The Logistics of Scientific Growth in the 21st Century

A brilliant and sobering post on the future for scientific growth – there is a long-term, secular trend limiting growth that drives change, independent of how we in the scientific community might otherwise wish things to be. And perhaps also this might be an opportunity? Accepting that there are demographic, economic and other long-term trends that will limit the traditional growth of science means we need to start thinking hard about other ways of training the scientifically-minded of the future, for the new careers that do not yet exist, but which deviate from the traditional model. Some previous relevant thoughts: What use are PhD’s? What future do they have? And an innovative model of interdisciplinary Arts and Science training at University College, London (UCL).

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An Assembly of Fragments

Over the last few months, I’ve noticed a growing number of reports about declining opportunities and increasing pressure for early stage academic researchers (Ph.D. students, post-docs and junior faculty). For example, the Washington Post published an article in early July about trends in the U.S. scientific job market entitled “U.S. pushes for more scientists, but the jobs aren’t there.” This post generated over 3,500 comments on the WaPo website alone and was highly discussed in the twittersphere. In mid July, Inside Higher Ed reported that an ongoing study revealed a recent, precipitous drop in the interest of STEM (Science/Technology/Engineering/Mathematics) Ph.D. students wishing to pursue an academic tenure-track career. These results confirmed those published in PLoS ONE in May that showed the interest to pursue an academic career of STEM students surveyed in 2010 showed evidence of a decline during the course of Ph.D. studies:

Figure 1. Percent of…

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Author: Shane O'Mara