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Public Affairs Update

  • New chair of National Academy’s behavioral science board . . . . Philip Rubin, chief executive officer of Haskins Laboratories, has been selected to chair the Board on Behavioral, Cognitive, and Sensory Sciences (BBCSS) at the National Academy of Sciences (NAS). NAS was chartered by Congress to advise the federal government and the public on science and technology issues. The BBCSS is a subdivision of the National Research Council, which conducts research in a variety of scientific fields from engineering to zoology (see www7.nationalacademies.org/csbd/About_BBCSS.html). In research circles, Rubin is known for his unique interdisciplinary studies of speech production that encompass cognitive psychology, linguistics, ecological acoustics, physiology, and computer modeling. In national policy circles, Rubin is known for, among other achievements, his leadership of the National Science Foundation’s Division of Behavioral and Cognitive Sciences in the Social Behavioral and Economic Sciences Directorate (2000 to 2003). Rubin also served as the chair of the President’s National Science and Technology Council’s Committee on Science’s Human Subjects Research Subcommittee, which produced a timely interagency report on social sciences relative to counterterrorism. While chair of BBCSS, he will maintain his adjunct professor position in the Department of Surgery, Otolaryngology at Yale University School of Medicine. He is also a research affiliate there in psychology, and is Chairman of the Board at the Discovery Museum & Planetarium in Bridgeport, CT. Rubin holds a BS from Brandeis University and a doctorate from the University of Connecticut.

  • Working to improve faculty gender equity . . . . The American Association of University Professors’ (AAUP) recently released report, Faculty Gender Equity Indicators 2006, provides data on four measures of gender equity for faculty at more than 1,400 colleges and universities across the country. Data for the report are drawn primarily from the AAUP Faculty Compensation Survey, with additional data on part-time faculty from the U.S. Department of Education. The individual campus listings included in the report can promote discussion of faculty gender equity at the local level, where the success of existing strategies to improve the situation of women academics can best be evaluated. AAUP hopes to move discussions about the full participation of women as faculty from the realm of abstract goals into concrete actions for improvement. The report consists of three sections: an article on “Organizing around Gender Equity,” by Martha West (University of California-Davis) and John W. Curtis (AAUP Director of Research and Public Policy); aggregate national tables for each of the four equity indicators by type of institution; and an appendix listing the four indicators for each individual college and university. Visit www.aaup.org/AAUP/pubsres/research/geneq2006, for more information.

  • Genes, behavior, and the social environment: Moving beyond nature/nurture . . . . Over the past century, society has made great strides in reducing rates of disease and enhancing people’s general health. Public health measures such as sanitation, reduction of workplace hazards, creation of new pharmaceuticals and clinical procedures, and most recently, cultivation of a growing understanding of the human genome, each have played a role in extending the duration and raising the quality of human life. The recent National Academy of Sciences publication Genes, Behavior, and the Social Environment examines a number of well-described gene-environment interactions, reviews the state of the science in researching such interactions, and recommends priorities not only on research itself but also on its workforce, resource, and infrastructural needs. The report also identifies gaps in knowledge and barriers that hamper the integration of social, behavioral, and genetic research, concluding that a number of far-reaching changes, specifically in the development of trans-disciplinary research, are required if significant strides are to be made in the future. Interdisciplinary research helps to achieve a far greater understanding of how interactions among social, behavioral, and genetic factors affect health and illness. For more information, visit www.iom.edu/Default.aspx?id=36574.

  • A century of doctoral education . . . . The National Science Foundation (NSF) recently released U.S. Doctorates in the 20th Century, a report that describes the history and growth of doctoral education in the United States from 1900 to 1999. The report reveals changes in the characteristics of persons who complete a doctoral education. It focuses on how many, in what subjects, where, and who the recipients of doctorates were as well as the changing nature of doctoral education in the United States. A vast majority of PhDs graduated in the last 25 years of the century and were not represented in the first A Century of Doctorates(1978). In the period examined, 62 percent were in what NSF defines as science and engineering (S&E) fields (which includes the social and behavioral sciences), and 38 percent were in non-S&E fields (which includes history and education). Men received about 73 percent of all PhDs, but since 1960, women have increased their share so that in the last five years of the century they had received 41 percent of all doctorates awarded. Minorities earning doctorates climbed to 14 percent of all PhDs awarded to U.S. citizens in the late-1990s. The study also includes where recipients earned their undergraduate degrees before moving on to the doctorate. The content of the printed report is available on the NSF website at www.nsf.gov/statistics/nsf06319/.