The explanation is rather simple: Scientists are more broadly in line ideologically with the Democratic Party. But there are two other factors that are accelerating the trend. First, the increasing extremism of the Republican Party, and its fealty to the donor class has led it to embrace positions outside the mainstream. Second, both the GOP base and legislators take an increasingly antagonistic view of science and scientists. Their work to delegitimize science raises deep concerns about the ability of academics to influence important public debates.
If you haven’t seen the twitter hashtag #RuinADateWithAnAcademicInFiveWords – you should check it out! It is hilarious… and mostly true! Especially if you are an academic, someone who is dating an academic, or someone who wants to date an academic!! Info about the hashtag here by Steve Kolowich. Shout out to my friend Becky for sending me this article – she also sends it to first dates prior to meeting them.
In hundreds of tweets, clear themes have emerged. Apparently, a sure way to kill the mood is to speak admiringly of astrology, Fox News, homeopathic medicine, The History Channel, or Malcolm Gladwell. Disavowals of coffee, evolution, and Oxford commas might not play well, either. And God help you if you suggest that academics get to “take summers off.”
Check out the OpenScience article written by Diego Gomez, the Colombian master’s student who faces 4-8 years in prison for sharing an academic article over the internet with fellow researchers and students (a Master’s thesis).
I urge institutions that support research with public funds to encourage their recipients to publish their results in a way that assures equal access to information. Moreover, I call for researchers to back open access, in this way, we support the mitigation of inequality of science in our countries, we stay away from the illegality in the access to information, we can turn our research into an engine for development in our countries, and above all we will avoid that no other person like me, sees themselves involved in weary penal processes. Finally, I call to legislators and the managers of public policies, to cast their eye onto authors’ rights, because this situation can turn a scientist into a criminal.
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.