Forgot your password?
typodupeerror
Biotech Education Medicine Science Technology

Too Many Biomedical Graduate Students, Not Enough Jobs 226

Posted by timothy
from the great-big-invisible-hand dept.
stillnotelf writes "ScienceInsider is covering a National Institutes of Health advisory committee report that details problems in the U.S. biomedical research workforce. Current policies encourage the training of large numbers of biomedical graduate students, as they are the cheapest labor available, but the research enterprise is not structured to absorb them into full-time scientist positions. The report's varied suggestions include removing graduate student funding from investigator-linked research grants (shifting it to institution-linked training grants instead) and encouraging the hiring of staff scientists as permanent lab members. This would reduce the number of trainees, but increase the proportion of trainees that maintain careers as researchers. ScienceInsider further notes that a National Research Council report 14 years ago noted a similar problem, but never motivated change."
This discussion has been archived. No new comments can be posted.

Too Many Biomedical Graduate Students, Not Enough Jobs

Comments Filter:
  • by Joe_Dragon (2206452) on Friday June 15, 2012 @11:05PM (#40341869)

    also get rid of unpiad and college only internships (paid or unpaid) We need to get rid of the idea of pay to work / work for free and pay full price for Credits.

    • by Anonymous Coward on Saturday June 16, 2012 @12:40AM (#40342245)

      Internships are such a fuzzy concept for most people. Among I.T. folks in particular, I've seen quite the battle cry lately for unpaid internships to be made flat-out illegal. That would be a foolish thing to do and here's why.

      Unpaid internships were originally conceived by universities so that the student could come into a company, get a bit of training, and see how the business works from the inside. The company is supposed to derive no benefit from having the intern there. I've worked in places that did this and this kind of experience is very valuable for the student because it gives them a glimpse of the "real world" and hopefully informs their career choices.

      Paid internships, in contrast, do have the intern doing real entry-level work and, for the most part, has all of the responsibilities of an employee.

      Any company which brings in unpaid interns and has them doing actual work which directly or indirectly benefits the company is probably operating outside the law in most states. Any states which do not expressly prohibit this need to have their citizens stand up and make it so, but with the reason and clear-mindedness to not just make all unpaid internships flat-out illegal as you would propose.

      • by ATMAvatar (648864) on Saturday June 16, 2012 @01:00AM (#40342333) Journal

        The crux of the issue with allowing unpaid internships that provide nothing of value to the company and paid internships which do is this: prove the intern's work provided value. If a record company or Hollywood studio can bill a blockbuster success as somehow a multi-million dollar loss, you can bet that any company that wants to exploit unpaid interns will easily be able to "prove" that they got nothing of value.

        The distinction between the two works just fine in an environment with mature adults, but the business world is a bunch of two-year-olds screaming "mine!".

        • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

          by mysidia (191772)

          you can bet that any company that wants to exploit unpaid interns will easily be able to "prove" that they got nothing of value.

          Hang on... if the unpaid intern provided nothing of value; it would be irrational for the company to have brought them on in the first place.

          Obviously companies do get something value. Free contributions to anything that the company does, or free contribution to development of anything the company will use is a benefit.

          It makes perfect sense for the governmetn prohibit not

      • but for IT students could come into a company with out having to be part of a universities open it to all / tech schools / ETC.

        AS CS is not IT and 4 years is a long time in the class room for IT work when it should be a apprenticeship.

        But some places want to have Information Technology Internships with up to 12 weeks long full time with NO PAY.

    • by DaveGod (703167) on Saturday June 16, 2012 @08:11AM (#40343501)

      also get rid of unpiad and college only internships (paid or unpaid) We need to get rid of the idea of pay to work / work for free and pay full price for Credits.

      Hmm. I work in an accounting practice, we occasionally get "interns" of two kinds.

      Firstly, people who are in the break between high school and university, or who are considering a career change. The folks are mainly looking to see what it's like. There's also an element of being able to put study into some context and have an edge in future interviews. Employers feel like they're taking a gamble on someone who has no idea what the work is like, or what they're getting into, so it's a significant advantage. They are what I consider an internship is supposed to be about.

      These folks are usually in for about a month and it's unpaid. It does feel like a tough month of hard work for them, because it's all new and we give them a taste of a range of things. The firm's pretty good about that actually; at the time it's daunting for the intern but it is exactly what they were hoping for and need.

