own assessments, we have identified
the following list of SCORE’s benefits.
While none of these benefits is unique
to SCORE, it is convenient that SCORE
has them all.
More efficient time use for faculty.
A major problem we had with prearranged meetings was schedule fragmentation. When a student had only
a quick status update, the meeting
slot was too long, and the remaining
chunks of time were difficult to use.
On the other hand, when a student
had a deep technical issue to explore,
the slots were too short. Because we
had so many prescheduled meetings,
subsequent discussion might have to
wait a day or two, slowing progress.
Moreover, context-switching frequently over the course of many meetings was very draining, reducing the
SCORE solves these issues very well
by separating quick status reports
from in-depth technical discussions.
On-demand meetings have a clear
purpose and are therefore much more
productive than our weekly meetings
used to be.
Improved productivity for students.
By our own observations and those of
our students, frequent student-adviser
contact at SCORE status meetings has
improved student morale and produc-
tivity. In response to our survey, one
student said: “I like the frequency of
the status meetings. Frequent meetings
make incremental progress necessary:
to have something to say at each meet-
ing, you can’t goof off for an extended
period of time. Also, if you don’t know
where to go next, there isn’t much time
before another meeting, when you can
get back on track. On the other hand,
the frequency of the meetings means
that, if something came up and you
don’t have anything to report for today,
it’s not a big deal; you’ll have something
for tomorrow or the next day.”
Most graduate students struggle at
some point—one study found “At [UC]
Berkeley, 67% of graduate students said
they had felt hopeless at least once in
the last year.” 2 With thrice-weekly sta-
tus meetings, we can identify struggling
students quickly and therefore help
them much sooner than we would have
when meeting once per week.
Improved group identity and shared
knowledge. By giving each person a
have a clear purpose
and are therefore
much more productive
than our weekly
meetings used to be.
window onto the activities of others,
participants learn from others’ suc-
cesses and failures, which helps create
a group sense of momentum and ac-
complishment. One student specifical-
ly commented he liked hearing about
other students’ progress: “I can follow
other people’s research and ‘daily re-
search routine.’ That helps because it’s
interesting and I learn things, but also
because I can compare my productivity
and have a better idea of how I fare.”
More than half of the students sur-
veyed specifically cited a “research com-
munity” or “sense of belonging” as a
benefit of SCORE. The students said
they feel the joy of their fellows’ suc-
cesses, which then creates further mo-
tivation and enthusiasm for their own
work. At the same time, one student
mentioned it was consoling to learn that
other students hit slow patches, too: “It
helped me with the realization that ev-
eryone has rough patches and that it is
not a big deal.” Several students said
regular social gatherings and proximate
offices were also important in fostering
this sense of community. One student
said, “Status meetings and the office
atmosphere make it worth my while to
come to school.” Finally, group meet-
ings remove faculty as the bottleneck to
developing new ideas or solving techni-
cal problems, as students offer advice
and begin collaborations with their fel-
low students based on what they hear in
can ScoRe Work for You?
Every research group is different and
must find its own process that works
best. We hope knowing about SCORE
will prove useful to other groups, either
as a new process to experiment with or
as inspiration for other ideas. For ex-
ample, instead of SCORE’s status meet-
ings there may be other good stategies
to engender frequent contact and cre-
ate opportunities for focused, in-depth
meetings. Among others, some pos-
sible approaches are regular faculty “of-
fice hours” in a lab-space that co-locates
many students; less formal “coffee
hours”; or perhaps co-locating faculty
with students. Lessons learned might
be communicated more permanently
by incorporating group mailing lists,
wikis, or blogs. Prescheduled research
meetings may also play a role, for ex-
ample, for external collaborators who
do not attend status meetings.
1. agile development Methods inc. about scrum—
overview (2008); http://www.controlchaos.com/about/
2. Fogg, P. grad-school blues: students fighting
depression and anxiety are not alone. The Chronicle of
Higher Education, (Feb. 20, 2009).
3. score web page; http://www.cs.umd.edu/projects/
Michael hicks ( firstname.lastname@example.org) is an associate
professor in the computer science department and
uMiacs, and an affiliate associate professor in the
electrical and computer engineering department, at the
university of Maryland, college Park.
Jeffrey S. Foster ( email@example.com) is an associate
professor in the computer science department and
uMiacs at the university of Maryland, college Park.
we would like to thank Jens Palsberg, dan boneh, david
notkin, alex aiken, and Kathryn McKinley for helpful
comments on drafts of this Viewpoint. we would also like
to thank all those who have given us feedback on score,
especially the students in the programming languages
group at the university of Maryland.
copyright held by author.