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Study Says US Needs Fewer Science Students

samzenpus posted more than 4 years ago | from the too-many-coats-in-the-lab dept.

Education 551

cremeglace writes "It's an article of faith: the United States needs more native-born students in science and other technical fields. But a new paper by sociologists at the Urban Institute and Rutgers University contradicts the notion of a shrinking supply of native-born talent in the United States. In fact, the supply has actually remained steady over the past 30 years, the researchers conclude, while the highest-performing students in the pipeline are opting out of science and engineering in greater numbers than in the past, suggesting that the threat to American economic competitiveness comes not from inadequate science training in school and college but from a lack of incentives that would make science and technology careers attractive. Cranking out even more science graduates, according to the researchers, does not give corporations any incentive to boost wages for science/tech jobs, which would be one way to retain the highest-performing students."

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551 comments

More articles like this please (5, Funny)

Idayen (1020259) | more than 4 years ago | (#29904475)

I want my salary to go up

It's a horrendous problem (3, Funny)

thefear (1011449) | more than 4 years ago | (#29904697)

The ponderous population of smart people in the US is an untold bane on our society.

Re:More articles like this please (5, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#29904731)

I'm an assistant professor and I can see this type of thing going on first hand. I get paid okay but expectations of the promotion and tenure committee in terms of papers, research funding and teaching requires 50-60 hours a week of work minimum most week. My record is 110 hours over 7 days, what a nightmare. The reason for this situation is that science funding by the federal government has been more or less flat for about a decade but the number of professors has increased and the expectations of the universities from professors have gone up.

My students take one look at me and immediately make a career decision in another job besides academics or even science in general. I don't blame them either, even I hate my job sometimes and I couldn't ever imagine myself of being anything but a scientist -- but at this point, I have one more year to go for tenure but taking that dream position at the coffee shop in western Colorado and skiing all winter is starting to sound really good.

Re:More articles like this please (3, Insightful)

Brian Gordon (987471) | more than 4 years ago | (#29905005)

Geez, I can't imagine the pressure of trying to get tenure. Your whole career building up to a single massive review of all of your work..

The whole system seems kind of messed up. You ruin yourself pushing yourself to work as much as possible through the best years of your life and then, if you pass the review, you get to -yay- not lose your job and gain the privilege of working for the rest of your life!

I guess it's the price of progress, but the drive for constant excellence seems obsessive rather than healthy..

Really (1, Insightful)

Brian Gordon (987471) | more than 4 years ago | (#29904491)

but from a lack of incentives that would make science and technology careers attractive

Incentives? You mean like paying graduates more when you're saying that the market is saturated with them already? How does that make sense?

Re:Really (5, Insightful)

DeadDecoy (877617) | more than 4 years ago | (#29904659)

Nope, that's not what the summary is saying. It's stating that we have a steady stream of scientists and engineers, but it seems like they choose another career path when they realize they'll just be overworked and underpaid. Go fig, when it's easier to get an MBA and become a CEO who gets a golden parachute for tanking their company based on short-sighted decisions to appease stockholders then it is to go through 10+ years of training and pay off 100k in student loans.

Re:Really (2, Insightful)

wisty (1335733) | more than 4 years ago | (#29904729)

Instead of paying scientists more, could we just pay CEOs and bankers less?

Re:Really (1)

Grishnakh (216268) | more than 4 years ago | (#29904907)

Who's "we"?

The CEOs and the bankers control the money. Why would they pay themselves less? The only way to change that is to take control of the money and the corporations away from the bankers and CEOs, and give it to the politicians (i.e. the government). But that's not exactly a winning proposition either; I believe the Soviet Union tried an economy like that for a while and it didn't work out too well. It didn't work out well for China either, so they moved to a market-based economy just like all the other Western nations have (just without the elected politicians), with the bankers and CEOs in control of the money and corporations, and their economy is booming now. But their engineers aren't paid all that well either, though I'm sure it's a lot better than what the factory workers get paid so they're probably not complaining too much given the way things are in China. Of course, China isn't exactly that well-regarded in engineering prowess, and I haven't heard about many groundbreaking scientific discoveries being made there.

It is a crappy situation, and I don't have any solutions for it.

Re:Really (1)

Brian Gordon (987471) | more than 4 years ago | (#29905011)

The executive officers are appointed by the board. Which is elected by the shareholders.

Re:Really (5, Informative)

Grishnakh (216268) | more than 4 years ago | (#29905103)

The *EOs are appointed by the board, who are their good buddies who they golf with every weekend. And only the largest shareholders have any effect on the board's makeup. The whole thing is a big good-old-boy system, which is why CEOs get giant pay packages even when they drive the company into the ground. If they were paid on merit, they would get paid according to their performance, and not get squat if they don't do a good job, but that's obviously not the case.

Re:Really (1)

ardle (523599) | more than 4 years ago | (#29904949)

Yes: with the money saved, we could afford to hire more techies.
Knock-on benefit: actually getting more done.

Re:Really (2, Insightful)

Fulcrum of Evil (560260) | more than 4 years ago | (#29904677)

Well, big tech has spent the last decade telling congress that they need lots of foreigners because they just can't find any local talent: you'd think they'd raise the salary a bit if that were true.

how many scientists are enough? (1, Interesting)

line-bundle (235965) | more than 4 years ago | (#29904509)

A prevailing assumption is that the number of scientists needed is proportional to the population. I think this is what has caused the glut of scientists (trust me I'm an ex-scientist and I know)

My guessis that the number required is of the order log(population), or even possibly a fixed constant after a certain population size.

