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Education Science Technology

Study Says US Needs Fewer Science Students 551

Posted by samzenpus
from the too-many-coats-in-the-lab dept.
cremeglace writes "It's an article of faith: the United States needs more native-born students in science and other technical fields. But a new paper by sociologists at the Urban Institute and Rutgers University contradicts the notion of a shrinking supply of native-born talent in the United States. In fact, the supply has actually remained steady over the past 30 years, the researchers conclude, while the highest-performing students in the pipeline are opting out of science and engineering in greater numbers than in the past, suggesting that the threat to American economic competitiveness comes not from inadequate science training in school and college but from a lack of incentives that would make science and technology careers attractive. Cranking out even more science graduates, according to the researchers, does not give corporations any incentive to boost wages for science/tech jobs, which would be one way to retain the highest-performing students."
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Study Says US Needs Fewer Science Students

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  • by Idayen (1020259) on Wednesday October 28, 2009 @07:02PM (#29904475)
    I want my salary to go up
    • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

      by Thelasko (1196535)

      I want my salary to go up

      Heck, I just want a job!

    • by thefear (1011449) on Wednesday October 28, 2009 @07:26PM (#29904697) Homepage

      The ponderous population of smart people in the US is an untold bane on our society.

    • by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday October 28, 2009 @07:28PM (#29904731)
      I'm an assistant professor and I can see this type of thing going on first hand. I get paid okay but expectations of the promotion and tenure committee in terms of papers, research funding and teaching requires 50-60 hours a week of work minimum most week. My record is 110 hours over 7 days, what a nightmare. The reason for this situation is that science funding by the federal government has been more or less flat for about a decade but the number of professors has increased and the expectations of the universities from professors have gone up.

      My students take one look at me and immediately make a career decision in another job besides academics or even science in general. I don't blame them either, even I hate my job sometimes and I couldn't ever imagine myself of being anything but a scientist -- but at this point, I have one more year to go for tenure but taking that dream position at the coffee shop in western Colorado and skiing all winter is starting to sound really good.
      • by Brian Gordon (987471) on Wednesday October 28, 2009 @07:53PM (#29905005)

        Geez, I can't imagine the pressure of trying to get tenure. Your whole career building up to a single massive review of all of your work..

        The whole system seems kind of messed up. You ruin yourself pushing yourself to work as much as possible through the best years of your life and then, if you pass the review, you get to -yay- not lose your job and gain the privilege of working for the rest of your life!

        I guess it's the price of progress, but the drive for constant excellence seems obsessive rather than healthy..

        • by shadwstalkr (111149) on Wednesday October 28, 2009 @08:52PM (#29905437) Homepage

          Actually you gain the privilege of becoming an administrator for the rest of your career. The only professors I knew who spent a decent amount of time doing real research were retired. The rest spent their time teaching, chasing grant money, and attending meetings. You really have to be a little crazy to go for an academic career these days.

        • by cyn1c77 (928549) on Wednesday October 28, 2009 @10:17PM (#29906123)

          Way to motivate him to finish strong in his last untenured year.

          In all seriousness, it gets better. You can really tone it down after you get tenure. Keep the hours you want, tell the funding sponsors you hate to piss off, and investigate the projects you want...

          Unless you want full professor! :)

      • by jellomizer (103300) on Wednesday October 28, 2009 @08:36PM (#29905305)

        The Study of Math and Science shouldn't always bring you directly to an academic type of work. Colleges and University tend to forget (at least after they are done with they're advertising) that most students are going to school so they can get a good job. Schools do a horrible job providing students an idea what type of work is available outside college. In my Computer Science Program they told me my options were Programmer, or Teach Computer Science. (Which is better then other majors) What do you do with a History Degree well you teach history. What about Physics... In some ways colleges idea of Majors is rather outdated, and designed purely for a career track in education. Computer Science and Business, Computer Science and Art. Physics and Engineering. History and Mathmatics... However most people can't do a double major. But colleges should really create custom type majors to help students with a career path. Also really letting people know what type of jobs are out there to do. Computer Science and English for technical writers.
        We need more Math and science not less. We are in a society where people are afraid to looking at problems objectively or blindly taking a look at numbers without really understanding them.

      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        by registrar (1220876)

        Precisely --- Australian academic here. The pay is good for anyone not trying to get rich, it's quite comfortable. Some of the conditions are great: good people, interesting material.

        But the amount of work is absurd, and the risks you list are not worth the benefits.

    • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

      That's easy, just commission studies from the university of Bejing. It's bound to agree.

    • by demachina (71715) on Wednesday October 28, 2009 @08:24PM (#29905217)

      You should probably consider a nice career in banking and move to Wall Street then. Its not exactly a secret that the big Wall Street banks have pretty much devoured the U.S. economy and they run the government, insuring that their success will be guaranteed by the Congress, the President and his Wall Street friendly administration(same for Dems and Republicans), the Fed (by printing money and giving it to them at zero percent even if it destroys the dollar) and in times of the trouble the U.S. taxpayer. They are a huge percentage of the U.S. economy now and their compensation dwarves pretty much every other career.

