Background. The Presidential Faculty Fellows (PFF) program was initiated in 1992 at the request of President George Bush to recognize and support the scholarly endeavors of tenure-track faculty. Administered by the National Science Foundation (NSF), from FY 1992 through FY 1995, the program provided a total of 120 young faculty with $100,000 per year for up to 5 years. Fellows could use PFF funding to (1) undertake self-designed, innovative research and teaching projects; (2) establish research and teaching programs; and (3) pursue other academic-related activities. By funding these activities, the Foundation sought to
In FY 1996, the PFF program was supplanted by the Faculty Early Career Development Program (CAREER). CAREER funded a much higher number of fellows annually (350 compared to 30) and allowed for variation in the amount and duration of funding across awardees. CAREER is also supplemented by the Presidential Early Career Awards for Scientists and Engineers (PECASE), a multiagency fellowship program that allows the recipients to receive a total maximum funding level of $500,000 for over 5 years.
This report describes the PFF-related experiences of the 120 faculty members who received financial support through the PFF program. It addresses the following issues:
Study Methodology. The study of the PFF program relied heavily on existing materials to chronicle the activities and accomplishments of the 120 Fellows. To some extent, it can be considered an experiment in data mining, an exploration of the utility of trying to develop a rich understanding of a program's impact from routinely maintained documents. Exhibit 1 shows the sources of data drawn upon in this study.
Using the documents described in Exhibit 1 above, we were able to develop a picture of the institutions and individuals that participated in the program. The reports from the Fellows also provided some important insights into their accomplishments and the value of NSF's investment in their growth.
Participating Institutions. NSF sought nominations from all U.S. institutions that offered a baccalaureate, master's, or doctoral degree in fields supported by the Foundation. Over the four years from 1992 through 1995, 338 institutions nominated faculty members for the PFF award. Three-fifths of the institutions made more than one nomination over this period. Sixty-five percent of the nominations came from public institutions, with the remaining 35 percent coming from private institutions. In addition, 4 of the nominations came from institutions that were classified as being historically black colleges or universities (HBCUs).
Awards were made to 120 individuals at 82 institutions. The distribution of awards generally mirrored that of nominations.
PFF Fellows. A total of 1,183 individuals were nominated for the PFF program from FY 1992 through FY 1995 (the average number of nominees per year was 296). Table 1 shows the characteristics of nominees and awardees. The highest percentage of nominations was submitted to the Mathematical and Physical Sciences Directorate (28 percent), while the highest percentage of awards was made to the Engineering Directorate (37 percent). The PFF program was quite competitive, with only 10 percent of the nominees receiving an award.
Our analysis of the number of nominees and awardees revealed that the review process resulted in slight increases in the proportion of females, Asians, and underrepresented minorities becoming Fellows compared to their representation in the nominee population.
Table 1. Characteristics of PFF nominees and awardees: 1992-95
black or African American, Hispanic or Latino, Pacific
Islander, American Indian, and Alaska Native.
Fellows' Activities and Accomplishments. Fellows progress reports and curriculum vitae provided evidence of accomplishments in a variety of areas important to NSF and its mission. These include conducting research, disseminating research findings, and providing instruction to undergraduate and graduate students (Table 2). , In addition:
Fellows stressed that the flexibility of the PFF grants was extremely valuable to them as developing professionals. In contrast to other grant programs, the possible uses of PFF funds were constrained by far fewer restrictions. For example, the open-ended nature of the program enabled young scientists to accelerate the pace of their work and to explore new frontiers. Fellows considered this freedom to be one of the primary benefits of their award.
Table 2. Percentage of Fellows reporting PFF-related activities, by award year: 1992-95
SOURCE: Grant award progress reports, Web pages, and other materials submitted by Fellows (e.g., current curriculum vitae collected in fall 1998).
The data suggest that PFF, although fairly small in scope, provided support to a talented and productive group of individuals. A wide range of activities have been undertaken by the 120 young faculty who received support through the PFF programactivities that impact the knowledge base, policy deliberations, and future of the next generation of scientists and engineers.
Although not an evaluation in the strict sense, the reports of the Fellows themselves attest to what can be accomplished through fairly modest investments of both dollars and professional support to young faculty in science and engineering. Equally as important, interviews with a sample of Fellows suggest that the program's direct and indirect impacts (e.g., on teaching practices, on innovative research that leads to important discoveries, and on promoting careers in science and engineering among K-12 students) will endure, and even multiply, long after PFF funds have expired.
1The Fellows accomplishments
in many ways reflect the broad policy goals delineated
in NSFs Strategic Plan (March 1998). These goals
include (1) discoveries at and across the frontier of
science and engineering; (2) connections between discoveries
and their use in service to society; (3) a diverse, globally
oriented workforce of scientists and engineers; and (4)
improved achievement in mathematics and science skills
needed by all Americans.
Last Modified: 03/24/17
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