From an astute reader, a conversation with the authors of "Is American Science in Decline?" (by sociologists Xu Xie of the University of Michigan and Alexandra A. Killewald of Harvard). This interview was published by Salon.com:
Let me start with the obvious question: Is American science in decline?
No I don’t think so. I think the evidence that we put together is pretty convincing that, by most measures, American science continues to be very strong and in some spheres even improving. We do find some areas of concerns in terms of the wages of scientists. And when we turn to the international perspective, that’s a little bit of a different story. Other countries are gaining on the U.S. but compared to the position that science has held in the past in this country, it’s still quite strong from a historical perspective...
[snip] Some analysts see the problem differently. They talk about a surfeit of scientists?
The growth of post-doctoral appointments has been a concern for many people, that these appointments are becoming a kind of holding tank where you’re delaying your first real job longer and longer and folks who aim to become academics are unable to find permanent employment. On the other hand, it’s not clear that it’s bad to have people with PhDs in non-academic positions So I think it certainly can be a concern as relates to an individual’s choices. If someone makes an investment that retrospectively they wouldn’t have made, that certainly is a cost to the individual and society. But I think the fact that individuals who get PhDs end up in other places is not by itself a bad thing. (emphasis mine)I will continue to argue (perhaps too stridently and perhaps ignoring other data) that ignoring of opportunity cost is something that young scientists-in-training do at their peril, especially in a relatively low job growth economy.