December 13, 2007

Ms. Charlotte Kuh, Ph.D. Deputy Executive Director, Division on Policy and Global Affairs Study Director, Assessment of Research Doctorate Programs National Research Council

Re: Awards and Honors Section for the Assessment of Research Doctorate Programs

Dear Dr. Kuh:

Members of the American Institute of Biological Sciences (AIBS) have contacted us to express concern about the Awards and Honors section of the Assessment of Research Doctorate Programs. Thus, on behalf of the AIBS leadership I write to inquire about the process used to identify and categorize Honors and Awards in the Assessment of Research Doctorate programs.

As we understand the methodology used to develop the Life Sciences Awards and Honors section thus far, National Research Council staff sought to identify awards representing the various subfields within the biological sciences. We certainly recognize the daunting task this must have been. However, a quick review of the list of awards indicates that some significant disciplines and awards are missing from the list available on the study web site. For instance, a cursory review of the current list by AIBS staff identified several missing awards, including:

Mycology (Mycological Society of America):

  • Distinguished Mycologist award
  • C. J. Alexopoulos Award
  • W.H. Weston Award
  • MSA Fellow
  • And several additional Awards and Honors for researchers and graduate students.

Ichthyology and Herpetology (American Society of Ichthyologists and Herpetologists):

  • Robert H. Gibbs Jr. Award
  • Fitch Award for Excellence in Herpetology
  • Robert K. Johnson Award

Conservation Biology (Society for Conservation Biology):

  • Edward T. LaRoe III Award

Mathematical Biology (Society for Mathematical Biology):

  • Akira Okubo Prize

Phycology (Phycological Society of America):

  • Gerald W. Prescott Award
  • Luigi Provasoli Award
  • Award of Excellence

Plant Taxonomy (American Society for Plant Taxonomy):

  • Asa Gray Award

Were these awards and honors excluded for a specific reason or was the exclusion an oversight? If the former, can you please explain the criteria used to identify honors and awards listed in the Life Sciences section? Additionally, the methodology presented on the study web site does not clearly describe the criteria used to designate one award as “Prestigious” and another as “Highly Prestigious.” Our members have expressed a concern that, for example, highly prestigious awards in the plant sciences (botany) are not included in the current list of Highly Prestigious awards. An explanation of the criteria used to designate awards would be welcomed by the biological sciences community, and may contribute to increased participation in the eventual Assessment.

Finally, we would be happy to work with you to identify additional awards. I look forward to learning more about the process used to develop the Awards and Honors portion of the Assessment of Research Doctorate Programs.

Please do not hesitate to contact me at 202-628-1500 x 250 or


Robert Gropp, Ph.D. Director of Public Policy

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