      What they're not doing though is producing anything of value. Sure they'll complete things, like a bank reconciliation, but they'll take maybe a day to do it. As the senior it'd take me about an hour to do the same thing myself, and I'll have spent at least that hour showing them what to do and then another hour checking it and bringing it up to standard for the file. Yes, per unit of productivity, interms end up a hell of a lot more expensive than seniors. It looks like work, feels like work, but it isn't contributing anything. What they're doing is basically a college exercise, just in a practical setting and without having to pay for the one-to-one tuition. It would actually be more efficient for the firm to treat it more explicitly like that i.e. give them photocopies and put what they do in the trash while I do the real work for the file, but it's important to convey the sense that they're contributing to the file, to a real-world thing that has importance, ramifications, standards, is part of a larger project... After all they didn't come here to do an exercise out of a textbook.

      Unpaid interns are very expensive in my time. They get a very good return for their time investment. That's probably why all the interns I've seen have either been kids of clients, or someone making a career change who would be an obvious asset if they do decide the work is for them and join the firm. To be fair, that's probably also the reason the interns are getting such good value, I have heard of other firms who basically sit them down and make them do the photocopying or churn through bank recs non-stop, so they are producing value and overall saving time/cost of paid staff whilst getting very little of value from it.

      The second kind were university students in the summer break. We've not done these for a few years now. They're paid not that much less than the juniors and for their 4-6 weeks they'll basically be new juniors. In other words horribly inefficient. Unlike juniors though, they go back to uni well before they become productive enough to return the training investment. It's basically a write off for the firm just on the prospect that maybe they'll come back after graduation, maybe if they go into industry they'll maybe put our name down when their employer tenders for a new accountant. I suspect the partners also used to think they were kind of getting some temps in during the busy season, but have cottoned on to the reality that they're a time-sink with a net burden on staff when things are already insanely busy. Maybe if they were unpaid and thus had a zero chargeout rate they might just about be worth it, but I doubt it and the partners do not consider that to be acceptable behaviour.

      There's one thing that makes me certain in my assessment above. When we do get an intern, if we're in the off-season folks who aren't busy are interested in the interns, it's fun being tutor. But if busy, all the seniors and

  • No job outside school? Stay in and continue to work for peanuts while paying tuition.

    The economy needs more post-doc students!

    • by Lemmy Caution (8378) on Friday June 15, 2012 @11:36PM (#40342001) Homepage

      This society needs more income equality and public services, so there's less panicked rushing from one sector of the labor market to another.

      • by roman_mir (125474)

        Wrong. This society needs more savings, investments and actual jobs that can be created with those savings and investments, which means it needs free market in price discovery, it needs free market in labour, it needs free market in business, it needs free market in money, it needs to see government sector shrink to pre 1913 levels, that's what it needs.

        No amount of 'income equality' can ratify the fact that nothing is produced in USA anymore (and most of the Europe is in the same position).

    • by sqrt(2) (786011) on Saturday June 16, 2012 @12:26AM (#40342181) Journal

      Economy be damned. We know how to fix it, we just choose to prioritize other things like tolerance for huge wealth inequality, low taxes, and lack of regulation.

      Turning the issue around and looking at it from the other direction; it would be hard to make the case that our civilization would be worse off with more highly educated individuals, regardless of their "economic" usefulness. Man does not exist to serve the economy, the economy exists to serve man and enable the nobler pursuits of humanity beyond the daily struggle for mere existence.

      • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

        by phantomfive (622387)

        we just choose to prioritize other things like ..... low taxes

        Everyone wants low taxes, mate. That's not a class struggle thing.

        And for that matter, does it really bother you so much if someone has more wealth than you?

        • by sqrt(2) (786011) on Saturday June 16, 2012 @03:20AM (#40342813) Journal

          Aye, we all want low taxes, but those who have the most to potentially "lose" want low taxes most of all. They've figured out they can use a fraction of their wealth to lobby for protection of the rest of it.

          And I only start to care about other people having more wealth than I when so many have so much more that it starts to cause problems in my society. Some inequality is doubtless necessary as a motivating factor, but we are so far beyond what is necessary. The cost of maintaining our current levels of inequality are great.

          The last and most ironic victim might be capitalism itself, if inequity is allowed to persist too long at too high a level. Every business needs customers, and customers need to have money to spend. Think of the implications of every year there being less customers with less money to spend because too much wealth has accumulated at the top. The entire system eventually becomes too top heavy to stand, and collapses. We're probably still a fair ways off from that happening, but I believe we're closer than most people are willing to admit.

