July 8, 2012

HIGHER EDUCATION BUBBLE UPDATE: U.S. pushes for more scientists, but the jobs aren’t there.

Michelle Amaral wanted to be a brain scientist to help cure diseases. She planned a traditional academic science career: PhD, university professorship and, eventually, her own lab.

But three years after earning a doctorate in neuroscience, she gave up trying to find a permanent job in her field. Dropping her dream, she took an administrative position at her university, experiencing firsthand an economic reality that, at first look, is counterintuitive: There are too many laboratory scientists for too few jobs.

That reality runs counter to messages sent by President Obama and the National Science Foundation and other influential groups, who in recent years have called for U.S. universities to churn out more scientists.

As noted here earlier, we don’t need more scientists, we need better ones. “I was talking with someone the other day who advanced the proposition that there are probably only 50 really first-rate scientific minds produced in the United States every year. And then came the question: Does the current system of training and funding scientists encourage those 50 to stay in the game, or to find something else to do?”

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