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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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  • Wage Gap (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Monday June 14, 2010 @02:58PM (#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.

  • by Michael Kristopeit (1751814) on Monday June 14, 2010 @02:59PM (#32568758)
    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 elrous0 (869638) * on Monday June 14, 2010 @02:59PM (#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 t0qer (230538) on Monday June 14, 2010 @03:01PM (#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 @03:01PM (#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.
  • by TheMeuge (645043) on Monday June 14, 2010 @03:04PM (#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 mrsteveman1 (1010381) on Monday June 14, 2010 @03:05PM (#32568872)

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

  • Re:Wage Gap (Score:5, Insightful)

    by egandalf (1051424) on Monday June 14, 2010 @03:06PM (#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).
  • by Anonymous Coward on Monday June 14, 2010 @03:06PM (#32568902)

    Faith works much better

    That attitude is part of the problem not the solution. Some people in this country feel that science and faith can not coexist. That kind of thinking will drag us back into the middle ages where science was no different than witchcraft unless use to create a weapon to defeat the enemy.

  • by DigitalSorceress (156609) on Monday June 14, 2010 @03:09PM (#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 Utini420 (444935) on Monday June 14, 2010 @03:10PM (#32568950)

    Robots are fuckin' boring.

  • by MightyMartian (840721) on Monday June 14, 2010 @03:11PM (#32568980) Journal

    Even if the Apollo program was to a large extent a propaganda battle against the Soviets, it more than paid for itself in the technical innovations it delivered. The advancements in integrated circuits and miniaturization alone probably paid for the Apollo program many times over. It basically maintained the US's dominance in computers and embedded systems for a generation.

  • by Midnight's Shadow (1517137) on Monday June 14, 2010 @03:13PM (#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 mcmonkey (96054) on Monday June 14, 2010 @03:13PM (#32569018) Homepage

    It's a lack of job opportunities.

    If you want an education to set you up to take a job, train to clean toilets & mop floors. Those jobs aren't going away.

    Otherwise, find something you love and plan on making, not taking, a job doing what you love. For most of us, we will be able to find an existing job doing that thing we want to do. (Or at least that thing we don't mind doing to pay the bills.) But a job is not an entitlement; it is not a right. Don't plan your life around someone else giving you a job.

    Furthermore, if there is this connection between education and job opportunities, why do we have art history departments? Are there that many museums on the hunt for curators? Or is it just for all the Starbucks that don't yet have the minimum number of people hanging out behind the counter?

  • Re:Wage Gap (Score:3, Insightful)

    by cayenne8 (626475) on Monday June 14, 2010 @03:17PM (#32569076) Homepage Journal
    "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, when you are starting college, and you see a choice between two paths (and you think you'd be likely happy at either as a career) which would you take? The one with the long hours studying to get a job with long hours period and low pay? Or, would you take the path that led to more normal hours and levels of stress, which paid more?

    I mean, that IS the reason for going to school and getting a job right? To enable one to make as good of a living as possible, right?

    I know a good life means different things to different people, but for the large majority, that is working just as much as needed to make as much money as possible, so as to enable them to enjoy a good lifestyle.

    Let's face it..frankly, if I didn't have to actually work for a living (say I won the powerball and was independently wealthy), I'd sure as shit never work another day again in my lifetime!! I could spend my days quite easily in pursuit of fun stuff.

    I venture to guess about 99% of the rest of the planet would do the same.

  • by Trepidity (597) <<gro.hsikcah> <ta> <todhsals-muiriled>> on Monday June 14, 2010 @03:17PM (#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.

  • Re:Wage Gap (Score:5, Insightful)

    by bsDaemon (87307) on Monday June 14, 2010 @03:18PM (#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.

  • by Shihar (153932) on Monday June 14, 2010 @03:19PM (#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.

  • Don't we? (Score:5, Insightful)

    by twoallbeefpatties (615632) on Monday June 14, 2010 @03:23PM (#32569184)
    You speak like the modern age has had a fundamentally different attitude towards science.