          We are certainly close enough that we should be having serious discussions on what to do about it, what the future economy might look like. We're not even doing that. No one is seriously discussing a possible future where selling your labor for money to live is the norm, despite the fact that every year it becomes harder and harder to do so.

          • by sqrt(2) (786011)

            Forgive me for replying to my own post but I made a typo which completely changed the meaning of the last sentence. It should read,

            No one is seriously discussing a possible future where selling your labor for money to live is not the norm, despite the fact that every year it becomes harder and harder to do so.

          • The person who wins is going to be the one who says he can lift all boats, improve everyone's state. The person who loses will be the one who implies, "I'm jealous of that guy because he has more than me." The person who sounds like the Ron-Paul-Crazy of the left will be the one who claims capitalism will collapse.

            Except in California. In California, the person who wins will be the who who provides more government services while simultaneously reducing taxes. We're kind of schizophrenic.
        • And for that matter, does it really bother you so much if someone has more wealth than you?

          Look at Central/South America, like Panama, Columbia, etc. While there is a lot of visible homelessness, abject poverty, etc. in the US, the numbers aren't nearly as bad as other American countries, yet.

          Statistically, being born in the US, you still have a better than even chance of being able to go to college if you choose to, of being able to afford a house of a little land of your own, if you choose to. In Panama, that chance falls to a very small percentage.

          I don't mind wealth inequality, I do mind bi

          • Are you trying to make the point that we should help out central/south america?
          • Exactly, social mobility, the ability to work your way to the top (The American Dream I guess), is the important thing. Wealth inequality is simply an indicator that social mobility is not high enough, for if it were the wealth gap would be smaller.
        • In the USofA, "mate" we had a major urban bridge collapse at rush hour see http://bit.ly/LczZaG [bit.ly], the entirety of America's public infrastructure is at the point of failure due to the myth that high taxes on the rich and corporations are bad (no public money for maintenance), in fact when our taxes were at the highest was when America was the most prosperous country in the world!

          It was after the long assault on taxing the wealthy and big business that the US began it's slow decline!

          • No doubt, because bridges collapse, it's ok to be a jealous guy. Your logic is impeccable.
          • Did you read the Wikipedia article? The bridge WAS being maintained. So next time at least choose an incident that supports your point..........
      • Economy be damned. We know how to fix it, we just choose to prioritize other things like tolerance for huge wealth inequality, low taxes, and lack of regulation.

        Grecian attitude much?

      • by tomhath (637240)

        it would be hard to make the case that our civilization would be worse off with more highly educated individuals, regardless of their "economic" usefulness

        No, not hard at all. We as a society reward what is useful to us. A certain amount of biomedical research is valuable and we fund it; but after it reaches a certain level the value (and hence the reward) drops off. Obviously it wouldn't serve us to have 95% of the workforce doing biomedical research while we all starve to death because there aren't any farmers, you need to draw the line somewhere.

      • by roman_mir (125474)

        We know how to fix it

        - obviously. To fix the economy it would take this:

        1. Shut down most of government offices, shut down departments that didn't exist prior to 1913, all of them.

        2. Stop all wars, bring all troops home, shut down all foreign military bases.

        3. Stop all SS and Medicare payments, if somebody truly can't survive, bring them to the welfare program, that's what SS and Medicare are anyway, their 'taxes' are not real, they are not appropriated for those purposes, they are used for other things, so it's all the same.

    • Psssht. You missed the latest conservatard meme that scientists are only doing it FOR TEH GRANTS. Haven't you heard that by grant-whoring you get to drive a Porsche with complimentary bitches to snort coke out of their navels? Or does that only apply to climatology? I am confused these days....
      • by toriver (11308)

        Yeah, the multi-millonaires doing climate research are clearly being bullies towards the poor, downtrodden industry of mom-n-pop oil companies.

