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A Letter to all of you...

Mary Ann Sesma msesma at zeus.bell.k12.ca.us
Thu Apr 9 12:57:56 EST 1998

[BIOSCI ADMINISTRATOR NOTE: I had to edit the subject line to get this
message to post. -- Serge Taylor]

Dear List Members:    I have drafted a letter to all of you.    Nothing is
engraved in stone.  I welcome your input and suggestions and hopefully will
find some volunteers.     MAS

Susan Forsburg has proposed an interesting research project that may
answer some of the questions we have all asked each other privately and in
our posts and potentially present some new directions in the area of
educational policy.    I had cleared my calendar in anticipation of
vacation but a broken hip intervened.  Most of the list members do not have
this luxury.   Therefore I have  eight weeks of time on my hands and  am
willing to work on this project pro-bono.     My forte is development of
data from human sources.

My belief is that a microcosmic study of two or three prestigious
institutions would be highly valid and either disprove our concerns or
provide in-depth data that  could be used to influence educational policy.
Comparisons would be made with both NIH and NSF data.

The time frame that Susan suggests is 1980 to 1985 for graduate programs in
Biology that provide a doctorate.   This allows time for the individuals to
move into industry, academia, shift career foci or drop out of science

The critical  issues are the following:

1.  Develop a Research Collaborative of at  least three members of the
list.  These would be volunteers and I would submit all material to this
Research Collaborative.   This Collaborative would have oversight
capabilities  at least 3  members of the list.  Ideally this Collaborative
would be made up of a group of individuals who had diverse experiences and
were in various stages of their educational and professional careers.  I
would submit all drafts of questionnaires to this group for review.     It
would be the goal of this project to ultimately publish the findings.  If
the findings are powerful, and I believe that they will be, a funding
source can be found.   Volunteers are gratefully accepted.

2.  Identification of ALL candidates receiving a Ph.D. in Biology from
three prestigious universities.  I would  hope that list members might
furnish a list of those universities that are considered (in their minds)
within these years (1980-85) to have had outstanding programs for the Ph.D.
in Biology.  Recognizing that departmental shifts and emphasis  are always
possible, it is essential that the quality of graduates and training be
confined to these years.     The ideal sampling would be potentially three
such universities:  West Coast,  Mid West, and Eastern.  One university at
least should be a private institution of higher education.   I suggest MIT,
University of Chicago and UCSF.    MIT should be on the list as Susan has
strong contacts here.   Other suggestions are viable but the need is
personal contact.

3. List members who volunteer for this project other than the Research
Collaborative would be responsible for idenfication of the Ph.D.
candidates,  by dissertation abstracts, or departmental contacts within the
universities identified.

4.List members would need to make contact and present a standardized
questionnaire which I would design.   Contact will be made with the
individuals, and a questionnaire presented that will identify both barriers
and accesses  to continued participation in science at any level.
Responses will be coded for anonymity thus providing confidentiality.
Opportunity will be provided for respondents to freely respond to certain
specific  questions.

5. The primary question to be asked is where are the Ph.D.'s  granted
between  1980 and 1985.  Why and where are they there?  As Susan clearly
points out, the PI's are not always accurate in the identification of

 6 .One of the issues to consider is that there are few women in the
faculty, even the young faculty women are self-selecting out of the job
market?  Why does a women self select out of the job market?  What are the
barriers to her continuation and why is there such a preponderance of male
faculty members? How does this small study reveal differences within the
NSF and NIH data systems?

7. A larger Advisory Group would be convened via cyberspace to review the
collected data and review format for publication.    Volunteers are again

The outcome of this research project would be a small study that either
will back up the threads that have been posted on the List or deny them.
If further study is warranted  it can be undertaken.  Preliminary review of
data can then be posted on Susan's Launch Page or on the list.   For the
sake of brevity, only USA  institutions would be used,  However, if a
larger data base is required in a second round, this could certainly be
expanded. (Anna Magnusson' post) )

My personal goal is to give back to the science community  data that can
influence educational policy.  In my personal opinion there is a great deal
of policy influence necessary.   In  my sphere of experience the most
successful research in this arena is collaborative.  Therefore I would ask
that List members respond directly to the  list by post if they are willing
to assist.

I am currently in the process of cataloging the various threads that have
appeared on the list that are germane to a questionnaire.   Within my
experience a questionnaire is considered satisfactory with a 30+ % return
rate.  However,  if the list members contact their own graduating classes I
would anticipate a much high rate of return which is highly desirable.
The personal contact is always  effective.   I also have multiple resources
at IHE's that can be useful in tracking graduates.  I welcome any and all


Mary Ann Sesma

Mary Ann Sesma                          e mail
1621 Sunnyhill Drive                    msesma at bell.k12.ca.us (preferred)
Monterey Park, CA 91754                 sesma at aol.com
phone; (213)261-5860

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