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We’re Moving on 2 Fronts

The responses to our first job-placement survey have been overwhelming and passionate. Thanks to the more than 2,000 of you who gave us so many thoughtful responses, either through the survey or to our inboxes. You’ve given us a huge head start. Now that we’re entering the second stage of the project, we’ve closed the survey. (If you didn’t get a chance to share your thoughts, please contribute in the comments below, or send us a note.)

As we comb through the information we’ve collected so far, we are seeing that most of the challenges fit into two major categories:

The first is the data itself. Records may be kept by colleges, departments, advisers, or associations, but we have no reason to believe that any given sources are comprehensive, or that their variables line up with data gathered by others. Then there are the records kept in the minds of graduates themselves, a significant number of whom disappear entirely, and will require individualized searching to find.

The second problem is transparency. No matter how diligently data have been captured, few organizations have made the statistics public. (There are a handful of counterexamples, of course: See a roundup here.) The result is that graduate-school applicants have almost no way to compare multiple departments’ placement outcomes, much less compare those outcomes with their desired careers.

On Wednesday we asked readers of our e-mail list whether some form of directory that compared the availability of data—not necessarily job-placement rates themselves—would be useful, and 87 percent of the respondents answered with a fervent “Yes!” (You can still respond to that question, by the way.)

So it seems obvious that our project will have to proceed on two parallel fronts. The first is a data-collection effort, either with a comprehensive database or through targeted, careful sampling. The second is an investigation of public sharing: If information already exists, we need to develop ways to make it accessible and searchable.

To those ends, we’re compiling a list of the disciplinary associations and academic organizations that have data on job-placement rates. Some have already come forward to talk to us, but if you work for an association that has such data, please write to us at phdplacement@chronicle.com. Likewise, contact us if you’re in a department that keeps careful, long-term records of your graduates’ job status.

What do you think of those two angles? Please let us know in the comments.

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