I'm writing today because everyone who hasn't already done so should head over to the Chronicle of Higher Education and contribute to their new Ph.D. Placement Project. There are numerous ways to do this - you can take the anonymous survey (if you've completed your Ph.D.), follow them on Twitter, email them directly (PhDPlacement at Chronicle dot com) if you have any ideas for how they should proceed, or sign up for their email list to receive updates on the project.
(This wonderful project seems to primarily be a response to William Pannapacker's most recent column in the Chronicle, where he laments the lack of data on Ph.D. job placements. Kudos to the Chronicle for trying to tackle this challenge and to assemble the necessary data).
They've already received more than 600 responses, and they are clearly excited about the huge response to their initial survey. But as they write in that article, this is just the first step in what they intend to be a much larger project:
...the survey we've posted is only a starting point. We intend to use it to collect ideas and advice that will help us determine how best to proceed in collecting detailed, accurate placement information.
When we publish placement information about individual Ph.D. programs, it will be based on a formal research project, not on a Google survey.
In short, if you're interested in the issue of placement rates and Ph.D. programs, please keep communicating with us.At this point they are only collecting survey data from people who have completed their Ph.D.s ... so if you're a current grad student or a dropout like me, you can't take the survey. However, you can still follow them on Twitter, email them with suggestions, and sign up for their email list. So if you haven't finished your Ph.D. but you are interested in this project, there are ways to get involved.
I may write more about this in the coming days, but one thing that I'd like to see is for this project to track not only Ph.D. graduates, but also people who dropped out of Ph.D. programs (in the later stages).
I realize that this data would likely be harder to obtain and quantify than data about Ph.D. graduates, but I really do think that it would be an interesting (and useful!) addition to this project.
After all, potential Ph.D. students may find the number of people who dropped out of the graduate program that they are considering attending to be useful information ... and having such information readily available on the CHE website would be very convenient.
Similarly, current grad students who are miserable in their programs and want to leave may be reassured to see that people who have dropped out of other Ph.D. programs have gone onto satisfying careers in a variety of fields.
Obviously, I realize that it's not the CHE's job to reassure people who want to drop out of grad programs that everything will be okay and that they shouldn't be scared to leave. It is the Chronicle of Higher Education, of course. :) But, you know, if they did decide to collect and publish data on Ph.D. dropouts, this could be one positive side benefit of doing so.
I'll probably have more to say about this project later. For now, go check out the project, take the survey if you're eligible, and get involved!