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Too Many Biomedical Graduate Students, Not Enough Jobs

timothy posted more than 2 years ago | from the great-big-invisible-hand dept.

Biotech 226

stillnotelf writes "ScienceInsider is covering a National Institutes of Health advisory committee report that details problems in the U.S. biomedical research workforce. Current policies encourage the training of large numbers of biomedical graduate students, as they are the cheapest labor available, but the research enterprise is not structured to absorb them into full-time scientist positions. The report's varied suggestions include removing graduate student funding from investigator-linked research grants (shifting it to institution-linked training grants instead) and encouraging the hiring of staff scientists as permanent lab members. This would reduce the number of trainees, but increase the proportion of trainees that maintain careers as researchers. ScienceInsider further notes that a National Research Council report 14 years ago noted a similar problem, but never motivated change."

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also get rid of unpiad and college only internship (3, Insightful)

Joe_Dragon (2206452) | more than 2 years ago | (#40341869)

also get rid of unpiad and college only internships (paid or unpaid) We need to get rid of the idea of pay to work / work for free and pay full price for Credits.

Re:also get rid of unpiad and college only interns (-1, Flamebait)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#40341933)

also get rid of unpiad and college only internships (paid or unpaid) We need to get rid of the idea of pay to work / work for free and pay full price for Credits.

Yeah and niggers! NIGGERS! Especially those fucking niggers who insist on making the first three posts in any discussion. You nigger.

Re:also get rid of unpiad and college only interns (-1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#40342689)

What do you have against Joe_Nigger?

Re:also get rid of unpiad and college only interns (-1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#40341953)

Not just first post, but first THREE posts. Dayum.

Re:also get rid of unpiad and college only interns (4, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#40342245)

Internships are such a fuzzy concept for most people. Among I.T. folks in particular, I've seen quite the battle cry lately for unpaid internships to be made flat-out illegal. That would be a foolish thing to do and here's why.

Unpaid internships were originally conceived by universities so that the student could come into a company, get a bit of training, and see how the business works from the inside. The company is supposed to derive no benefit from having the intern there. I've worked in places that did this and this kind of experience is very valuable for the student because it gives them a glimpse of the "real world" and hopefully informs their career choices.

Paid internships, in contrast, do have the intern doing real entry-level work and, for the most part, has all of the responsibilities of an employee.

Any company which brings in unpaid interns and has them doing actual work which directly or indirectly benefits the company is probably operating outside the law in most states. Any states which do not expressly prohibit this need to have their citizens stand up and make it so, but with the reason and clear-mindedness to not just make all unpaid internships flat-out illegal as you would propose.

Re:also get rid of unpiad and college only interns (4, Insightful)

ATMAvatar (648864) | more than 2 years ago | (#40342333)

The crux of the issue with allowing unpaid internships that provide nothing of value to the company and paid internships which do is this: prove the intern's work provided value. If a record company or Hollywood studio can bill a blockbuster success as somehow a multi-million dollar loss, you can bet that any company that wants to exploit unpaid interns will easily be able to "prove" that they got nothing of value.

The distinction between the two works just fine in an environment with mature adults, but the business world is a bunch of two-year-olds screaming "mine!".

Re:also get rid of unpiad and college only interns (2, Insightful)

mysidia (191772) | more than 2 years ago | (#40342953)

you can bet that any company that wants to exploit unpaid interns will easily be able to "prove" that they got nothing of value.

Hang on... if the unpaid intern provided nothing of value; it would be irrational for the company to have brought them on in the first place.

Obviously companies do get something value. Free contributions to anything that the company does, or free contribution to development of anything the company will use is a benefit.

It makes perfect sense for the governmetn prohibit not paying interns at least a minimum wage for any time during which they are requested to provide a service to the company or doing any kind of work for the company.

If they are receiving instruction, then it makes sense anything they were paid would not include time they were receiving instruction or demonstration but not doing any work or executing the performance of any task.

Re:also get rid of unpiad and college only interns (1)

Lord Kano (13027) | more than 2 years ago | (#40342829)

Internships are such a fuzzy concept for most people. Among I.T. folks in particular, I've seen quite the battle cry lately for unpaid internships to be made flat-out illegal. That would be a foolish thing to do and here's why.

