Transcription and Translation

NIH Grants by Age


The graph is from Are there too many PhDs? at Mendeley Blog

In the U.S., we are constantly hearing about how the country is falling behind in science. We need more scientists to fill all of those jobs we want to create. And the cure to that is to fund more PhD programs! Yet, when you ask graduate students and postdoctoral scholars what their individual experiences are, a science career is a very tough road with low pay and few career prospects. It’s such a tough path that an entire PhD comic strip was born to alleviate the situation with laughter. Why then, is there such a disconnect?

HT: Razib @ Gene Expression.


  1. #1 Lily Kim
    December 3, 2009

    Striking graph. How much of this trend is due to the postdoc career bottleneck vs. potentially increasing conservatism in awarding NIH grants? What would the same graph look like for trends in age distribution of all PIs? Are grants increasingly awarded to older, more established researchers?

  2. #2 genX
    December 3, 2009

    It’s the babyboomers, Lily Kim. A demographic bubble that sucks up all the $$.

  3. #3 Jeff
    December 3, 2009

    Having a PhD myself, I can say this. There is simply too much emphasis placed on higher degrees. My high school friends with bachelor’s alone or even many with only high school diplomas have more stable jobs than what my postdoctoral “career” has yielded. Now I teach at night at a local community college, am having the time of my life and tell all of my students to think very hard before going to graduate school for a “career” in research. Granted, the PhD vaulted me into the highest pay bracket, but that hardly makes up for the absence of health insurance for adjunct professors (I’ll save that rant for another time). I wouldn’t trade MY PhD for anything, but frankly, one doesn’t need the credentials to understand the science or do the work. More graduate schools need to realize the value of Master’s degrees instead of looking down their noses at them and treating them like consolation prizes. Assuming that every graduate student should aspire to being a PI in an academic lab is not helpful.
    By the way, congratulations Alex on both the baby and the new lab…. it takes some serious brains and hard work to get where you are professionally and I have a LOT of respect for that. You and Larry provide me with a lot of ideas for bringing real science into my introductory lectures, thanks!

  4. #4 Jim
    December 4, 2009

    I bet it’s the other way around in China…

  5. #5 nikeshoxdeliver
    June 3, 2011

    Naturally, the bill was enormous. Perhaps your insurance covered this mishap, perhaps not. In either case, the situation was a hassle and you were probably delayed by at least a couple of hours.

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