The Role of the University in Research and Research Training
- George H. Fancher (Sinclair Research, Inc.)
- Document ID
- Society of Petroleum Engineers
- Journal of Petroleum Technology
- Publication Date
- August 1962
- Document Type
- Journal Paper
- 855 - 858
- 1962. Original copyright American Institute of Mining, Metallurgical, and Petroleum Engineers, Inc. Copyright has expired.
- 6.1.5 Human Resources, Competence and Training
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When the first sputnik orbited in 1957 the Free World was startled from complacency. The effectiveness of American scientific and technical education became a subject of burning controversy. We had assumed that the United States and the United Kingdom were ahead in scientific and engineering achievement; this image was shattered rudely. Criticism and evaluation of all education became of widespread interest as facts were sought. We were startled to find that the Soviet Union is producing annually two-to-three times as many scientific and technical professional graduates as the United States. Although presently the number of annual recipients of the doctorate is about the same in the Soviet Union as in the United States, 75 per cent of the Soviet degrees are in science and engineering as compared with only 55 per cent in the United States. About half of all Soviet engineers are in managerial positions in industry-in the management of research and development or in government administration. Many higher officials of the Soviet Union are engineers and scientists. One-third of all Soviet professionals are members of the Communist party as compared with only 4 per cent of the Soviet population at large. The conclusion is inevitable; the process of making decisions in the Soviet is geared much more to technical considerations than in the United States. With respect to research, one-seventh of all professionals in the Soviet Union worked in research and research development in 1960. One-third of these, some 120,000, worked in engineering research and development alone. As we are becoming aware of these facts, or more properly, the implication of these facts, a new emphasis upon science and technology and a new concern for quality and excellence is developing. The general public is more aware of the fundamental importance of scientific progress now than it was in 1957.
This discussion properly leads us to some evaluation of the university in its job of education-particularly with respect to graduate education. Graduate education in this country is only some 85 years old. Although attempts to initiate it had begun earlier, the founding of Johns Hopkins U. in 1876 marks the real beginning of graduate work in the United States. Despite various academic and social pressures, the graduate school has become the chief and primary home for scholarship and research in America. Subject to ever-continuing controversy (controversy essentially the same in character 85 years ago as today), graduate education and its "hand-maidens", scholarship and research, have had incalculable influence on the course of modern society. Graduate schools brought research into the university-the dominant objectives at the doctoral level being research and training for research. This was a joint victory, for science and the university in the modern way of life. The eternal controversy remains, of course, between learning for learning's sake or learning for practical use. In science and technology the argument is one of "pure" or "basic" or "fundamental" research vs research which may be applied. A great teacher said many years ago that nothing is more practical than theory, because the theory of today is the practice of tomorrow. We agree whole-heartedly with this belief. Nevertheless, the argument goes on and probably always will. Perhaps, the real argument is simply one of determining proper balance in graduate work. Recounting the history of the beginning of graduate work in this country, Berelson tells of early controversy. The controversy and conflict involved in getting graduate study under way exhibited the resistance to change that traditionally characterizes educational institutions (and other institutions, too, for that matter). Many of the arguments used today against innovations in graduate study were used then against starting it at all: e.g., the always applicable position that scarce resources should not be put into new ventures when existing undertaking need to be improved; or the argument made in 1816 b the President of Harvard College to the effect that young men "must not be detained from active life, professions, etc., longer than now, nor may the expenses of our education be much increased"; or the argument that there would be no market for the product. The tension between undergraduate education and the proposed graduate variety was strong and persuasive, especially since there was no experience with which to judge or work out the problems.
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