  • by neurocutie (677249) on Friday June 15, 2012 @11:21PM (#40341935)
    The report cited is quite thoughtful and accurate in identifying trends, inefficiencies and recommends important solutions. Unfortunately the bulk of them cannot be implemented while maintaining US biomedical research excellence without a greater infusion of funds from Congress -- the system is the way it is partly because the research community is already being seriously squeezed for funding. If the Repubs/Romney have their way (Mitt has talked about a 20-30% slashing of NIH funding), then it really doesn't matter, as the whole system is headed for collapse and the US will truly fall behind and lose a decade or two at the least. The report is correct in looking at trends that span a decade, but even 4 years of a slashed budget would seriously cripple the system and drive away top talent. It is already happen even with the current NIH funding situation (very poor, less than 10% chance for any grant application to be funded).
    • Re: (Score:2, Informative)

      by Anonymous Coward

      While this is also true, the current system is completely unsustainable unless the funding basically increases exponentially, which is never going to happen. The problem is that for each faculty (each lab), you typically have ~4 postdocs and ~4 PhD students at a time... so after 5 years, you've gone from needing 1 faculty position to 5. If they each get jobs, after another 5 years you're up to 25 positions... unless funding (and, equally as importantly, university positions/space) is going to increase expon

      • by Ruie (30480)

        While this is also true, the current system is completely unsustainable unless the funding basically increases exponentially, which is never going to happen. The problem is that for each faculty (each lab), you typically have ~4 postdocs and ~4 PhD students at a time... so after 5 years, you've gone from needing 1 faculty position to 5. If they each get jobs, after another 5 years you're up to 25 positions... unless funding (and, equally as importantly, university positions/space) is going to increase exponentially, it eventually falls apart.

        It's exactly the same training problem as other fields (law, medicine) in that you're constantly training more people than there are current positions... except that in those fields if you really can't find a position, you can go open your own practice. In biomedicine, that's nearly impossible - any serious research lab is going to require a significant amount of funding and resources that you basically can't get outside the university/grant system, and it's very difficult to do a biomedical startup without having a prototype already existing (since it's biology, and the failure rate is high simply because we don't understand enough about most systems yet to know what will work and what won't without actually testing it).

        There is a flaw in your argument - the population of United States is growing much more slowly. So at some point everyone will be trained. Wouldn't that be nice ?

  • Within the umbrella of biomedicine, there are vastly different job outlooks. Some areas can't hire post-docs and staff scientists fast enough. Others can't afford to pay anyone other than a grad student (who works for less than minimum wage in most cases).
    • by Anonymous Coward on Saturday June 16, 2012 @12:52AM (#40342291)

      Some areas can't hire post-docs and staff scientists fast enough.

      Really? Which ones? Do tell.

      I'm on my second post-doc in bioinformatics - and I had to move to Asia just to get that. Many nights I'm literally awake at 3am wondering how I'm going to feed my family when my current contract runs out.

      In a couple years, sequencing a human genome is going to cost $1,000 (or less) and millions of people will have genome sequences to be analyzed. Ideally, I'd get a job writing software for (medical) genome analysis. But there's only so much of that kind of software that's really needed and lots of young hotshots looking to prove themselves. So realistically that's a long shot.

      In a few years most major hospitals will probably have bioinformatics departments to analyze genome sequence (like radiology departments to analyze x-rays) so maybe I could find something there. But then this morning I was thinking maybe I could go back to school and get a masters in genetic counseling.

      So, anyway, if you actually know where the biomedical jobs are, I'd love to know. It sure would be great not to have to worry quite so much about how I'm going to feed my family

      • Try Canada? I keep hearing from my supervisors and senior coworkers here that every bioinformatician they've ever known has gone on to great things and is making a hundred thousand at some hospital somewhere.
    • by mcelrath (8027) on Saturday June 16, 2012 @01:33AM (#40342447) Homepage

      No way, "biomedical" is far too narrow. These recommendations are valid across all the sciences. I think the solution is simple: abolish post-docs (fixed-term contracts for scientists), and reduce the number of grants for grad students, replacing both with "permanent scientist" jobs. We've created an indentured underclass of scientists who have neither the job stability, nor funding to actually do science. Instead they're beholden to the latest shiny object everyone else is fascinated by, because that's what will get them the next post-doc. The entire system is organized around training professors, not doing science. Like any field with 10 times more applicants than jobs, the primary activity becomes culling the herd, not selecting the best science. As any professor will tell you, it's about finding ways to veto candidates, not selecting the best one. So we end up with everyone playing follow the leader, and searching for ever low-hanging fruit, and no one in all of science is in a position to make a long-term commitment to pursue a difficult idea.

      Yeah, grad students and post-docs are cheap, but they can't actually do science. They're our best and brightest, and we only allow them to do other people's science. You better hope that the PI with 10 minutes today to think about his project between meetings has the right idea. Because, you know, people with 10 minutes between meetings are the best ones to think deeply about things and decide the best course of action. We'd be better off if we inverted the hierarchy in science. We need to give people in their late 20's and early 30's the majority of the power in the field, because that's when our minds are sharpest, and we are most capable. Hire them into permanent positions, and promote from within instead of heavily recruiting from outside.