      I was reading earlier this week the U.S. now has the greatest income inequality in the world except for Singapore and Hong Kong which are tiny city states. Last time we had income inequality at this level was in the 1920's right before the Great Depression. Lord Brian Griffiths of Fforestfach, vice chairman at Goldman Sachs Intl., a life peer under England's nobility scheme, and Christian theorist of "biblically based wealth creation." recently said: "We have to tolerate the inequality as a way to achieve greater prosperity and opportunity for all." The dirty little secret is Goldman Sach's keeps all the prosperity and opportunity for themselves and their rich friends, and the rest of us will never see it unless we manage to join their exclusive little club. We've pretty much returned to aristocracy and are certainly in a plutocracy with a tinge of kleptocracy since when Wall Street screwed up they smoothed it over by outright legalized theft from the rest of us.

      The article doesn't spell it out but all of America's best and brightest are going to Wall Street and big business, not science. Unless they are idealists or altruists they go there because that's where the easy money is. Its mostly money being produced via elaborate legalized Ponzi schemes but that doesn't change the fact if you make it on Wall Steet you get money for nothing and chicks for free. Whose going to enter the exciting world of Physics when they can have that, at least while the party lasts, and it appears after a brief glitch its back bigger and better than ever.

      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        by Chris Burke (6130)

        Lord Brian Griffiths of Fforestfach, vice chairman at Goldman Sachs Intl., a life peer under England's nobility scheme, and Christian theorist of "biblically based wealth creation." recently said: "We have to tolerate the inequality as a way to achieve greater prosperity and opportunity for all."

        Barf.

        Oh yes, I'm sure it's such burden for him to "tolerate" this inequality. But, it's for the benefit of us all, so he carries on, carries on...

        • by u38cg (607297) <calum@callingthetune.co.uk> on Thursday October 29, 2009 @01:53AM (#29907345) Homepage
          Actually, it seems pretty damned reasonable to me. Rawls, and the Veil of Ignorance, and all that. The rich don't matter, the poor do. And under the system we've got, they have a better chance of yanking themselves up than under any other system. Why do you think people from third world countries will abandon everything to come and live here?
          • by qc_dk (734452) on Thursday October 29, 2009 @04:17AM (#29907879)

            And under the system we've got, they have a better chance of yanking themselves up than under any other system.

            I'm sorry but I have to disagree. It might be a good system(I'm assuming you meant the british system based on your .uk address) but hardly the best in the world in this respect. The amount of people living below the poverty line in the U.K. is 14%, whereas the amount in the scandinavian countries are much lower (~4%).

          • by Chris Burke (6130) on Thursday October 29, 2009 @09:01AM (#29909637) Homepage

            The rich don't matter, the poor do.

            How do you figure, when it's the rich who control all the money and opportunity and even practically the government?

            If the poor are all that matter, why is it okay to shaft them for greater executive compensation?

            And under the system we've got, they have a better chance of yanking themselves up than under any other system.

            Any system? Including the equally affluent western democracies which don't have such a ridiculous gap between top and bottom salaries? In fact there are plenty of countries where as far as upward mobility and income are concerned, concentration of wealth in the hands of the few at the top is the primary difference.

            So why, again, do we need to "tolerate" such a gap when it is demonstrably unnecessary?

            Why do you think people from third world countries will abandon everything to come and live here?

            Because obviously any western democracy is going to be more of a meritocracy than the countries they are coming from, . But "better than 3rd world hellhole!" is a hell of a lot lower of a claim than "best system ever!"

            They're not just going to the countries with ridiculous wealth gaps. So, obviously, that is not the defining characteristic of a country with opportunity for the poor. I think any rational person could see that, given the choice between two democracies, one where concentration of wealth has run amok and one where it hasn't, the one where it hasn't is better for the poor.

            Focusing on the fact that both are better than Somalia is really missing the point.

      • by cayenne8 (626475) on Wednesday October 28, 2009 @10:22PM (#29906159) Homepage Journal
        "The dirty little secret is Goldman Sach's keeps all the prosperity and opportunity for themselves and their rich friends, and the rest of us will never see it unless we manage to join their exclusive little club. "

        Anyone know a good way to get in and join the GS club??

        Frankly, I'd just rather be rich....I'm willing to do just about whatever it takes to get there...

        Life is short, I'd rather live comfortably the rest of my years, rather than be poor, scraping for a living an idealistic...

        • by demachina (71715) on Thursday October 29, 2009 @12:11AM (#29906833)

          Go to Wharton or get an MBA from Harvard, Yale or a lesser Ivy League university. WASP or Jewish is probably best. Get in the right fraternity/sorority. Probably helps to be attractive so plastic surgery as required. Skills in Golf and Tennis are mandatory. If you have morals or ethics you need not apply. You need to be willing to lie, cheat, steal or screw your mother for a beloved buck. Watch Oliver Stone's Wall Street, it has apparently turned in to a recruiting tool and career guide to a life of crime on Wall Street, though Stone intended the opposite when he made it.

          When you graduate they will probably be waiting to recruit you. Once they hire you, you need to be extremely adept at knowing which asses to kiss and which ones to screw.

      • by kryptKnight (698857) on Wednesday October 28, 2009 @11:35PM (#29906647)
        It's time to bring some facts to this thread. Monetary policy is complicated, most people don't understand it, and impassioned hyperbolizing isn't helpful.

        ..the Fed (by printing money and giving it to them at zero percent even if it destroys the dollar)

        The Federal Reserve does not print money. Maybe you were speaking metaphorically, but you're still wrong. The Federal Reserve can influence interest rates, and it can change the size of the the money supply [wikipedia.org] by issuing and recalling treasury bills and by adjusting the reserve requirement.. Those functions allow the Fed to alter the price of money, but that's not equivalent to printing more money.