Unpaid internships were originally conceived by universities so that the student could come into a company, get a bit of training, and see how the business works from the inside. The company is supposed to derive no benefit from having the intern there. I've worked in places that did this and this kind of experience is very valuable for the student because it gives them a glimpse of the "real world" and hopefully informs their career choices.

Paid internships, in contrast, do have the intern doing real entry-level work and, for the most part, has all of the responsibilities of an employee.

Any company which brings in unpaid interns and has them doing actual work which directly or indirectly benefits the company is probably operating outside the law in most states. Any states which do not expressly prohibit this need to have their citizens stand up and make it so, but with the reason and clear-mindedness to not just make all unpaid internships flat-out illegal as you would propose.

When I was an undergrad I had a well paid internship at the company that's now my employer. There were several things that the company did right. First of all, the internship was open ended. I could continue to be an intern as long as I maintained full time college enrollment. They started me at a respectable entry level wage for someone without a college degree or a lot of experience in the field. Every semester that passed, I got a raise up to the maximum rate. I finished my internship making over $18.00/hr. I would have never considered an unpaid internship. It's amusing that people want to make them illegal, I'd flat out refuse to take one.

LK

Re:also get rid of unpiad and college only interns (3, Interesting)

mysidia (191772) | more than 2 years ago | (#40342969)

I would have never considered an unpaid internship. It's amusing that people want to make them illegal, I'd flat out refuse to take one.

However, there are people that do take them. And in some cases unpaid interns do constitute competition against paid entry-level applicants, resulting in smaller supply of entry-level jobs available, and therefore, lower wages / less-advantageous hiring terms for professional entry-level applicants who want to be paid.

Master / PHD / Some BA / BS are geared towards (-1, Redundant)

Joe_Dragon (2206452) | more than 2 years ago | (#40341877)

Lots of the Master / PHD / and Some of the BA / BS are geared towards being a teacher / staying in the school / college system.

Re:Master / PHD / Some BA / BS are geared towards (3, Interesting)

Sir_Sri (199544) | more than 2 years ago | (#40342151)

Right, but a PhD in something, even if they're a 'teacher' is really on a 40/40/20 contract or similar. 40% teaching, 40% research, 20% administrative. There are only so many places it's worth trying to build any research program and course selection, so you can only absorb so many graduates. A professor isn't a 'teacher' like a high school or public school teacher, you teach a handful of classes a year and the rest of the time do research. Whereas a teacher is teaching, or preparing for teaching or marking from teaching full time.

Strictly speaking comp sci would have the same problem, we graduate as many PhD's as we have faculty/researchers - and that's every year were it not for the massive industry sink of 'go make software for a living'. So we'd be over supplied for faculty positions by about a factor of 30, though smaller schools can't grant PhDs so it's harder to do the math and be sure. Either way. If you don't have research grant money for faculty there's no point in training future faculty.

Now the question with biomedical research I would think is why aren't there industry jobs, and what's been happening to the graduates? It's possible this 'problem' is fabricated, and the US is just serving as the worlds training centre for biomedical science and that they're just going back to home countries or are going into non reporting areas (where they do broadly biomedical work but not specifically talked to by the NIH). From the looks of the report there's a 5 year backlog between getting a PhD and getting a faculty position, that's a problem by itself, but it's not clear if that's getting worse or better from the report. It's also possible that industry is just not doing biomedical research in the US (are the graduates being given bad skillsets, overpriced etc?), and I would think the other option is that there just isn't the money to support this many grads anywhere, and they should cut back. That's unfortunate, but better to tell people 'go do something else' sooner rather than later.

time for more apprenticeships over older collge sy (-1, Redundant)

Joe_Dragon (2206452) | more than 2 years ago | (#40341887)

time for more apprenticeships over older college system??

Where apprenticeships get paid or have much lower schooling costs and they pick up real job skills at the same time.

Re:time for more apprenticeships over older collge (1)

pipingguy (566974) | more than 2 years ago | (#40341923)

Agreed. Not everyone "deserves" a degree (I'm not talking about perceived ability, rather potential).