      • We need to give people in their late 20's and early 30's the majority of the power in the field, because that's when our minds are sharpest, and we are most capable.

        Nuh-uh. People in their 20's and early 30's don't have families and mortgages, THAT's what makes them more capable. While older guys have more experience and nagging wives and children. So...

        Let's make scientists sign a contract that they can't marry or procreate, and in return the university gives them a free house with a housekeeper an

      • by tgibbs (83782)

        Yeah, grad students and post-docs are cheap, but they can't actually do science. They're our best and brightest, and we only allow them to do other people's science.

        My experience is that graduate students don't know how to do their own science when they begin. It takes quite a bit of practical experience to conceptualize a research project. When asked to come up with an original proposal, they come up with something that is either derivative of their mentor's work or work they have read, or else vague and

  • by hemp (36945) on Friday June 15, 2012 @11:22PM (#40341943) Homepage Journal

    Seriously, H1-b visas are being used to bring over more scientist.

  • by virb67 (1771270) on Friday June 15, 2012 @11:38PM (#40342007)
    This is true for most professions today in the U.S.. When the U.S. exported its manufacturing industry, vaporizing millions of well-paying blue collar jobs in the U.S., the middle class was told that these jobs would be replaced by even higher paying white collar or "creative" jobs for everyone--you just had to educate yourself. Well, people listened, and they educated themselves, and now they're finding out that they were sold a big fat bucket of bullshit. Just ask any recent law grad, or architecture grad, or marketing grad, or, yeah, bio-med grad. There just aren't enough of these professional jobs to replace the ones we've lost. There never was and there never will be.
    • by RightwingNutjob (1302813) on Friday June 15, 2012 @11:49PM (#40342035)
      Nope. Too many people were told "educate yourself" and heard "go to college and get a degree in underwater basketweaving." That's problem 1. Problem 2 is a persistent cultural cancer in academia that declares and academic job as the only kind of job there is. Maybe the problem is worse in the squishier sciences, but in engineering, you can't simultaneously have "not enough highly qualified candidates" for jobs that typically start at 70k+ and a glut of PhD's unless those PhD's restrict their jobs search to academia where tenure track positions are nearly nonexistent and post-doc the pay tops out at 50k. The solution isn't to change the funding model, it's to make students aware of the fact that the world doesn't begin and end at the borders of campus.
      • by artor3 (1344997) on Saturday June 16, 2012 @12:31AM (#40342197)

        It's not just a cultural problem on the job-seekers' side. Ever hear of the phrase "over-qualified"?

        If someone with a PhD applies for an entry level job in engineering, their resume is likely to get round filed.

        • by AthanasiusKircher (1333179) on Saturday June 16, 2012 @12:58AM (#40342323)

          Ever hear of the phrase "over-qualified"?

          THIS. A person with a Ph.D. -- whether it's in biomedical science, philosophy, or English literature -- is generally viewed by employers as a "researcher." If a person with such a Ph.D. applies for any non-research job (academic or not), he will have to convince interviewers that (1) he won't cost too much, (2) he won't be bored and is actually interested in the job, (3) he's not going to bolt for a better job the minute he can find one, etc. Often it's hard to even get an interview, since potential employers assume that you're just not going to be a good fit.

          Same goes for someone with a 4-year degree applying for a job that only requires a high-school diploma. etc.

          There are those jokes about philosophy Ph.D.'s working at McDonald's or waiting tables, but the reality is that overqualified people often have significant trouble landing a position unless it's low enough to be considered "temp level" or the kind of thing that high school kids do part-time.

          Yes, many will eventually convince an employer to take a chance on an "overqualified" candidate, and they can then work their way up to a reasonable salary. But I know young people who have multiple master's degrees and years of experience, but have ended up out of work for well over a year waiting for a reasonable job to come along -- and by "reasonable," I mean something that would at least put them into the equivalent of an entry level position for a bachelor's degree in their field (or, frankly, any related field).

          For Ph.D.'s, the stigma tends to be worse. Looking outside of academia is fine, but trying for professional jobs outside of high-level research is often quite difficult.