    From what I'm told (I didn't live during that time, so I don't have firsthand knowledge), we used to have a government that strongly encouraged scientific research and development and considered it part of the greatness of our nation. Whether you consider it a problem with faith or with politics or with capitalism or education or whatever, I don't think you can say that about our relationship with science today.

    It also doesn't help that we don't have a lot of hard science going on in business right now. Our current business environment emphasizes short-term growth over long-term growth, so scientific developments that don't lead to real gains within a few years are being somewhat ignored, so that the private sector is just as apathetic as the public sector, if not more.
  • by 2obvious4u (871996) on Monday June 14, 2010 @03:26PM (#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]

  • Re:Wage Gap (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Trepidity (597) <<gro.hsikcah> <ta> <todhsals-muiriled>> on Monday June 14, 2010 @03:34PM (#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.

  • by bigsexyjoe (581721) on Monday June 14, 2010 @03:35PM (#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:Wage Gap (Score:4, Insightful)

    by suomynonAyletamitlU (1618513) on Monday June 14, 2010 @03:38PM (#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.

  • by mollog (841386) on Monday June 14, 2010 @03:40PM (#32569446)
    Many of the tech employers have lobbied congress to get exemptions to the laws regarding the hiring of foreign workers. They have cited the lack of qualified people as the reason for the need to hire H1b workers. I don't know what the truth is behind that claim, but I can tell you that the use of H1b workers has resulted in lower wages, fewer job opportunities, and less demand for those jobs that require specialized technical training. Job security is gone.

    High tech employers have also gotten exemptions to the labor laws that limit the number of hours per week worked; people who work in the software industry do not have protection from employers who demand they work long hours. So, the quality of life for workers in the software industry sucks.

    Someone ought to clue in the brainiacs about the reasons why nobody in the U.S. cares to take a tech/science job.
  • I don't read the article as focusing on any individual's entitlement to a "science job", but on the more general societal issue. A lot of people, rightly or wrongly, feel that the U.S. is falling behind in scientific research, and that this should be fixed. Many people with such views point to education as the root of the problem: they argue that the U.S. is falling behind in scientific research because our schools are not keeping up, either in quality of science education, or in their ability to motivate kids to be excited about science, or both.

    The article is arguing that the diagnosis is incorrect: people are not going into science because there aren't good jobs in science, not because of a failing on the part of schools. Of course, if you think the number of scientists and level of scientific research we currently have is fine, then it isn't a problem to begin with. But the article's arguing that if you're one of the people who thinks U.S. science is declining and should be fixed, then you should look at lack of appealing careers, not at problems with schools, as the root cause.

  • by hoggoth (414195) on Monday June 14, 2010 @03:44PM (#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 erroneus (253617) on Monday June 14, 2010 @03:45PM (#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 Anonymous Coward on Monday June 14, 2010 @03:48PM (#32569580)

    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.

    Wait, your stipend alone is earning you more than minimum wage would (which is 1500 BEFORE taxes in high minimum wage states, not after taxes). You owe less than 1000 bucks a year in fees and you get to attend a graduate level program at a decent school instead of busting your butt at some craphole, deadend job. Seriously dude, unless your books total around 10 grand a year, no one is going to cry for you. That is one sweet deal. Yeah I'd hate to try and raise a family on that, but get a sense of priorities and perspective man!

  • by N0Man74 (1620447) on Monday June 14, 2010 @03:52PM (#32569650)

    religious apologists aside.* By definition, faith is belief in something without evidence.

    I think it would be more accurate to say it is belief in something despite evidence to the contrary.

    More to the point, if evidence exists that is contrary to your belief, then the evidence obviously must be flawed. From that perspective, I think that modern politics is essentially a religion as well.

  • Re:Wage Gap (Score:4, Insightful)

    by Trepidity (597) <<gro.hsikcah> <ta> <todhsals-muiriled>> on Monday June 14, 2010 @03:55PM (#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.

