Disciplinary, Institutional, Funding, and Demographic Trends in Plant Pathology: What Does the Future Hold for the Profession?
What Does the Future Hold for the Profession? Following the 2006 annual meeting of The American Phytopathological Society (APS), President Jan Leach appointed an ad hoc committee with the following charge: Based on an assessment of where plant pathology now stands as a profession, develop a vision of where we will be in the future (10-20 yrs) and how we should position ourselves to achieve this vision. Some key questions and background related to this topic include: (1) Disciplinary Balance (2)
... plinary Balance (2) Institutional Erosion (3) Research Funding and (4) Age Demographics of the Profession. The year following the 100th birthday of APS seems an especially opportune time to take stock of where we stand as a discipline, to identify near-term and long-term challenges, and to discuss how we might meet those challenges in the future. Indeed, the present state and future prospects of our discipline have been recurrent themes of reviews, letters, and editorials from generations of plant pathologists (4,10-17). Most have reflected the experi-ences and the scholarly but nonetheless personal viewpoint of a single author. What was often lacking were the hard data that would support the stated positions when applied to the discipline as a whole. This report summarizes the efforts of the APS Ad Hoc Committee on the Present Status and Future of the Profession of Plant Pathology to address the above charge. We have attempted to rely upon a dispassionate methodology and go where the data lead us. Our approach has been to study key events and trends of the last several decades at the national level, assemble a base of information from which to properly understand the issues, and attempt to identify and project future trends and challenges facing the profession. Only then would we be in a position to develop recommendations for the profession to meet such challenges. A complete census of plant pathology at U.S. universities, conducted by the Ad Hoc Committee in 2007, formed the foundation for these analyses. Census of plant pathology at U.S. universities. Although both APS and the National Science Foundation (NSF) collect various statistics on departments and sample survey data on graduate degrees in plant pathology, we are not aware of any recent census of plant pathology at U.S. universities. A census differs from a survey in that the aim is to measure an entire population rather than rely upon a statisti-cal sample. A complete and accurate assessment of the number of active plant pathology faculty at U.S. universities, the size of the graduate student population, and membership of both groups in APS was an essential precursor to any demographic analysis. We collected the following responses: (i) the total number of faculty in a department, (ii) the number of plant pathology faculty in the department in the case of multidisciplinary departments (such as plant science or entomology and plant pathology), (iii) the number of faculty who belonged to APS, (iv) the number of faculty who held doctoral degrees in plant pathology, (v) the total number of M.S. and Ph.D. students in the department (some of whom may be pursuing degrees in areas other than plant pathology), and (vi) the number of plant pathology graduate students (both M.S. and Ph.D.). The data were collected by repeatedly sending a blank spreadsheet to department chairs, former students, postdocs, and colleagues across the United States. Missing data were obtained from department websites and the APS member database. All 1862 and 1890 Land Grant institutions were included in the census. Additional plant pathology faculty and students outside the aforementioned systems were located by searching the APS membership database for faculty and student affiliations. Plant pathology faculty, as well as plant pathol-