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Earlier I said that there may be a broader question that operates in the underdevelopment of women as science resources which relates to the role of women in society. I am not certain that such a question exists, moreover if it does exist, it may not be the responsibility of women to develop the answer. This matter was discussed recently by Dr. Phillip Handler, President of the National Academy of Sciences, in a conference at NSF. Using Sweden as an example, Dr. Handler described that although equal educational opportunity for women has been in force in Sweden for a longer time than in the U.S., representation problems still exist. He states and I quote “After equal formal education and equal opportunity in taking the first steps up the employment ladder, some monstrous barrier seems to be operative. Very few women in Sweden rise to positions of authority in science”. It may be that a societal barrier exists to keep women underdeveloped in science, however, that barrier may be of men's creation and until men assist in removing completely the blocking filter I mentioned above it may not be possible to consider effectively the barrier referred to by Dr. Handler..
I have mentioned three successful programs, let me add a few proposed solutions. My top prority would be given to trying to make more effective the academic linkages between the 2 year community colleges and 4 year institutions. If these linkages were strengthened through faculty interactions I feel certain that they would have real stability. What I propose is that NSF and NIH initiate immediately a supplemental grant program as follows:
Faculty at 4 year institutions having NSF or NIH funded research grants would be given the opportunity to apply for a 2 or 3 year grant supplement to obtain summer support for the participation in the funded research project of one Community College science faculty member and a Community College female or minority student. Of course the Community College faculty member included in the project would be expected to contribute meaningfully to the research project in question. I would also insist that the sponsoring 4-year institution have a proven track record of educating and graduating minority and women students in science.
My second priority would be further development and replication of the Saturday Academy program. The Atlanta model uses the Saturday Academy as an important component of the Research Center for Science and Engineering. However, I see the Saturday Academy as a potentially independent program which could be implemented widely throughout the country. Institutions with a proven experience in successfully educating minority science students would be then eligible to apply. As an inducement for institutions to apply I would recommend that each successful applicant institution would receive two full year graduate fellowships to support minority graduate students enrolled at their universities.
A third priority would be a faculty development program targeted for the support of young women and minority science faculty who although non-tenured, are on a tenure track appointment at colleges and universities. Only faculty in their 3rd or 4th year of employment who have demonstrated that their research development has suffered, because of unusual academic demands on their time would be eligible. These competitive fellowships should be funded for 1 year and should include research support and travel.
By continuing and expanding support of the successful program models described above and by considering minor additions such as the Saturday Academy and Faculty development I am convinced that we can look forward to developing women and minorities in science so that their strengths are adequately used as resources of our society.
In closing, Mr. Chairman, I want to emphasize that although I refer to our society repeatedly in my testimony I do not mean to imply that the programs I support to improve the development of our women and minorities in science are so-called "social welfare" programs or "make work” programs. I state most clearly that it is to the benefit of science as a whole to develop all of our human reservoirs of scientific talents be these talents in majority males, minorities or women. I stand ready to answer any questions or to develop my points more clearly as you desire. Thank you.
Mr. PEASE. Thank you very much, Dr. Cota-Robles. We appreciate that testimony. It is quite obvious you spent a great deal of time preparing it.
Would you differentiate the problems of women in science, blacks in science, Hispanics in science? Are there significant differences in the kinds of problems these groups have, differences more significant than similarities?
Dr. COTA-ROBLEs. I think the similarities are great, but there are some marked differences.
I think that the similarities are frequently the tracking out of mathematics and, therefore, tracking out of science.
Thus women face a problem that minorities face as well.
However, I think there is one problem that minorities face specifically and that is repeated defeat. I don't think women have necessarily faced that same type of repeated defeat that minorities have faced. In addition for minorities the situation is even more difficult because there are so very few minority scientists that minority students, can identify with. I don't know if the concept a role model is really valid.
Mr. PEASE. You made a statement in your testimony that "Today a Ph. D. degree is required of virtually every individual who seeks the opportunity to perform original research within an institutional setting.”
Does that disturb you as an educator and as a member of the National Science Board, that our higher education is so rigidly structured that you can make that statement ?
Dr. COTA-ROBLES. It doesn't really disturb me since I recognize that the Ph. D. is two things.
For one thing, it is a degree that is a certificate on paper. However, the other thing the Ph. D. means is a validation of the ability to ask questions of nature, and to try to obtain answers by mobilizing complex methods and techniques, thus I am not disturbed.
Mr. PEASE. We were talking earlier about the need in our country for scientific literacy for general citizenship. Your remarks today about the handicaps of minorities and women were directed primarily to the small numbers who go into science itself. Do you see a parallel problem insofar as general scientific literacy is concerned among women and minorities?
Dr. COTA-Robles. Absolutely; and it is magnified because many are really filtered out of science so very early.
Mr. PEASE. Mr. Brown has a question.
Mr. Brown. Dr. Cota-Robles, I think the statistics that you have given with regard to the utilization of women and minorities in science are startling to say the least. I was aware that there were discrepancies, but the magnitude of these discrepancies boggles the imagination, you might say.
I am a little puzzled. I am accustomed to thinking of science as an exalted realm of rationality where there is no constraint based upon irrational factors, where a person succeeds in accordance with his/her merit or contribution. Yet the performance of women and minorities in achieving a Ph. D. is no better than-in fact, it is not as good as the success of women and minorities in politics.
I am a little bit at a loss to understand why this should be the case. Are scientists fallible human beings just like politicians?
Dr. Cora-ROBLES. Scientists are fallible human beings. However, I really think that the problem is as Dr. Zacharias pointed out this afternoon, something that starts very early.
