Sources of Information
The primary source of information for this report consists of two new surveys designed and conducted especially for this project by the American Institute of Physics during 2004 and 2005. The surveys were undertaken to fill in some of the current gaps in knowledge regarding faculty outcomes and institutional practices, which could not otherwise be addressed by existing data sets. One survey focused on departments; the other examined faculty.
The departmental survey was a census of biology, chemistry, civil engineering, electrical engineering, mathematics, and physics departments at Research I institutions (N = 492). It gathered information on departmental characteristics, hiring practices and outcomes, and tenure and promotion processes and yielded an overall response rate of 85 percent. Data on attrition were not collected.
In contrast, the faculty survey was a stratified, random sample of approximately 1,800 faculty from the same departments. The faculty survey included information on demographic characteristics, employment experiences, and types of institutional support received and yielded a response rate of 73 percent. Comparable, cross-institution information on hiring and resource allocation is notoriously difficult to find—although some universities collect such information—and thus the survey data collected for this project is quite instructive. Because of funding limitations and concern that longer surveys would have lower response rates, the surveys neither included questions about degree of job satisfaction nor collected information on attrition of faculty over the preceding several years. Hopefully, others will collect some of the information that could not be gathered in the course of this study. Details on the implementation of the surveys, including the actual questionnaires and response rates, can be found in Appendix 1-4 and Appendix 1-5.
To gain a better understanding of the overall representation of women in academic science and engineering and how that has changed over time, the committee examined data from two large, national studies: the Survey of Doctoral Recipients (SDR), conducted biennially by the NSF, and the National Survey of Postsecondary Faculty, conducted every five years by the National Center for Education Statistics of the Department of Education. Data from professional and disciplinary societies were also examined.
To determine the state of current knowledge on women’s academic career paths, the committee reviewed studies conducted by individual universities as well as publications by individual researchers. It also heard expert testimony from several interested stakeholders at its first committee meeting (see Appendix 1-3).
Drawing from these multiple sources, Chapter 2 provides a brief overview of the representation of women in academic science and engineering at the time the surveys were conducted in 2004 and 2005. A more extensive analysis of changes from 1995-2003, using data primarily from the SDR, can be found in Appendix 2-1, along with an overview of existing research. The committee used many of the themes and issues identified in this research to develop the survey questionnaires, and we hope that the findings presented here—and the many unanswered questions—will form the basis for future research.