        I was reading earlier this week the U.S. now has the greatest income inequality in the world except for Singapore and Hong Kong which are tiny city states

        Well you read wrong. Equality of income distribution is quantified by the Gini coefficient [wikipedia.org]. Wealth is less evenly distributed in the US than many places (ie Europe), but there's more than 40 countries ahead of us. China and Mexico for instance. See this map [wikimedia.org] for more detail.

        For anyone whose interested, the Planet Money blog and podcast [npr.org] is a great place to start. Their reporting and research is done by actual economists rather than ideologues and talking heads, and they explain why things are the way they are and how they got there. Like I said, our current financial situation is kinda FUBAR, but approaching it with a level head and trying to understand what's really going on is better than getting angry and playing the blame game.

        • by demachina (71715) on Thursday October 29, 2009 @12:28AM (#29906913)

          "The Federal Reserve does not print money."

          Read up on quantitative easing. It is what the Fed's been doing massively since the crisis. It is printing money though its done electronically. From Wikipedia:

          "Quantitative easing is another way to influence monetary policy, only recently begun to be used in the United States. Other countries, such as Japan, have provided a template for some Fed actions. Essentially, quantitative easing provides a method for the central bank to provide funds at lower than zero interest rates, in order to increase the monetary supply and combat deflationary forces. This is accomplished by the Fed purchasing U.S. government debt with newly printed U.S. currency. In essence, the Fed is monetizing the debt. In the current (late 2007 to today) macro-economic environment, the slowing velocity of money has induced U.S. central bankers to pursue a variety of new, and to some radical, policies to produce economic stimulus."

          They also allowed Goldman Sachs and Morgan Stanley to acquire bank charters so they have access to this free money to fuel their commodity, stocks and bond gambling. It is helping to fuel the current bubble in stocks, bonds and commodities.

          It is inappropriate for investment banks to have access to the discount window. Paul Volcker has been lobbying hard to get the Obama to stop it, but Geitner and Summers being stooges of Wall Street are ignoring him. Discount window access should only be allowed to conservative commercial banks who don't gamble on the stock market. Ever since the repeal of Glass Steagel and they let Citigroup access it, and certainly since they let Goldman Sachs, Morgan Stanley and what's left of Merrill access it they've created massive potential for abuse and for bubble creation.

        • by CodeBuster (516420) on Thursday October 29, 2009 @03:25AM (#29907697)

          The Federal Reserve does not print money.

          If the Fed engages in "open market operations" and buys newly issued T-Bills directly from the US Treasury then it absolutely does create new money. The Fed buys the IOUs from the US Treasury, writes the balance into the accounts of the Federal Government (the Federal Reserve keeps the accounts of the United States Government) and poof new money is created (an increased account balance in an electronic database).

          Monetary policy is complicated, most people don't understand it, and impassioned hyperbolizing isn't helpful.

          It is complicated because there is really no reliable way to centrally calculate or determine exactly how much money should be circulated so that all exchange needs can be meet without triggering inflation. The problem is analogous to the notoriously difficult task of creating and maintaining an artificial price system in centrally planned economies (i.e. Cuba and the former Soviet Union). Modern economies are so fiendishly complex that centrally determining the right prices or the right amount of money is a neigh impossible task. I don't claim to have the solution, but trusting the philosopher kings of the Federal Reserve to accurately guess the right amount of money to supply the economy has done little over the years to redeem the reputation of central bankers everywhere as bunglers. The most recent bust proves that yet again.

    • by Desmoden (221564) on Wednesday October 28, 2009 @08:34PM (#29905295) Homepage

      I would LOVE to go back to school, get a doctorate in physics and work in the field doing ANYTHING related to physics.

      Instead I'm a Engineer hiding in a marketing dept happily making between 150-200k/year and I spend my lunch and weekends madly reading about physics, politics, ancient history, all the things that I really love, and would love to get paid to do.

      Instead I write white papers, talk at conferences, run tests on hardware that I love, and I do for the most part love my job. But I would SOOO much rather being working for the DOD, or a school, or anyone, doing research. But I can't live on what they make.

      And so I remain an engineer hiding in marketing eagerly awaiting Brian Greene's next talk :)

    • by ScrewMaster (602015) * on Wednesday October 28, 2009 @09:44PM (#29905899)
      FTFS:

      does not give corporations any incentive to boost wages for science/tech jobs, which would be one way to retain the highest-performing students.

      Indeed, which is why our banking system has been working so well lately.

      Seriously, salary is definitely important, but that's not the only reason that students take up engineering and scientific careers. I didn't get into software engineering for the money ... like my electronics engineer father before me, I got into it because it's something I love to do. That was thirty years ago, and I still love what I do for a living. If those at the outset of their careers are not choosing the technical option, it's probably because schools are utterly failing to inspire them.

      It wasn't always that way. When I was a kid (back in the mid-sixties) the public schools went out of their way to interest young people in science and technology. I went on many field trips with my fellow schoolkids to very interesting places, visits that I know heavily influenced my career choice. I've spent the past three decades of my life developing industrial control and monitoring systems, and I remember clearly the school outings that pushed me in that direction. We got to see the inside of a hot dog manufacturing plant (the machines and electromechanical automation systems were awesome, but I couldn't eat a hot dog for years after that), a Frito Lay plant ... that was cool. There was this enormous conveyor belt that was full of freshly-baked potato chips, and at the end of that belt was a waterfall of the things, dropping down to the floor below for packaging. We all ooohed! and ahhhed! The tour guide dipped a big bowl into the flow of falling chips and filled it up and passed it around. They were incredibly tasty: fresh from the ovens (which we also got to see, way cool.)

