Tuesday, September 16, 2014

Oooops: NPR's non-research jobs link is dead

What I got when I clicked on NPR's link for Ph.D. work
in "other fields."
NPR's Richard Harris is doing a pretty great series on the difficulties of biomedical researchers. (The second link features an assistant professor-turned-grocer - yikes!) In today's segment, he goes over the travails of biomedical postdoctoral fellows, talking to 3 postdocs, all of which are trying to find tenure-track positions unsuccessfully. And then there's this little paragraph:
There actually are jobs – in industry, consulting, government and other fields. Biomedical postdocs rarely end up unemployed. But many can't pursue their academic dreams, and they are often in their late 30s or even older before they realize that.
The fact that the link that the "other fields" sends you to is dead is a rather delicious irony.

Richard Harris elides a couple of issues in this short paragraph (which is fine -- reporters are pressed for space and they can't cover all aspects of an issue):
  • For biomedical researchers, the number of industrial and governmental research positions is relatively limited and there aren't enough open slots to absorb all the postdocs there are. 
  • While biomedical postdocs rarely end up unemployed, there is no measurement for underemployment, which is a real problem. 
  • Harris alludes to, but does not cover, 1) the massive time to degree issue of biomedical Ph.D.s (7+ years) and then the time period of a couple of postdocs. Let's face it, you can't take over a decade to train for a career, not get that career and not suffer a massive amount of opportunity cost. 
As I have said before (and still believe), the massive quantity of postdoctoral fellows and all the people who leave biomedical research is the negative externality of the current way that we get biomedical science done in this country. Sure wish we could come up with a different system. 

10 comments:

  1. I think one other factor that causes Post-Docs to delay choosing a career outside of academia is their own self-confidence. Even though they recognize that the job market is bad and there aren't too many faculty positions, they think of themselves as one of those few who stand out as exceptional and will get the job. (like driving everyone thinks they are above average) And so many people focus on that one career path without realizing that there are just as many also well qualified candidates.

    And this is not limited to bio, as I see it now in chem, those PostDocs around me while I'm getting my PhD

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    1. Not surprising that science PhD students/grads can be suborn. I've noticed a lot of math and physics Phd grads are beginning wise up and do training in computer science/data science and are getting offers. There is a pretty high demand for data scientists in the bay area.

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    2. @ bluekirby : That's a great point and I myself went through that mindset! I lucked out before the shit hit the fan. I am OK but it is never early to look around for job.

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  2. I want an industrial job even when I was a chem Ph.D. There is no academia and industrial out there unless you are from top 10 schools.

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    1. I never wanted an academic job. I don't think I'm an outlier.

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  3. Great Link and great comments. Actually, what some of these former faculty are doing is interesting. Good for them. Inspires me to want to make something of myself when I inevitably lose my job instead of laying about on unemployment, being sponsored by the state. No difference between that and what I was complaining about in an earlier thread.....

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  4. Fundamental research in this country is 90 % sponsored by government, which means that every PI and their students/post-docs are government contractors at the end of the day. With the government running full steam ahead at 20 trillion in debt within the next couple of years, it's only going to get more difficult. This does not even consider that when the student loan bubble pops that a lot of colleges and universities will end up upside down financially. Good times ahead.

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    1. Actually, tenured faculty on 100% salaries are government pensioners, often at 6 figures a year. The drones are contractors.

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    2. Agreed. And with only 30 % of new faculty positions being tenure track. You can see how the government is trying to cut.

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  5. What do you mean the link is dead? Domain squatting counts as an "other field."

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