Dr. Anne C. Petersen

Deputy Director
National Science Foundation

Remarks delivered at

The University of Wisconsin at Madison

June 18, 1996

Integrating Research and Education:
Can Those Who Do Research Also Teach?

I want to thank Dr. Jaleh Daie for inviting me to speak to you this afternoon.

I am very pleased to be here today but I am even more pleased that all of you are here, especially given the topic.

I have entitled my remarks today, "Integrating Research and Education: Can Those Who Do Research Also Teach?" I ask this question because there has been concern expressed, both by Congress and by the popular media that research university faculty have increasingly neglected education, especially that of undergraduates. A corollary concern is that young faculty must either choose research or choose teaching.

I think if we want to learn more about making choices and the difficulty of balancing priorities--especially in the classroom--we might look no further than the students on campus. I am reminded of a dilemma faced by freshman student I once met:

After the first day of classes one year, I saw this young woman--clearly a new student--looking despondent, so I asked what was wrong.

"One of my professors told the class that she demands the best from every student in every course she teaches," the young woman replied. "She doesn't care what other classes we have--her course must be our No. 1 priority."

"What's wrong with that?" I asked.

"Nothing," she said. "But I have her for two classes this semester."

Certainly we are always going to face conflicting priorities--even conflicting class schedules--but on the issue of research and education, we must ask ourselves: is there such a conflict? And if so, should this be the case?

At the National Science Foundation, our support of both research and education flows naturally from our stated mission: promoting the progress of science and engineering.

NSF was created to support the pursuit of knowledge within an environment of learning. This linkage between research and education was explicitly recognized in Science: The Endless Frontier , Vannevar Bush's seminal report that provided the blueprints for NSF. The centerpiece of Bush's "program for action" was that "the government should accept new responsibilities for promoting the flow of scientific knowledge and the development of scientific talent in our youth." 1 And I note the word AND in that sentence!

The wisdom of this linkage has become increasingly evident with the passage of time. In 1995, MIT President Charles Vest said in a speech he delivered at Cornell, "The most valuable and farsighted concept to emerge from the original [Vannevar] Bush vision was that by supporting research in the universities, the government would also be investing in the education of the next generation--a beautiful and efficient concept. In short, every dollar spent would be doing double duty. This integration of teaching and research is at the heart of America's unique system of research universities." More precisely, this is also the oldest process by which knowledge has been both discovered and passed on since the dawn of civilization, of course, not always at universities.

Perhaps the most unique and comprehensively beneficial feature of American research universities is their integration of research and education. The mutual benefits of faculty discovery and student learning made U.S. universities distinctive relative to those in other countries, and have created outstanding institutions like the University of Wisconsin.

Many of the nation's research universities, however, are under fire about the commitment to their educational mission. As I stated in my opening, several media reports and some in Congress have questioned the commitment to education on our research university campuses. This criticism has caused some concern among faculty and administrators.

The hot button questions are:

  • Do faculty spend "too much time" on research at the expense of teaching?

  • Is research more generally given priority over education--for example, in status, or in funding?

Unfortunately, the answers to these questions are complex, but there are visible signs that the dual commitment to research and education has deteriorated at some institutions of higher learning.

That is why it is up to us--both in academe and in government--to provide some answers--because real or perceived, the questions about the quality of education at our research universities demands our immediate attention and thought. These questions are not going to go away.

To help find some answers, let's begin as researchers by looking at some of the data and the trends--those visible signs I talked about--that are driving the concerns.


PERCENT OF TIME SPENT ON TEACHING AND ON RESEARCH (all institutions - broken out by type of institution) 2

Here is a graph showing the "average" faculty member with a doctorate in science and engineering. The graph compares the time he or she spends teaching against the amount of time performing research.

  • Looking at the first bars on the graph--we see the "average" faculty member across academia. From this comparison, we might conclude the concern over research and education is overblown or overstated. This tells us that in 1993, science and engineering faculty across all types of institutions spend more time teaching than conducting research (44 percent of their time to 32 percent).

  • The next set of bars, show the average for science and engineering faculty at research universities. The distribution of time has shifted so that over 40 percent of faculty time is spent on research. Faculty at these institutions still spend a significant amount of time teaching (over 30 percent). Perhaps more significantly, a recent Department of Education survey of university and college faculty shows that only about one-third of faculty in research universities teach undergraduate courses, while the majority teach little at all or mostly graduate students.

  • And there are, of course, faculty members who spend the majority of their work time teaching, and the majority of those teach undergraduates, even in the research universities.

BUT, there are trends in the relative commitments of faculty to research as compared to education at our academic institutions. These trends indicated that that the balance between research and education has shifted over the past 20 years in a profound way.

This graph shows trends in faculty responsibilities at all institutions.



