Thursday, January 18, 2007

What Rates

It's grad recruiting time.. As part of an effort to look at web resources for prospective graduate students and how program rankings (NRC, US News etc.) might be used on the internet by prospective students, my department was looking recently at the rankings section of the website phds.org. This site has a personalized system for giving an individual a list of grad schools that might be a good match based on specified interests and priorities.

Some of the categories that can be selected are straightforward: Do you want to be in a large department or small? Do you care if the program has faculty who publish highly cited papers? Options are: no importance, low, medium etc., with various gradations up to high.

Some of the categories are kind of strange: e.g., How important is it to you that "The distribution of publications per faculty member is uniform"? It is unspecified whether that distribution will be uniformly high, low, or mediocre. There is a similar question about the uniformity of citations.

The part that I found disappointing is called "Program Composition Measures". There is no category for selecting the importance you place on faculty diversity. There are categories related to the number of female graduate students and to the number of Ph.D.'s granted to women and minorities, but nothing about faculty. These data exist, and it is curious to exclude them from the selection criteria.

As part of a recent NRC questionnaire, faculty at PhD-granting institutions were asked what is most important to them about program composition measures, with a list of 7-8 items (I don't remember the exact number), including number of publications per faculty, citation index of faculty, number of external grants, and faculty diversity; ethnic diversity and gender diversity are itemized separately. You can only choose 4 items at most, so it is too bad that diversity is split into separate items. To me, it seemed like I had to choose between diversity (one or both types) and other items I thought were important as well.

3 comments:

Ianqui said...

What garbage. For my field at my U, it said that the mean time to degree was 17 years. 17! Considering that the data comes from 1994, it doesn't look like it's very accurate.

gs said...

That's a big site with a lot on it, including a link to an essay about the Larry Summers speech. A quote:

I've taught a fair number of women students in electrical engineering and computer science classes over the years. I can give you a list of the ones who had the best heads on their shoulders and were the most thoughtful about planning out the rest of their lives. Their names are on files in my "medical school recommendations" directory.

?

Ms.PhD said...

re: distribution of publications among faculty being ~equal across the board or not... where I went to grad school, there were the Haves and the Have Nots. This created a horrible imbalance, where the students who worked for the Have Nots had no idea what they'd gotten themselves into until it was too late, and weren't eligible for some fellowships, etc. which of course all went to the kids in the Haves Labs (who already have everything, of course). I would much prefer departments where the dynamic range, as it were, is not so wide that everyone distributes into two very distant peaks.