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IP: FYI #129 - Future of Graduate Education
From: Dave Farber <farber () cis upenn edu>
Date: Fri, 25 Dec 1998 21:01:45 -0500

The American Institute of Physics Bulletin of Science Policy News
Number 169: December 23, 1998

"The Future of Graduate Education": Speech by National Science Board Chairman

"I believe we are now entering a new Golden Age for research and education in
the next century." -- National Science Board Chairman Eamon Kelly

This promising conclusion about the future of graduate education was made by
NSB Chairman Eamon Kelly on December 7 at the twenty-fifth anniversary
celebration of the Council of Scientific Society Presidents.  A driving force,
Kelly said, in this revitalization will be "information - the commodity on
which knowledge, learning, and education depend...moving  between distributors
and users in new ways that are not susceptible to the old rules and

Kelly first characterized the current environment: "with the end of the Cold
War,  the fierce competition for research dollars has been coupled with a
decline in the public sense of urgency toward funding fundamental research,
particularly Defense related research in the physical sciences and
engineering."  He described "a rising chorus of criticisms" of graduate
education in America from students, future employers, and the public.  The
National Science Board is studying these problems, Kelly said, outlining a
series of issues and questions framing their deliberations.  One of these
questions is "How can new technologies be integrated into research and
education to expand synergy among researchers and accelerate learning?"

Part of the answer is information technology, which will "enable people to
access and apply information to contexts never thought possible before,"
building "a new culture for the academy," Kelly contends.  He continues:

"The revolution in information technology is bringing and will bring
significant changes in how we perform our functions as teachers and scholars,
and how students learn.  Those changes create an imperative for new
institutional structures and a new academic culture."

"It will offer new opportunities for cooperation across institutions...and for
collaborations across fields of science."

"I believe that one of the most dramatic changes will take place in the way we
teach.  In a current lecture class, students sit passively, receiving
information."  "With information technology the possibilities open to making
the task of learning into a complex, active, and intellectually challenging
engagement with a subject."

Kelly does not predict that campuses will disappear as students turn to
"virtual" universities.  Rather, "My own prediction envisions greater
interdependence rather than independence among cutting edge researchers. 
Teamwork and collaboration will become ever more important as research
questions draw on the expertise of diverse fields of knowledge."  Under this
system, students might visit campuses "for shorter periods of concentrated
interaction with faculty and research collaborations."  One of the results is
that "the faculty of the future will need to be adept at drawing out the
individual intellectual and creative talents of each student in guiding him or
her beyond the mastery of information to the use and extension of knowledge."

Looking ahead, Kelly concludes: "we are now entering a new Golden Age for
research and education in the next century.  This new age also will be
supported by the Federal/university partnership, but will include greater
participation by other stakeholders, both in the U.S., and in the
international science and technology communities."  

Kelly urges that "we need to continue to be more agile in identifying and
adequately supporting the most promising areas for research.  We need to
enable broader cross-disciplinary, cross-sector, and cross-institution
collaborations among researchers and their students, even while providing
strong support to traditional fields."  "We should be quick to seek
opportunities to employ the latest in technology in research and learning in
an environment of free and open inquiry."  He called for new efforts to expand
participation by under-represented groups.

The speech concludes, "It is our obligation to provide our future citizens
with a healthy infrastructure of cutting edge scientific research and graduate
education not just for today but to serve the next quarter century and

The full text of Dr. Kelly's address to the Council of Scientific Society
Presidents can be found under "Recent Speeches" at

Richard M. Jones
Public Information Division
American Institute of Physics
fyi () aip org
(301) 209-3095

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