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The Real Science Gap 618

Posted by Soulskill
from the blaming-the-schools-is-so-2005 dept.
walterbyrd writes "This article attempts to explain why the US is struggling in its competition with other countries in the realm of scientific advancement. 'It's not insufficient schooling or a shortage of scientists. It's a lack of job opportunities. Americans need the reasonable hope that spending their youth preparing to do science will provide a satisfactory career.' I can hardly believe that somebody actually understands the present situation. It continues, 'The current approach — trying to improve the students or schools — will not produce the desired result, the experts predict, because the forces driving bright young Americans away from technical careers arise elsewhere, in the very structure of the US research establishment. For generations, that establishment served as the world’s nimblest and most productive source of great science and outstanding young scientists. Because of long-ignored internal contradictions, however, the American research enterprise has become so severely dysfunctional that it actively prevents the great majority of the young Americans aspiring to do research from realizing their dreams.'"
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The Real Science Gap

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  • by TrisexualPuppy (976893) on Monday June 14, 2010 @01:54PM (#32568690)
    We must not allow a MINE SHAFT GAP...err...science gap...
  • by sznupi (719324) on Monday June 14, 2010 @01:57PM (#32568722) Homepage

    Faith works much better.

    • by mrsteveman1 (1010381) on Monday June 14, 2010 @02:05PM (#32568872)

      Might be better for little Timmy to plan on being a televangelist instead of a climatologist

  • Wage Gap (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Monday June 14, 2010 @01:58PM (#32568738)

    The youngest and brightest are being sucked up by the field that pays: structured finance. As a country you've put financial innovation ahead of scientific and this is the natural outcome.

    • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

      by lorenlal (164133)

      Is that more or less lucrative than patent law?

    • Re:Wage Gap (Score:5, Insightful)

      by egandalf (1051424) on Monday June 14, 2010 @02:06PM (#32568888)
      Sad but true. Even so, look where financial "innovation" got us... we crippled the global economy with our "innovation" (read: creative bookkeeping by large, powerful finance firms).
    • Re:Wage Gap (Score:5, Informative)

      by StrategicIrony (1183007) on Monday June 14, 2010 @02:14PM (#32569032)

      It's not specifically structured finance, but the whole system of money-making.

      In my company, there are a number of world class engineers who do consulting work.

      There are also sales drones... err people... who sell said work.

      We bill about $300/hr for consulting and our better engineers make $200k. Not bad. Even the average guy makes $125k or so.

      But our top sales guy made almost $1m last year and there are a dozen of them making over $500k. That's more than the CEO.

      The sales guys can sell so much because we have world class engineers and a world class management team.

      Why did he make 8x what some of these world class engineers make? Is it because sales is more important?

      I don't think he's a world class person in any regard. He's a lush. He gets kicked out of strip clubs on friday nights for getting sloshed and being a dick.

      At the same time, his engineer is at home working to finish up the project he was working on to pay for that strip club outing.

      Ahh the justice.

      • Re:Wage Gap (Score:5, Insightful)

        by bsDaemon (87307) on Monday June 14, 2010 @02:18PM (#32569110)

        From the business perspective, yes, sales is more important. It doesn't really matter if you make crap so long as people buy it. However, if you can't get people to buy your product, it doesn't matter if its the best in the world. Unless you're selling a service, in which case the people providing the service matter a whole lot more.

        • Re:Wage Gap (Score:5, Insightful)

          by Trepidity (597) <delirium-slashdotNO@SPAMhackish.org> on Monday June 14, 2010 @02:34PM (#32569374)

          That's true, but it's still possible that the relative values to the company are being miscalculated. If you fired that sales guy, could some other sales guy paid half as much sell the product just as well? My guess is that often the answer is "yes".

          Similar with management. Yes, you need good management, but if you were only offering half of what you currently offer for senior executives, how big would the difference in company performance going forward be? I think less than the senior executives would like you to believe.

          And while it's true that it doesn't matter if your product sucks as long as you can sell it, there are plenty of industries where it at least helps sell it if your product isn't total crap, if your engineers have a reputation for quickly solving issues that arise, etc.

          • Re:Wage Gap (Score:4, Interesting)

            by NeutronCowboy (896098) on Monday June 14, 2010 @04:18PM (#32571034)

            That's true, but it's still possible that the relative values to the company are being miscalculated. If you fired that sales guy, could some other sales guy paid half as much sell the product just as well? My guess is that often the answer is "yes".

            I don't know. I've seen some of these sales people, and listening to them, *I* was getting excited about their software and services - until I remembered that I was actually providing the customer support or had to install them, and knew exactly how much of what they were saying was utter crap. And yet, for a split-second, they had me going.

            That's the skill of a good salesman, and that's why they will always be more important than engineers to the bean counters. There's no product that will sell itself - but a good salesman can sell even a turd. And in the end, that's what's on the balance sheet: Salesman Slimeball added $1 Million to the bottom line this quarter, while Gearhead Gearloose cost the company about $200k.

            Is that kind of revenue analysis dangerous? Yes it is. Does it happen more often than it should? Yes it does. And the payout is the reason why so many people go into sales instead of engineering.

          • Re:Wage Gap (Score:5, Insightful)

            by Kjella (173770) on Monday June 14, 2010 @04:50PM (#32571486) Homepage

            That's true, but it's still possible that the relative values to the company are being miscalculated. If you fired that sales guy, could some other sales guy paid half as much sell the product just as well? My guess is that often the answer is "yes".

