Report on Reports

1. The "Neal Report"...1986 - The National Science Board (Background)



One lesson I have learned is that one must constantly educate administrators and non-science faculty about the special resource needs of scientific research. This is an on-going educational process that cannot cease. These needs include physical plant needs, computer and network needs and library needs.

A second lesson that I have learned is that the sciences have to stay visible in the life of the college and in the political arena of the faculty. Although the narrow world of our classroom and research lab can be all-absorbing, it is imperative that we interact formally and informally with faculty from other departments and with administrators. We must work at giving these colleagues a vivid picture of what we do, how we do it and the satisfactions and frustrations of doing it. If we do not have a strong presence on campus, resources will be spent elsewhere.

A third lesson is that changes cannot be expected to happen overnight, and that they require continued, respectful, but persistent pressure. A long-term commitment to effecting change and a long-term investment of effort in change is essential.
– PKAL F21 Statement, 2000.


The first major report in this series, commonly known as the “Neal Report,” came from the National Science Board in 1986. The report outlined a Role for the National Science Foundation and Recommendations for Action by Other Sectors to Strengthen Collegiate Education and Pursue Excellence in the Next Generation of U. S. Leadership in Science and Technology. It emphasized that a strong undergraduate sector is critical if our nation is to:

...keep new ideas flowing through research; to have the best technically trained, most inventive and adaptable workforce of any nation; and to have a citizenry able to make intelligent judgments about technically-based issues.

The authors and sponsors of this report can be pleased at the responses from the community over the past fifteen years. Many of their recommendations (including those listed on the next page) have been or are being addressed, and there is now broader awareness that:

...undergraduate education occupies a strategically critical position in U. S. education, and [that a] resurgence of quality throughout higher education is essential to the well-being of all U. S. citizens.

But the continuing flood of reports, many of which outline similar recommendations based on a similar vision, is an unsettling sign of the work yet before us.