WHITHER THE 'ACS DIRECTORY OF GRADUATE RESEARCH'? | February 23, 2004 Issue - Vol. 82 Issue 8 | Chemical & Engineering News
Volume 82 Issue 8 | p. 42 | ACS Comments
Issue Date: February 23, 2004

WHITHER THE 'ACS DIRECTORY OF GRADUATE RESEARCH'?

By F. FLEMING CRIM, CHAIR, AND C. DALE POULTER, VICE CHAIR, ACS COMMITTEE ON PROFESSIONAL TRAINING
Department: ACS News

As part of its mission to promote and enhance the education of chemists, the ACS Committee on Professional Training has published the "ACS Directory of Graduate Research" biennially since 1953. The primary motivation for producing the directory--referred to as the DGR--is to provide students considering graduate study in chemistry and closely related areas with a convenient and authoritative source of information about the graduate programs they might consider. For many years, the directory has also served graduate students, postdoctoral fellows, faculty, and practicing chemists as a convenient source of information about academic research programs and departments.

The DGR contains a listing of programs with contact information, the degrees offered, and information about each faculty member. These individual faculty listings provide birth year, academic history, research interests, publications in refereed journals, and the dissertations directed by the faculty member during the previous two years. The directory turned 50 in 2003, and as with all venerable endeavors, it is time to consider its future.

The directory turned 50 in 2003, and as with all venerable endeavors, it is time to consider its future.

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Credit: LARSEN PHOTOGRAPHY
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Crim
Credit: LARSEN PHOTOGRAPHY
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Credit: PHOTO BY SUSAN POULTER
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Poulter
Credit: PHOTO BY SUSAN POULTER

The 1953 edition of the directory contained entries for 127 departments of chemistry and of chemical engineering. By 2003, the DGR had increased to include 10,522 faculty in 669 departments of chemistry, chemical engineering, biochemistry, and other chemistry-related programs. Since 1997, the directory has been published in print and electronic versions, with purchase of an individual subscription ($85 for the 2003 edition) also providing access to the electronic version on the Web.

During the past decade, there has been a revolution in access to information. Google is a verb, and the Web doesn't catch insects. The Internet has become the first choice for chemists who want to obtain information rapidly. Virtually every department has a website describing its offerings, and most provide a convenient path to the research interests of individual faculty. In addition, powerful literature searching tools such as SciFinder Scholar, PubMed, and the Web of Science give rapid access to the most current listings of publications. Although some of these products come with a fee and are not freely available, they are part of life for more and more students, even those at primarily undergraduate institutions.

These developments raise fundamental questions about the future of the DGR. It is a useful tool for obtaining a summary of the scholarship in a department, and, because of its format, one can conveniently make direct comparisons among programs. The directory is also one of the few places that list the doctoral dissertations from a particular laboratory along with other statistical information about the faculty member. At the same time, the publication lists in the directory are at least a year old at the time each volume is published because of the time required to assemble, verify, and produce the material.

After 50 years of publication, the Committee on Professional Training is now asking, "Whither the 'ACS Directory of Graduate Research,' " whom does it serve, and how can it serve them best? Perhaps the directory is a publication whose time has passed, or perhaps it can be transformed to better serve the community today. Should the Committee on Professional Training continue to offer parallel print and electronic editions? Should the directory become solely an electronic publication with enhanced features and improved updating, or should it change in other ways?

The DGR is only one of the activities undertaken by the committee to promote graduate education in chemistry. Could the considerable amount of time the staff devotes to the directory be better used for other graduate education activities of the committee?

Other economic considerations are important as well. The column charges paid by each listed program cover production expenses, except for the considerable amount of time the staff devotes to the project. The income from sale of an individual volume only covers the marginal cost of its production and distribution. Would institutions consider an electronic listing worth the cost? Should the electronic version take the cheaper approach of omitting publication information, assuming that such information is readily available from other sources?

These are but a few of the many questions and approaches to consider. The committee wants to hear your opinions and suggestions. Please contact us at dgr@acs.org with your thoughts. We need your advice.

Views expressed on this page are those of the authors and not necessarily those of the committee.

 
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