            That very much depends on what your selling and to who. The grocery store essentially doesn't have a salesman, but most retail outlets do. But then you usually have a prebuilt product that you buy off the shelf, the salesman is just there to give you the push under pretense of being your guide. Don't get me wrong, they might point you in the right direction but usually towards a high-margin, full price product. Still it's fairly easy to be a competent salesman and rather hard to be a stellar one. Something like producing a graphics card is high on engineers, but all in all low on sales pitch - the review sites will tear you a new one with benchmarks if it doesn't perform.

            Selling a complex solution to a customer with complex needs is a whole different ballgame. It's not like the engineer's view that they are selling a piece of hardware or software or whatever - though it certainly helps to have a flashy demostration of how you'd solve other problems or better yet a sales case that smoothes away all the things you can't do. In reality, you might know what tool you'll be using but the complete solution doesn't exist yet. What you're selling is the impression of having understood the client's needs, having the tools, the experience, the competence, support, stability and commitment to deliver and follow up a good solution. Practically you can't measure it until it's done and even so there's no comparable benchmark so say whether this is better or worse than they would ultimately end up with going with another vendor.

            It's surprisingly hard to hit that right line of rose-tinted reality that actually conveys confidence. The people on the other side of the table have heard the tales of how this will solve all your problems and give free blowsjobs before, they're not buying it. At the same time, if you undersell or focus too much on potential problems or limitations or complexity, you're not winning any cases either. The really good salesman will give you an outline, a sketch, then fill it up with all the good things that says, yes we can deliver on this. We don't know all the details yet, but we are capable of ironing out the details and working around any issues. There's a few people that are simply killers at closing that kind of deals, which means millions swing depending on whose side they're on. Consider it a bit like sports stars, it's definitely not linear pay at the top.

        • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

          A really good salesperson can sell anything BUT, a good engineer can make a product, for an implied need, that practically sells itself. If the customer is happy with the product, he/she will likely be a repeat customer. That is the ignored value of the engineer.
    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by cayenne8 (626475)
      "The youngest and brightest are being sucked up by the field that pays: structured finance. As a country you've put financial innovation ahead of scientific and this is the natural outcome."

      Well, you can't really blame the young people. I mean, the goal for most people, is to live a happy and comfortable life. That requires MONEY, to enable you to live in a nice home in a safe area, to support your family in a comfortable lifestyle (including good schools, vacation time, some of the luxuries in life). Now

      • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

        by erroneus (253617)

        As the old saying goes, "a fool and his money... quickly part ways" or something along those lines. The truth behind this is pretty self-evident. If you have money, you need to make it work for you or it will run out. Like it or not, we have a money system in place. If it isn't working for you, then it will disappear sooner rather than later. At the very least, you should buy something that will make you money. This could be a small business like a McDonald's franchise or some sort of investment portf

    • Re:Wage Gap (Score:4, Insightful)

      by suomynonAyletamitlU (1618513) on Monday June 14, 2010 @02:38PM (#32569418)

      It's not just whether or not it pays. I would call myself a decently intelligent (and pretty well educated) person; at 25, I can honestly say I never even though of a career in science, not because science itself wasn't interesting, but because:

      * School made it seem like anything interesting was already known, and in particular, there didn't seem to be anything that both needed research and was in reach (as opposed to, say, QM or string theory, which might take multiple doctorates to understand fully)
      * I don't think I ever heard of any research fields that interested me
      * I have only a vague concept of what it would be like to be a researcher, but it seems unpleasant
      * There were no engineering challenges, except maybe AI, that I would be interested in sinking my teeth into
      * There were no companies or organizations doing anything really tasty that I'd want to be a part of

      So now I'm hoping to get into game design, which actually addresses all of these concerns, even if it doesn't produce anything of note (by which I mean, in contrast to anything of scientific or engineering import).

      I could totally believe, however, that people in third worlds see what we (first-world countries in particular) already know, even get the same textbooks as us, but they don't see their world as being "complete" in the same way I (and other first-worlders, I'm sure) do. They could easily be really motivated to jump on engineering challenges, and they probably have lots of companies doing lots of tasty things that give them an opportunity to do something interesting.

      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        by sgt101 (120604)

        Really interesting.

        You think that the world is complete - I think that is because you are happy with the world as you are told it is.

        Your education has not equipped you to realize that the world is not as you are being told it is.

        Things that are interesting that are not known:

        - how to reliably and cheaply protect people from malaria (100's of millions of people would be very interested in this) ?
        - how to generate energy in a way that doesn't involve lots of people dying due to flooding, crop failure, radiat

      • Re:Wage Gap (Score:4, Interesting)

        by TheNarrator (200498) on Monday June 14, 2010 @04:43PM (#32571400)

        Outside of computing related technologies it seems that science has really slowed down to a crawl. We haven't invented any new significant sources of energy since Nuclear fission was first developed in the 30s. We have actually gone backwards with regards to space travel, and no longer have the capabilities we once had. Lately, all the drug companies have been panicking because their best drugs are going out of patent and they don't have any new ones to replace them.

    • Re:Wage Gap (Score:4, Insightful)

      by Trepidity (597) <delirium-slashdotNO@SPAMhackish.org> on Monday June 14, 2010 @02:55PM (#32569710)

      I actually think availability of jobs and working conditions have more to do with it than levels of pay. Most good scientists I know are not the sort of people who would jump jobs for cash, at least past some decent level of "living comfortably" pay. They're much more interested in: can I get a job which will let me pursue my research agenda with a minimum of bullshit, while also paying enough that I don't have to take side jobs to support my family?