      I have to wonder how many schools spend a penny trying to interest young people in technology any more. I mean, there's a whole world of applied science out there beyond what you see on your flat panel, yet schools seem to thing that as long as their students meet some arbitrary standard of "computer literacy", that that is sufficient. It's not.

  • Really (Score:2, Insightful)

    by Brian Gordon (987471)

    but from a lack of incentives that would make science and technology careers attractive

    Incentives? You mean like paying graduates more when you're saying that the market is saturated with them already? How does that make sense?

    • Re:Really (Score:5, Insightful)

      by DeadDecoy (877617) on Wednesday October 28, 2009 @07:21PM (#29904659)
      Nope, that's not what the summary is saying. It's stating that we have a steady stream of scientists and engineers, but it seems like they choose another career path when they realize they'll just be overworked and underpaid. Go fig, when it's easier to get an MBA and become a CEO who gets a golden parachute for tanking their company based on short-sighted decisions to appease stockholders then it is to go through 10+ years of training and pay off 100k in student loans.
      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        by wisty (1335733)

        Instead of paying scientists more, could we just pay CEOs and bankers less?

        • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

          by falconwolf (725481)

          Instead of paying scientists more, could we just pay CEOs and bankers less?

          It's not the pay amount that matters so much as the pay differential, the differences in pay. Those creating the technology, and jobs, of tomorrow shouldn't be paid less than bankers.

          Falcon

    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      Well, big tech has spent the last decade telling congress that they need lots of foreigners because they just can't find any local talent: you'd think they'd raise the salary a bit if that were true.
  • A prevailing assumption is that the number of scientists needed is proportional to the population. I think this is what has caused the glut of scientists (trust me I'm an ex-scientist and I know)

    My guessis that the number required is of the order log(population), or even possibly a fixed constant after a certain population size.

    • by tool462 (677306) on Wednesday October 28, 2009 @07:21PM (#29904655)

      Perhaps we should commission a group of scientists to formally study the idea.

      Who wants to write the grant proposal?

    • by rm999 (775449) on Wednesday October 28, 2009 @07:36PM (#29904821)

      I would make the fairly obvious argument that the number of scientists is largely irrelevant compared to the amount of work they produce. A single Einstein is worth an infinite number of mediocre physicists who never end up producing any work in their careers. This is important, because (at least in my experience in academia), 95% of academic scientists and maybe 80% of engineers produce nothing useful in their lifetimes.

      While there may be a glut of scientists, there is no glut of *good* scientists; we always need those. Let's not kid ourselves - the number of possible problems scientists and engineers can solve has not gone down over time. If anything, it has gone way up.

      • by Grishnakh (216268) on Wednesday October 28, 2009 @08:05PM (#29905079)

        Don't confuse science and engineering; they're two radically different disciplines with totally different goals.

        Yes, most academic scientists probably don't produce much of value, but that's just like how a paleontologist, for instance, only has a certain chance of finding some great fossil that significantly adds to our knowledge of dinosaurs. This isn't that much because of the paleontologist's skill, but more because of chance: will he find that fossil, or not? Scientists don't create truth, they search for it. If they find something really useful, then they're remembered for generations. If they don't succeed in their search, they're forgotten.

        Engineers don't search for anything. They create things. Even the most mediocre engineer can create useful things. So I really doubt your claim about 80% of engineers creating nothing useful. If they're employed as engineers, they must be producing something useful, or else they wouldn't receive a paycheck. Now, how useful that product is to society is debatable, of course. The engineers who created the Ford Pinto, for instance, didn't exactly create something wonderful, and considering how that car killed people, it probably had negative utility. However, they did the work that their employers asked of them, and as management was in control and refused to allow engineers to improve the design, it was they who were responsible for any deaths. Less spectacularly, many engineers work on things which are ultimately trashed before seeing production. I've seen my share of that in my own work. But again, just because management decides to trash something doesn't mean it isn't "useful", it just wasn't profitable enough for them.

        As for how many scientists are needed, that depends on how much science a society wants to do. If you want to do a lot, then you need more people working on the problem. If you don't care much about learning new things, then you don't need many scientists. I'd say that our society doesn't really need that many scientists, because it really isn't that interesting in finding out new things and doesn't want to invest the money needed to do so, because it doesn't return a profit quickly enough.

      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        On the other hand, the 'meaningless' work done by those 'mediocre' scientists could very well be setting the foundation for the next Einstein to do something truly marvelous. Science is not a series of disconnected "Eureka!" moments; it's a steady accumulation of small but meaningful hypotheses that allow those superstars to formulate workable theories.