I'm assuming that most will agree that there are a lot of "feelgood, will pay" degrees given to otherwise unemployable individuals.

Re:time for more apprenticeships over older collge (2)

Samantha Wright (1324923) | more than 2 years ago | (#40341929)

Wet-lab fields tend not to be like that.

Re:time for more apprenticeships over older collge (1)

pipingguy (566974) | more than 2 years ago | (#40342017)

Can you eludicate?

Re:time for more apprenticeships over older collge (4, Informative)

Samantha Wright (1324923) | more than 2 years ago | (#40342089)

In general, at the Bachelor's level, the material is extremely dense compared to the humanities, and the lecturers are selected based on their research value, not their didactic ability. I have rarely heard of someone switching into biology or medicine because they felt some other discipline was too hard. Since many of these degree programs require organic chemistry, getting through them with a decent average is a real trial by fire. Some of the graduates may not have the greatest critical reasoning skills, but surviving in such a program most definitely requires significant determination and dedication.

Re:time for more apprenticeships over older collge (4, Insightful)

the gnat (153162) | more than 2 years ago | (#40342587)

Some of the graduates may not have the greatest critical reasoning skills, but surviving in such a program most definitely requires significant determination and dedication.

Equally advantageous: extreme mismanagement at all levels.

I spent five years in one of the most prestigious biomedical science graduate programs and somehow managed to get a PhD (I say this not to brag, but to make the point that they'll give just about any asshole a degree). I have seen countless graduate students and postdocs coast along for years with no results to show for it, without any action from the supervisors. Sometimes bad luck is a factor - even the most talented scientist can be helpless when faced with an intractable experiment - but a good manager knows when to cut his/her losses. A good manager also knows when to say, "perhaps grad school isn't a good environment for you. Maybe you should quit now with an MS and go do something more useful with your life." A good manager realizes that when someone stops showing up for months on end, it's time to fire his sorry ass and hire someone useful, or buy more equipment. An HPLC never shows up at 3pm because it overslept after eating too many pot brownies. (True story!)

What makes this really depressing: most of the people I went to school with were far above average intelligence and capable of doing excellent work with the proper motivation and management. There are lots of exceptionally bright men and women in their 20s slaving away in laboratories on soul-crushing projects, supervised by an odd mix of micromanagers, passive-aggressives, and absentee landlords (for lack of a better term). Most of us are utterly unsuited for graduate school, either in theory or in practice. Only a fraction are cut out to be full research faculty, and even some of these I wonder if they'd be happier doing something different. (The remainder, I seriously wonder whether they'll be fucking up their grad students' lives in 20 years.) Most of us go to grad school because that seemed like the logical route at the time, and we enjoyed learning and experimenting. After 5-6 years of largely wasted effort, almost none of us would still recommend grad school to our younger selves. I still feel bad about a few of the younger students who didn't get the brutally honest advice they deserved, because we didn't want to hurt their feelings.

There are probably a few sub-fields where it is possible to stay on the cutting edge and be employable for years after graduation - next-gen sequencing, perhaps. But I get depressed every time I go to meetings and meet students and postdocs with IQs well above 120 slaving away on projects that are probably useful but certainly not world-changing, and who will probably end up with one or two papers in Journal of Molecular Biology, and eventually need to find jobs in their chosen fields. What jobs? Even if you're the most badass electron microscopist in all of New England, what does that prepare you to do other than perpetuate the cycle of mismanagement at another research institution? Assuming you can even get the job, of course; even a top-tier journal publication doesn't automatically get you anything when you're competing with several hundred other postdocs.

Sadly, I still haven't figured out what to do with the degree that took most of my youth and nearly all of my sanity. I never had any ambitions towards faculty posts, fortunately, but there aren't a ton of jobs in industry in my field either. I still work in the same field in academia in a full-time researcher position, which is relatively stable if you ignore the fact that my employer is $14 trillion in the red and counting. I'm probably marginally more employable because I managed to pick up very good programming skills along the way, but still, if I want to move into software engineering I'm either going to be competing with CS PhDs, or settling for bachelors-level jobs. Every time I read my alumni newsletter from college I cringe, and think "Jesus Christ, why didn't I just sell out like everyone with a brain?"