      I think if there were a bunch of scientific research jobs that paid $80-$100k but came with good job security and gave you research independence (i.e. unlike a post-doc or research scientist, who typically has relatively little independence from the P.I. they're working for), there would be a steady stream of people interested in them. Something like the old Bell Lab jobs, say: they paid good but not amazing salaries, but had good job security and a high degree of research freedom.

      • Re:Wage Gap (Score:4, Insightful)

        by Dr.Dubious DDQ (11968) on Monday June 14, 2010 @03:42PM (#32570476) Homepage

        I appear to be out of mod points at the moment, so I'll have to settle for replying:

        "+1 insightful"

        I think for most of the best scientific minds, "being allowed to do science" is actually part of the "pay". Despite what the MBA's seem to think, a PhD may be quite likely to be willing to work for $50000-80000/year and not just quit at the first opportunity to make more, provided the work environment is reasonable. But, no, PhD's are "overqualified" and therefore will not be considered for a lot of jobs.

        After watching my wife work her but off to finish her dissertation, then labor through seven freakin' grueling years of underpaid "postdoc" work, then have the "real" job she got afterwards disappear a year later with no replacement job to be found after literally hundreds of applications, I've reluctantly given up the idea of going for a PhD myself.

        Not that I'm bitter or anything...

  • when the government can't justify continuing it's own historically most prestigious scientific research program, there isn't much hope for the private sector.
    • by Anonymous Coward on Monday June 14, 2010 @02:06PM (#32568896)

      I am a scientist and manned exploration is basically a useless waste of money for us (and yes my research is deeply rooted into space exploration). Robots bring more data for a fraction of the cost. I have yet to hear any of my colleague complain about the government new plans for space. On the contrary.

    • Two factors immediately come to my mind: military spending and the reduction of the progressive tax burden. The way I see it, there just is not as much money for the government to throw at science, with the exception of military science. Now, it is true that military science has produced a number of useful non-military results, but there are some fields that have not really been advanced by spending on military science -- the pentagon has little interest in funding research into coral reef development or
    • by Trepidity (597)

      I think the chronology was more the other way--- the death of serious research outside universities started in the private sector, with the slow deaths of Bell Labs, Xerox PARC, etc. NASA at least held out a bit longer than the private sector in that regard.

  • by elrous0 (869638) * on Monday June 14, 2010 @01:59PM (#32568770)

    When I was in college (not so long ago), getting a Ph.D. was basically considered an insane pursuit. The professors (whatever their motivation) would explicitly tell their students this. Aside from the grueling work and tough admission requirements for most programs, the end result was a mountain of student loan debt and a degree that was unlikely to even get you a tenure-track position anymore (since those were being phased out). You would end up $100,000 of student loan debt and a part-time instructor (or low-level researcher) job that barely paid your rent.

    If the U.S. government wants more Ph.D.-level scientists so bad; start encouraging universities to open up more admissions slots, offering grants (instead of loans) for qualified candidates, and offering better paying post-doc positions. Otherwise STFU and stop complaining that no one is insane enough to go into serious research (more like serious *debt*).

    • by CheshireCatCO (185193) on Monday June 14, 2010 @02:06PM (#32568900) Homepage

      Most people in the sciences don't pay their way through grad school. It's generally covered by grants already.

      • by mcmonkey (96054) on Monday June 14, 2010 @02:17PM (#32569094) Homepage

        Word.

        How did the grand-parent post get modded up? If you leave PhD program in the sciences with any debt, it's either left over from your undergrad years or it's lifestyle debt (car, eating out, clothes, etc.)

        Between teaching, research grants, and cleaning test tubes, grad school in the sciences will cost you $0 out of pocket for tuition, fees, rent, and food.

        • by saider (177166)

          The author of that post didn't realize that the PhD's were scaring the students so they would not have to divvy up the money. Not necessarily for themselves, but for their grad students. They probably pulled the "right" students aside after class and offered them a path through the maze.

        • Between teaching, research grants, and cleaning test tubes, grad school in the sciences will cost you $0 out of pocket for tuition, fees, rent, and food.

          That must be nice, but it's not reality where I am. I'm at a university that ranks as about #40 in most science/math/engineering rankings, and the only thing I get waived is tuition. I have to pay ~$750 in fees per year. I get about $1500/mo after tax from my stipend, and I have to pay for 100% of my rent, food, and textbooks out of that.

          You can't get a part-time job and still get a stipend, and I don't know anybody that's managed to get a "research grant" that provides them with extra money beyond the s

          • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

            by ranton (36917)

            Between teaching, research grants, and cleaning test tubes, grad school in the sciences will cost you $0 out of pocket for tuition, fees, rent, and food.

            That must be nice, but it's not reality where I am. I'm at a university that ranks as about #40 in most science/math/engineering rankings, and the only thing I get waived is tuition. I have to pay ~$750 in fees per year. I get about $1500/mo after tax from my stipend, and I have to pay for 100% of my rent, food, and textbooks out of that.

            You can't get a part-time job and still get a stipend, and I don't know anybody that's managed to get a "research grant" that provides them with extra money beyond the stipend for being a teaching or research assistant.

            Im confused because your post seems to be confirming the statements you are attempting to refute. The original poster said that you can fairly easily pay $0 out of pocket for tuition, fees, rent, and food. That seems to be the same situation you are in.

