Percentage of faculty reporting information technology stress, by age.

High-Tech Anxiety

Jocelyn is a staff writer for Science magazine.

Frazzled by that hulk of plastic and silicon chips staring you down? You aren't the only one. Computers are a major stress in many professors' lives, according to a new survey of 33,785 faculty members. Two-thirds reported that "keeping up with information technology (IT)" is a source of stress, outranking research and publishing demands, teaching load, and the promotion process--but not as anxiety-provoking as time pressures, household demands, or institutional red tape. The survey, by the Higher Education Research Institute at the University of California, Los Angeles, concludes that IT stress "is quite likely a reflection of the time faculty invest in [IT]."

Younger faculty are the heaviest users and the least stressed out (see chart). Most faculty use e-mail, while around a third use the Internet for research or to post or collect course material. The most computer-savvy discipline is perhaps no surprise: "The engineers were always highest" in tasks done on the computer, says co-author Linda Sax. Physical scientists also fell near the top, while biologists were "in the middle," above scholars in the humanities. Despite their own frustrations with IT, 87% of faculty agreed that computers help students learn faster.

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