          • The fuckup starts with "HR"-drones looking at exactly what you have done before. I got a bloody PhD in my field, I can do whatever the fuck comes up. I proved it. Throw me into some field of research and development, I read the literature in my spare time, and I do the shit you want. Well, in reality, I got rejections because I was a NMR spectroscopy guy, and you really do not need that in toxicology. Also, I do not now Saudi-Arabian laws regarding the licensing of pharmaceuticals. Human resources guys, FUC
          • by Nidi62 (1525137)
            I can agree with this. I have a Master's degree, and being a single guy atm (I know, a single guy on Slashdot, shocker) I am willing to work for right around $30,000 starting off. What really frustrates me is, if I meet (or even exceed) the job qualifications and am willing to work for the advertised salary, why the hell should it even matter if I'm overqualified? Anyone with the skills necessary and the willingness to do the job should be considered. The overqualified person might even be a better empl
        • PhD in biochemistry, decent publication history, worked at some of the most prestigious institutions in the field. 10 months unemployment after graduation. Job applications coming back with either "overqualified" or "underqualified". Now working at a patent law firm. I will happily volunteer as a member of the firing squad come the revolution.....
      • by Brannoncyll (894648) on Saturday June 16, 2012 @01:01AM (#40342339)
        There are other aspects of academic jobs that many scientists (such as myself) value more than the salary. I could quite easily leave and work for a finance company as a quantitative analyst, earning 3 or 4 times my current salary, and many in my position do just that, but in doing so I would have to give up my freedom to pursue my ideas to go work for someone else. I enjoy my job too much for that.
        • Re: (Score:2, Interesting)

          by Anonymous Coward

          I could quite easily leave and work for a finance company as a quantitative analyst, earning 3 or 4 times my current salary, and many in my position do just that, but in doing so I would have to give up my freedom to pursue my ideas to go work for someone else. I enjoy my job too much for that.

          Bullshit. This is what people tell themselves because a friend-of-a-friend got hired at a bank in the early 90's. Fire an application off to Goldman Sachs and tell them you've worked in academia all your life, and now you've decided you would like to make 300K. You can tell them about all the "high impact papers" you (i.e. students who have worked for you) have written. Maybe mention you've heard of Black–Scholes. I'm sure they'll be kicking down your door.

  • Masters or PhD? There's a big difference. Biomedical science and engineering usually require advanced degrees and as much experience as possible. This is something that a PhD does a lot better than a Master's. It's not like computer science or mechanical engineering where you can just get a Master's and get a regular job. There just aren't that many jobs like that in the biomedical field (at least as far as I know, maybe someone can confirm or correct me).

  • by ph0rk (118461) on Friday June 15, 2012 @11:51PM (#40342051)
    are nearly entirely made by people who don't know what they are talking about?

    This is a real problem in all of the sciences. The biomedical sciences have had the best money for a long time, and if they are beginning to have problems, it isn't good.

    For those not in the know: grad students are slave labor. postdocs are a notch better, but only barely. Remember how Gordon Freeman was treated in the intro to half-life? Consider that a documentary.
    • by artor3 (1344997) on Saturday June 16, 2012 @12:33AM (#40342219)

      How is it that all the comments thus far are nearly entirely made by people who don't know what they are talking about?

      Welcome to Slashdot!

    • Nobody wants to admit it but slashing funding for postdocs is the right answer. Right now it's so easy to get a postdoc job that professors consider themselves a success if their students get a postdoc position. meanwhile, if you're supervising a postdoc who can't get a tenure-track appointment, it's considered "moving on to the industry" and no big deal.

      If we cut funding for postdocs, this has several benefits. 1) the bottleneck is moved to the grad student level, and fewer grad students will apply; 2) those who would have left academia after their 3rd postdoc wind up wasting less of their life at low pay; 3) the lack of slave labor will cause us professors to actually do the fucking research ourselves rather than being remote grant writing machines as some of my esteemed colleagues have become; 4) more tenure-track jobs will be created from the savings if the grant system adapts by turning into UK style block grants which fund entire departments rather than (often competing) individuals.

      • by neurocutie (677249) on Saturday June 16, 2012 @02:26AM (#40342637)
        Slashing postdoc funding may reduce grad students and training, but is that the real goal here? The goal that I'm interested in is doing the most research and gaining the most understanding about biology, science, etc, etc. Postdocs in fact are the MOST PRODUCTIVE workers in research in terms of research output -- they are much cheaper than faculty, they are well-trained and do what they are doing in the lab, they don't have to worry about grants, admin, teaching, etc. The most productive labs are the ones that have the most postdocs. And from the point of view of the individual, one's BEST YEARS are the postdoc years, for these same reasons.

        so if the goal is reducing trainees, fine, slash way. But if you actually want research RESULTS and productivity, you need to insure a healthy and plentiful stream of well-trained postdocs.

        if anything, the LEAST effective people in the chain are the SENIOR faculty, they are the most expensive and do the least research. Cut there if you want to cut something... (which I don't, I'd rather cut bombs and missles... its ridiculous that the monies we are talking about saving and slashing amount to a couple of bombs and missles...)

