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Data Collection and Methodology

Because awards and honors reflect external assessment of the perceived quality of doctoral program faculty, NRC staff collected data on a total of 1393 awards and honors in all of fields: 292 in the arts and humanities, 182 in social sciences, 578 in physical sciences and engineering and 341 in life sciences (to see lists of awards, click on the broad field name).

Starting in the fall of 2006, NRC staff compiled lists of international, national, and disciplinary scholarly awards in all of the taxonomic fields. In the study that was published in 1995, awards and honors had only been collected for fields in the arts and humanities. Data on 21 awards had been collected at that time. For the current study, names of awarding organizations were gathered from the past NRC study, from federations of professional societies such as the American Council of Learned Societies and the American Association for the Advancement of Science, and from consultations with the committee. Once the committee decided which awards would be included in the final awards list, members categorized the awards as either “highly prestigious” or “prestigious”. (Criteria for this determination varied by field.) Staff then collected awards data dating back to 1970, or as far back as available, through online databases or hardcopy files sent by awarding organizations.

Once data collection was complete, staff matched names of award-winners with faculty lists compiled by Mathematica Policy Research. This process included matching all faculty in programs in a given taxonomic field against the entire database of award winners according to broad field (e.g. social sciences, physical sciences). Thus, the faculty members assigned to the Comparative Literature field were matched by name and university affiliation against all of the award-winners collected in the Arts and Humanities disciplines, in order to catch possible interdisciplinary awards. In order to ensure that awards were matched to the correct faculty member, staff manually reviewed faculty lists, eliminating records where people may have matched by first and last name, but not according to middle name or institution.  Finally, staff counted the number of awards per faculty member in each of the programs. Since many faculty members are affiliated with multiple programs, a formula was used in order to allocate a percentage of the total number of each faculty member’s awards to the multiple programs in proportion to that person’s level of involvement with each program. Thus a program in which a faculty member is listed as a Core member will receive a greater percentage of credit for that person’s awards than will a program in which a faculty member is listed as Associated. This allocation formula ensures that each program benefits from the achievements of its faculty member, but it gives more weight to those programs with which the faculty member is most directly involved.

The awards in the NRC study include research/scholarship awards, teaching awards, prestigious fellowships or memberships in honorary societies. Types of awards generally not included are public service, travel or conference grants, and graduate student or post-doctoral awards.

Inevitably, there are limits to the awards data. First, there were awards for which staff could not locate data (the information was not available online and/or awarding organizations did not respond to requests for information).  In addition, although staff generally collected data back to 1970, the dates of the awards data vary: some awards have come into existence more recently, while others only had records on more recent awardees.