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Concept: Academic degree


EDITORIAL: David Pimentel is a professor of ecology and agricultural sciences at Cornell University, Ithaca, NY 14853-0901. His Ph.D. is from Cornell University and had postdoctoral research at the University of Chicago, MIT, and fellowship at Oxford University (England). He was awarded a distinguished honorary degree from the University of Massachusetts. His research spans the fields of energy, population ecology, biological pest control, pesticides, sustainable agriculture, land and water conservation, livestock, and environmental policy. Pimentel has published more than 700 scientific papers and 37 books and has served on many national and government committees including the National Academy of Sciences; President’s Science Advisory Council; U.S Department of Agriculture; U.S. Department of Energy; U.S. Department of Health, Education and Welfare; Office of Technology Assessment of the U.S. Congress; and the U.S. State Department. He is currently Editorial Advisor for BMC Ecology. In this article, he reflects on 50 years since the publication of Rachel Carson’s influential book, Silent Spring.

Concepts: Conservation biology, Agriculture, Science, Research, President of the United States, Federal government of the United States, Academic degree, Cornell University


We introduce a new method for detecting communities of arbitrary size in an undirected weighted network. Our approach is based on tracing the path of closest-friendship between nodes in the network using the recently proposed Generalized Erds Numbers. This method does not require the choice of any arbitrary parameters or null models, and does not suffer from a system-size resolution limit. Our closest-friend community detection is able to accurately reconstruct the true network structure for a large number of real world and artificial benchmarks, and can be adapted to study the multi-level structure of hierarchical communities as well. We also use the closeness between nodes to develop a degree of robustness for each node, which can assess how robustly that node is assigned to its community. To test the efficacy of these methods, we deploy them on a variety of well known benchmarks, a hierarchal structured artificial benchmark with a known community and robustness structure, as well as real-world networks of coauthorships between the faculty at a major university and the network of citations of articles published in Physical Review. In all cases, microcommunities, hierarchy of the communities, and variable node robustness are all observed, providing insights into the structure of the network.

Concepts: Scientific method, Structure, Hierarchy, Graph theory, Academic degree, Networks, Subroutine, Social network


The U.S. National Institutes of Health (NIH) budget expansion from 1998 through 2003 increased demand for biomedical research, raising relative wages and total employment in the market for biomedical scientists. However, because research doctorates in biomedical sciences can often take six years or more to complete, the full labor supply response to such changes in market conditions is not immediate, but rather is observed over a period of several years. Economic rational expectations models assume that prospective students anticipate these future changes, and also that students take into account the opportunity costs of their pursuing graduate training. Prior empirical research on student enrollment and degree completions in science and engineering (S&E) fields indicates that “cobweb” expectations prevail: that is, at least in theory, prospective graduate students respond to contemporaneous changes in market wages and employment, but do not forecast further changes that will arise by the time they complete their degrees and enter the labor market. In this article, we analyze time-series data on wages and employment of biomedical scientists versus alternative careers, on completions of S&E bachelor’s degrees and biomedical sciences PhDs, and on research expenditures funded both by NIH and by biopharmaceutical firms, to examine the responsiveness of the biomedical sciences labor supply to changes in market conditions. Consistent with previous studies, we find that enrollments and completions in biomedical sciences PhD programs are responsive to market conditions at the time of students' enrollment. More striking, however, is the close correspondence between graduate student enrollments and completions, and changes in availability of NIH-funded traineeships, fellowships, and research assistantships.

Concepts: Scientific method, Economics, Science, Academic degree, Graduate school, Bachelor's degree, Doctorate, Biomedical scientist


PhD recipients acquire discipline-specific knowledge and a range of relevant skills during their training in the life sciences, physical sciences, computational sciences, social sciences, and engineering. Empirically testing the applicability of these skills to various careers held by graduates will help assess the value of current training models. This report details results of an Internet survey of science PhDs (n = 8099) who provided ratings for fifteen transferrable skills. Indeed, analyses indicated that doctoral training develops these transferrable skills, crucial to success in a wide range of careers including research-intensive (RI) and non-research-intensive (NRI) careers. Notably, the vast majority of skills were transferrable across both RI and NRI careers, with the exception of three skills that favored RI careers (creativity/innovative thinking, career planning and awareness skills, and ability to work with people outside the organization) and three skills that favored NRI careers (time management, ability to learn quickly, ability to manage a project). High overall rankings suggested that graduate training imparted transferrable skills broadly. Nonetheless, we identified gaps between career skills needed and skills developed in PhD training that suggest potential areas for improvement in graduate training. Therefore, we suggest that a two-pronged approach is crucial to maximizing existing career opportunities for PhDs and developing a career-conscious training model: 1) encouraging trainees to recognize their existing individual skill sets, and 2) increasing resources and programmatic interventions at the institutional level to address skill gaps. Lastly, comparison of job satisfaction ratings between PhD-trained employees in both career categories indicated that those in NRI career paths were just as satisfied in their work as their RI counterparts. We conclude that PhD training prepares graduates for a broad range of satisfying careers, potentially more than trainees and program leaders currently appreciate.

Concepts: Scientific method, Science, Skill, Training, Academic degree, Natural science, Doctorate, Doctor of Philosophy


There is a persistent shortage of underrepresented minority (URM) faculty who are involved in basic biomedical research at medical schools. We examined the entire training pathway of potential candidates to identify the points of greatest loss. Using a range of recent national data sources, including the National Science Foundation’s Survey of Earned Doctorates and Survey of Doctoral Recipients, we analyzed the demographics of the population of interest, specifically those from URM backgrounds with an interest in biomedical sciences. We examined the URM population from high school graduates through undergraduate, graduate, and postdoctoral training as well as the URM population in basic science tenure track faculty positions at medical schools. We find that URM and non-URM trainees are equally likely to transition into doctoral programs, to receive their doctoral degree, and to secure a postdoctoral position. However, the analysis reveals that the diversions from developing a faculty career are found primarily at two clearly identifiable places, specifically during undergraduate education and in transition from postdoctoral fellowship to tenure track faculty in the basic sciences at medical schools. We suggest focusing additional interventions on these two stages along the educational pathway.

