New NDP Survey Shows Trends, Challenges in Training Programs
SfN has released the results of the latest biennial survey of neuroscience departments and programs across the United States and Canada. They reveal a growing stability in neuroscience programs in terms of size, number of graduate applicants, and characteristics of faculty and students.
Conducted during the 2010-11 academic year, the survey of 147 graduate and undergraduate programs reflects the continued strength and interdisciplinary nature of neuroscience programs, the growing opportunities for undergraduate involvement in the field, and overall stability in the composition of programs over the last decade. The findings offer insights for deans, faculty, program directors, students, and federal agencies that support predoctoral and postdoctoral training programs. The survey has been conducted since 1986.
“We have seen an increase in the number of undergraduate neuroscience programs that may reflect greater general interest in the brain and brain functions,” said Alan Sved, author of the report, chairman and professor in the neuroscience department, and co-director of the Center for Neuroscience at the University of Pittsburgh. “However, I was dismayed to see that we haven’t made more progress in getting additional underrepresented minorities into the field and that women are still not adequately represented in faculty ranks.”
Survey highlights include:
• Fifty percent of neuroscience graduate programs in 2011 spanned more than a single school at a university. That number is a significant increase from the 17 percent of such programs in 1991.
• For 80 percent of the programs, the PhD degree awarded had neuroscience or neurobiology in the title. In 2009, this number was at only 66 percent of respondents.
• Of graduate program faculty, 68 percent are also teaching undergraduate courses, and 98 percent provide opportunities for undergraduates to help with research projects.
• Women represent 52 percent of graduate students and 38 percent of postdoctoral trainees, but only 29 percent of all tenure-track faculty members among respondents. While this percentage has doubled since 1986, the growth has been slow and leveled off in recent years, particularly at the full professor level. (see chart)
• Underrepresented racial and ethnic minorities in the United States represent 12 percent of all predoctoral trainees, 4 percent of postdoctoral trainees, and only 5 percent of tenure-track faculty.
• The number of postdoctoral trainees having MDs or MD/ PhDs has been steadily decreasing since the survey began in 1986; 95 percent of postdoctoral trainees have only a PhD while additional 3 percent have both PhD and MD degrees.
“We now see a trend toward stabilization that has remained constant for the past several years, perhaps reflecting the maturation and coming of age of neuroscience as a discipline,” said Hermes Yeh, Committee on Neuroscience Departments and Programs chair and professor of physiology and neurobiology at the Geisel School of Medicine at Dartmouth College.