sorts of issues they deal with and, therefore, what kind of data they might want to get from the likes of us.

TUPEK: One thing I should mention is that we have talked a lot about the COSEPUP recommendation on the length of time it takes to produce some of the data from the NSF/NRC surveys. The NRC and the sponsors are working closely together and looking at ways of improving the time on the doctorate surveys. We are never going to make the kind of gains that you all would like to see where we have 1995 data in 1995. But we will be making some attempts to speed up the delivery of the data from our doctorate surveys. As you mentioned today, there are issues related to their completeness and response rates that we insist on maintaining that are going to delay the results to some extent. But we are going to make every attempt to get the results out faster for the 1995 surveys and do even better for the 1997 surveys.

CZUJKO: I would like to put a vote in. The mix, I thought was rather useful in terms of the variety of perspectives. We often don't hear the life sciences perspective. And the other thing that to me, personally, was important was the new information from the bachelor's and master's data that you are coming up with -- that is new and often very exciting information. Then, some of the international issues that Dick raised are timely and also not the sort of data that we have easy access to.

TUPEK: With today's technology -- while we can't speed up the data collection effort in other countries we can, at least, keep tabs on it and deal with the access much more quickly.

KRUYTBOSCH: One other thing, the hole in our model of science and engineering labor force is emigration. We don't know anything about that. We don't really hear a lot about it -- maybe it's not significant. One possible avenue is those societies that have international affiliates or significant international activities. Maybe, there is some way we can get some indicators from that. Jean Johnson is not here, but she is planning to looking at various national data sources to see whether there are any kinds of evidences of U.S. persons coming into work there; in addition to say, in Taiwan and Korea, Taiwanese and Koreans who got degrees here and went back. That is one thing we don't really have a very good handle on.

Another one is where U.S. citizens went and that would be an interesting--maybe that is just too esoteric, I don't know. But it's a lack in our model -- but maybe just a small one.

VOYTUK: This may not be for this group but it is an area of concern that I have. The data that we present, that we put out there for people to look at, if it really isn't a true picture of what is happening now, or what's maybe going to happen in the future, that could seriously affect the quality of the individuals that are coming into higher education. If you are a good undergraduate, you have many career options and instead of choosing your career in physics or chemistry or mathematics, because the job market looks bleak, you may go off and do something else. It could seriously affect the whole quality of science. While it is nebulous, I think it is an ethical issue to make sure that what we are saying and what we are putting out there is really correct.

BAKER: We believe it is correct or we would not put it out there.

VOYTUK: Jim and I were just talking about the fact that there are preliminary data from a survey presented. Does that have an impact on graduates or potential people coming into the system? For example, when you present a 14 percent unemployment rate when the unemployment rate is only 5 percent?

ELLIS: I think the prospect of easy employment is overrated as a factor in how people choose a career. If it were, half the people in this room wouldn't be here. There are lots of us here who are of the sociological persuasions where you do not get rich.

A reaction to some other things that were said -- I have an inner voice telling me to say something complementary about SRS. I do think that we are only scratching the surface of the societies -- even sticking with the people who are resident in this city. Perhaps one step that ought to be taken is some one-on-one planning to encourage some of the people who have not been in on these sessions to consider showing up, particularly if there is something planned that may be in their interest. I know that the engineering societies are increasingly Washington based -- this did not use to be the case but it is the case now. We could probably, particularly if it was an appropriate meeting, improve the outreach of SRS to them. We are about to publish a new directory of engineering and scientific societies. We do it every three years and this is a total remake. There is an astonishing number of these organizations. We have entries in the directory of close to 1,500 societies now that is international. But there are a lot of people out there that one can reach. So I think that part of the exercise is worth thinking about.

The other thing I want to say is that I have been kicking around this scene for about 10 years and the change in the understanding and interest I get on SRS' part is impressive. I think one of us ought to say so.

TUPEK: Thank you. Ken, do you want to make any concluding remarks?

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