Concepts: University, Academia, Academic degree, Postgraduate education, Doctorate, Doctor of Philosophy, Undergraduate education, Madrasah


Undergraduate Students' interest in taking quantitative vs. non quantitative courses has received limited attention even though it has important consequences for higher education. Previous studies have collected course interest ratings at the end of the courses as part of student evaluation of teaching (SET) ratings, which may confound prior interest in taking these courses with students' actual experience in taking them. This study is the first to examine undergraduate students' interest in quantitative vs. non quantitative courses in their first year of studies before they have taken any quantitative courses. Three hundred and forty students were presented with descriptions of 44 psychology courses and asked to rate their interest in taking each course. Student interest in taking quantitative vs non quantitative courses was very low; the mean interest in statistics courses was nearly 6 SDs below the mean interest in non quantitative courses. Moreover, women were less interested in taking quantitative courses than men. Our findings have several far-reaching implications. First, evaluating professors teaching quantitative vs. non quantitative courses against the same SET standard may be inappropriate. Second, if the same SET standard is used for the evaluation of faculty teaching quantitative vs. non quantitative courses, faculty are likely to teach to SETs rather than focus on student learning. Third, universities interested primarily in student satisfaction may want to expunge quantitative courses from their curricula. In contrast, universities interested in student learning may want to abandon SETs as a primary measure of faculty teaching effectiveness. Fourth, undergraduate students who are not interested in taking quantitative courses are unlikely to pursue graduate studies in quantitative psychology and unlikely to be able to competently analyze data independently.

Concepts: Psychology, Education, University, Academic degree, College, Higher education, Student, Postgraduate education


National efforts to transform undergraduate biology education call for research experiences to be an integral component of learning for all students. Course-based undergraduate research experiences, or CUREs, have been championed for engaging students in research at a scale that is not possible through apprenticeships in faculty research laboratories. Yet there are few if any studies that examine the long-term effects of participating in CUREs on desired student outcomes, such as graduating from college and completing a science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) major. One CURE program, the Freshman Research Initiative (FRI), has engaged thousands of first-year undergraduates over the past decade. Using propensity score-matching to control for student-level differences, we tested the effect of participating in FRI on students' probability of graduating with a STEM degree, probability of graduating within 6 yr, and grade point average (GPA) at graduation. Students who completed all three semesters of FRI were significantly more likely than their non-FRI peers to earn a STEM degree and graduate within 6 yr. FRI had no significant effect on students' GPAs at graduation. The effects were similar for diverse students. These results provide the most robust and best-controlled evidence to date to support calls for early involvement of undergraduates in research.

Concepts: Grade, University, High school, Academic degree, Higher education, Bachelor's degree, Doctorate, University of Cambridge


In keeping with China’s President Xi Jinping’s “Chinese Dream,” China has set a goal of becoming a world-class innovator by 2050. China’s higher education Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math (STEM) research environment will play a pivotal role in influencing whether China is successful in transitioning from a manufacturing-based economy to an innovation-driven, knowledge-based economy. Past studies on China’s research environment have been primarily qualitative in nature or based on anecdotal evidence. In this study, we surveyed STEM faculty from China’s top 25 universities to get a clearer understanding of how faculty members view China’s overall research environment. We received 731 completed survey responses, 17% of which were from individuals who received terminal degrees from abroad and 83% of which were from individuals who received terminal degrees from domestic institutions of higher education. We present results on why returnees decided to study abroad, returnees' decisions to return to China, and differences in perceptions between returnees and domestic degree holders on the advantages of having a foreign degree. The top five challenges to China’s research environment identified by survey respondents were: a promotion of short-term thinking and instant success (37% of all respondents); research funding (33%); too much bureaucratic or governmental intervention (31%); the evaluation system (27%); and a reliance on human relations (26%). Results indicated that while China has clearly made strides in its higher education system, there are numerous challenges that must be overcome before China can hope to effectively produce the kinds of innovative thinkers that are required if it is to achieve its ambitious goals. We also raise questions about the current direction of education and inquiry in China, particularly indications that government policy is turning inward, away from openness that is central to innovative thinking.

Concepts: Psychology, Education, Research, University, Academic degree, Higher education, Innovation, Xi Jinping


As we need knowledge about the prevalence of scientific dishonesty, this study investigates the knowledge of, experiences with, and attitudes toward various forms of scientific dishonesty among PhD students at the main medical faculties in Sweden and Norway. An anonymous questionnaire was distributed to all post-graduate research students attending basic PhD courses at the medical faculties in Stockholm and Oslo during the fall 2014. The responding doctoral students reported to know about various forms of scientific dishonesty from the literature, in their department, and for some also through their own experience. Some forms of scientific misconduct were considered to be acceptable by a significant minority. There was a high level of willingness to report misconduct but little awareness of relevant policies for scientific conduct.

Concepts: Scientific method, Epistemology, Sweden, Experience, Academic degree, Scandinavia, Norway, Doctorate


To examine clinical doctoral students' demographic and training characteristics, career intentions, career preparedness and what influences them as they plan their future careers.

Concepts: Future, University, Academia, Faculty, Academic degree, Postgraduate education, Doctorate, Doctor of Philosophy