The American Chemical Society report “Advancing Graduate Education in the Chemical Sciences” has been the source of much discussion (C&EN, March 4, pages 5 and 51). The report was also one of the highlights of the American Association for the Advancement of Science’s annual meeting in Boston in February, and it garnered coverage from several media outlets.
I feel fortunate that I can add my voice to Celia Arnaud’s article and have really enjoyed hearing from others in the chemistry community and from those who care about graduate education in the U.S.
I commend the committee members for their work and for their observations and insight. But I believe that one of the weakest points of the report is the following: There is no way to convince anyone to change their ways in order to try to develop new practices. This is especially true with respect to funding graduate students. The authors say that they hope that the National Science Foundation pushes these changes.
However, one official from NSF told Arnaud that they are not going to make any changes without assurances that there is absolute consensus on the change.
If the issues brought up by the commission are ones that ACS cares about and that we, as ACS members, want to see changed, then ACS should put some of its own money forward to fund “experiments” in graduate education. If ACS is on sound-enough financial ground (which we have been told was the case in the aftermath of the Leadscope trials), then the society should start soliciting proposals for changes to graduate education curricula and fund the first- and second-year graduate students from the departments with the best proposals.
In short, ACS should put its money where its mouth is.
Matthew HartingsI agree with Matt. ACS has no coercive power over the relevant universities. If NSF (which does have coercive power) doesn't want to change things without academic consensus, then it's gonna take a while. It should be interesting to see if ACS can positively incentivize change -- somehow, I'm not holding my breath.