A Changing Research Landscape

Article excerpt

A YALE committee has urged the university to downsize its faculty and shrink or disband some departments. That may seem a startling suggestion. Yet to those who follow the fortunes of American university-based research, the advice is hardly unexpected.

America's great research universities are entering a new era. Its hallmarks are sharply rising research and teaching costs coupled with growing public pressure to help solve the country's economic and social problems. This new reality has generated a consensus within the academic community that individual universities no longer can do everything they have done in the past.

University priorities have to be more sharply defined. But how?

A National Academy of Sciences panel spelled all this out last year in a paper titled "Fateful Choices." It lamented that "few academic institutions have engaged in any kind of long-term planning necessary to set priorities for conducting and supporting research."

This can't continue. The congressional Office of Technology Assessment issued a study of its own last year laying out why university-based research can't go on growing as it has in the past. …