            $1500/mo after taxes is clearly enough to live on for a college student. That is approximately the same as $10.50/hr full-time (almost 40% above minimum wage). I lived on about $1100 quite easily in 2005 while going to college with only one roommate. Mos

    • Wait... We can just print money instead. Forget what I just said.

       

    • by Trepidity (597) <delirium-slashdotNO@SPAMhackish.org> on Monday June 14, 2010 @02:10PM (#32568960)

      For grad school in the sciences, loan debt is uncommon--- students typically get paid stipends as research assistants or teaching assistants, which cover full tuition plus a modest salary (~$16k-30k or so, depending on field and institution). Of course, students often have undergrad loan debt, but I don't think grad school makes it worse at least.

      I think the biggest problem is, as you point out, post-PhD. There are too many PhDs being produced relative to good research jobs, so typically one has to do several postdocs, might have to take a lecturer position somewhere, etc., in hopes of eventually, maybe when you're 40 or something, getting a tenure-track faculty position. Oh, and that's a tenure-track position, which is basically 6-7 years of probation (but at least you're getting paid well at that point).

      Not entirely sure how to fix that. Making PhD studies themselves more attractive won't fix the problem, I don't think; if anything, it'll make it worse, by encouraging the production of even more PhDs who there aren't research jobs for. Somehow the post-grad-school part has to be fixed. There have to be more research positions, either in academia, in industry, or at government labs. Or, if we aren't going to open up more of the top-level (tenured-faculty-tier) types of positions, at least there have to be more attractive lower-level ones, something better than a post-doc. Maybe one where you still work in someone else's lab (i.e. you aren't the lab head), but you get paid better and have somewhat more research freedom. But that requires funding, too.

      • by Trepidity (597) <delirium-slashdotNO@SPAMhackish.org> on Monday June 14, 2010 @02:17PM (#32569086)

        Oh, on the last one, it'd also be better if funding were somewhat more stable and involved less overhead. From what I can tell, something like half of a professor's time at a top research university these days is spent writing grants [blogspot.com] and otherwise trying to get funding. Yes, we need some way of prioritizing research money, and it's not always bad to ask people to justify their requests for money. But when half or so of our top researchers' time is being used chasing money, instead of doing scientific research, that balance isn't quite right.

    • by Bowling Moses (591924) on Monday June 14, 2010 @02:29PM (#32569278) Journal
      I have a Ph.D. and while I wouldn't consider the pursuit of one to be insane, it is definitely not in your economic best interest. The sweet spot in science has long been to get the master's degree. The average Ph.D. won't catch up to the average M.S. in lifetime earnings, though eventually the average Ph.D. will get paid more. It's just that a M.S. takes 2-3 years, while the Ph.D. takes 6-7 years. Frequently, especially in the life sciences, the Ph.D. is then followed by one or two (or, horrors, more) 2-5 year long postdoctoral positions. A Ph.D. student in the sciences gets paid these days in the high teens to mid 20's (You're paid. Not well, but you're paid--no loans). A postdoc gets paid anything from the upper 20's to the low 50's, depending on experience and much more importantly luck. So it's pretty easy to see why a Ph.D. won't catch up to the M.S., even though many Ph.D.'s end up being the boss of the M.S., and very rarely the other way around.

      One way to look at the long years of crap pay a Ph.D. scientist endures is simple supply and demand: we have too many science Ph.D.'s and too few M.S. That and whenever you hear about a "shortage" of Ph.D.'s in this country, remember that news of the shortage comes from the exact same people demanding an increase in H1B's because of the critical shortage of qualified computer programmers.
      • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

        by drooling-dog (189103)

        The PhD really ought to be thought of as training for an academic career; no more, and no less. Many pursue it either as a path to social prestige or as a way to postpone uncomfortable post-academic life choices, and those motivations are the most likely to end in despair.

        At least in the sciences, if you have the curiosity, inclination, and ability to push on the frontiers of knowledge, then the world out there - and the U.S. in particular - is a candy store. Society will provide you a reasonably comfortabl

  • by t0qer (230538) on Monday June 14, 2010 @02:01PM (#32568798) Homepage Journal

    My dad grew up with Nasa/AMES Lockheed sponsoring the model rocket club at James Lick High school.
    His brother went to an autoshop sponsored by Ford.
    Straight out of high school, uncle went to work at the Ford plant in Milpitas, bolting bumpers on Pintos. Dad went to work in the sciences.
    My generation had nearly free apple II's in school. We grew up to be the dot.com generation.

    Somewhere along the line, we decided corporate support of training and equipment wasn't good enough. Greedy school administrators insisted on "Cash only" gifts, citing that corporate support was some evil incapable of having goals that are in tune with the education system. Bullshit, they just wanted to pad their own 6 figure superintendent salaries.

    Meanwhile the corporations are moving onto countries where the educational systems have no problems working with schools to produce good workers.

    If wanted to fix this problem, we'd ask some of the biotech firms to donate used gene sequencing equipment to high schools, with some training on how to use it. How many students would love to know how to sequence their own genes?

    I'm moving to Mexico, where I can fly the American flag and light off fireworks on the 4th of July without getting harassed by some dipshit politically correct cocksucker.