      • by Trepidity (597)

        That's basically the recommendation in the report.

        They propose basically two things:

        1. Increasing the percentage of NIH money that funds permanent positions, versus PhD and postdoc stipends; and

        2. Shift the funding of PhD students and postdocs away from PI-controlled project money. Instead, have more of the money allocated towards competitive fellowships that PhD students and postdocs can apply for, where they'll be paid directly from the NIH and not tied to a funded project.

  • System is rotten (Score:4, Interesting)

    by Anonymous Coward on Saturday June 16, 2012 @12:01AM (#40342073)

    As the boyfriend of a neuroscience postdoc I'm often baffled at how broken this system has become. Many scientific reports are false or suffer serious problems that are never revealed because the level of competition created by the squeezed grant funding has made a an incorrect hypothesis a career ending disaster. The work load is really high too. Labs have Saturday mandatory work hours and 11-12 hour work days during the week. All this with a 40k salary and limited benefits. Surely the brain is poorly enough understood that there's plenty of room for research. The system as it is, with so much bad research out there by scientists who were afraid of abandoning their hypothesis and watching their career disintegrate, is fully rotten. I'm convinced radical changes are necessary for it to offer any benefit to society at all.

  • by pesho (843750) on Saturday June 16, 2012 @12:27AM (#40342187)
    If you read the recommendations they are not aimed at reducing the number of PhDs in training. They are aimed at reducing the training time for biomedical PhDs to about 5 years with stated maximum of 6. This is stupid on several levels:

    1. We need to train a lot less PhDs in biomedical sciences. Reducing the training period will only mean that we will train more PhDs not less. There aren't enough jobs to absorb all the PhD's trained in US. Most of the graduates that stay in the field compete for jobs that would require only MSc degree. Quite a large number of graduates end up with jobs that have little to do heir training (sales reps, etc).The whole biomedical jobs field is a pyramid with a broad base of grad students and post docs and veri narrow tip of academic and high skill industry jobs.

    2. Putting artificial limits on the training period will reduce the quality of the training. The reason why a PhD degree takes 6,7 or more years is that it requires peer review journal publications and the bar on these has rapidly risen in the past years. Such publications require in depth studies, often involving animal models or clinical data that take years to generate and analyze.

    It would make more sense to re-purpose graduate programs to training MSc and then offer the opportunity to those students who are passionate about science to pursue PhDs. Strangely, I don't see any estimates in the report on the projected numbers of jobs requiring PhDs or the carriers undertaken by PhD graduates.

    • The recs, if implemented, would actually have a huge dampening effect on numbers of grad students, both directly and indirectly...

      - rec to reduce or prohibit grad student funding on research grants, shifting them to training grants. There is NO WAY that the numbers of slots on training grants, even if you quadrupled those grants, would amount to even just 5% of the numbers of grad students paid off of research grants. This rec would slashing the numbers of grad students (and graduate programs), by at least

  • Thanks (Score:5, Insightful)

    by cratermoon (765155) on Saturday June 16, 2012 @12:40AM (#40342243) Homepage

    THANK YOU!

    Every time I read another article or book about how we need more STEM education in schools I want to pull my hair out and scream "HOW ABOUT SOME FUCKING JOBS THAT PAY?"

    Let's be honest, getting a degree in the sciences, math, or technology is hard. It takes dedication right from an early age in school where science and math studies are bastardized by political interests that insist on BS like "teaching the controversy", and even if you can get a good education, those interests play second fiddle to athletics and prom night.

    Then you go into college where you get weed-out classes and tons of labs that cost a lot of additional money over tuition, books, and room and board.

    After *that*, if you have the dedication, you do graduate work for an advanced degree and possibly post-doc work.

    After all that, *if* you can find a job, you get paid for a year's work about what a Wall Street broker makes during the time he's sitting on the toilet taking a dump, and forget about tenure-track educational positions, those are rarer than hen's teeth in the 21st century.