        And what about all those potential superstars being lost, because they can't get the work experience they need to develop their potential? How many of th
        • by repapetilto (1219852) on Wednesday October 28, 2009 @08:45PM (#29905369)

          Smoking cigarettes makes it less likely you will ever get parkinsons (source [nih.gov]). Which chemical is it, nicotine, harmaline, what? At first noone knew... its probably nicotine. How is it doing this? Theres a crapload of different versions of nicotinic receptors, is somehow interacting with a specific protein that makes up one of them (seems most likely) or even sticking to some other thing in your body and changing what that protein/whatever does (less likely)? Probably nicotinic receptors... which kind? Theyre made of combinations of 5 different proteins that arrange together to form the receptor, theres 17 proteins that could be part of these that could theoretically arrange in any combination you want...someone had to narrow down the possibililties. So ok theres only like 6 different combinations of these subunits we find in the parts of the brain that are supposedly involved in parkinsons (knowing which parts were involved was its own whole multimillion dollar expenditure) which one (or maybe more than one) of those is what nicotine is interacting with to make smokers less likely to develop Parkinson's? Probably ones containing a4B2 (alpha4 and beta2 are names for 2 of the 17 possible subunits). Whats special about those? What type of neurons are they located on? Is nicotine doing this at the cell surface... or getting into the cell and doing something before these receptors even reach the surface? Is it increasing synthesis of these, or decreasing degradation? Where exactly is it sticking... how is the binding site shaped and what amino acids are involved... and what chemical and structural properties should a chemical have to make this anti-parkinsonian effect happen?

          Once you know that, you can design a drug to fit, but then you also want to figure out how to make it also have chemical and structural properties that make it not altered to some nonfunctional form by your liver enzymes, pass the blood brain barrier, etc, that way people can just down a pill rather than get shots... or worse need to get the drug injected into their central nervous system in some way.

          Its all very boring to anyone who doesnt like a good, complex mystery... but someone should be doing it because there are ways to figure out each step of the way (it might take a couple years and a bunch of money but its doable). And this isnt even my field.

  • by ErikTheRed (162431) on Wednesday October 28, 2009 @07:08PM (#29904517) Homepage

    I don't know about the rest of you, but I don't give a rusty fuck what some study says people should or should not go into. I work in the fields I love, and I'd recommend it to everyone else. If you want to do science, do science. If you don't then don't. Who really cares what some frigtarded academic thinks anyway? Final thought - how often is it that we look back on these studies five or ten years later to find out they were somewhere around, oh, dead wrong. if these guys are such friggin' geniuses at predicting the future they should go make $Billions in the stock market.

    If all you care about is money than go into politics or join the mob (it's ethically about the same).

    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by starblazer (49187)

      because people will chase the almighty dollar. It's like when IT was hot, everyone was trying to be a computer guy with a MSCE. Unfortunately, that flooded the market and MSCE meant something different.

      • There's something to be said about doing what you love and saying "to hell with chasing the almighty dollar". But then you get paid $12,894 [wisc.edu] per academic year, and you wonder if a little dollar chasing might not be a bad thing. There are other things in life that are desireable (like a family), and they take money.

        A science career means spending ~5-6 years working hard and being paid crap in grad school, and then another couple of years working hard and being paid a bit more as a postdoc, and then maybe you

    • by Thelasko (1196535) on Wednesday October 28, 2009 @07:38PM (#29904839) Journal

      If you want to do science, do science.

      But what if science doesn't pay the bills?

    • by tool462 (677306) on Wednesday October 28, 2009 @07:40PM (#29904851)

      To paraphrase Office Space, if everybody did what they loved, there would be a severe shortage of janitors.

      In reality, how much you enjoy the job is only one factor of many when it comes to deciding your career. And I would bet that in practice, it ends up being one of the last factors considered. Whether or not you can make enough money to buy food and pay rent is going to be a much more important part of the decision.

      And unless I'm misreading something, these guys aren't trying to set policy, they published a paper that found that existing policy is misguided and ineffective. The free market has spoken. The job market in science and engineering is saturated. Trying to create policy and incentives to encourage larger numbers of science students ultimately depresses wages, which results in the best of the field moving on to other fields with better prospects. End result: the same number of new scientists and engineers in the work force, but with less ability on average.

    • by DaveAtFraud (460127) on Wednesday October 28, 2009 @07:57PM (#29905029) Homepage Journal

      The United States is a sort of free society and you are still (for at least the time being) free to choose to do what you love. Just be ready to say, "Do you want fries with that?" if the market doesn't pay squat for doing what you love.

      Cheers,
      Dave

    • by JanneM (7445) on Wednesday October 28, 2009 @08:36PM (#29905307) Homepage

      "I work in the fields I love, and I'd recommend it to everyone else."

      But "Do what you love" is not the same thing as "Do what you love as your primary means of support". Making your passion into your career will frequently kill the passion, smothering it under layers of paperwork, meetings, customer contacts and any other not-fun but necessary aspects of work for money.

      Decide beforehand if you're ready to lose your hobby or passion in the process of making money from it. Afterwards it's too late.

  • by MosesJones (55544)

    But a new paper by sociologists

    Ernest Rutherford once said The only possible conclusion the social sciences can draw is: some do, some don't

    So while its nice that they've tried to have a firm opinion they really haven't, what they've said is that as the salaries in science and engineering fall behind the likes of banking and other world destruction careers the top people aren't going into science and engineering as much.

    The phrase "Well Duh!" comes to mind. I'm mean seriously is this research or just som

    • by moosesocks (264553) on Wednesday October 28, 2009 @07:34PM (#29904803) Homepage

      Ernest Rutherford once said The only possible conclusion the social sciences can draw is: some do, some don't

      Oddly enough, quantum mechanics draws pretty much the exact same conclusion.