  • Science/Math Gap (Score:3, Insightful)

    by DaMattster (977781) on Monday June 14, 2010 @02:01PM (#32568802)
    I think the answer is glaringly obvious for five solid reasons. (1) Since US firms mostly offshore research and developement there is little or no reason to train at the collegiate level for such a career. (2) Those firms doing research here in the US import labor on an H1-B visa program. (3) Wall Street has lured some bright minds to come up with fancy, fuzzy mathematics to allow major financial companies to bilk the American people out of billions of dollars. The sharp math minds going to Wall Street leave a void in the research, experimentation, and development arena. (4) George W. Bush repealled a number of executive orders and was generally unfriendly towards science making it unattractive for industry to engage in research in the US. Bush and his faith-based, theocratic bent set us back a decade. (5) George W. Bush's no child left behind which further worsened the educational system in the US.
    • I hate NCLB, but I don't think we're going to see the effects of that policy in the market for some time.

    • by Shihar (153932) on Monday June 14, 2010 @02:19PM (#32569122)

      Your OMFG IT IS THE FOREIGNERS!!!1111! whining is crap.

      1) The US doesn't offshore research more than it sends offshore anything else. It happens, but you stand a much better chance of winning a job from an Indian or Chinese competitor in R&D than basically anything else that isn't completely location specific. You are NOT going to beat India and China on cheap labor. You can win in brain power and the infrastructure that supports it. A few billion people means fuck-all if 90% of them grew up without power. The actual number of viable developing nation candidates you are dealing with is actually very small.

      2) H1-B visas are not the devils work. If you lose to an H1-B, there is something wrong with you. H1-B's are expensive and unreliable. Even if a company breaks the law and uses H1-B's to save themselves 10% on how much they shell out in salary, that paltry gain doesn't make up for the fact that an H1-B might leave at any moment, probably has reduced English skills, is always under the threat of running home to get a decent job there, and you are on the hook for dealing with any immigration problems (which are hardly rare).

      There is a problem in US science. Part of it might be cultural. I am sure part of it for PhD folks is pay, the slave like conditions you have to suffer, and the tenure system. You might even be able to point a finger at Wall Street... though I Imagine that bubble has gone boom. Blaming it on 'dem evil for-en-ers sounds a whole lot more like the whining of an enemy of science than a friend. Bush, Palin, and the other nut jobs that try and point outside of the nation for its internal problems are no friend of science.

  • by TheMeuge (645043) on Monday June 14, 2010 @02:04PM (#32568860)

    Let's not kid ourselves - the real reason those gifted enough to excel shy away from science is that this path is not conducive to having a life. It requires working long hours, frequently 7 days per week, for little pay (NIH stipends for graduate students are around $20'000), and in a highly stressful environment (those who've done research know how emotionally crushing doing scientific research can often be), just to become a sub-$40k post-doc for another decade thereafter, and then desperately search for a faculty position, to spend the next 20 years stressing over grant deadlines that threaten to destroy whatever little autonomy you've managed to gain, in an environment where something like 5% of the projects get funded.

    In an environment, where most work to the limit of their bodily ability, and get paid less than their intelligence and time commitment would yield them elsewhere, young men and women find it difficult to acquire and hold onto a mate, and those who want to have families find themselves unable to support them, as well as spend adequate time with them.

    And people wonder why in many top-tier institutions 75% of the graduate students in science are foreign-born?

    • by Midnight's Shadow (1517137) on Monday June 14, 2010 @02:13PM (#32569008)

      Let's not kid ourselves - the real reason those gifted enough to excel shy away from science is that this path is not conducive to having a life. It requires working long hours, frequently 7 days per week, for little pay (NIH stipends for graduate students are around $20'000), and in a highly stressful environment (those who've done research know how emotionally crushing doing scientific research can often be), just to become a sub-$40k post-doc for another decade thereafter, and then desperately search for a faculty position, to spend the next 20 years stressing over grant deadlines that threaten to destroy whatever little autonomy you've managed to gain, in an environment where something like 5% of the projects get funded.

      In an environment, where most work to the limit of their bodily ability, and get paid less than their intelligence and time commitment would yield them elsewhere, young men and women find it difficult to acquire and hold onto a mate, and those who want to have families find themselves unable to support them, as well as spend adequate time with them.

      And people wonder why in many top-tier institutions 75% of the graduate students in science are foreign-born?

      And lets not forget that the mate maybe in the same situation because they are the only ones that understand the pursuit but finding a job for two people in the same state, let alone the same city is next to impossible. A good friend of mine just got married and he will be spending the next 2-3 years in a different country then his wife.

      My personally belief for why most Americans don't go the science path is either 1)they aren't smart enough to do the work or 2)they are smart enough to realize it isn't worth doing the work. It's a shame I'm neither of those things.

    • by freejung (624389) * <webmaster@freenaturepictures.com> on Monday June 14, 2010 @02:58PM (#32569756) Homepage Journal

      Exactly. That's why I left. I didn't care so much about the pay, doing science is in itself worth it as long as you're being paid enough to survive. Yeah, for some people it's that much fun.

      But my advisor in grad school worked for ten hours a day in the lab, and then he went home and worked another six on his computer from home. His wife made jokes about being a "physics widow." He had a daughter, but he obviously wasn't participating in raising her.

      That's no kind of life for a reasonable person. You have to have a monomaniacal disorder to want to live like that. So I left.

      The problem is that there is way too much work to do and way too little funding to hire enough people to do it. The result is an attitude that if you're not willing to work 80-100 hours per week, we'll find someone else who is. There are plenty of smart people in the world.

      This problem will persist until we make basic research the financial priority that it should be in order to advance as a society.