    I'm not done yet -- if you do manage to go though all that, you end up a field where the very basis of your work - the scientific method and things like evolution and global warming - are just punching bags to idiot politicians who won't hesitate to destroy your reputation and career if your findings don't square with their personal fantasies.

    If the US is serious about science, math and technology, they'll stop harping about needing more education and start paying attention to revitalizing the field's job prospects and respectability.

    • by lbbros (900904)

      After all that, *if* you can find a job, you get paid for a year's work about what a Wall Street broker makes during the time he's sitting on the toilet taking a dump

      Sorry for the bluntness, but so what? I'm only worried about my pay if it doesn't give me enough to have a reasonable standard of life. Why should I be envious of my other peers?

      • by Rich0 (548339)

        I imagine he'd feel differently if his peer was just that much more intelligent, or posessed some particular talent/skill that he did not. However, the only difference seems to be a different career choice.

        Also, if you can't find a job at all, then chances are you aren't going to have a reasonable standard of life.

        The reason nobody is studying STEM is that it requires a lot of talent to begin with, a great deal of dedication, and in the end leads to not all that much compensation. Why bother?

    • by Mashiki (184564)

      If the US is serious about science, math and technology, they'll stop harping about needing more education and start paying attention to revitalizing the field's job prospects and respectability.

      Let's be honest okay? The US does need to be serious about it, but it's already at the saturation point. With too many people, and not enough positions. Or positions in other areas where they're importing people from other countries. Or where they're simply importing cheap labor(yay h1b?). Some people would be better off just getting a trade.

  • by MacTO (1161105) on Saturday June 16, 2012 @12:52AM (#40342287)

    ... a backlash against education. Schools have been training too many people for certain disciplines for decades, but it seems as though they are now training too many people for all disciplines. In some cases, there are 10 people holding a degree in a field for every job opening. Not only are those other 9 people looking for work out of their field, they are often stuck with minimum wage jobs, over four years of lost income, and their career is set back over four years.

    So what are these graduates going to end up telling their children?

    • by DesScorp (410532)

      ... a backlash against education.

      I think there's almost certainly going to be a backlash against college in general... and that's good and long overdue. The "all kids should go to college" idea has resulted in too many students in too many colleges with too many dollars being shoveled into a bubble that might equal the housing bubble. And as STEM is hard, few kids choose it, opting for easier majors, relying on the old myth that simply waving their diploma will get them a good job. Thousands of social sciences, ethnic/gender studies, and h

      • by Rich0 (548339)

        When the Higher Ed bubble bursts, it's gonna be something to see. If it's anything like the housing or tech bubbles in scale, expect a lot of schools to shut their doors... and many of them will be longstanding colleges you'd think immune.

        I'm not sure about this.

        Don't get me wrong - I agree with virtually everything else you've written. However, why would the bubble collapse affect colleges? I'd expect it to impact the colleges about as much as the mortgage bubble affected banking executives.

        Who lost out on the mortgage bubble? If you owned a home you lost out since it got devalued. If you loaned somebody money for a home you lost out since they won't pay you back $400k for a house that is only worth $300k. If you build homes then you m

    • by timeOday (582209)
      What alternative is there? Go straight into the servant sector? (Oops I meant service sector.)
  • There are clearly too few jobs for the STEM field majors who graduate, but those who want cheaper labor have a much louder mouthpiece for their viewpoint. The media loves to compare the scores of every single 12th grader in the US to those select few in other countries who are going on to an engineering school, and then talk about how terrible we are doing in math. The comparisons are ridiculous.

  • According to the US Bureau of Labor Statistics, Biomedical Engineering [bls.gov] is one of the fastest growing occupations and has a median income of over $80,000. I think that this NIH study, which was run mainly by people in academia, doesn't fully account for the jobs in industry.
  • by sociocapitalist (2471722) on Saturday June 16, 2012 @04:21AM (#40342983)

    Maybe these smart, hardworking people should think of going into business then, instead of working for someone else. There seems to be no shortage of investment money available for people with ideas.

  • I came from an academic family - my dad has a PhD in Genetics from a fancy New England university.

    He made it very clear to me that selecting that route would be a life of poverty and to only do it if that was very clear in my head.. (this was in the 80's).

    I have a BSc. in Electrical Engineering; it was the most practical way in and out of academia I could find that would leave me with a long-term credible degree. Multivariable complex calculus isn't getting any easier. My entire career I set aside my own ti

"A great many people think they are thinking when they are merely rearranging their prejudices." -- William James

Working...