BOSTON, Feb. 15, 2013 — In the most comprehensive report in a half century, experts today described fundamental changes needed in the education of the scientists whose work impacts medicine, drug discovery and virtually every other discipline. The result of a year-long project of a presidential commission of the American Chemical Society (ACS), the world’s largest scientific society, the report was the topic of a symposium here at the 2013 annual meeting of the American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS).
Although it concluded that the state of graduate education in the chemical sciences is productive and healthy in many respects, the Commission report found that the education of doctoral-level scientists has not kept pace with major changes in the global economic, social and political environment that have occurred since World War II, when the current system of graduate education took shape.
Bassam Z. Shakhashiri, Ph.D., convened the panel, the Commission on Graduate Education in the Chemical Sciences, as one of his major initiatives as 2012 ACS president. The William T. Evjue distinguished chair for the Wisconsin Idea at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, Shakhashiri organized and moderated the symposium.
Five members of the Commission participated in the AAAS symposium, along with Shirley M. Malcom, Ph.D., head of Education and Human Resources at the AAAS. Speakers and their topics were:
“The time for a close look at the education of tomorrow’s scientists in this key discipline was long overdue,” said Shakhashiri. “We hope the Commission's work will create the best possible experience for future scientists upon whom society will depend so heavily to address the great global challenges facing us all. They include climate change, population growth, finite resources, malnutrition, spreading disease and water management.”
The Commission found that:
The Commission developed its recommendations to address several fundamental concerns. Graduate programs, for instance, must prepare Ph.D. candidates for the present and future marketplace of opportunity. Second, the globalization of science necessitates stronger communication skills across disciplinary and cultural lines. Third, as many nations worldwide have greatly strengthened their scientific capacity by building universities and developing new businesses and markets, it is essential for the U.S. to engage more women and students from underrepresented populations to revitalize the chemical enterprise with new ideas and energy.