Report on Reports

14. Stresses on Research... 1998 - Gov't-Univ-Industry Research Roundtable


Stresses On Research…1998


The most important challenge for undergraduate education in the life sciences is to integrate a culture of research into the curriculum. As the pace of discovery continues to accelerate, teaching approaches that present a static pool of information are increasingly limited. In contrast, students who learn the logic of experimental design and data analysis are better prepared to assimilate new information and are more likely to be active participants.

–PKAL F21 Statement, 2002.


The Government-University-Industry-Research Roundtable (GUIRR) at the National Research Council (NRC) initiated a series of meetings in the mid-1990’s to illuminate the major sources of stress affecting the academic research and education community, and to identify possible remedies to specific concerns. One outcome from these meetings was the report, Stresses on Research and Education at Colleges and Universities– Phase II of a Grass Roots Inquiry, published in 1998.

One notable difference in this report from others cited here is that it followed a multi-year series of meetings and discussions on campuses across the country, and of convocations in Washington, DC. From these meetings there were many messages, including the recognition of a new urgency for restructuring institutional, state, and federal reward systems to recognize teaching in a manner more in balance with rewards for research excellence.

In reflecting on how insights from this inquiry can inform the work of those now shaping departmental and institutional visions, the following report excerpts are instructive.

…as a consequence of the changes taking place in society broadly, there is a need to rethink the way we are preparing a generation of students whose career paths likely will look very different from those of their mentors. A constructive approach to this issue is to provide students with a wider range of research experiences– perhaps by offering a research practicum in corporate or national labs, or by creating multi-authored dissertation tracks to the Ph.D.

…discussion revealed new vigor and heightened interest in the pervasive impact of information and communication technology, and of interactive media, on the role and the physical realities of universities, classroom instruction, and publication. [All] agreed that coming changes that are being driven by the information and communications revolution will be rapid, fundamental, pervasive and unpredictable. Some even emphasized that these technologies will change the very essence of the academic enterprise. If the university is envisioned as an information generating and information disseminating system– if everything we do, from scholarship to information storage and retrieval in libraries to teaching, has to do with the creation, transmission, or storage of information– then it follows that new technologies that redefine the nature of the research record, and the avenues for creating and modifying it, will change fundamentally the very essence of universities themselves.