NORC at the University of Chicago has been awarded a grant from the National Science Foundation to support a spring 2019 conference, and related preparatory work, focused on how universities and their doctoral programs can collect and utilize data on research doctorate recipients’ career pathways. The overriding objective of the project is to help develop widely shared standards for the kinds of career outcomes that should be measured, the methods for collecting the data, and the ways in which the data should be analyzed and findings disseminated to prospective students, faculty, and administrators. The grant supports four main activities: a web-based national survey of graduate deans in fall 2018, a set of focus groups of graduate deans in December 2018, a one-and-a-half-day conference in May 2019, and a multipronged dissemination of the results of the project. The survey will collect data on current practices of monitoring graduates’ careers, and the findings will inform a set of guiding questions addressed by the focus groups. The conference will convene a group of 40 graduate deans, university leaders, and research experts to discuss the issues and advance the development of “aspirational standards” for collecting and reporting data on doctoral career pathways. Dissemination activities include publication and broad electronic dissemination of a final working paper/monograph, in-person briefings of government and academic leaders, and conference presentations.
The project has the potential to advance knowledge most immediately about the successes realized and challenges faced by research doctorate-granting institutions and their students to obtain information on career pathways and outcomes. Ultimately, an improved knowledge base about career pathways and outcomes should inform the design of graduate programs, while also enabling students to better select graduate programs consistent with their career plans, thereby reducing costly, time-consuming mistakes and improving their chances of successful program completion and a strong start to their chosen career paths. At the broadest level, the project promises to provide much needed guidance on ways to improve graduate education to help generate the highly competitive workforce the United States and, increasingly, international communities require.
The NORC team includes Principal Investigators Tom Hoffer, Debra Stewart, and Norman Bradburn; and Project Manager Cynthia Simko.