  • by freejung (624389) * <webmaster@freenaturepictures.com> on Monday June 14, 2010 @03:58PM (#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 Anonymous Coward on Monday June 14, 2010 @03:59PM (#32569774)

    You're an idiot who disses Airbus for a bit more widespread usage in their products of fly-by-wire; while deluding yourself that flying Boeing will somehow "save" you from the wrath of computers (hint: their nes designs also rely on fly-by-wire; and BTW, were designed using mostly CATIA, a software perhaps not so much directly involved with Airbus, but certainly in the family). All while both manufacturers have practically identical safety record, human factor dominates, they're both built and certified to the same standards.

    What were you trying to say about science, faith, evidence and cozy feelings?

  • Re:Wage Gap (Score:3, Insightful)

    by CosaNostra Pizza Inc (1299163) on Monday June 14, 2010 @04:03PM (#32569830)
    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.
  • by The Spoonman (634311) on Monday June 14, 2010 @04:05PM (#32569856) Homepage
    That's interesting, can you give me a list of useful scientific accomplishments that rely on the Theory of Evolution?

    Yes: medicine.
  • The Real Gap (Score:5, Insightful)

    by mosb1000 (710161) <mosb1000@mac.com> on Monday June 14, 2010 @04:11PM (#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 fusiongyro (55524) <faxfreemosquito@yahoo. c o m> on Monday June 14, 2010 @04:15PM (#32569982) Homepage

    I'm getting really sick of having this debate.

    The answer is a definite yes. For two reasons. The most obnoxious one is that you're conflating two different things: religion and faith. Christianity is the only religion that conflates religion and belief. You can be Jewish without having faith. All you have to believe in to be Muslim is that there is no god but Allah and Mohammed is his prophet. Nothing in there about creation in seven days. Buddhists and Taoists would laugh at this debate.

    The second, and I think more important point is that you're ignoring history. Scientific inquiry was really initiated during our dark ages not by some island of enlightened atheists, but by Muslims living in tolerant Muslim empires. Their science got hamstrung essentially by a combination of factors including the fact that they couldn't study anatomy (it would require images of people). Then science took root, again, not in some atheist dreamworld, but in an extremely Catholic Europe.

    It is a fundamental idea in Judaism, Christianity and Islam that G-d created a universe that is comprehensible and that studying it is a form of praise. Religion, by and large, does not have a problem with science. Certain sects of Christianity may have a problem with it, but they are the tiny--but very vocal--minority. Positioning science as an epic battle between the religious and the atheist is probably the best way to ensure its irrelevance to the vast majority of humanity. So why bother? The best way to avoid a dark age is to avoid creating a false dichotomy and thus avoid an unpleasant war over feelings, which have no place in science anyway.

    Science and religion mix great. Literally, for over a thousand years. Get a grip. As you point out, there's no room for religion in scientific discovery, so why do you assholes insist on bringing it up?

  • This is a rediculously over-simplified misunderstanding of how society works. How do you propose "making" a job doing basic research? Research has to be funded, that's how it's done in our society. I'm afraid you're living in a fantasy world. This has nothing to do with anyone being "owed" a job. It has to do with setting priorities as a society. We've set up a system in which the priority is short term quarterly gains, and that's what we get. If you want a viable society in the long term, you have to invest in basic research.
  • by Squiffy (242681) on Monday June 14, 2010 @04:24PM (#32570120) Homepage

    Genetics and evolution are tied up together. Evolutionary theory has led to insights in genetics and vice versa. Any understanding based on genetics has evolutionary theory to thank as well.

  • by sznupi (719324) on Monday June 14, 2010 @04:24PM (#32570134) Homepage

    He said medicine, as an area of activity, not only "medicines" - not limiting myself the way you'd want is actually useful, because there's one striking example which can be brought up even by those who don't follow development of "medicines"
    http://www.tampabay.com/news/health/medicine/how-norway-beat-a-bad-bug/1062228 [tampabay.com]
    http://psychoanalystsopposewar.org/blog/2010/01/03/norway-prevents-resistant-infections-by-reducing-antibiotic-use/ [psychoanal...osewar.org]
    http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/health/3818277.stm [bbc.co.uk]
    (there was also a /. story IIRC; or really, just google "Norway antibiotics", "Norway MRSA", etc.)

