Some doctoral programs among best in nation

A number of WSU doctoral programs are among the leading programs nationally, according to a report this week from the National Research Council. WSU administrators said graduate programs and research at the university have experienced dramatic growth in the years since data was gathered for the report.
Comparative data
The report and database evaluated more than 5,000 programs in 62 fields at 212 educational institutions using a complex methodology and statistical analysis to measure what the NRC considers primary indicators of program quality.
The assessment, which was not designed to provide rankings of doctoral programs, instead gives five sets of illustrative rankings that show how the data can be used to compare programs. Comparisons are based on the importance of particular program characteristics to various users – in this case, to faculty at participating universities. Faculty, administrators and prospective graduate students are among the major audiences for whom the report is intended.
Useful benchmark

WSU President Elson S. Floyd, who joined the university in late 2006, said the findings of the NRC report, particularly as they relate to the strength of WSU’s research activities at that time, provide a useful benchmark from which to gauge the advances the 37 WSU graduate programs evaluated by the NRC have achieved over the past three to four years.

“Particularly from a research productivity perspective, some of our doctoral programs – in the fields of molecular plant sciences, biological systems engineering, materials science and communications, for instance – appear to fall within the top 10 to even five percent of all programs in the nation as early as 2005,” Floyd said. “But what really makes these NRC findings exciting news for our graduate programs and research here at WSU is the tremendous strides we know we have taken since that time.”

Unprecedented funding growth

WSU Vice President of Research and Graduate School Dean Howard Grimes said faculty and researchers have achieved an unprecedented rate of growth in research funding over the past three to four years. WSU received a record total of $218.33 million in outside grant awards during the fiscal year that ended in June.

“Since the time the NRC data was collected we have improved significantly in annual outside research funding and grant awards, increasing grant awards by 42 percent over the past two years alone,” Grimes said. “We have tripled the number of Integrative Graduate Education and Research Training (IGERT) grants awarded to WSU and have doubled our training grant awards. We also have improved greatly in new doctoral student enrollment and graduate student enrollment as a whole.”

Using the data
Grimes said WSU sees the data provided in the NRC assessment as some of the best available information from which to make inter-institutional comparisons and as constructive feedback that can be used to continue to improve WSU’s Ph.D. programs.

“The data in this report can help WSU recruit better quality graduate students and increase retention as students use the published data to find a program that will be a good match for them and their interests,” Grimes said. “But perhaps most importantly, it provides confirmation that the goals we have set for this university since the data was collected are moving us in the right direction.”

The National Research Council is part of the National Academies, a private, nonprofit institution that provides science, technology and health policy advice under a congressional charter signed by President Abraham Lincoln granted in 1863. It is considered a definitive source of evaluative information about the quality of United States doctoral instruction. The recent NRC report, A Data-Based Assessment of Research-Doctorate Programs in the United States, is available for download at