UC Santa Cruz doctoral programs earn high marks in national review

SANTA CRUZ, CA—Five doctoral programs at the University of California, Santa Cruz earned high marks in a report issued today (Tuesday, September 28) by the National Research Council (NRC).

UCSC's Ph.D. programs in earth sciences, astronomy and astrophysics, ecology and evolutionary biology, electrical engineering, and physics are among the best in the country, based on the NRC's assessment of research activity in each field. Research activity is a widely accepted measure of program excellence.

"This is a wonderful endorsement of five excellent programs and a recognition of our place at the forefront of graduate education," said Alison Galloway, executive vice chancellor and campus provost.

Other doctoral programs that showed distinction in research activity include molecular, cellular and developmental biology; literature; history; chemistry and biochemistry; computer science; mathematics; ocean sciences; and international economics.

The long-anticipated report on doctoral programs in the United States, which was made available online, is based on copious amounts of data provided in 2005-06 about more than 5,000 programs at 212 institutions across the country. The complexity of the undertaking is underscored by the infrequency of these reports: NRC's last survey was conducted in 1993, and the results were published in 1995.

"As a relatively young campus with a fast-growing portfolio of graduate programs, UCSC did extremely well," said Galloway, UCSC's chief academic officer.

The NRC assessed research activity by evaluating four factors: Publications per faculty member; citations per publication; percent of faculty with grants; and awards per faculty member.

Additional highlights of the report include strong showings by astronomy and astrophysics, computer engineering, and ocean sciences, based on citations per publication, or the number of times scholarly papers authored by UCSC researchers in each field were cited by others—an indication of the publication's impact. In addition, physics emerged as a top producer of publications-per-faculty-member.

"UCSC is known for pioneering scholarship that transforms disciplines," said Galloway. "The NRC results reinforce our reputation for breakthrough scholarship that moves entire fields."

"As we celebrate our 45th anniversary, the spirit of innovation that built this campus is alive and well," said Galloway.

Galloway noted, however, that the NRC's snapshot view of UCSC is already outdated. Today, UCSC offers 32 doctoral programs, only 20 of which were included in the NRC survey.

"This is necessarily an incomplete picture of our doctoral programs, but more programs will meet the criteria for inclusion in the NRC's next survey," said Galloway.

The NRC is the research arm of the National Academy of Sciences. A private, nonprofit organization, the NRC gathers, analyzes, and shares information, producing more than 200 reports each year. Its mandate includes improving government decision making and public policy.

The council's report, entitled "A Data-Based Assessment of Research-Doctorate Programs in the United States," has been highly anticipated in higher education circles, where the NRC's analyses are regarded as a credible measure of program quality.

To increase the statistical accuracy of its findings, the NRC gathered data to evaluate programs by two measures: perception and objective metrics. In a departure from prior practice, the NRC did not provide a ranked list of programs.

Founded in 1965, UC Santa Cruz has established a distinctive role in the UC system as a major research university that provides a high-quality living-and-learning experience. UCSC's location on the shores of the Monterey Bay National Marine Sanctuary, and its proximity to Silicon Valley, have fostered excellence in academic programs and research endeavors, and contributed to a culture of interdisciplinary engagement and entrepreneurial partnership. The campus recently set a new record for sponsored research awards, raising $148 million to support graduate students and pay for equipment and materials. With talented faculty who honor the campus's enduring commitment to excellence in teaching, UCSC demonstrates that cutting-edge research and high-quality teaching are mutually reinforcing. Total campus enrollment this academic year is projected to be 16,730.