  • Re:Don't we? (Score:3, Insightful)

    by burnin1965 (535071) on Monday June 14, 2010 @04:25PM (#32570162) Homepage

    It also doesn't help that we don't have a lot of hard science going on in business right now. Our current business environment emphasizes short-term growth over long-term growth, so scientific developments that don't lead to real gains within a few years are being somewhat ignored

    Has business ever been involved in hard science?

    Don't get me wrong, I'm not saying it isn't but it seems to me that throughout history the hard science has been researched by interested individuals or by publicly supported organizations with the goal of attaining and sharing knowledge and understanding not a profit.

    Business has been very good at converting hard science into hugely profitable enterprises with the objective of profit and thwarting the sharing of knowledge and understanding.

    I suspect that if the United States does end up going through a scientific and technological dark age it will be concluded that a contributing factor was the rabidly religious devotion to privatized capitalist free markets in everything. The problem being that privatized capitalist free market competition is not going to produce On the Nature of the Universe [wikipedia.org], Opticae Thesaurus [wikipedia.org], Principia Mathematica [wikipedia.org], Experimental Researches In Electricity [gutenberg.org], A dynamical theory of the electromagnetic field [wikipedia.org], Lorentz-Fitzgerald contraction [wikipedia.org], On the Electrodynamics of Moving Bodies [wikipedia.org], etc.

    The profit motive is only bringing us the ubiquitous technological gadget tied to a media outlet designed to keep the consumer titillated and enthralled. The masses have an illusion of being technologically advanced because they know which buttons to push. And sadly this same technology is being used in some cases to turn the masses against science.

  • Re:Don't we? (Score:4, Insightful)

    by Curunir_wolf (588405) on Monday June 14, 2010 @04:25PM (#32570170) Homepage Journal

    You speak like the modern age has had a fundamentally different attitude towards science.

    From what I'm told (I didn't live during that time, so I don't have firsthand knowledge), we used to have a government that strongly encouraged scientific research and development and considered it part of the greatness of our nation. Whether you consider it a problem with faith or with politics or with capitalism or education or whatever, I don't think you can say that about our relationship with science today.

    The political class is endangered by a properly educated populace, and keeping the educational system from actually educating people has been done deliberately. [deliberate...ngdown.com] I used to think it was just hyperbole, and the problems with the education system was simply an accident of incompetent administration, but I have come to realize it has been done on purpose. [eskimo.com]

    It's no wonder you can't find kids interested in pursuing a career in science the way it is presented in school these days.

  • by misexistentialist (1537887) on Monday June 14, 2010 @04:40PM (#32570426)

    train to clean toilets & mop floors. Those jobs aren't going away.

    When is the last time you saw a crew of charwomen on their knees scrubbing floors? They've been replaced by one guy with a mechanized carpet cleaner or floor buffer. In a few decades (maybe more depending on the supply of illegal workers) these devices will be fully robotic.

  • by FooAtWFU (699187) on Monday June 14, 2010 @04:40PM (#32570436) Homepage

    The thing is, the alternative to bringing smart sciency H1-B types into the country to work on research isn't just "hiring Americans to do the same jobs for more money".... the alternative generally involves more research operations going on overseas, where it's eeeven cheaper, and probably subject to fewer taxes.

    There's not really much you can do to stop it. We need to face the fact that people exist in countries outside the US and are perfectly willing to compete with Americans, and immigration controls in particular are a pretty lousy tool to prop up the wages of American scientists. (Trade controls, if you could do them right, miiight be a little more effective... but they have their own side-effects, and they matter less and less as other countries emerge on the world economic scene.)

  • Re:Wage Gap (Score:4, Insightful)

    by Dr.Dubious DDQ (11968) on Monday June 14, 2010 @04:42PM (#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...

  • Re:Don't we? (Score:3, Insightful)

    by Grishnakh (216268) on Monday June 14, 2010 @04:43PM (#32570480)

    Has business ever been involved in hard science?

    Yes: Bell Labs, Xerox PARC, various companies involved with the space program, IBM, etc.