    • by Calsar (1166209) on Monday June 14, 2010 @03:04PM (#32569838) Homepage

      My wife got a Ph.D. in molecular biology. She did a postdoc and NIH and then started to look for job. She wanted to be a professor at a University. After talking to some of the recruiters at Universities we found out they were getting hundreds of resumes for each position. In addition as the parent post points outs research is brutal. You constantly struggle for grant money and tenure is pretty much a thing of the past. Universities want you to come in with grants, they take half the money, then they boot you out if you lose your grants. It's a very stressful environment to be in. Another thing I ran into while doing research was that the number of teaching positions at Universities has gone up about 50% since 1960, however the number of Ph.D.s has gone up 10,000%. Of course there are commercial research positions as well, but at least in biotech there is a lot of turn over as companies come and go. She has friends that get laid off every couple years and spend six months to a year looking for a new job. There were also a lot of sales jobs where you go around and sell equipment to companies, which she didn't want to do. My wife eventually ended up with desk job with Genebank at NIH and no longer does research. Note that she was 31 by the time she got her first real job. That's a lot of time to put into education for not much reward. She is especially annoyed that she will never make as much money as I do in IT even though she has a doctorate degree and I have a master's in CS. We have encouraged our son not to into science.

  • Nice to see (Score:5, Interesting)

    by TheEvilOverlord (684773) on Monday June 14, 2010 @02:05PM (#32568874) Journal

    ...that someone is raising the real issue. I'm in the UK and studied for a science degree and from people I still know who graduated, only one of them is actually working in science now (5 years later). Of other friends I've made in the field most have left their science jobs. The most recent has just retrained as an accountant. She got made redundant from her previous job with a big pharma as they moved her whole lab out to china where they said they could have 6 equally qualified people for what they were paying her. People aren't stupid, they aren't going to study for something where there's no jobs, or what jobs do exist are all low paid rubbish with no chance of advancement. They'll all go become accountants and lawyers. Say hello to globalisation...

  • what gap? (Score:5, Interesting)

    by Lord Ender (156273) on Monday June 14, 2010 @02:09PM (#32568940) Homepage

    It is assumed (when asking for money from the government) that there is some terrible gap in education--that America is doomed because somebody's program isn't funded enough. But evidence of this is never given.

    Are our universities bad? Obviously not, as foreigners do everything they can to get into them. Are our primary schools bad? Doesn't look like it; foreign students make cheating a science just to keep up at the university level.

    If our science students can't find jobs, the problem is a GLUT of science education. Perhaps we should focus more on trade schools than churning out more unemployed bio and physics majors.

  • by DigitalSorceress (156609) on Monday June 14, 2010 @02:09PM (#32568946)

    It seems to me that this just proves that American math skills are good:

    If student A spends over $100,000 on education, but finds there's no jobs that don't involve asking if they want whipped cream on their tall mocha late, how many years will they subsist on ramen while trying to pay off the debt with piss-poor tips?

    If student B coasts out of high school and resigns themselves to the inevitability of their barista career, they'll be the manager in charge of deciding that Student A is way over qualified and might do better investigating the all the possibilities of frying something next door by the time Student A swallows their pride and applies.

  • by simonbp (412489) on Monday June 14, 2010 @02:20PM (#32569140) Homepage

    While there is always much waving of hands and gnashing of teeth about it, the reality is that the USA by far leads the world in science. And speaking as a science grad student, it's much easier to get into science here than anywhere else in the western world. I know plenty of foreign grad students in the US, but almost no US students that had any motivation to study overseas. Personally, even though I'm originally from Canada, I have no plans to go back, because it's so much easier to get funded as a scientist here.

    It seems to me most of the of the people who complain about the "science gap" are those who aren't actually working in the field...

    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by Tablizer (95088)

      it's much easier to get into science here than anywhere else in the western world. I know plenty of foreign grad students in the US, but almost no US students that had any motivation to study overseas. Personally, even though I'm originally from Canada, I have no plans to go back, because it's so much easier to get funded as a scientist here.

      Technically that might be true, but is missing the point. The perspective from the American student is that high-end sci/math is not their best choice in terms of incom

  • by line-bundle (235965) on Monday June 14, 2010 @02:25PM (#32569234) Homepage Journal

    The best link I can find for the article is

    http://www.marinetech.org/OSTO/documents/Job%20Prospects%20for%20Science%20Grads%20CHE%2021Sep07.pdf [marinetech.org]

    The original article is behind a paywall unfortunately

    http://chronicle.com/article/The-Real-Science-Crisis-Bleak/29178 [chronicle.com]

  • by 2obvious4u (871996) on Monday June 14, 2010 @02:26PM (#32569244)

    Because of long-ignored internal contradictions, however, the American research enterprise has become so severely dysfunctional that it actively prevents the great majority of the young Americans aspiring to do research from realizing their dreams.

    You mean like arresting young chemists because their equipment serves a dual purpose and could be used to create something illegal like meth? [io9.com]

  • by bigsexyjoe (581721) on Monday June 14, 2010 @02:35PM (#32569384)

    The US doesn't support people becoming educated, and this is just one more aspect of the problem. When I was in school I thought of going all the way to PhD. But come on! Spend all that money and live in poverty for so many years. Combined with the fact that doing this stuff is difficult and time consuming, it seemed like an incredibly masocistic exercise. I love science and math and would love to bury myself in it, but I am a slave to economic realities.

    Furthermore when we say we want more people in profession X, we are making an implict admission that we want a somewhat planned economy. So we want more research and researchers? Guess what? Most of the important expensive research in the past has been conducted by the government anyway. So the government should just start doing more research.