Re:how many scientists are enough? (3, Funny)

tool462 (677306) | more than 4 years ago | (#29904655)

Perhaps we should commission a group of scientists to formally study the idea.

Who wants to write the grant proposal?

Re:how many scientists are enough? (1)

jschen (1249578) | more than 4 years ago | (#29904717)

Who wants to write the grant proposal?

Can't. I already have to write a different grant proposal next week. But if it can wait until the week afterwards, then maybe. You think we can get an NIH R01 grant for this?

Re:how many scientists are enough? (4, Insightful)

rm999 (775449) | more than 4 years ago | (#29904821)

I would make the fairly obvious argument that the number of scientists is largely irrelevant compared to the amount of work they produce. A single Einstein is worth an infinite number of mediocre physicists who never end up producing any work in their careers. This is important, because (at least in my experience in academia), 95% of academic scientists and maybe 80% of engineers produce nothing useful in their lifetimes.

While there may be a glut of scientists, there is no glut of *good* scientists; we always need those. Let's not kid ourselves - the number of possible problems scientists and engineers can solve has not gone down over time. If anything, it has gone way up.

Re:how many scientists are enough? (1)

ardle (523599) | more than 4 years ago | (#29904967)

There seems to be both a glut and a shortage of executives, though...

Re:how many scientists are enough? (1)

the eric conspiracy (20178) | more than 4 years ago | (#29905051)

I'd extend that to include the idea that to be a really good scientist you have to love what you are doing.

For people like that money beyond the basic necessities is not much of a consideration. They don't keep score that way.

Re:how many scientists are enough? (4, Insightful)

Grishnakh (216268) | more than 4 years ago | (#29905079)

Don't confuse science and engineering; they're two radically different disciplines with totally different goals.

Yes, most academic scientists probably don't produce much of value, but that's just like how a paleontologist, for instance, only has a certain chance of finding some great fossil that significantly adds to our knowledge of dinosaurs. This isn't that much because of the paleontologist's skill, but more because of chance: will he find that fossil, or not? Scientists don't create truth, they search for it. If they find something really useful, then they're remembered for generations. If they don't succeed in their search, they're forgotten.

Engineers don't search for anything. They create things. Even the most mediocre engineer can create useful things. So I really doubt your claim about 80% of engineers creating nothing useful. If they're employed as engineers, they must be producing something useful, or else they wouldn't receive a paycheck. Now, how useful that product is to society is debatable, of course. The engineers who created the Ford Pinto, for instance, didn't exactly create something wonderful, and considering how that car killed people, it probably had negative utility. However, they did the work that their employers asked of them, and as management was in control and refused to allow engineers to improve the design, it was they who were responsible for any deaths. Less spectacularly, many engineers work on things which are ultimately trashed before seeing production. I've seen my share of that in my own work. But again, just because management decides to trash something doesn't mean it isn't "useful", it just wasn't profitable enough for them.

As for how many scientists are needed, that depends on how much science a society wants to do. If you want to do a lot, then you need more people working on the problem. If you don't care much about learning new things, then you don't need many scientists. I'd say that our society doesn't really need that many scientists, because it really isn't that interesting in finding out new things and doesn't want to invest the money needed to do so, because it doesn't return a profit quickly enough.

Re:how many scientists are enough? (3, Insightful)

Captain Vittles (1096015) | more than 4 years ago | (#29905087)

On the other hand, the 'meaningless' work done by those 'mediocre' scientists could very well be setting the foundation for the next Einstein to do something truly marvelous. Science is not a series of disconnected "Eureka!" moments; it's a steady accumulation of small but meaningful hypotheses that allow those superstars to formulate workable theories.

And what about all those potential superstars being lost, because they can't get the work experience they need to develop their potential? How many of those next Einsteins have gone off to work in something totally unrelated because of financial concerns? Sometimes it takes a lifetime for someone to produce that truly meaningful work. By narrowing our focus to people doing 'useful' work, we kill a lot of long-term potential that could arise from the research being done for the sake of research.

Re:how many scientists are enough? (1)

Frosty Piss (770223) | more than 4 years ago | (#29904911)

My guess is that the number required is of the order log(population), or even possibly a fixed constant after a certain population size.

Can you put that in English please? I was a Liberal Arts major...

Re:how many scientists are enough? (1)

darthdavid (835069) | more than 4 years ago | (#29905057)

log stands for logarithm and is the inverse of raising something to a power. When it's written without indicating a base it's assumed that the base is 10 so when you just see it as log(x) then the result is whatever power 10 would need to be raised by to equal x. A fixed constant after a certain population size is exactly what it sounds like, for populations smaller than a certain size the number of scientists needed to function rises as the population rises until you hit a certain point where you no longer need any more scientists no matter how much bigger your population gets. Simple enough or do you require further clarification?

Also, I'm a science major and I make art, write poetry and short prose, play the guitar and use recreational drugs (all the shit you liberal arts folks are supposed to be good at). Why can't any of you bastards bother to learn some basic math and science terminology?

Re:how many scientists are enough? (-1, Redundant)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#29905081)

Also, I'm a science major and I make art, write poetry and short prose, play the guitar and use recreational drugs (all the shit you liberal arts folks are supposed to be good at). Why can't any of you bastards bother to learn some basic math and science terminology?

Wow. The joke in the parent went "WHOOOOOSH" right over your head...

Re:how many scientists are enough? (1)

darthdavid (835069) | more than 4 years ago | (#29905111)

Well looking back frosty piss is probably not a serious poster but I'm sure someone needed it explained so I don't feel too bad...

