Echoing the centuries-old debate among scientists over how to organize and name Earth's species, authors of National Research Council (NRC) reports rating research-doctorate programs have also struggled over the "taxonomy" of disciplines within the biosciences. Allan Cartter, in his 1966 report An Assessment of Quality In Graduate Education (Washington, D.C., American Council on Education), observed that grouping programs within the biological sciences represented a challenge, owing to the variability in their administrative organization.

Almost 30 years later, the diversity is even greater, as a result of the "important changes in the underlying knowledge base [in the biological sciences] in the last decade," according to NRC's 1995 report, Research-Doctorate Programs in the United States: Continuity and Change (M.L. Goldberger, B.A. Maher, P.E. Flattau, eds., National Academy Press, Washington, D.C.).

"There's been enormous growth in the biosciences and enormous changes as new technologies and new fields have emerged," asserts Pamela Mellon, a...

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