    Also, semiconductor companies like Intel do a lot of physics work.

    Outside of that, not much. Generally, if the government isn't funding it, or if there isn't some giant company with a lot of extra cash to throw around, it's not going to happen unless there's an immediate demand for it (as there has been for ever-faster CPUs). The giant company thing (Bell Labs, PARC, and IBM) is mostly dead, however, because the stock market is very different from the way it was decades ago, and short-term profits are the only thing that's important, rather than long-term growth or dividends.

  • by scorp1us (235526) on Monday June 14, 2010 @04:43PM (#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 I(rispee_I(reme (310391) on Monday June 14, 2010 @04:46PM (#32570538) Journal

    ...without having faith. All you have to believe in to be Muslim is that there is no god but Allah and Mohammed is his prophet.

    For which there is no evidence, just like any other religious prerequisite.

    Buddhists and Taoists would laugh at this debate.

    Buddhists believe in the transmigration of souls, for which, again, there is no evidence.

    I understand that Taoism is not considered a religion, however, it seems to be such a mishmash of contradictions that it can be understood to say anything or nothing at all. In that spirit then, it is both completely compatible with science and entirely opposed to it- at the same time.

  • by Jawnn (445279) on Monday June 14, 2010 @05:06PM (#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 FooAtWFU (699187) on Monday June 14, 2010 @05:12PM (#32570946) Homepage

    You might be able to make a case with this in terms of basic unskilled labor. (I'd have to consult my personal labor economist before making an informed response.) But I don't really see how this works when we're talking about science. There's no steam-engine or robotic equivalent of the guy with a Ph.D. in molecular biology, at least that I'm aware of. And I don't think supercomputer-clusters really come close, either.

    The whole idea of research and science is scientific development. The idea that artificially raising the price of scientific development itself is somehow beneficial to scientific development seems silly, unless you're saying it will encourage us to develop scientific development itself (and I'd have to question whether there's even enough capacity to develop the efficacy of "science" to make up for the loss, and if so over what time frame.)

  • Re:Wage Gap (Score:3, Insightful)

    by sgt101 (120604) on Monday June 14, 2010 @05:20PM (#32571056)

    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, radiation sickness or sudden my head is on fire syndrome?
    - is every number bigger than 2 expressible as the sum of two primes?
    - how will feed modern populations (say 5 billion people, because if a billion die who will care - clue they won't be on CNN and wouldn't be in a gang called "the aryans" in prison) with the resources available in 50 years time, in particular with known energy generation and recovery systems and feasible sources of fertilization?
    - how would you land a human on Mars (clue, no current system can deliver a payload of the weight of a human with minimal life support without fatal deceleration)
    - how can we do computation of several orders of magnitude greater than current computation with available energy supplies?

    So - reconsider your educational position my friend.

  • by NeutronCowboy (896098) on Monday June 14, 2010 @05:21PM (#32571064)

    Robots are fuckin' boring.

    I found the Mars Rovers a million times more fascinating than the ISS. It might have had something to do with the Rovers actually doing stuff, rather than hanging out in space, swapping out CO2 scrubbers.

  • by demonbug (309515) on Monday June 14, 2010 @05:23PM (#32571102) Journal

    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 school career - most classes were taught out of current papers), and that leaves plenty for food, internet, and most important: beer money. Of course, it helped that I didn't have any undergrad debt to worry about. My wife managed to do all that and buy a new car her first year of grad school, fairly comfortably making the payments plus all the rest (it was a VW Golf GLS 1.8T which we still have, so not exactly a cheapo car either).

    I know a lot of people I went to grad school with also complained of not having enough money and barely scraping by; I could understand this if they had children to feed, or if they had some medical issue that cost a significant amount of money, but that never seemed to be the case. I guess some people just think it is living in poverty if you can't buy a 60-inch TV, a boat, and go on a European vacation every year.