What about just doing what you love? (4, Insightful)

ErikTheRed (162431) | more than 4 years ago | (#29904517)

I don't know about the rest of you, but I don't give a rusty fuck what some study says people should or should not go into. I work in the fields I love, and I'd recommend it to everyone else. If you want to do science, do science. If you don't then don't. Who really cares what some frigtarded academic thinks anyway? Final thought - how often is it that we look back on these studies five or ten years later to find out they were somewhere around, oh, dead wrong. if these guys are such friggin' geniuses at predicting the future they should go make $Billions in the stock market.

If all you care about is money than go into politics or join the mob (it's ethically about the same).

Re:What about just doing what you love? (3, Insightful)

starblazer (49187) | more than 4 years ago | (#29904667)

because people will chase the almighty dollar. It's like when IT was hot, everyone was trying to be a computer guy with a MSCE. Unfortunately, that flooded the market and MSCE meant something different.

There's more than one degree of dollar chasing (2, Insightful)

dlenmn (145080) | more than 4 years ago | (#29904941)

There's something to be said about doing what you love and saying "to hell with chasing the almighty dollar". But then you get paid $12,894 [wisc.edu] per academic year, and you wonder if a little dollar chasing might not be a bad thing. There are other things in life that are desireable (like a family), and they take money.

A science career means spending ~5-6 years working hard and being paid crap in grad school, and then another couple of years working hard and being paid a bit more as a postdoc, and then maybe you can get a decent paying job doing science, but there aren't all thay many science jobs (at least in physics), in academia or industry (bye bye bell labs -- moreover, just because you like science in academia donesn't mean you'll like science in industry), relative to the number of PhDs so there's a decent chance you'll end up in a non science job.

I'm just saying that it's not as simple as "people don't do science because all they care about is money."

Re:What about just doing what you love? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#29904943)

I defined MSCE, A+, Network+, Linux+, Pullitoutofmyass+, etc. the same then as I do now: utter garbage. Yeah, I know I'm bound to get modded down but I make $125/hr or more with zero certification.

Re:What about just doing what you love? (-1, Troll)

recharged95 (782975) | more than 4 years ago | (#29904721)

"Final thought - how often is it that we look back on these studies five or ten years later to find out they were somewhere around, oh, dead wrong"

because science (i.e. by the 'academics') typically results in 80% wrong facts, and 20% absolute fact. Academics can't accept this, cause science is supposed to always produce 100% fact: i.e. it's philosophically bad in our society of 'yes and no' that science is sometimes "right".
And religion is said to be 100% correct due to 100% faith.

(And that's why there will always be a religion-science conflict)

I usually find articles like these are to motivate or push someone's political agenda...and not in the name of science.

Re:What about just doing what you love? (1)

JohnFen (1641097) | more than 4 years ago | (#29905003)

because science (i.e. by the 'academics') typically results in 80% wrong facts, and 20% absolute fact. Academics can't accept this, cause science is supposed to always produce 100% fact

Hmmm, you must not know many scientists, academic or otherwise, because this in no way reflects their perspective.

Scientists (and science) thrive on and seek out "error," because all the interesting things (to them) are the things we don't know or are wrong about.

If there's any sort of perpetual religion/science conflict (and I kindof doubt it, based on the number of religious scientists I've known) then it is because science likes to find error (it is self-correcting and evidence-based) and religion does not (it is unchanging and faith-based.)

But science and religion address different questions anyway, so it's all a bit apples-and-oranges.

Re:What about just doing what you love? (1, Insightful)

sonnejw0 (1114901) | more than 4 years ago | (#29904759)

Oh come on! Are you a product of parents of the 70s "free love" and "intellectual exploration" process? Who in their right mind chooses a job based on "loving" to do it?

Sure, people choose something they're interested in, but most rational people want to make money so that they can live a relaxing life instead of a disgruntled on like you seem to lead, as evidenced by your spite toward gaining wealth through investment, and the idea that politicians are dirty, filthy rich. I bet you vote for Change, too.

These studies are important not just because it shows us how best to earn an income but also because it shows us where our society's deficits are. If we need fewer science professionals, we obviously need something else for them to do, and I'm sure if I RTFA I'd see it mentions what we do need.

Regardless, supply of professionals in a certain area definitely affects income, which influences career choices. How many of you thought IT professionals would be so valuable you'd live a rich life, and now you're doing Exchange server tweaking for some corporate branch in the middle of nowhere. Can any of you honestly say that you chose an IT career because you love to tweak Exchange servers?

The American Dental Association has it right and very tightly controls the number of dental students schools can accept in order to keep demand for dentists high and salaries in the very comfortable range. I wish Science did that. It would increase the mystique of the field, like MDs currently have. All MDs do is tweak patients like they're an Exchange server. They gather complaints from the patient/user and look up in some book how to fix it if they don't already know how. The only thing that makes us NOT doctors is that we don't have the password/prescription-pad, because med schools are tightly regulated to keep salaries and demand high.

Re:What about just doing what you love? (1, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#29904889)

"Who in their right mind chooses a job [field] based on "loving" to do it?"

*raises hand*

And I'm happy too. CTFO. Who in their right mind does something they hate so they can earn money? There's two ends to this spectrum, bud.

Re:What about just doing what you love? (1)

EdZ (755139) | more than 4 years ago | (#29904951)

Who in their right mind chooses a job based on "loving" to do it?

but most rational people want to make money so that they can live a relaxing life instead of a disgruntled on[sic]

I'd say that having a job you enjoy doing, even if it doesn't pay massive amounts, is better than pursuing a career simply to make money. I'd rather live within my means (a £20,000 pounds a year or so is enough for a quite comfortable life) and do a job I enjoy than earn £100,000 and hate my life.