Mr. Brown. Oddly enough, if I may recall an anecdote, when I was in high school all of the mathematics I learned from elementary algebra to elementary calculus was learned from the same person. I only had one math teacher in high school and it was a woman. I thought only women knew mathematics until I got out of high school.
I have heard rumors that there are theories about this mathematical filter that you mentioned for women, that is attributed possibly to genetic causes.
Are you aware of that?
Dr. COTA-ROBLEs. Yes. I think there is some belief or maybe even more documentation than that, that women may have some inabilities to deal with problems in three dimensions.
Mr. Brown. Well, the question, of course, we must address is how do we correct inbalances that we presented. It appears that it will take heroic efforts to make a difference in the system even within a generation. How would you suggest that we begin this heroic effort ? Do you think our present level of efforts in this area has proven adequate to meet the magnitude of the problem?
Dr. COTA-ROBLES. No, they really haven't proven to be adequate, but that is because they reflect a low priority on education.
I think that the basic problem is that in the early years we have teachers that have very heavy teaching loads, thus teachers are only able to give a few seconds of personal help to each student. This fact permeates the entire educational establishment.
It appears that it would take a clearer acceptance of our responsibilities to our children to educate them, than we are willing to make.
Mr. Brown. You have mentioned this program in Berkeley.
Have you had any experience with programs at your own institution that would indicate routes to success in this area, anything that has been done that we might use as a model that could be helpful and applied nationally?
Dr. COTA-ROBLES. Well, fortunately, at Santa Cruz we have been able in our biological science faculty to employ a faculty that is about 25 percent minorities out of a department of 25 faculty, thus that we have a group of minority faculty within the establishment, as it is, who are carrying their full load as scientists and as professors and as minorities. This has really helped to draw and encourage minority students to enroll in biological sciences in Santa Cruz.
We will have to try to continue to identify and educate more minority scientists who can take faculty positions in math, physics, and chemistry departments, however at present there just aren't very many minority scientists in these academic disciplines.
Mr. Brown. Is it just luck you were able to get this high proportion in biology? Do you have some sort of affirmative action?
Dr. Cota-Robles. We have an affirmative action program to which the campus is committed, in addition it was at a particular time in the early 1970's when faculty appointments were still easily available. At present new faculty resources are not available on a permanent basis to academic institutions. They will be available once again in 10 or 15 years.
Mr. Brown. Well, can you give us any clues as to strategies that might be successful in reversing this situation ?
Does it require that there be a dedicated individual in a key position to really put some effort into an affirmative action program or are we facing a situation that is unsolvable due to the lack of an adequate number of individuals receiving the Ph. D. degrees today?
Dr. COTA-ROBLES. I think that certain individuals can really make a big difference.
In particular the leadership that Ciriaco Gonzales has given the NIH biomedical sciences program, has been very effective. That program has 75 productive foci throughout the country working to increase the number of minorities who are going into science.
If we could develop a parallel program for women to further develop their mathematical strengths.
I think that is true that human commitment is important. This is why I listed the individuals at the beginning of my talk because I felt that each one of these people here has done something special and done it very well. .
Mr. Brown. As you know, Dr. Cota-Robles, the campus at Riverside has recently acquired a new chancellor who is Hispanic.
I am wondering if this--and this is a first for the university system-provides an opportunity by establishing a role model to encourage minorities, particularly Hispanics, who aspire to higher academic ranks, that we could use. I am presuming efforts are being made to do that, to begin to redress this problem.
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Dr. COTA-ROBLEs. I am absolutely convinced that that type of role model is a very helpful one and useful one and particularly since Chancellor Rivera is a published poet, whose poetry can be appreciated throughout the country. I think that that also makes a major difference. Rivera has the credentials that permit him to move into the academic center, into the other areas of academe because he has earned his spurs in his own discipline.
Mr. Brown. I just wonder how he happened to earn his spurs in Texas instead of California ?
I have no further questions.
Doctor, I just would like to address sort of a general attitude that I sometimes encounter in talking to scientists about programs like the minority research center. It sort of follows up on your statement at the very end of your remarks:
I do not mean to imply that the programs I support to improve the development of our women and minorities in science are so-called "social welfare" programs or “make work” programs. I state most clearly that it is to the benefit of science as a whole to develop all of our human reservoirs of scientific talents be these talents in majority males, minorities or women.
The thing that occurs to me is that the Science Foundation makes a great point in its testimony of continually wanting to support only the best or highest quality science. They are generally to be commended for this, the record is excellent.
This rationale, however, is often used to oppose special targeted programs such as the minority centers or other programs for women in science.
On the other hand, unless you assume that scientific talent is somehow genetically distributed differently among ethnic groups or by sex, the pool of research proposals is less than the whole potential pool that might be available, if the figures that you gave us today are indicative. Thus, in a sense NSF is currently supporting less than the best of all possible scientists who might apply if cultural and economic factors did not limit women and minorities in science.
Therefore, if NSF truly supports the highest quality science over the long run, shouldn't NSF substantially or even massively increase its support for women and minorities in science? Would you agree with this assessment and if so, what would you propose to do?
Dr. COTA-ROBLEs. The one thing, and I did put it in my written testimony and I didn't comment on here, is that I really feel that the model of the resource center is a very helpful and useful one, and I support the increase in the number of development of resource centers. I realize that they have to be planned very effectively, but the integrated program put forth by the resource center, where we deal with precollege or prehigh school students all the way to faculty research in amorphous solids, that really strikes me as the perfect type of model that can be used, and so I encourage NSF to do this, to try to move further into that.