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Rethink Summer Student Research

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Science  21 Oct 2011:
Vol. 334, Issue 6054, pp. 313
DOI: 10.1126/science.1209555

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For academic researchers and educators, summer months are often among the most productive times of year. Unfortunately, at many minority-serving institutions (MSIs) that serve a high proportion of underrepresented minorities (URMs), the summer often brings a “brain drain” that threatens to erode capacity for conducting research. Summer research programs (SRPs) recruit students from MSIs to spend a summer working at a research-intensive university. SRPs can expose students to resources and experiences they may not as easily access at their home MSI. Among benefits to host institutions, SRPs help fulfill some “broader impacts” (i.e., nonresearch, such as education and outreach) that are required by many funders. MSI faculty may benefit from skills the SRP students bring back. But this brain drain can undermine the ability of MSI faculty to effectively teach research skills and to develop talent among a diverse pool of students.