Re:What about just doing what you love? (4, Insightful)

selven (1556643) | more than 4 years ago | (#29905027)

Rational people want to make money so they can lead a relaxing life? Why? What's so good about relaxation? What's the point in getting a big house or a big car? The answer is because you find it enjoyable. Just because you enjoy intellectual pursuits rather than hedonism does not make you a less rational person.

Re:What about just doing what you love? (1, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#29904793)

I don't know about the rest of you, but I don't give a rusty fuck what some study says people should or should not go into. I work in the fields I love, and I'd recommend it to everyone else. If you want to do science, do science. If you don't then don't. Who really cares what some frigtarded academic thinks anyway? Final thought - how often is it that we look back on these studies five or ten years later to find out they were somewhere around, oh, dead wrong. if these guys are such friggin' geniuses at predicting the future they should go make $Billions in the stock market.

If all you care about is money than go into politics or join the mob (it's ethically about the same).

Unlike some idiots (you), many people on the planet have a wide range of interests, and could have easily chosen from a dozen different careers and enjoyed all of them.

Many doctors have a strong interest in technology and engineering. They perhaps chose medicine because of the glamorized view of doctors that our current society portrays. Doctors on TV get all the girls, dress the best, have the fancy cars, the biggest houses, get all the intelligent lines, have the most challenging jobs. Is that the reality of life for most doctors? No.

Where does society portray Engineers and Scientists? If they are in a TV show at all, they are stuck in a lab coat, ordered around by bossy managers, shown as spineless nerds with no life, unmarried or girlfriend-less, often speaking lines that are awkward, merely secondary characters. Is that the reality of life as a Scientist? No.

Which do you think sways young minds more toward their career?

The study mention incentives. Money is just one incentive. Respect, challenge, spousal options, making a difference... there are many ways to reward a person.

Re:What about just doing what you love? (5, Insightful)

Thelasko (1196535) | more than 4 years ago | (#29904839)

If you want to do science, do science.

But what if science doesn't pay the bills?

Re:What about just doing what you love? (4, Insightful)

tool462 (677306) | more than 4 years ago | (#29904851)

To paraphrase Office Space, if everybody did what they loved, there would be a severe shortage of janitors.

In reality, how much you enjoy the job is only one factor of many when it comes to deciding your career. And I would bet that in practice, it ends up being one of the last factors considered. Whether or not you can make enough money to buy food and pay rent is going to be a much more important part of the decision.

And unless I'm misreading something, these guys aren't trying to set policy, they published a paper that found that existing policy is misguided and ineffective. The free market has spoken. The job market in science and engineering is saturated. Trying to create policy and incentives to encourage larger numbers of science students ultimately depresses wages, which results in the best of the field moving on to other fields with better prospects. End result: the same number of new scientists and engineers in the work force, but with less ability on average.

Re:What about just doing what you love? (1)

Lord Ender (156273) | more than 4 years ago | (#29904869)

ECONOMIES DO NOT WORK THAT WAY

/Morbo

(the filter is broken. inserting this so that it will let me use caps.)

Re:What about just doing what you love? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#29905019)

Mod this insightful. I mean the latter part.

Re:What about just doing what you love? (1)

Attila Dimedici (1036002) | more than 4 years ago | (#29905025)

. Who really cares what some frigtarded academic thinks anyway?

The people who advise high school students what they should major in in college.

Re:What about just doing what you love? (3, Insightful)

DaveAtFraud (460127) | more than 4 years ago | (#29905029)

The United States is a sort of free society and you are still (for at least the time being) free to choose to do what you love. Just be ready to say, "Do you want fries with that?" if the market doesn't pay squat for doing what you love.

Cheers,
Dave

Re:What about just doing what you love? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#29905099)

if these guys are such friggin' geniuses at predicting the future they should go make $Billions in the stock market.

Interesting how you recommend that genuises go make $Billions in the stock market and not go out and make scientific discoveries. I think many geniuses are taking that advice and avoiding science.

Only a fool would enter a science or tech field (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#29904549)

With outsourcing so prevalent, it's not something you do unless you really love what you do or were somehow grandfathered in...

As Rutherford said... (2, Insightful)

MosesJones (55544) | more than 4 years ago | (#29904553)

But a new paper by sociologists

Ernest Rutherford once said The only possible conclusion the social sciences can draw is: some do, some don't

So while its nice that they've tried to have a firm opinion they really haven't, what they've said is that as the salaries in science and engineering fall behind the likes of banking and other world destruction careers the top people aren't going into science and engineering as much.

The phrase "Well Duh!" comes to mind. I'm mean seriously is this research or just some people sitting around a table in a bar after 10 pints drunkly going "you know what, I think that if there is less money in an area that less top people will want to work in it". Now what they spectacularly fail to note of course is that some of the very, very brightest have become the very, very richest people on the planet as a result of science and engineering (and maths).

Good god its hard to believe that people not only get degrees in subjects so vague and obvious but also get to do "research" that would leave Homer Simposon feeling that it wasn't stretching him.

Re:As Rutherford said... (5, Funny)

moosesocks (264553) | more than 4 years ago | (#29904803)

Ernest Rutherford once said The only possible conclusion the social sciences can draw is: some do, some don't

Oddly enough, quantum mechanics draws pretty much the exact same conclusion.