Re:time for more apprenticeships over older collge (4, Interesting)

Samantha Wright (1324923) | more than 2 years ago | (#40342803)

I must admit I'm on a bit of a high horse, as my life's passion has always been bioinformatics. I'm a better software engineer than most software engineers I know, and I fulfilled part of my Bachelor's general education requirement with a third-year course in physical biochemistry taught by the same professors as my mandatory third-year proteins-and-enzymes biochemistry course. (They weren't exactly picky.) I'll also be honest in that I'm just entering my Master's in the fall, and can't really comment on the realities of the job market with anything but wide-eyed hope.

My advice is that you may actually want to consider computing more seriously. Research hospitals pay out their rear ends for bioinformaticians just with masters' degrees, and that's in a field where only a handful of institutions really offer dedicated programs, doing applied work (i.e., not a lot of code review.) Software engineering ability really is not actually a prerequisite, as most of the code turned out by computational biologists is utter garbage by engineering standards (and people with wetlab experience are uniformly way better at writing papers.) I'd also imagine grants are relatively easy to get, if you wanted to keep to a more biochemical circle, given that even popular science magazines are aware of the "[too much] data problem," but, well, I'm no lab head. :)

The truth is that there are very few CS people with an interest in molecular biology or biochemistry. Out of the 14 students graduating this year from my program in our computational biology-and-medicine concentration, I was the only student who definitely professed an interest in genomics rather than robot-aided surgery. (It wasn't the largest CS department, but I've got another anecdote—a friend looking at prospective supervisors at Notre Dame sparked interest just by mentioning that she knew "a bioinformatician.") On the whole, the amount of knowledge in genetics and chemistry required to be an effective molecular biologist just doesn't fit into the learning approach of most people who seek out post-undergrad education in computer science; they have a certain whimsy to them that you'd recognize mostly in philosophy or literature majors. They're just not detail-oriented enough to get all the way into it.

So... don't despair. Not yet, anyway.

Re:time for more apprenticeships over older collge (1)

Mindcontrolled (1388007) | more than 2 years ago | (#40342989)

I think with a focus on bioinformatics, you are set up well. I was more of a spectroscopy guy back then, mostly NMR, and that seems slightly problematic these days.Others I studied with, people with a focus on proteomics and transcriptomics with a solid bioinformatic background immediately got good research jobs with the industry. I won't cite my only bioinformatics paper here, as it is too embarassing.... Some genetic algorithm stuff on optimizing the tendency of sequences to adopt helical structures. But hey, it got published :P

Re:time for more apprenticeships over older collge (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#40342921)

Why do you continually praise that which cannot be comprehended by one such as you?

Re:time for more apprenticeships over older collge (2)

Mindcontrolled (1388007) | more than 2 years ago | (#40342967)

Hm, I have a PhD in biochemistry to my name, but I think you are overexaggerating the differences to the humanities here. Yes, the degree was hard, we got tested to the limits of our intellectual capacities, but then again, I hang around with a lot of history and linguistics guys - if I listen to their musings I feel slightly inadequate... That stuff *can* be hard, too, if you do not treat it as a feel-good degree....

Re:time for more apprenticeships over older collge (1)

Mindcontrolled (1388007) | more than 2 years ago | (#40342977)

Oh, to tie this to the topic at hand - I did not get a job in research, despite a good publication history in Biochemistry, Journal of Virology and JACS... I am doing the good old patent lawyering thing now... Go figure.... The whole field of research is swamped with graduates... :P

Re:time for more apprenticeships over older collge (2)

Daniel Dvorkin (106857) | more than 2 years ago | (#40342015)

I'm assuming that most will agree that there are a lot of "feelgood, will pay" degrees given to otherwise unemployable individuals.

BSs, sure. MSs, sometimes. Not PhDs, if for no other reason than that, at least in the sciences, it's almost universally the case that the school pays you to get the degree, not the other way around. And while it's true that the money for a lot of grad student stipends come from external sources (NIH and NSF particularly, in the US) so there's some incentive for schools to get and graduate as many students as possible, it's also true that the granting agencies look at what happens to students down the road as one of their major criteria for renewal. Any training-grant-funded program that produces a lot of unemployable graduates is in big trouble.