      *Ducks*

    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by CodeBuster (516420)

      The phrase "Well Duh!" comes to mind. I'm mean seriously is this research or just some people sitting around a table in a bar after 10 pints drunkly going

      The social sciences, of which economics is a part, must do research and gather evidence to back up their conclusions; even those which should be obvious to everyone. This is really not so different from proofs in other fields where even 'obvious' statements must still be proven or at least investigated. For example everyone 'knew' that Fermat's Last Theorem [wikipedia.org] was true or at least the evidence strongly suggested that a counter example would not be found. However, it still had to be "proven", no matter how obvi

  • by Kell Bengal (711123) on Wednesday October 28, 2009 @07:11PM (#29904559)
    So... the sociologists say there's too many technical scientists? That's just what I'd expect from those namby-pamby girly-haired soft-science types! I'll bet they've got a correlation study and everything. Well, maybe the technical scientists say there are too many sociologists? And we've got freaky equations and stuff.

    Yeah!

    Who you going to believe, pretty demographics charts or complicated equations? Eh? EH?
  • At my previous employer we had a very bright individual who held a PhD. in combustion. The company paid for him to continue his education, so he got an MBA from a very prestigious business school. The day after he graduated he left for a high paying gig on Wall Street. The company responded by no longer paying for any schooling for it's employees.

    It took two years to find someone to replace him.
    • an MBA Is not science, it is in fact the closest thing to the opposite of scientific pursuit in a graduate level program.

    • by JSBiff (87824)

      Sounds like your company needs a decent lawyer. There are such things as 'contracts', e.g. we pay for your education, and you agree to work for us for a minimum of 3 years (or maybe 5 years) after graduation, or else reimburse the company on a pro-rated basis for the educational benefit (so if your school bills were 25,000, and you agreed to work 5 years, but quit after 2, you'd owe them 15,000). I suppose, though, that if they required you to sign something like that, maybe no one would sign up?

  • A double edged sword (Score:3, Interesting)

    by xRelisH (647464) on Wednesday October 28, 2009 @07:15PM (#29904587)
    I think it's kind of interesting how the economics of this work. The supply of scientists and engineers is steady, but it seems like there are fewer who are good in the market. What this means is that if you are good and in the field, you are in extremely high demand and thus salaries can be lucrative for you. So, the field may only attract those who have a genuine interest and more likely to innovate.
    Then again, money is a strong factor and may siphon away people. I work in the embedded software field, and I get paid fairly well for someone only a couple of years out of college. However, I often think how nice it would be nice to be making well into 7 figures and have a nice home and possibly a Lamborghini (I love cars) after going into lawschool instead of "just" 6 figures and trying to cobble together a 20% down payment for a decent home in Northern California.
    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by japhering (564929)

      I think it's kind of interesting how the economics of this work. The supply of scientists and engineers is steady, but it seems like there are fewer who are good in the market. What this means is that if you are good and in the field, you are in extremely high demand and thus salaries can be lucrative for you. So, the field may only attract those who have a genuine interest and more likely to innovate.

      Then again, money is a strong factor and may siphon away people. I work in the embedded software field, and I get paid fairly well for someone only a couple of years out of college. However, I often think how nice it would be nice to be making well into 7 figures and have a nice home and possibly a Lamborghini (I love cars) after going into lawschool instead of "just" 6 figures and trying to cobble together a 20% down payment for a decent home in Northern California.

      What it actually means is, if you are a good scientist or engineer.. then count on being outsourced in 10 years or so, when you pay lets you live comfortably. Because at that point the HIGHLY paid executives will decide that they are not paid well enough and to improve the bottom line your job will be sent to a BRIC country .. same work at one-tenth the cost...

      Which is the main reason that more students are opting out of science and engineering as life long employment no longer exists, and 10 years at a s

  • by plasmacutter (901737) on Wednesday October 28, 2009 @07:15PM (#29904589)

    When you keep downward pressure on wages of scientific positions; When you don't offer people compensation for the utter destruction of their social lives required to seriously pursue science, they gravitate toward management. (for comparison, at least medicine and law provide salaries commensurate with the effort required for the education)

    You never see those massive bonuses going to the mathematical wizards, engineers, or design teams who are actually responsible for the profits. It goes to some otherwise average person who sat in his office and barked orders.

    Don't be surprised when the truly intelligent notice where the money is going and choose to expand their social lives in the process!

  • I had hoped that the best scientist and engineers would be motivated by something more than just money.

    • by JSBiff (87824) on Wednesday October 28, 2009 @07:31PM (#29904767) Journal

      Maybe money isn't the sole motivator. Did it ever occur to you that maybe there are students that really want to go into science, but because of the job prospects (or perceived lack thereof), don't think they can *afford* to go into science?

      I mean, if you think you are going to give up 6 years of your life/potential income [well, you can still work while in school, perhaps, but probably not make as much income as you could if you were working full-time + overtime at a job for those years], and spend $60,000 (plus interest, so probably closer to $100,000), say, to get a Masters in Science, and then you think you will only make 40,000-60,000/yr, you might not think you can afford that. I have a cousin, only has a high school education, works for a road construction/repair company. On the one hand, he has to work a lot of overtime, but on the other hand, I think he's making in that same $40,000-60,000/yr range [maybe more]. He's been doing that basically since he graduated from high school, and never had to take out any student loans. So, the way I see it, someone in his position potentially comes up about $300,000 ahead (on graduation day) of the guy who went to school for 6 years and took out those loans.

      That's the reality of education. In order to justify the expense, you need to make good money after graduation - such people should probably be starting at $70,000-$90,000 yr almost straight out of school, with raises every year which outpaces inflation, just to allow them to recover that "lost" $300,000 over the course of say the first 10 years of their employement, and then continue to make that kind of money after that so they come out *ahead* of the people who didn't go to school.