*Ducks*

Re:As Rutherford said... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#29905091)

I'd bet your comment would be almost identical if the headline was, "US Scientists staying in discipline - pays less, but is more rewarding".

Isn't it just about as likely that top talent stays in science and engineering fields because they are much more intellectually rewarding and substantive, and that only the mediocre people leave and enter banking and other fields because those fields are not as intellectually intensive?

I think you could easily construct a few plausible lines of reasoning here.

What you're demonstrating is hindsight bias - It's easy to pick which justification and explanation is right when you already know the outcome.

So says the sociologists... (5, Funny)

Kell Bengal (711123) | more than 4 years ago | (#29904559)

So... the sociologists say there's too many technical scientists? That's just what I'd expect from those namby-pamby girly-haired soft-science types! I'll bet they've got a correlation study and everything. Well, maybe the technical scientists say there are too many sociologists? And we've got freaky equations and stuff.

Yeah!

Who you going to believe, pretty demographics charts or complicated equations? Eh? EH?

Anecdote... (1)

Thelasko (1196535) | more than 4 years ago | (#29904581)

At my previous employer we had a very bright individual who held a PhD. in combustion. The company paid for him to continue his education, so he got an MBA from a very prestigious business school. The day after he graduated he left for a high paying gig on Wall Street. The company responded by no longer paying for any schooling for it's employees.

It took two years to find someone to replace him.

Re:Anecdote... (1)

plasmacutter (901737) | more than 4 years ago | (#29904627)

an MBA Is not science, it is in fact the closest thing to the opposite of scientific pursuit in a graduate level program.

Re:Anecdote... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#29904989)

I've never understood why MBA degrees cost so much. Is the average student there so stupid that it takes them that much instruction to learn how to waste money and suck the boss's dick?

Re:Anecdote... (1)

JSBiff (87824) | more than 4 years ago | (#29904629)

Sounds like your company needs a decent lawyer. There are such things as 'contracts', e.g. we pay for your education, and you agree to work for us for a minimum of 3 years (or maybe 5 years) after graduation, or else reimburse the company on a pro-rated basis for the educational benefit (so if your school bills were 25,000, and you agreed to work 5 years, but quit after 2, you'd owe them 15,000). I suppose, though, that if they required you to sign something like that, maybe no one would sign up?

Re:Anecdote... (1)

Thelasko (1196535) | more than 4 years ago | (#29904715)

Sounds like your excompany needs a decent lawyer.

They have a lot of lawyers. Just not many good ones.

Re:Anecdote... (1)

Tynin (634655) | more than 4 years ago | (#29904743)

We have this where I work. You can get up to $5200 a year toward school, but once you are done taking the money they expect you to stick around for 1 year or they want their money back (unless you get let go, then the money was free). Pretty sweet deal even if it doesn't pay for 100% of my schooling.

A double edged sword (2, Interesting)

xRelisH (647464) | more than 4 years ago | (#29904587)

I think it's kind of interesting how the economics of this work. The supply of scientists and engineers is steady, but it seems like there are fewer who are good in the market. What this means is that if you are good and in the field, you are in extremely high demand and thus salaries can be lucrative for you. So, the field may only attract those who have a genuine interest and more likely to innovate.
Then again, money is a strong factor and may siphon away people. I work in the embedded software field, and I get paid fairly well for someone only a couple of years out of college. However, I often think how nice it would be nice to be making well into 7 figures and have a nice home and possibly a Lamborghini (I love cars) after going into lawschool instead of "just" 6 figures and trying to cobble together a 20% down payment for a decent home in Northern California.

Re:A double edged sword (1)

maxume (22995) | more than 4 years ago | (#29905077)

You would have to be quite the terrific lawyer to see that jump (especially inside a decade or whatever).

To an extent, they are talking about the need for companies to offer 6 figure salaries for scientists.

If you want top talent, you need to pay for it! (5, Insightful)

plasmacutter (901737) | more than 4 years ago | (#29904589)

When you keep downward pressure on wages of scientific positions; When you don't offer people compensation for the utter destruction of their social lives required to seriously pursue science, they gravitate toward management. (for comparison, at least medicine and law provide salaries commensurate with the effort required for the education)

You never see those massive bonuses going to the mathematical wizards, engineers, or design teams who are actually responsible for the profits. It goes to some otherwise average person who sat in his office and barked orders.

Don't be surprised when the truly intelligent notice where the money is going and choose to expand their social lives in the process!

Re:If you want top talent, you need to pay for it! (1, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#29904657)

I think your sig has been cu

Re:If you want top talent, you need to pay for it! (1)

selven (1556643) | more than 4 years ago | (#29905039)

I think we was trying to update his Slashdot sig by running a script over Twitter.

Re:If you want top talent, you need to pay for it! (0, Troll)

Kell Bengal (711123) | more than 4 years ago | (#29904835)

When you don't offer people compensation for the utter destruction of their social lives required to seriously pursue science, they gravitate toward management.

That's nonsense - you can't destroy something you never had.

Re:If you want top talent, you need to pay for it! (1)

Thelasko (1196535) | more than 4 years ago | (#29904887)

Don't be surprised when the truly intelligent notice where the money is going and choose to expand their social lives in the process!

I have news for you. The truly intelligent give up on science and engineering to go sit in an office and bark orders.

So money is still the sole motivator? (1, Insightful)

pembo13 (770295) | more than 4 years ago | (#29904617)

I had hoped that the best scientist and engineers would be motivated by something more than just money.

Re:So money is still the sole motivator? (2, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#29904751)

It's quite hard to buy food with motivation and no money.

