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NSF 20-030

Dear Colleague Letter: SBE Perspectives on Graduate Education

December 16, 2019

Dear Colleagues:

Graduate students are an integral part of the U.S. research enterprise. Our nation's ability to strengthen its health, prosperity, and security depends on keeping graduate programs rigorous and effective. The National Science Foundation (NSF) is committed to continually improving the value of graduate education to our nation.

In 2017, NSF's Social, Behavioral & Economic Sciences Directorate (SBE) supported a workshop on the future of graduate training.1 The National Academies of Sciences, Engineering and Medicine's (NASEM) Board on Science Education hosted the workshop. Following the workshop, and with support from NSF's Division of Graduate Education (DGE), NASEM issued a report entitled Graduate STEM Education for the 21st Century.2

The workshop and report recommend changes to U.S. graduate education that can help STEM students better meet the nation's evolving needs. A strong evidence base will be critical in efforts to evaluate current and proposed new practices. Such an evidence base is only possible through a comprehensive body of research on graduate education. With the objective of improving graduate training, the purpose of this Dear Colleague Letter (DCL) is to draw the attention of the SBE community to the following funding opportunities in the Directorate for Education & Human Resources (EHR) and SBE.

It is anticipated that the projects supported in response to this DCL will help address the following types of questions:

  • What types of competencies are most critical for graduate students to obtain across all disciplines (e.g. responsible and ethical conduct of research), and how should that training be embedded in graduate programs?
  • Are there graduate education training models that could be adapted for use across disciplines?
  • How does access to learning resources or interventions impact educational and career outcomes?

As the SBE community responds to such matters, we encourage proposals that build upon SBE's rich interdisciplinary resources. These resources include highly-relevant datasets, such as those developed by the National Center for Science and Engineering Statistics (NCSES). We also encourage collaborations with educational researchers that will help individuals and institutions identify innovative approaches to transform graduate education.

Sincerely,

Arthur Lupia, Assistant Director, SBE
Karen Marrongelle, Assistant Director, EHR


1 http://sites.nationalacademies.org/DBASSE/BOSE/SBS-Graduate-Training/index.htm
2 https://www.nap.edu/catalog/25038/graduate-stem-education-for-the-21st-century