  • Here we see that the trend in faculty responsibility is clearly toward research. The share of faculty members reporting that research is their primary responsibility has increased from 19 percent in 1973 to 33 percent in 1993, while the share naming teaching as their primary responsibility has declined from 69 percent to 53 percent over the same
    period. 4 Now, this could be viewed quite positively--the percent primarily engaged in research has increased.



  • But now let's look at the responsibilities of faculty at research universities--here the trend towards research becomes even more marked.

  • The top line on the graph shows the number of faculty at research universities who report that their primary responsibility is research. As you can see from the top line, the trend toward research by faculty at the research universities has grown dramatically--165 percent between 1973 and 1993.

  • On the other hand, the number of faculty who report teaching as their primary responsibility at these institutions--has been stagnant (about 3% growth over 20-year period).

What is the appropriate balance in the faculty role between research and teaching? And what should the overall institutional balance be at research universities? I certainly won't claim to have the answers to these questions (or many other interesting ones that we could pose such as whether the trends are driven by faculty choice or funding by federal and other sources). But the trend compels us to consider these issues.

Regardless of how one views the trends, they only tell part of the story. A larger set of forces makes clear that the integration of research and education deserves greater emphasis in the NSF's programming and at academic institutions. Today's students will spend their careers in a 21st century workplace that presents complex and open-ended challenges. The students who will thrive in this environment are those who have been educated in a discovery-rich environment. In our educational programs at all levels, we have aimed to engage students in inquiry, to excite them about discovery.

We know that research is really about learning. Faculty doing research have at least two important assets for learning. First, the process of research--of discovery--is an important way to gain knowledge and is, in our view, an invaluable lifelong learning approach for students. Second, faculty are usually passionate about their research and that passion can more effectively communicate why the research--and the resulting knowledge--are important.

The linkage of learning and research is central to NSF's mission. It serves as one of the four core strategies in the NSF Strategic Plan. We have already established a number of programs that integrate research and education at the faculty level and at the disciplinary level. To further the linkage at the institutional level in academia, we have established a new activity, Recognition Awards for the Integration of Research and Education.

The National Science Foundation is committed to the principle of the integration of research and education at all levels of education, and especially in our institutions of higher learning. But we know that the Foundation cannot unilaterally describe or define this principle for those who are tasked with its implementation.

In fact, the reverse must be the prevailing case. You, the faculty, can best define and describe your successful activities at integrating research and education so that they may serve as examples and models for other institutions. As well, they will provide NSF with information on the panoply of activities that are achieving-- as we speak--the very goals intended.

Through the application and award process for this Recognition Award, we are inviting you in our premier research universities to teach us the diverse and rich nature of activity that qualifies for the rubric "integrating research and education." We know that there have been many effective and instructive efforts that have permitted institutions to capitalize on the strengths of engaging in both discovery and learning for the missions of research, teaching, and public service. NSF wants to play a constructive role in recognizing, rewarding, and helping to replicate these achievements throughout the research university community.

Up to ten universities among the applicants will be awarded $500,000 to enhance their already successful efforts, and to document or evaluate and disseminate information on their institution's approach and outcome. Those institutions that apply and are not chosen for the monetary award are, nevertheless, contributors and mentors also. All the applications will provide valuable information and perspective for us throughout NSF. We intend to distribute and discuss your diverse examples among agency staff as a mechanism for expanding our own understanding and to plan further NSF activities in this area.

Let me not, however, leave the impression that our work at NSF will be only to reinforce the success stories of integrating research and education. In some cases, the task will instead resemble reinvigoration. There are those more radical who would use the word reinvent. In a larger sense, the goal is the same. The last several decades have validated the stunning contributions of this unique American concept of higher education in the research university. Our collective task will be to perpetuate and enhance its continued contributions.

As I mentioned earlier, NSF has developed several programs that encourage and reward individuals engaged in both research and education. Many of you may be familiar with them. For example, the Faculty Early Career Development (CAREER) Program is designed specifically to support junior faculty in these efforts.

In creating the Recognition Award, our goal was to move NSF's efforts in integrating research and education up to the institutional level. We believe it is important to both recognize and capitalize on the leadership role that whole institutions, as well as individuals, can play in influencing directions and trends in higher education.


The experience and information from the Recognition Awards' process will provide the context for the next set of NSF programs to promote further the integration of research and education. For I strongly believe that the answer to the question: Can those who do research also teach? is a resounding Yes!

Research and education are not mutually exclusive. They are different aspects of a single learning paradigm. We need to break down some of the artificial barriers that have increasingly separated the research of our university faculty from the education of the next generation of scientists and engineers.

That is why I am enthusiastic about the creation of this new partnership between our research universities and the Foundation. We have much to share. The universities, the federal government, and the nation as a whole are responding to new demands, both internal and external. Important among them is a workforce educated "to learn how to learn," and to adapt to rapid local, national and global shifts. Out of those changes will also come new opportunities. I look forward to sharing the challenge as well as the benefits together.

Thank you.

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