      But, it sounds like, from the article, that's not happening, so while students might be attracted to science, they may just feel that they can't sacrifice their financial future in order to benefit corporations who aren't willing to give them reasonable compensation for their education.

  • by VinylRecords (1292374) on Wednesday October 28, 2009 @07:18PM (#29904619)

    From the article:

    The supply [of science students] has actually remained steady over the past 30 years, the researchers conclude from an analysis of six longitudinal surveys conducted by the U.S. government from 1972 to 2005. However, the highest-performing students in the pipeline are opting out of science and engineering in greater numbers than in the past, suggesting that the threat to American economic competitiveness comes not from inadequate science training in school and college but from a lack incentives that would make science and technology careers attractive.

    From the Associated Press:

    Average tuition at four-year public colleges in the U.S. climbed 6.5 percent, or $429, to $7,020 this fall as schools apologetically passed on much of their own financial problems, according to an annual report from the College Board, released Tuesday. At private colleges, tuition rose 4.4 percent, or $1,096, to $26,273.

    So we have the costs of already outstanding tuition fees rising in a faltering and near collapsed economy. Many top positions in fields of science require Masters or Doctoral level education. A Master or Doctoral level of education also demands a Master or Doctoral level of tuition. In an uncertain environment for employment, the risk of entering the field of science, can be high.

    Instead of going into science or mathematics you see the smarted minds who are more money minded going into the financial fields. They are intelligent but because of the upbringing in a capitalist society desire money more than anything. So they become investors, stockbrokers, and deal with money all day and night.

    What we need is to recruit the best of the best, have private industries, and government, pay for the tuition of these individuals or offer them guaranteed job positions. Does a promising young high school student enter undergraduate school looking for a degree in bio-medicine? Have a major cancer research outfit pay for his tuition. Or have a medical technology firm cover his tuition. Or have him pay for his own tuition but make it known publicly that anyone with a degree in 'science' who applies to 'x job' will have his college tuition fees and loans paid for in full by the company if he works x number of years.

    Maybe we need to lower the tuition for higher science. If you want a degree in particle physics, wave physics, astro-biology, or whatever, then you tuition is significantly lower than your peers. My graduate work was in television broadcasting, if my peers studying medicine and high level math had lower tuition fees than myself, I would not have batted an eyelash.

    If you cover the tuition fees of our smartest students, and they go on to become the people who provide us with life changing nanotechnology, or cure HIV-AIDS, that money will pay off 100 if not 1,000,000,000 times more down the road.

    We need to invest in our future by investing in our brightest minds and steering them towards occupations where they can make a lasting difference in the world.

    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by lee1026 (876806)

      If the grad student is willing to be a TA, he usually won't have to pay for his education.

    • by dlenmn (145080) on Wednesday October 28, 2009 @07:54PM (#29905013) Homepage

      If you're doing a PhD in the physical sciences, then you're almost certainly not paying tuition directly (let alone a level of tuition proportional to your degree as you seem to claim). Otherwise, absolutely zero people would be doing it. MD, JD, and MBA programs can charge a lot because you'll make a lot of money once you've got the degree. The same cannot be said for a science PhD.

  • by jschen (1249578) on Wednesday October 28, 2009 @07:20PM (#29904643)
    As noted in the article, Wall Street is a major draw for the top students. While in grad school, even my professor mentioned to me on several occasions that I probably would make a lot more afterwards if I left research and did investment banking, private equity, patent law, management consulting, or any of a number of other jobs, though he hoped I would stick with academic chemistry. I am looking for an academic post now, but I certainly can see the draw of the more lucrative fields. For one example, when McKinsey was recruiting PhD's at our institute a few years ago, first year total compensation was estimated at $130-165k. That's quite a bit higher than what the total compensation would have been at the time for the coveted entry level PhD positions at the top pharmaceutical companies, and the compensation in the business world would rise much more quickly in subsequent years. Doing good science is hard, and during the tougher times in grad school, it was extremely tempting to jump ship.
  • Faulty Logic (Score:5, Insightful)

    by n8r0n (1447647) on Wednesday October 28, 2009 @07:20PM (#29904647) Homepage

    So, by this rationale, in order to get more top talent in science, we need to let more talent choose other fields, leaving a scarcity of science grads, which will drive up salaries, and lead more top talent back into science? That's kind of like the argument that cold water boils faster than hot water. Of course, lots of people think that's true, too.

    Along the same lines, I'd like to hear the author's explanation of why employees in finance continue to get paid more and more, even as more talent floods into that profession.

    Not every price is set solely by supply and demand. In this case, I think culture has a lot to do with it, as do negotiating skills (which geeks don't generally have in abundance). Science and math types are still considered dorks, and the leeches who work on Wall St. or Madison Ave are the cool kids. Fewer science students isn't going to change that.

