[Published originally in the January 2004 edition of Computing Research News, Vol. 16/No. 1, p. 5.]
NRC Assesses Doctoral Programs at Research Universities
The National Research Council has embarked on an effort to assess doctoral programs at research universities. The results of the last such assessment were published in 1995 (http://bob.nap.edu/html/researchdoc/).
Commonly known as the "NRC rankings," these assessments are somewhat controversial but widely influential within and outside of higher education. For example, they are the rankings that CRA uses in its annual Taulbee Survey of Ph.D.-granting institutions in CS and CE.
Early in 2002, the NRC appointed a committee to ask if another assessment should be undertaken and, if so, what the methodology of such a study should be. Not surprisingly, the answer to the first question was "Yes," and the committee has just published its proposed field taxonomy (http://books.nap.edu/books/030909058X/html/7.html#pagetop) and study methodology (http://books.nap.edu/catalog/10859.html).
The committee has separated the computing disciplines into two distinct fields in the proposed taxonomy (both fall under the major heading of Physical Sciences, Mathematics, and Engineering): Electrical and Computer Engineering, and Computer and Information Science. As well, Information Science is separately listed under "Emerging Fields." CRA is working to clarify the study committee's understanding of the computing disciplines and how they are structured within institutions.
The NRC is currently raising funds to pay for the study. The study is currently scheduled to begin in July 2004, with questionnaires being sent to institutions. Questionnaires to programs will follow. If fund-raising takes longer than anticipated, the schedule will slip by a year to July 2005.
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