Over-simplify much? (4, Insightful)

JSBiff (87824) | more than 4 years ago | (#29904767)

Maybe money isn't the sole motivator. Did it ever occur to you that maybe there are students that really want to go into science, but because of the job prospects (or perceived lack thereof), don't think they can *afford* to go into science?

I mean, if you think you are going to give up 6 years of your life/potential income [well, you can still work while in school, perhaps, but probably not make as much income as you could if you were working full-time + overtime at a job for those years], and spend $60,000 (plus interest, so probably closer to $100,000), say, to get a Masters in Science, and then you think you will only make 40,000-60,000/yr, you might not think you can afford that. I have a cousin, only has a high school education, works for a road construction/repair company. On the one hand, he has to work a lot of overtime, but on the other hand, I think he's making in that same $40,000-60,000/yr range [maybe more]. He's been doing that basically since he graduated from high school, and never had to take out any student loans. So, the way I see it, someone in his position potentially comes up about $300,000 ahead (on graduation day) of the guy who went to school for 6 years and took out those loans.

That's the reality of education. In order to justify the expense, you need to make good money after graduation - such people should probably be starting at $70,000-$90,000 yr almost straight out of school, with raises every year which outpaces inflation, just to allow them to recover that "lost" $300,000 over the course of say the first 10 years of their employement, and then continue to make that kind of money after that so they come out *ahead* of the people who didn't go to school.

But, it sounds like, from the article, that's not happening, so while students might be attracted to science, they may just feel that they can't sacrifice their financial future in order to benefit corporations who aren't willing to give them reasonable compensation for their education.

Re:So money is still the sole motivator? (1)

qbzzt (11136) | more than 4 years ago | (#29904919)

I had hoped that the best scientist and engineers would be motivated by something more than just money.

They might not be motivated just by money, but money is a motivator in our society. Scientists and engineers are just like other people.

Re:So money is still the sole motivator? (1)

pembo13 (770295) | more than 4 years ago | (#29905069)

If it determines your career path, the it is your prime motivator, maybe even your sole motivator. I'm not convinced that being people predisposes you to being a slave to money.

Money on both sides of the equation (4, Insightful)

VinylRecords (1292374) | more than 4 years ago | (#29904619)

From the article:

The supply [of science students] has actually remained steady over the past 30 years, the researchers conclude from an analysis of six longitudinal surveys conducted by the U.S. government from 1972 to 2005. However, the highest-performing students in the pipeline are opting out of science and engineering in greater numbers than in the past, suggesting that the threat to American economic competitiveness comes not from inadequate science training in school and college but from a lack incentives that would make science and technology careers attractive.

From the Associated Press:

Average tuition at four-year public colleges in the U.S. climbed 6.5 percent, or $429, to $7,020 this fall as schools apologetically passed on much of their own financial problems, according to an annual report from the College Board, released Tuesday. At private colleges, tuition rose 4.4 percent, or $1,096, to $26,273.

So we have the costs of already outstanding tuition fees rising in a faltering and near collapsed economy. Many top positions in fields of science require Masters or Doctoral level education. A Master or Doctoral level of education also demands a Master or Doctoral level of tuition. In an uncertain environment for employment, the risk of entering the field of science, can be high.

Instead of going into science or mathematics you see the smarted minds who are more money minded going into the financial fields. They are intelligent but because of the upbringing in a capitalist society desire money more than anything. So they become investors, stockbrokers, and deal with money all day and night.

What we need is to recruit the best of the best, have private industries, and government, pay for the tuition of these individuals or offer them guaranteed job positions. Does a promising young high school student enter undergraduate school looking for a degree in bio-medicine? Have a major cancer research outfit pay for his tuition. Or have a medical technology firm cover his tuition. Or have him pay for his own tuition but make it known publicly that anyone with a degree in 'science' who applies to 'x job' will have his college tuition fees and loans paid for in full by the company if he works x number of years.

Maybe we need to lower the tuition for higher science. If you want a degree in particle physics, wave physics, astro-biology, or whatever, then you tuition is significantly lower than your peers. My graduate work was in television broadcasting, if my peers studying medicine and high level math had lower tuition fees than myself, I would not have batted an eyelash.

If you cover the tuition fees of our smartest students, and they go on to become the people who provide us with life changing nanotechnology, or cure HIV-AIDS, that money will pay off 100 if not 1,000,000,000 times more down the road.

We need to invest in our future by investing in our brightest minds and steering them towards occupations where they can make a lasting difference in the world.

Re:Money on both sides of the equation (2, Insightful)

lee1026 (876806) | more than 4 years ago | (#29904663)

If the grad student is willing to be a TA, he usually won't have to pay for his education.

Re:Money on both sides of the equation (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#29904735)

yup and careers in science are the only ways they can do that... right

In physical sciences, PhD track = no tuition (4, Informative)

dlenmn (145080) | more than 4 years ago | (#29905013)

If you're doing a PhD in the physical sciences, then you're almost certainly not paying tuition directly (let alone a level of tuition proportional to your degree as you seem to claim). Otherwise, absolutely zero people would be doing it. MD, JD, and MBA programs can charge a lot because you'll make a lot of money once you've got the degree. The same cannot be said for a science PhD.

people following the money (2, Interesting)

jschen (1249578) | more than 4 years ago | (#29904643)

As noted in the article, Wall Street is a major draw for the top students. While in grad school, even my professor mentioned to me on several occasions that I probably would make a lot more afterwards if I left research and did investment banking, private equity, patent law, management consulting, or any of a number of other jobs, though he hoped I would stick with academic chemistry. I am looking for an academic post now, but I certainly can see the draw of the more lucrative fields. For one example, when McKinsey was recruiting PhD's at our institute a few years ago, first year total compensation was estimated at $130-165k. That's quite a bit higher than what the total compensation would have been at the time for the coveted entry level PhD positions at the top pharmaceutical companies, and the compensation in the business world would rise much more quickly in subsequent years. Doing good science is hard, and during the tougher times in grad school, it was extremely tempting to jump ship.

