Women Approach Parity in Undergraduate Science Faculty Hiring

A new report indicates that women have gained ground in science faculties at predominantly undergraduate institutions (PUIs). The report, titled Academic Excellence: The Sourcebook, is a summary and statistical analysis of a detailed survey of natural science programs at 136 such institutions over the 10-year period ending in 2000. The study was published by the Research Corporation, a foundation that supports research in chemistry, physics, and astronomy; it was sponsored jointly by the Camille and Henry Dreyfus Foundation, The Robert A. Welch Foundation, the W. M. Keck Foundation, and the M. J. Murdock Charitable Trust.

According to the report, between 1991 and 2000, 40% of new tenure-track hires to science faculties at PUIs were women, compared to only 21% during the previous decade. In the 5 years preceding 2000 the gains are even larger, with women constituting 45% of new hires.

Among the report's other findings:

* The average professor in the study group published 0.54 papers a year during the decade, with each publication corresponding to about $36,000 in grant money. Full professors generated 0.6 research publications a year with $26,700 in research grants; for associate professors, the numbers are 0.48 and $17,500; and for assistant professors, 0.45 and $27,100. Twenty-six percent of all research publications included undergraduate students on the list of authors.

* During the decade the average professor in the study group delivered 1.1 invited lecture. (For the purposes of the study, "invited lectures" includes named invited lectures, invited keynote addresses, invitations to overseas meetings, and presentations at premier research universities, but excludes local departmental seminars.)

* The success rate for research proposals submitted to granting agencies during the study period was slightly higher than 30%. Despite an increase in the number of faculty and total grant dollars, the number of grant proposals submitted stayed about the same over the decade. According to the report's Executive Summary, this suggests that research has not been limited by the availability of external funding.

* The average number of tenure-track faculty members in the natural sciences increased by 21% over the study period, but the number of courses taught at these institutions increased by a slightly larger amount, so the average teaching load has increased slightly.

So what do you think of this study? Are you surprised that full professors at PUI's publish more than assistant professors? Is it true in your experience that, as the study suggests, funding is not a limiting factor in research at undergraduate institutions? The number of courses taught increased by 23% over the decade, more than offsetting the increase in the number of faculty members (21%). Has your institution added a lot of new courses in recent years? Why? Visit the Next Wave Forums and share your views with your colleagues.

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