This weekend I moved from the Backbay to Cambridgeport, aka Junior Faculty ghetto. It's conveniently located at the near BU, Harvard and MIT. It is probably one of the most overeducated (if such a term existed) neighborhoods on the planet.
So, in today's "let's talk about the facts" entry I'll encorage you to check out JuniorProf's entry.
hey, i'm trying to find a place in cambridgeport... for a mit/harvard dual postdoc couple. ghetto to you, but everything i find in our budget is area 4 or sommerville. and we're trying to find the place from overseas...the moving costs will cripple us...
oh yeah, on topic: what no one talks about related to science is immigration. scientific innovation in the u.s. has always depended on immigrants...for much of the second half of the 20th century we coasted on pre/postwar influx from europe. academic science is not a job that u.s. students seem to want, and for the most part it's not one they're prepared for (secondary education in the u.s. being the embarrassment of the developed world). all these students coming to do their phds from india, china, south korea... give them citizenship with that degree, we paid for it! or at least a guaranteed visa for themselves and their family.
I guess ghetto is relative - I'm a postdoc and my wife is a public interest lawyer (in other words she makes as much as I do). So you can find something "affordable" depending on how much you want to compromise.
As for foreign postdocs, I agree that not many people talk about it - but I have. I suspect that the problem lies not with a lack of skills in the US student population, but that most Americans see that academic science 1) pays poorly 2) requires immense sacrifice and 3) has a low job security. As for awarding greencards and citizenship, I agree, the US government should do more for foreign scientists.
"everything i find in our budget is area 4 or sommerville"
Hey, Somerville is nice. Or, at least, some of it is. East Somerville, near Charlestown, is not so nice. But relatively cheap. Get closer to Cambridge, and you will pay dearly, though not quite as much as in Cambridge. Personally, I'd rather be here in Somerville than Cambridgeport or East Cambridge, even if I could afford it, because those nabes are too cramped.
I think in principle there are enough adequately educated people in the U.S. to fill academia, but declining standards must have something to do with our decreasing preeminence in the global research environment. The political situation for science is, I think, directly linked to the gradual failure of our education system. I recently heard that for the first time in U.S. history, people leaving the work force are better educated than those entering it (I don't know what the metric is, maybe this is just rhetoric).
On the other hand, it was never my intention to return to the U.S. at all, but with the right postdoc for both of us, someplace like Cambridge is an irresistable experience, at least for a few years.
As for cramped neighborhoods, after 6 years in asia, I crave density. Cambridge seemed like a creepy ghost town on my job visit. And what's with the crumbling infrastructure? So decrepit.
As greater boston neighborhoods go, Newton center is really nice and direct enough for Harvard med school / longwood medical area. Not great for Cambridge though. Anyway, good luck with the house hunt.
Re: citizenship for foreign scientists: I agree that would be only fair. Takes a lot of time, effort & money to move here; and while the work environment can be qualitatively a reward in itself, it doesn't necessarily compensate for the cost of the move. In the short run at least. And coming from western Europe, where conditions are already pretty good. I don't know how it measures up coming from elsewhere.
I lived in Cambridgeport for 20 years before moving further west. Great neighborhood but it has gotten more expensive. For better value try Riverside (just adjacent to Cambridgeport) or the town next to Cambridge, Watertown. Still good values there.
"And what's with the crumbling infrastructure?"
That's a grand old cultural tradition in New England. Especially in the ritzier burbs; it's their way of saying get off our streets you lowlife.
I can't go through Newton Center without thinking of Lederman's (long gone) and the Langley Deli (even longer gone).
Thanks for sharing this summary. Getting myself ready for McCain's answers.