  • Brain Drain (Score:5, Insightful)

    by BodeNGE (1664379) on Wednesday October 28, 2009 @07:25PM (#29904691)
    You've got yourselves a brain drain. Growing up in Australia as a geek I had the sole intention of getting out of the country, going to university in Europe and finding a decent, well paid job there. In Australia there was no funding or development, no highly paid jobs, little basic research at all, and as a student cash was the big draw to get out. The brain drain was almost epidemic. The USA wasn't an option due to your ridiculous Green Card Lottery. Very glad I did too as I simply had more, and better opportunities. There are some truly excellent innovations that still come out of Australia built literally on a shoestring. Realtime over-the-horizon radar that can image a supercarrier off the coast of Japan is one example, and it is constructed from thousands of hand wound wire, wrapped around cotton reels. So it is possible to have success (albeit non-financial) in the midst of a brain drain.
    Reducing the Green Card quotas further, and kicking foreigners out of Science will certainly reduce the number of graduates, and the intelligence of the nation. Weren't most of the USA's scientists working on the big name projects of the last 50 years foreign born anyway?
  • Stupd rationale (Score:3, Insightful)

    by AdmiralXyz (1378985) on Wednesday October 28, 2009 @07:28PM (#29904725)

    Cranking out even more science graduates, according to the researchers, does not give corporations any incentive to boost wages for science/tech jobs, which would be one way to retain the highest-performing students.

    Or they could pay solid wages to the highest-performing students, and lesser wages to the less performing students. You know, the way the market is supposed to work.

    Seriously, did they get grant money for this crap?

  • Economics (Score:3, Insightful)

    by WarJolt (990309) on Wednesday October 28, 2009 @07:31PM (#29904765)

    Maybe we should bailout the science and technology companies.

  • Covered Before (Score:4, Interesting)

    by weston (16146) <westonsd AT canncentral DOT org> on Wednesday October 28, 2009 @07:39PM (#29904849) Homepage

    "Adjusted for IQ, quantitative skills, and working hours, jobs in science are the lowest paid in the United States." [greenspun.com]

    I studied Math. Not the worst possible choice for an undergrad, really: the level of conceptual abstraction and logical rigor make it difficult, maybe even somewhat more so than some other technical fields, but in terms of sheer number of hours of coursework, it's considerably shorter than engineering, which allows a student to take a lot of other courses and still graduate in a reasonable amount of time. And it's a pretty good education, too.

    I don't think I'd do it again.

    It's exceptionally clear that not only does the marketplace value other skills (law, finance, business adminstration, plumbing) more highly, but that 90% of the population doesn't even understand what it is you learned. I'd have been far better off to pick a Math minor for core skills and rigor and pair it with an Econ or Business Major. And let's not even go to the Electrical Engineering degree I originally considered. Unless you're doing it for sheer love, it's a waste of time.

    That's the general prognosis. As a career choice, STEM fields offer mediocre to middlin' rewards. Particularly when you consider the alternatives.

    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by radtea (464814)

      "Adjusted for IQ, quantitative skills, and working hours, jobs in science are the lowest paid in the United States." [greenspun.com]

      Which is why you find so few women in the sciences. Women are far more sensible than men about career choices, not having been filled with idiotic propaganda all their lives about the value of sacrificing their lives (often literally) to "be a provider for their family." That's why when a job is really dangerous, dirty, or underpaid, it is almost certainly done by a man. And

  • There's no shortage (Score:5, Interesting)

    by cvd6262 (180823) on Wednesday October 28, 2009 @08:30PM (#29905259)

    I was on an evaluation team that was charged with determining how well a government program had addressed a "shortage" of a specific skill set. On the committee was an economist from a big university. He opened the meeting with the comment: There is no shortage; the government is just not willing to pay market value.

  • by walterbyrd (182728) on Wednesday October 28, 2009 @09:23PM (#29905709)

    I am a bit surprised that there is not such section.

  • by Maxo-Texas (864189) on Wednesday October 28, 2009 @09:41PM (#29905863)

    Once we get decent robots (and they can now pick loose nuts out of a bin), 99% of jobs (even low skill ones) go away.
    Buy a grocery shelf stocker robot for $50k and let go 6 people. It's never sick and works on holidays.
    50 stockers lose their job and are replaced by one repairman-- but with proper design, even he is a minimum wagejob ("check code: A5, replace module 3")
    If you can read a piece of paper and enter numbers, your job is threatened in the near future.

    We have to find a better way than scarcity to distribute time at the beach, good food, and other resources or it is going to get extremely ugly within the next 20 to 30 years.

    Too many people- no value to society- 1% of people having stuff- 99% of people not having stuff. Historically that doesn't go well.

    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by Stiletto (12066)

      Too many people- no value to society- 1% of people having stuff- 99% of people not having stuff. Historically that doesn't go well.

      Solved with easy access to distractions and cheap entertainment.

      NASCAR on TV = No French Revolution

      Our whole system is set up for the express purpose of helping the top 1% take from the remaining 99%. The system won't ever fail.

    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      by Anonymous Coward

      You should read Manna [marshallbrain.com]; it's precisely about this.

  • Let's get real... (Score:3, Interesting)

    by Genda (560240) <mariet AT got DOT net> on Thursday October 29, 2009 @05:32AM (#29908163) Journal

    Over the last two years, the only jobs whose salary haven't been seriously eroded are members of the board of directors of large corporations, and government officials. Everybody else is either losing their job, afraid of losing their job, or is being faced with all kinds of ridiculous contortion to hold on to what little they've still got. Our current system seems to see the middle class as pointless and irrelevant, and is committedly working to make it vanish.

    Scientist are simply one more group being loaded into the breach. There're tremendously too few young people becoming scientists, to face the challenges besetting mankind today. The fact that our society would rather devote billions upon endless billions on the most shallow and ridiculous of human endeavors, and then fail to make even the most mediocre contributions to solving the problems of our day suggests that our society's priorities and focus, and very much in the wrong place.

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