2 articles in Nature this week highlight big issues in the academic scientific job market.
Do we have too many life science and biomedical PhD’s? Paul Smaglik discusses whether this is impacting employment of PhD’s, and also what is being done by NIH to address it.
Keith Micoli, chairman of the US National Postdoctoral Association in Washington DC, agrees that the existing academic-research set-up keeps postdocs dependent on their lab heads for increasingly longer periods. Controlling the supply of young scientists could help, he says, although he worries about unintended consequences. “My fear,” he says, “is that we would just weaken the US science pipeline.”
Why do PhD’s and PhD training programs ignore the fact that most PhD’s will not be able to have careers in academic research? Jessica Polka writes a facts-in-your-face article that describes how bad academic career outlooks are, as well as the reasons why most of us choose to ignore this fact. Polka also keenly points out that we need to educate ourselves about other career opportunities, take full advantage of our time in academic research (since it is likely temporary), and advocate for research with the hope of creating more academic positions (which can be dependent on funding).
We must actively explore all professional possibilities; simultaneously, we should advocate for strengthening the future of US science by making it a more attractive career choice. The catalyst for both these changes will be clear dissemination of information on training outcomes to students — and the sooner we start, the better.