    One more thing, if a company hires H1-Bs, for each one they hire should have to pay a very heavy fee that is used to give one student a full ride scholarship in that field.

    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by demonbug (309515)

      The US doesn't support people becoming educated, and this is just one more aspect of the problem. When I was in school I thought of going all the way to PhD. But come on! Spend all that money and live in poverty for so many years. Combined with the fact that doing this stuff is difficult and time consuming, it seemed like an incredibly masocistic exercise. I love science and math and would love to bury myself in it, but I am a slave to economic realities.

      Live in poverty? I wasn't exactly flush with cash in grad school, but as a young, single (or even young and married, as I was most of my time in grad school) person I was able to live quite comfortably on my stipend of ~$1500 per month. About $700 for housing (yeah, you're not going to be able to live on your own - if you consider having a housemate to be living in poverty, then i guess maybe I was), maybe $100 for books and ancillaries (though I think I only had to buy a couple of textbooks during my grad

  • by Rogerborg (306625) on Monday June 14, 2010 @02:37PM (#32569408) Homepage

    Jocks get their pussy free, lawyers can buy professional pussy, and doctors are up to their elbows in pussy. Nerds? They get the leavings.

    You can't fix the problem until you identify it exactly.

  • by hoggoth (414195) on Monday June 14, 2010 @02:44PM (#32569512) Journal

    The next career to disappear in the U.S. is programming. There are no more entry level jobs, they've all been outsourced. Hence, there is no new generation of programmers in the U.S.

    That means any new innovation in computer software will be coming from India or another of the up-coming outsourcing countries.

    • by scorp1us (235526) on Monday June 14, 2010 @03:43PM (#32570494) Journal

      This is not correct

      There are plenty of companies that want local in-house developers. There is an immediacy to having local help, as well as not having a language barrier. Stuff that can be "waterfall" spec'd is a candidate for outsourcing, provided that the person writing the specs is competent enough, and you have the resources to continuously check what is being delivered.

      As a SW Engineering manager, I have fought to both: 1) keep projects in-house and 2) out-source projects. For 2, it has to have several factors:
      - A well-defined result. This requires good contract writing and specifications, as well as your company NOT changing the requirements. Language barriers must be addressed.
      - To be a peripheral need. That is, not a primary concern of the company. Not the leading product, or mission-critical service.
      - Not to be mission-sensitive. You never can trust any company not to leak or re-use your stuff, even if it is in the contract. If you are working with developers in a 3rd world country, there is NO legal recourse to their breach of contract.

      Any "Agile" development must be done in house. You're going to need a developer to review any changes to requirements, as well as the code coming in for compliance to company specifications and standards. You might as well do it in house by the time it is all said and done. There is a lot to be said about getting your hands around someone' neck, proverbially speaking. You also get to dictate time allotment/management in a more detailed way. With contractors, you never can tell when they are actually working on it and how they are prioritizing. Too many firms work under the threat of breach of contract to actually start or deliver work on something, with the goal of keeping the client satiated and paying...

      For those reasons, there will always be domestic programming positions.

  • by erroneus (253617) on Monday June 14, 2010 @02:45PM (#32569536) Homepage

    This basic discussion has been had numerous times here on Slashdot. Usually, it is about IT careers and declining wages, declining local resources, outsourcing and H1-B visa programs.

    They all have the same basic things in common. Corporations, looking to cut their costs, are looking elsewhere to get cheaper labor -- even when that labor is for R&D and other highly technical trades and activities.

    I have claimed that the government needs to step in and restrict how these short-sighted companies are behaving simply because they are having a tremendous impact on the economy. Others commonly respond in opposition calling this type of thing "protectionism" and all this. But the end result of allowing companies to seek labor outside of the U.S. [to lower costs] is that jobs and money is being sent out of the country lowering the average income and increasing unemployment. Many of these companies are selling goods and services to the very same people they helped to make un[der]employed. And the extended result is that fewer people are going to enter career paths in the areas where there is less pay and/or less hiring.

    What we have is a cascade that will lead to "idiocracy" right here in our own nation. Many people claim we are already living that famous movie and in many respects we are.

    We can call it protectionism or we can just call it taking care of our own first. Whatever the label you apply to it, we absolutely need to retain our most important advantages if we are to return to the top of the food chain. The U.S. is presently not the world leader in anything except military influence. With everything else getting sent outside the U.S. and countries who would normally use U.S. resources going elsewhere, the U.S. has lost a great deal of its competitive advantage already. U.S. companies are simply becoming "international companies" whose headquarters just happen to be in the U.S.

    The symptoms of this pattern beginning to fail are in what we are starting to see today -- increased attempts to influence other countries to adopt our laws in order to protect our intellectual property... failing diplomatic measures, military measures are sure to follow. (After all, the whole reason diplomacy works is because there is a shadow of a military threat looming in the background... otherwise, who would listen to you or care about your interests?) Basically we are attempting to get the world to "do things our way so that things favor us more than you" and who will listen to that without excessive bribery and threat of military or financial action? These types of measures weren't quite so necessary in the past and now they are becoming a lot more common.

    I think it is past time to reign in the companies that are selling out the population of the nation they call home. The consequences are what we are experiencing today. The effect is obvious. The cause should be obvious. If the cause and the effect are obvious, why isn't the solution equally obvious? I think it is and our government is so comfortable being paid and backed by big money interests that they don't know how to stop it from continuing.

