Archive for March 9, 2011

Impact of increasing number of post-docs in CS

My colleague Beki Grinter asked me to review a white paper that the Computing Research Association (CRA) has produced on the increasing number of post-docs in computer science. A post-doc is some kind of study or internship taken on after earning the PhD and before a faculty or industry job.  2009 was the first year that the number of PhD’s in the US who took post-docs exceeded the number of PhD’s who took faculty jobs.  The real issue is the declining number of faculty jobs.  For example, the number of new PhD’s going into industry has risen dramatically, from 240 in 2004 to 760 in 2009.  “Today, roughly 42 percent of all (US) PhD graduates are hired into industry immediately after completing their PhD.”  CRA tracks where new faculty hires came from.  In 2007, 118 new US Computing faculty were new PhD’s, and 38 were previously post-docs.  In 2010, the numbers were 116 and 47.

In comparison with other fields, we still have relatively few post-docs.  Medical and Life Sciences have 33,245 (67.5% of all post-docs in the US). Engineering has 9.4%.  CS has 0.9%.  Still, it’s clear that there’s a shift going on.

At the CRA website, there is a discussion about the impact of this change on the field.   I don’t know enough about other disciplines that have lots of post-docs to really understand the analogous implications for our field.  I do care about computing education, and I can foresee a couple of implications for computing education of this shift.

  • Pushing one or more post-docs before a faculty slot means that the new faculty are going to be more years away from graduate classes.  While I believe that every researcher stays updated on their own field, graduate school is where future faculty get a broad computing education, e.g., new languages and new technologies. It’s hard for existing faculty to do that, to keep up in their specific field and in general.  Perhaps there’s going to be a greater need for continuing education opportunities for faculty, to keep updated.
  • I am concerned about that the emphasis on post-docs even more heavily weights research (over teaching) in hiring, tenure, and promotion decisions.  I have not heard of a post-doc on teaching.  Faculty candidates who have had a post-doc will have a stronger (larger) publication record than candidates who did not have a post-doc. If doing a post-doc becomes a requirement for being a faculty member, are we  increasingly weighting research over teaching?  A graduate student can emphasize teaching (e.g., as a TA, through teaching awards).  That emphasis on teaching may not fade when the graduate student does a post-doc, but if the hiring requires a post-doc, then it’s clearly making a strong statement about the value of research.  How do we counter that, to re-emphasize teaching?

March 9, 2011 at 11:24 am 9 comments

Changing the Culture of Science Education at Research Universities

A particularly appropriate post, given SIGCSE this week:

Professors have two primary charges: generate new knowledge and educate students. The reward systems at research universities heavily weight efforts of many professors toward research at the expense of teaching, particularly in disciplines supported extensively by extramural funding ( 1). Although education and lifelong learning skills are of utmost importance in our rapidly changing, technologically dependent world ( 2), teaching responsibilities in many STEM (science, technology, engineering, and math) disciplines have long had the derogatory label “teaching load” ( 3,  4). Some institutions even award professors “teaching release” as an acknowledgment of their research accomplishments and success at raising outside research funds.

via an article from Jan 14, 2011 Science Magazine.

March 9, 2011 at 9:14 am 2 comments


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