Conflict of Interest (1)

$0.02 (618911) | more than 4 years ago | (#29904645)

Scientist were assigned a study to find out if additonal scientists are needed and they found that there were already plenty of them and they should have gotten huge raises instead.

Re:Conflict of Interest (2, Insightful)

MosesJones (55544) | more than 4 years ago | (#29904699)

Sociologists were assigned. Sociology is to science what Jeffery Archer is to literature.

Faulty Logic (5, Insightful)

n8r0n (1447647) | more than 4 years ago | (#29904647)

So, by this rationale, in order to get more top talent in science, we need to let more talent choose other fields, leaving a scarcity of science grads, which will drive up salaries, and lead more top talent back into science? That's kind of like the argument that cold water boils faster than hot water. Of course, lots of people think that's true, too.

Along the same lines, I'd like to hear the author's explanation of why employees in finance continue to get paid more and more, even as more talent floods into that profession.

Not every price is set solely by supply and demand. In this case, I think culture has a lot to do with it, as do negotiating skills (which geeks don't generally have in abundance). Science and math types are still considered dorks, and the leeches who work on Wall St. or Madison Ave are the cool kids. Fewer science students isn't going to change that.

Re:Faulty Logic (1)

Thelasko (1196535) | more than 4 years ago | (#29904935)

No, by this rationale you need to pay more for top talent to prevent them from choosing other fields.

bye bye science money (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#29904679)

Study Says US Needs Fewer Science Students

Because all the science money will be going to China and India from now on.

Brain Drain (5, Insightful)

BodeNGE (1664379) | more than 4 years ago | (#29904691)

You've got yourselves a brain drain. Growing up in Australia as a geek I had the sole intention of getting out of the country, going to university in Europe and finding a decent, well paid job there. In Australia there was no funding or development, no highly paid jobs, little basic research at all, and as a student cash was the big draw to get out. The brain drain was almost epidemic. The USA wasn't an option due to your ridiculous Green Card Lottery. Very glad I did too as I simply had more, and better opportunities. There are some truly excellent innovations that still come out of Australia built literally on a shoestring. Realtime over-the-horizon radar that can image a supercarrier off the coast of Japan is one example, and it is constructed from thousands of hand wound wire, wrapped around cotton reels. So it is possible to have success (albeit non-financial) in the midst of a brain drain.
Reducing the Green Card quotas further, and kicking foreigners out of Science will certainly reduce the number of graduates, and the intelligence of the nation. Weren't most of the USA's scientists working on the big name projects of the last 50 years foreign born anyway?

That's stupid. (2, Insightful)

Hacker_PingWu (1561135) | more than 4 years ago | (#29904709)

I have yet to read the actual article, what I am replying to is the slashdot clipping. I'll read the article later just for arguing points and completion.

This is moronic. I don't know *how* they are calculating that 'the supply has actually remained steady over the past 30 years,' but if that is true, that demonstrates
a growing need for science and technology students, not that it's fine. The US was the world leader in science, technology and manufacturing coming out of WW II, and our
society has revolved around progressive upgrading and retooling of our industrial output.

The total population growth of the US from 1979 to 2008 according to the US Census Bureau was approximately 80 million people. You have to consider retiring, and emigrating persons in your picture when you are trying to estimate how many science sector persons we have produced, and kept in the last whole generation. So, if our number of graduating science, engineering and manufacturing sector students has remained the *same* for the *past 30 years*, we are ALL in a LOT of trouble.

I'd say that their conclusions, contrary to what they speculate as 'needing fewer Science students' shows data explaining how the scientific, industrial and manufacturing sectors of our country have been decaying for the past 30 years.

Stupd rationale (2, Insightful)

AdmiralXyz (1378985) | more than 4 years ago | (#29904725)

Cranking out even more science graduates, according to the researchers, does not give corporations any incentive to boost wages for science/tech jobs, which would be one way to retain the highest-performing students.

Or they could pay solid wages to the highest-performing students, and lesser wages to the less performing students. You know, the way the market is supposed to work.

Seriously, did they get grant money for this crap?

Re:Stupd rationale (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#29904891)

The way the market is "supposed" to work and how it actually works are, of course, completely different step children.

This is a country that, to show how much they appreciate the hard and invaluable work of computer professionals, exempt them from overtime pay.

Re:Stupd rationale (4, Funny)

blueg3 (192743) | more than 4 years ago | (#29904961)

Isn't imposing your opinion on how they should pay employees, rather than letting employers set wages as they see fit, rather anti-Free Market?

Re:Stupd rationale (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#29905031)

So you're saying that students that perform less that the top, should eat less? I mean I know what students get for wages, and eating is just about the whole paycheck ...

Re:Stupd rationale (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#29905101)

Measure my performance. Go ahead and try it. I'm majoring in an engineering field, along with a second major in mathematics and a minor in computer science, and a GPA hovering in the 3.7 range. Am I a better worker than a student who takes one of my majors and nails down a 4.0 in it? How the hell should I know?

