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National Research Council (US) An Assessment of Research-Doctorate Programs: Panel on the Biomedical Sciences; Lorden JF, Kuh CV, Voytuk JA, editors. Research-Doctorate Programs in the Biomedical Sciences: Selected Findings from the NRC Assessment. Washington (DC): National Academies Press (US); 2011.

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Research-Doctorate Programs in the Biomedical Sciences: Selected Findings from the NRC Assessment.

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2Sources of the Data

The data used in this study were collected as part of the National Research Council’s Data-Based Assessment of Research-Doctorate Programs, and the data collection procedures and caveats are described in detail in that report.1 The committee authoring the Assessment identified several sources of errors in the data that could not be eliminated, including classification errors and data collection errors. The omission of field-specific measures, such as books, patents, and articles presented at refereed conferences in some science and engineering fields, means that the data do not capture the full scope of a program’s research productivity (see Box 2-1).

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BOX 2-1

Sources of Data Errors in the Assessment of Research-Doctorate Programs. Classification errors. The taxonomy of fields may not adequately reflect distinctions that the field itself considers to be important. For example, in anthropology physical anthropology (more...)

The data on research productivity that were collected during the study were analyzed in specific ways in the Assessment report, but the full database available to researchers could extend this analysis to explore alternate measures of research productivity by the faculty. For example, less emphasis could be placed on a count of journal articles, which were not judged on the basis of their impact, and greater emphasis could be placed on the citation measure. Alternately, only articles with citations could be counted. These are only a few suggestions for further analysis.

Once the data were released, institutions and others identified additional problems, which led to the release of a corrected data table in April, 2011.2 It is important for the reader to understand some of the limitations of the data used to produce the correlations and other analysis in this report.

In addition to data from the Assessment, data on training grants and training slots were collected from the NIH website.3 Using these two sources, the panel has identified correlations among many of the characteristics of doctoral programs in the biomedical sciences mentioned in the statement of task:

  • Average Publications per Faculty Member
  • Average Citations per Publication
  • Percent of Faculty with Grants
  • Percent of Non-Asian Minority Faculty
  • Percent of Female Faculty
  • Awards per Faculty Member
  • Average GRE Scores
  • Percent of Non-Asian Minority Students
  • Percent of Female Students
  • Average PhDs per Year, 2002–2006
  • Average Cohort Completion Rate
  • Median Time to Degree

Appendix D provides the correlations for these 12 variables for each field. With the exception of Awards per Faculty Member, all are discussed in Chapter 3.

In addition to the above list, other variables, such as the percent of first-year students with research assistantships or the percent with external fellowships, were used in analyses in later chapters (e.g., Chapter 4). Appendix C contains definitions of all of the relevant variables from the Assessment; data on these variables for each biomedical program are included in the Excel table available with this report. Appendix E contains the statistical summary of each variable by field.

Finally, the panel relied on other results from the Assessment surveys of doctoral programs, faculty, and students for more targeted analysis. Data on doctoral student satisfaction, productivity, and changes in career objectives in neuroscience and neurobiology (Chapter 6) came from the survey conducted of doctoral students in that and four other sample fields (chemical engineering, physics, economics, and English)4. Data on postdoctorates in Chapter 7 were drawn from primarily unpublished results of the program and faculty surveys. Although not all of these data are discussed in the Assessment report, they are available in the online Excel data table that accompanies this report or in the full database available for public use.



See Chapter 3 of the Assessment, “Study Design.”


A summary of the changes made to the data table and a log of individual corrections are available at www​


See http://grants​​.htm#fundedgrants; data are from the version posted in 2009. Using NIH data, we were unable to associate training grant funding with particular programs. We were, however, able to tie them to particular institutions, and this is the approach we take in the analysis in this report.


See “Data from Student Questionnaires” in Chapter 7 of the Assessment.

Copyright © 2011, National Academy of Sciences.
Bookshelf ID: NBK82473


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