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NRC Assessment of Research Doctorate Programs

August 11, 2010

The NRC assessment of the UW Department of Electrical Engineering, released on September 27, 2010, is based on clearly erroneous data. The resulting rankings are therefore not representative of the accomplishments of UWEE.

The following explains a few of the errors in the NRC document:

  • In 2006 (the reporting year when the data was collected), UW EE had 36 tenure/tenure track faculty members. In the NRC study, the UWEE “total faculty size” is listed as 170, the “allocated faculty size” is listed as 91.45 and the core and new faculty is listed as 98. The allocated faculty size of 91.45 is very much higher than the top 34 institutions in the NRC report that has an average of 50. Since faculty size is the denominator for most of the measures computed by the NRC, the result is disastrous for UW EE. For example, the computed value of “publications per allocated faculty” for UW EE is listed as 0.93, which is the second lowest among the top 34 institutions. UW EE is a medium-sized EE department and is generally known to be so. The count for allocated faculty is obviously an error for UWEE.
  • The NRC reports UW EE as having 0.1 “awards per allocated faculty member.” This number is many times below that which is listed for our peers. UW EE has 2 Members of National Academy of Engineering, 23 IEEE Fellows, 2 Fellows of the Optical Society of America, 4 Fellows of the Acoustical Society of America, 3 PECASE awards, 4 Young Investigator awards, 20 NSF Career Awards and 2 Sloan Fellows. These 60 awards alone, divided by our correct faculty count, should have given a figure closer to 1.5 ´┐Żawards per allocated faculty member.´┐Ż In addition, there are many distinguished achievement awards and best paper awards. The NRC report clearly misrepresents the achievements of our faculty.
  • The NRC study listed UW EE having 179 graduate students in 2006. In 2006, the correct count is that there were 281 registered full-time graduate students. This drastically reduced the numerator for UW EE in several of the NRC computations.

When the NRC report was made available on September 20th, 2010 to the University of Washington, one week prior to the official release date of September 27, 2010, the College of Engineering immediately informed NRC of these errors and asked NRC to make corrections. NRC was unwilling to do so.

“A Data-Based Assessment” of UW EE by NRC is based on clearly erroneous data. For UW EE, any conclusions drawn from the NRC report are meaningless.

Since 2006, the UWEE tenure/tenure track faculty size has grown from 36 to 42 and our research activities have significantly increased. Upon graduation, many of doctoral graduates have continued productive research as professors in universities and as research scientists and engineers in industries and government laboratories.

See also The College of Engineering’s response to the NRC rankings of CoE departments