What country are these doofuses living in? (2, Interesting)

category_five (814174) | more than 4 years ago | (#29904741)

The summary implies that reducing the number of science graduates would provide an incentive for companies to increase the pay of scientists and engineers. I counter that a reduced amount of science graduates would simply increase the number of H1B visas granted which will in turn drive down the pay for native scientists and engineers.

As someone in science... (2, Interesting)

kidtexas (525194) | more than 4 years ago | (#29904763)

The summary got at least one sentence right. Incentives to stay in science are very small. I finished my graduate work not to long ago, and I'd make more money in almost any field compared to staying in physics. I know a number of people who left the field to do finance or something else. The thinking is: "If I have to work 80 hour weeks, I might as well be making several hundred thousand." Go to any of the top colleges/universities, and a large amount of the students want to go into finance or some other money making field.

Re:As someone in science... (1)

al0ha (1262684) | more than 4 years ago | (#29904847)

"The thinking is: "If I have to work 80 hour weeks, I might as well be making several hundred thousand." Go to any of the top colleges/universities, and a large amount of the students want to go into finance or some other money making field."

Stick with Physics my friend, the payoffs for using your brain at something you enjoy is incalculable in solely monetary terms, the money will come but more importantly so will a life well spent.

The fact that all the lemmings are going into finance, or other money making fields as you call them, is a result of the vapid Bling-Bling bullshit perpetrated on the youth of our society beginning with the ultra bad Lifestyles of the Rich and Famous and continued with Gangsta Rap culture. The real deal is very few in finance make all that much money and thus if you don't enjoy finance and are only doing it for the money, you life will ultimately suck.

Includes Sociology (1, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#29904779)

The kicker is in the last paragraph:

"Susan Traiman of the Business Roundtable criticizes the new study, saying that it gives an illusion of a robust supply because it bundles all STEM fields together. There may be an oversupply in the life sciences and social sciences, she argues, but there is no question that there are shortages in engineering and the physical science."

Of course there are too many social "sciences" students. Is that really a STEM field? There still aren't enough engineers.

Sabotage! (1)

JesseBHolmes (1063676) | more than 4 years ago | (#29904811)

This is an attempt by sociologists to build up their status by sabotaging the real sciences. Seriously, if a country doesn't value a sector monetarily, it will suffer. The United States has long underpaid its academics and is now reaping the rewards, or lack thereof.

Covered Before (3, Interesting)

weston (16146) | more than 4 years ago | (#29904849)

"Adjusted for IQ, quantitative skills, and working hours, jobs in science are the lowest paid in the United States." [greenspun.com]

I studied Math. Not the worst possible choice for an undergrad, really: the level of conceptual abstraction and logical rigor make it difficult, maybe even somewhat more so than some other technical fields, but in terms of sheer number of hours of coursework, it's considerably shorter than engineering, which allows a student to take a lot of other courses and still graduate in a reasonable amount of time. And it's a pretty good education, too.

I don't think I'd do it again.

It's exceptionally clear that not only does the marketplace value other skills (law, finance, business adminstration, plumbing) more highly, but that 90% of the population doesn't even understand what it is you learned. I'd have been far better off to pick a Math minor for core skills and rigor and pair it with an Econ or Business Major. And let's not even go to the Electrical Engineering degree I originally considered. Unless you're doing it for sheer love, it's a waste of time.

That's the general prognosis. As a career choice, STEM fields offer mediocre to middlin' rewards. Particularly when you consider the alternatives.

they're clearly not economists (1)

klochner (1666605) | more than 4 years ago | (#29904861)

"This happens, they say, by depressing wages in S&T fields and turning potential science and technology innovators into management professionals and hedge fund managers." The number of science graduates has very little to do with the salary differential between "technology innovators" and hedge fund managers. Reducing the number of science graduates will most likely just reduce the number of people who remain in the field, since it would effectively boost the pay of hedge fund managers.

B-Ark not full (1)

syousef (465911) | more than 4 years ago | (#29904921)

We need more people in the B-Ark. More insurance salesmen, tv producers. Scientists are in the A-Ark and that's already full.

Incentives!?!?!? (1)

raymansean (1115689) | more than 4 years ago | (#29904957)

I am a scientist, because it is what I am. The pay or the lack thereof provides me a means of being who I am instead of having to force myself to be something else. Really, as long as I have a roof over my head and food on my table then the rest is just gravy as long as I can do science. The assumption/ theory that money equals happiness has already been disproved. Now if you want me to be something that I am not, then you will have to pull out your checkbook so that I can compensate my lack of happiness with something that will bring momentary gratification.

Don't pay too much attention to Sociology (1)

Tangential (266113) | more than 4 years ago | (#29905075)

Its always amusing to see 'professions' such as sociology or psychology and science mentioned in the same sentence. Science requires objective, quantitative, repeatable process that yields predictable and measurable and quantifiable results. In spite of the 'ology' suffix these are scientific fields more like phrenoology or climatology than like biology or geology.

The article is simply wrong (1)

erroneus (253617) | more than 4 years ago | (#29905097)

The cause of depressed wages are companies seeking to lower the expenses of their labor force whether it is intellectual labor or physical. It all starts there and the cure should be focused at the cause. Schools are going to continue to put out graduates of every kind they can because that's how they get paid. There is no incentive for schools to slow or reduce the production of graduates.

It is merely wishful thinking to approach the problem by wishing there were a lower supply to increase the demand. That supply needs to be managed in other ways such as reducing the amount of knowledge worker jobs from being exported or the government otherwise discouraging outsourcing and hiring H1-Bs.

Despite the claims, H1B does suppress wages.

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