Council of Chairs of Canadian Earth Science Departments
Conférence des Directeurs de Départment de Géologie du Canada

A Council Dedicated to the Promotion of Education in the Earth Sciences at all Levels



The questionnaire is obviously linked to the History of the Council, which see. In this document I will outline the origin, the development and some of the problems faced in collecting and analysing the data.

Whatever is collected is at the Council's direction; the collection was started in the 1973/ 1974 academic year when the major concern was about the number of students registered in the three levels (B.Sc., M.Sc., Ph.D.) of program and the faculty and staff needed to support them (see History of the Council for earlier efforts of systematic data collecting in Ontario). Later, starting with the 1979/1980 year, it was decided to collect information about the number of people registered in service courses and then, starting with the 1984/1985 year, about the number of people who graduated at each degree level and their areas of expertise. In the early 1990s attempts were made to obtain a more complete picture by collecting information about physical geographers registered in geography departments, in addition to those registered via earth science departments; these attempts failed partly because there were too few respondents and partly because some of those responding were clearly listing all geography registrants.

For the undergraduates, a few quite general areas were defined, more or less as they are at present, but for the graduates the discipline was broken down into 42 areas of interest, mainly because the Geological Survey of Canada, as part of their manpower planning mandate for the earth sciences, wanted to know what was in the pipeline which could match the expected national and provincial needs and, if necessary by special grants, encourage interest in areas where there was an expected deficiency; for collecting these data the GSC agreed to support the Council financially (see History of the Council). When the GSC began experiencing severe fiscal constraints in the early 1990s its support was withdrawn in 1993. Without the GSC constraints the number of graduate areas of interest was decreased to 7 for 1992/1993 with the balancing decision to build a data base of thesis topics (not just titles of completed theses) for, at first, Ph.D. registrants and then M.Sc. registrants, but this effort was dropped after three years because information was too incomplete. In 1993/1994 the number of areas of interest was dropped to 6 but increased to the present 8 starting in 1999/2000 with the addition of Atmospheric Sciences and Other. Starting with the year 1996/1997 two new categories were introduced to the Faculty and Staff list, Active Professors Emeriti and Active Adjunct Professors.

The GSC needed the data by the end of the year and for some time this presented no problem since nearly all programs were constructed of full year (two term) courses and the registration numbers at the end of November were a sufficiently accurate representation for the academic year for service course registrants as well as program registrants. As time went on, more and more one term courses were introduced and it became difficult to obtain reliable data for the number of second term service course registrants by the end of the calendar year. Therefore, at the 1992 AGM the decision was taken that numbers registered in one term courses would henceforth be collected for the calendar year because the numbers would be firm and, since the system seemed to have entered a stable period the switch would produce a one time significant perturbation but not, after that, perturb the long term picture significantly; that is the main reason for the almost doubling of the number of service course registrants from the 1991/1992 to the 1992/1993 academic year (see Figure 2 of the Annual Report). However, a number of Chairs wanted the deadline for data submission to be in January partly because it was more likely that firm figures could be obtained for the Academic year but mainly because the end of the calendar year is hellishly busy (not that January is all that much better). When the GSC withdrew their financial support this meant that their imposed deadline could be deemed to have disappeared and for a while the January deadline was adopted. However, two things frustrated this adoption. Universities were delaying final head counts ever later into the term and other organizations, such as the Canadian Geoscience Council (CGC), were asking for reports on registration for their January meetings so that the deadline was moved back into December with the request to handle the data expeditiously.

Initially, only totals were collected but as Federal and Provincial governments, and then NSERC, began demanding more information (on the number of women in the system, on the number of visa students versus Canadians and Landed Immigrants in the system, on the time the graduate students spent in their programs) so the level of detail in the questionnaire increased. Unfortunately (or fortunately, depending on your point of view), it may not be possible to continue the level of detail for long. Some universities do not want to provide the breakdowns to non government organizations for philosophical reasons. This would mean that the annual tables could not be published.

As demands for more and more information came from all quarters, one of the hopes of Council as it gradually expanded the task was that the information collected would be of general use and that production of the results of our questionnaire could be used as the response to questionnaires from other organizations; alas, some of the information required by others went far beyond what had been envisaged (e.g. funding levels and sources, space assignments etc) so that although the data collected can be used in some cases to fend off other enquiries, it does not satisfy the needs of all.

To check the accuracy of the data and the consistency from year to year the previous year's files, incorporating any changes requested at the previous AGM, are copied into new data bases for the current year; new data are typed in over the old. In this way it can immediately be seen if there has been a major change in the numerical value of any item from the previous year and check with the department about possible error. Some examples. One year a department had a significant reversal of the proportion of males to females; this was the only department to have such a change so it was questioned. The data were correct and no one is sure why this happened. At another university 30 faculty listed in the "Funded by other agencies" category (a number so clearly out of line it was not used when enquiry as to its accuracy produced no answer) disappeared when the category "Active Adjunct Professors" was introduced.

When these sorts of obvious differences have been checked a preliminary report is made (brief text) with summary tables showing only regional subtotals and national totals and figures are presented at the AGM. Once these have been approved by Council the report is hung out on our web site where it may be accessed by organizations such as GAC, CGC, GSC, NSERC and others.

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