  • by Quiet_Desperation (858215) on Monday June 14, 2010 @02:48PM (#32569578)

    Where shall we have lunch?

    Just an idea from the outfield: maybe an added reason is that it's so much harder to make a contribution these days? We've gone from "Ow! Fire hot!" to needing a PhD or more just to achieve parity with the state of the art in some fields of science.

    Engineering isn't much better- from spark gaps to iPhones in about a century.

    We might need to start kids down the science path as early as the first grade, or come up with some radical new method of teaching/learning.

    Ah, I'm just babbling. Ignore me.

    • by scorp1us (235526) on Monday June 14, 2010 @04:03PM (#32570794) Journal

      The problem is, not everyone is cut our for science.

      From a young age, about 4, once I got my hands on a screw driver set, everything that could be taken apart was. I wanted to learn how it worked. My friends did not care. They wanted matchbox cars, then RC cars. I got Lincoln Logs, Transformers, Capsella, Erector sets, Robotech models and eventually a computer. In 1990, I got a IBM PC (8088) and went to town. I spent thousands of hours learning how to "make it work" (programming) while other boys were out pursuing girls. I started wrenching on engines about the same time... I never had friends because of my intellectual pursuits...

      I just don't see anyone taking such an interest in this stuff unless they are born with an interest for it. Maybe you could attract some more people with better compensation/making the work sexier, but I doubt it. In Alberta, CAN, they have vast oil reserves which the oil companies make a ton on. Working for then does not require a 4 year degree, and most people come back being able to afford a house and at least one bad-ass car (Viper, Vette, BMW M) in addition to a daily driver.

      If you want to make engineering sexy, what is needed is a revamp to the way employment is done. We are essentially inventors, but we are paid hourly. Real inventors get residuals from multiple inventions. If you want to see some real creativity, change it to residuals and watch as engineers pump value into products for their ow benefit. I've added single features that I know resulted in $100k of additional sales the first year. But did I see any of that? Nope. What was my bonus? Less than 3%, before taxes. I worked on another project that was: the project lead, a doctor, a lawyer, and me. Everyone but me had an equity agreement for 10% of sales. They put in about 100 hours total, I put in 1000 hours myself, and the company still sells the product. They still see checks and don't work for the company. I don't work for the company and even when I did work for them, I never saw a check.

      When we treat engineers as vital as doctors and lawyers, we'll get a few more for the money , but only a few will be naturals.

  • Cause meet effect (Score:3, Interesting)

    by Gothmolly (148874) on Monday June 14, 2010 @03:01PM (#32569790)

    When you have a educational system and culture that shields people from the effects of their bad decisions, even refutes the notion of causality, why would kids be encouraged to enter a field where causality is king? Isn't Obama going to pay their mortgage for them? Won't Al Gore save them from Global Warming? Won't giving $10 to a church save them from hell?

  • The Real Gap (Score:5, Insightful)

    by mosb1000 (710161) <mosb1000@mac.com> on Monday June 14, 2010 @03:11PM (#32569942)

    This is the problem for higher education in general. Universities are producing too many degrees. People waste a lot of time and school learning facts and information they will never use (or even talking classes where they don't learn anything) to vie for high-paying jobs that don't exist.

    In the meantime, people don't learn the basic information that may be useful to them (like how to fix their car, how to do basic calculations and general problem solving). Nor do they learn useful job skills (universities leave this up to the their students' future employers). Pondering this, one may ask: "what exactly is school good for?" It is stupid to waste 4 (or more) years earning a degree just to fill a check-mark on some corporate recruiter's checklist? Yes. Yes it is.

  • by Animats (122034) on Monday June 14, 2010 @03:28PM (#32570216) Homepage

    The IEEE points out that, at present, only about 1/3 of electrical engineers have electrical engineering jobs. They also point out that in 1970, electrical engineers and doctors made about the same amount of money.

    Lawyers, though, are starting to get hit. Outsourcing of legal work [pangea3.com] is now available.

    • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

      by Grishnakh (216268)

      There is a shortage of engineers. Not just any engineers, however: engineers who will work 80 hours/week for less pay than a janitor. This is the kind of engineer that American corporations really, really "need" more of.

  • by Jawnn (445279) on Monday June 14, 2010 @04:06PM (#32570826)
    FTA...

    "Because of long-ignored internal contradictions, however, the American research enterprise has become so severely dysfunctional that it actively prevents the great majority of the young Americans aspiring to do research from realizing their dreams.'"

    So..., you mean..., all that rhetoric against smart people (you know, those "intellectual elitists") has actually had some effect? Looks like the plans for creating a dullard electorate are proceeding apace.

  • by bsharma (577257) on Monday June 14, 2010 @04:38PM (#32571318)
    In a system of capitalism there are no gaps or shortages, just disequilibrium between demand and supply that determines price. The current "science gap" is that U.S. produced "science" is price uncompetitive with global "science". Same problem as in automobiles or consumer electronics. Even U.S. Government knows this; e.g. NASA uses Russia whenever possible to "do science" to stretch its $. U.S. talent is naturally seeking highest value occupations: e.g. financial engineering, law, management, health care etc., As long as these occupations are valued more by market (than "science"), it is absurd to talk of "science gap", especially when global markets are producing enough "science". A day may come when the currently lucrative occupations may not be so anymore; then the talent may flow to "science" if "science" has more relative market value. Two years back, mortgage & real estate were highly lucrative; now, many previous 6 figure earners are on food stamps. May happen to financial engineering too some day.

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