  • by bsharma (577257) on Monday June 14, 2010 @05:38PM (#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.
  • by QuincyDurant (943157) on Monday June 14, 2010 @05:48PM (#32571468)
    That's true. Why do talented college students go to work instead of graduate school? To make money. Why do they need money? To get married. Why do they get married? QED.
  • Re:Wage Gap (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Kjella (173770) on Monday June 14, 2010 @05:50PM (#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:Wage Gap (Score:3, Insightful)

    by Trepidity (597) <<gro.hsikcah> <ta> <todhsals-muiriled>> on Monday June 14, 2010 @06:04PM (#32571734)

    I guess I'd like to see some sort of data on it, at least. Do companies that pay their salesmen more get better sales outcomes? The studies I've seen for executives point to "no": CEO pay has basically no correlation with company performance. Sales could well be different, but I'm not sure I'd believe it is without some convincing!

  • by oakgrove (845019) on Monday June 14, 2010 @06:12PM (#32571844)
    You're talking about 2 different things. The bugs descendants are what actually evolved the resistance. Whereas, in the case of yourself, you yourself "adapted".
  • What do we learn from this? That using cheap labor is short-termism at the expense of our development.

    To most people, "development" does not mean scientific advances. Far from it. Development means bigger economies and more profits. That's the metric we use to judge ourselves and our societies. Scientific research is generally an atomic "loss" and is thus regarded as at worst as a useless or regressive pursuit, and at best simply a tool used to promote profit.

    Nowadays astronomers are expected to justify "commerical" applications of their work. Astronomers. The one field that has consistently advanced humanities' knowledge, understanding and technologies and astronomers now have to show that they are "useful to business"; because anyone who isn't is in effect useless. The "science gap" is one in our culture; our way of thinking about human activity is currently literally centred almost completely on business. Even religion is placed into this mould.

    This is the age we live in. The age of commercialism. As distinct from even capitalism, where at least the capitalists of prior ages did see merit in other pursuits. Everything we do nowadays must be justified from the point of view of profit and loss, balance sheets, stock counts, portfolios, economic impacts, money and how it can make some for people who matter. Science does not and has never fit into this mould, with very few scientists engaged in research primarily for profit.

    I'll finish off by saying if you think the sciences have it bad, you should see what has happened to the humanities.

  • by couchslug (175151) on Monday June 14, 2010 @06:59PM (#32572424)

    "Robots are fuckin' boring."

    Robots are useful on earth and necessary in the utterly hostile environment of space, where humans "explore" nothing robots can't explore (at leisure, for longer, and vastly less money).

    Robots aren't boring to the right kind of person, and science doesn't need the other sort. Let them go watch football or wrasslin'.

  • Re:Don't we? (Score:3, Insightful)

    by quanticle (843097) on Monday June 14, 2010 @09:31PM (#32573712) Homepage

    Well, wasn't the solid-state transistor developed at Bell Labs, a business institution? I mean, sure, the transistor had practical application at the time - especially for miniaturizing amplifiers and the like, but it was still a fairly revolutionary discovery.

  • by Tablizer (95088) on Monday June 14, 2010 @11:51PM (#32574570) Homepage Journal

    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 income and stability per education time/money. Maybe to an overseas student, $40k a year without stability is mighty nice compared to their other options as a "visitor" from afar, but that is not the perspective of the American student. They are being driven out of sci/tech by better options in other fields. Love of the subject can only take you so far.
         

  • by ranton (36917) on Tuesday June 15, 2010 @06:38AM (#32576016)

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

    They wonder? Really? They're cheaper for the same or better results. Same reason everything is being offshored.

    I figured the real reason so many graduate students are foreign born was because our universities are still much better than those around the world. 95% of the people on this planet are born outside of the US, so it is little surprise that a large amount of the smartest people in the world (those who want to get educated at the best universities in the world) are also born outside of the US.

  • Re:Don't we? (Score:3, Insightful)

    by burnin1965 (535071) on Tuesday June 15, 2010 @11:15AM (#32578736) Homepage

    I noticed in a book I am reading, Schrödinger's Kittens [wikipedia.org], it mentions the work of scientists at Hamamatsu [hamamatsu.com] who published their work on the wave-particle duality of photons [google.com].

    So there are corporations involved in hard science.

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