This week I’ve composed my first column at Science Progress called ‘Plight of the Postdoc: Is modern American science strangling its young talents in the cradle?‘ The piece explores some illuminationg–and troubling–figures about the arduous road ahead for many early career scientists.
At first glance, it might seem that American science finds itself in a kind of golden age. According to the National Science Foundation, the United States is graduating more Ph.D.s in science and engineering than ever before, with 29,854 in 2006 representing an all time high. Meanwhile, we spend more on research, employ more scientists, and publish more peer-reviewed research than all competitor nations. There’s no end in sight, either: Just last week, the House of Representatives voted to boost the budgets of four key science agencies by $337 million.
Appearances, though, can be deceiving. Mounting evidence suggests that looming institutional shortcomings are eroding the ability of the so-called “science pipeline” to produce a healthy future national science infrastructure–and unless we shift the traditional paradigm rapidly, the consequences could be dramatic. Two recent studies underscore this point: One, from the National Institutes of Health, reports that the current generation of young scientists may be turning away from careers in research due to funding issues and the need for institutional change. Concurrently, the American Academy of Arts and Sciences’ new report, “ARISE: Advancing Research In Science and Engineering,” concludes that early-career researchers face greater challenges today than ever. The continual and grueling search for funding, the Academy suggests, fosters overly conservative decisions about laboratory research directions, which in turn impede the impact of government-funded science and thwart the careers of younger talents.
You can read the entire column here.