SOURCE: Ewing Marion Kauffman Foundation

Ewing Marion Kauffman Foundation

April 30, 2012 08:00 ET

'Fractional Scholarship' Could Unravel Scientific Questions and Grow the Economy, According to Kauffman Report

Paper Calls for Establishing Organized Support for Untapped Postdoc Talent

KANSAS CITY, MO--(Marketwire - Apr 30, 2012) - Underemployed post-graduate researchers represent a vast, untapped resource that could be harnessed to address America's thorniest scientific challenges, according to a report issued today by the Ewing Marion Kauffman Foundation. The paper suggests that "fractional scholarship" could employ surplus scholarly expertise to advance scientific research, much as distributed computing projects -- which recognize that most computers are largely idle during their lifetimes -- utilize spare computational cycles to seek answers to complicated problems.

American universities produce far more Ph.D.s than there are faculty positions for them to fill, say the report's authors, Samuel Arbesman, senior scholar at the Kauffman Foundation, and Jon Wilkins, founder of the Ronin Institute. Thus, the traditional academic path may not be an option for newly minted Ph.D.s. Other post-graduate scientists may eschew academia for careers in positions that don't take direct advantage of the skills they acquired in graduate school.

Consequently, "America has a glut of talented, highly educated, underemployed individuals who wish to and are quite capable of effectively pursuing scholarship, but are unable to do so," said Arbesman. "Ideally, groups of these individuals would come together to identify, define and tackle the questions that offer the greatest potential for important scientific results and economic growth."

However, the report cautions, it is nearly impossible for individuals to become lone fractional scholars. For fractional scholarship to be feasible, institutions must step forward to provide affiliations and resources, aggregate grant support and management, and establish research communities that allow scholars to interact online and in person. The institutions would benefit from the affiliation with scholars, who would spend all of their funded time on research, operating at a much lower cost than a typical university professor can.

"Fractional scholarship also has the potential to offer an appealing new career path for people with graduate degrees and to leap ahead of the departmental and collaboration constrictions frequently found in universities," said Wilkins.

About the Kauffman Foundation
The Ewing Marion Kauffman Foundation is a private nonpartisan foundation that works to harness the power of entrepreneurship and innovation to grow economies and improve human welfare. Through its research and other initiatives, the Kauffman Foundation aims to open young people's eyes to the possibility of entrepreneurship, promote entrepreneurship education, raise awareness of entrepreneurship-friendly policies, and find alternative pathways for the commercialization of new knowledge and technologies. In addition, the Foundation focuses on initiatives in the Kansas City region to advance students' math and science skills, and improve the educational achievement of urban students, including the Ewing Marion Kauffman School, a college preparatory charter school for middle and high school students. Founded by late entrepreneur and philanthropist Ewing Marion Kauffman, the Foundation is based in Kansas City, Mo., and has approximately $2 billion in assets. For more information, visit www.kauffman.org, and follow the Foundation on www.twitter.com/kauffmanfdn and www.facebook.com/kauffmanfdn.

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