Re:time for more apprenticeships over older collge (2)

the gnat (153162) | more than 2 years ago | (#40342605)

Any training-grant-funded program that produces a lot of unemployable graduates is in big trouble.

It depends how far down the road you're looking. Any idiot can find a postdoc position; look at science job sites (like Nature Jobs) and you'll see no shortage of openings in most fields. A very large fraction of biomedical grad students - the few who are ambitious and capable enough to succeed in an academic career path, and the majority who are too clueless to cut their losses while they can still salvage their dignity - will end up postdoc job shortly after graduation. I really doubt that the granting agencies track them beyond this point. Whether any of these poor souls are "employable" after spending several years as postdocs is debatable - and to whatever extent this is the case, it's largely because the more senior researchers expect that everyone else endure the same bullshit they had to put up with.

Re:time for more apprenticeships over older collge (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#40342957)

Any idiot can find a postdoc position; look at science job sites (like Nature Jobs) and you'll see no shortage of openings in most fields.

It's worth noting that there's an increasing trend toward limiting post-doc positions to fresh PhDs (within five years of graduation). One can debate whether that's good or bad. But the practical consequence is that it's becoming more and more difficult to string post-doc positions together into an ad-hoc permanent staff scientist career - either you claw your way into a faculty position within about 10 years of graduation or you're out on the street.

Re:time for more apprenticeships over older collge (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#40342257)

That is what graduate school is like for a lot of science and engineering fields: you get paid to attend and work in a lab gaining real job skills. The only caveat is the job skills can be biased toward certain work that may or may not be that applicable outside of research work. Depending on the field and the team the student chooses to join, that work experience might be even narrower, e.g. specific to only academia environment.

So, just go back for a post-doc (1)

JoeMerchant (803320) | more than 2 years ago | (#40341891)

No job outside school? Stay in and continue to work for peanuts while paying tuition.

The economy needs more post-doc students!

Re:So, just go back for a post-doc (3, Insightful)

Lemmy Caution (8378) | more than 2 years ago | (#40342001)

This society needs more income equality and public services, so there's less panicked rushing from one sector of the labor market to another.

Re:So, just go back for a post-doc (-1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#40342807)

society needs more income equality and public services

Standard Progressive fare here. Leftism is like fast food for the American consciousness: We're subjected to a constant, daily barrage of advertising of it, so even though it's devoid of any real intellectually nutritional value, we end up consuming a steady diet of it anyways. And then eventually most of us stink like it.

So mod that shit up, fatties, even though it's completely redundant here.

Re:So, just go back for a post-doc (0, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#40342879)

So, the solution is to cut back on public services and go back to the era of robber barons? I'm sorry, but conservatives really need to spend some time in school, specifically history class so they understand why their views are so incredibly stupid.

Re:So, just go back for a post-doc (-1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#40342973)

That's assuming we'd believe your history books. We already don't believe your "science", nor your "journalism", nor your economics, nor your made-up morals.

Re:So, just go back for a post-doc (4, Insightful)

sqrt(2) (786011) | more than 2 years ago | (#40342181)

Economy be damned. We know how to fix it, we just choose to prioritize other things like tolerance for huge wealth inequality, low taxes, and lack of regulation.

Turning the issue around and looking at it from the other direction; it would be hard to make the case that our civilization would be worse off with more highly educated individuals, regardless of their "economic" usefulness. Man does not exist to serve the economy, the economy exists to serve man and enable the nobler pursuits of humanity beyond the daily struggle for mere existence.

Re:So, just go back for a post-doc (1, Insightful)

phantomfive (622387) | more than 2 years ago | (#40342539)

we just choose to prioritize other things like ..... low taxes

Everyone wants low taxes, mate. That's not a class struggle thing.

And for that matter, does it really bother you so much if someone has more wealth than you?

Re:So, just go back for a post-doc (3, Interesting)

sqrt(2) (786011) | more than 2 years ago | (#40342813)

Aye, we all want low taxes, but those who have the most to potentially "lose" want low taxes most of all. They've figured out they can use a fraction of their wealth to lobby for protection of the rest of it.

And I only start to care about other people having more wealth than I when so many have so much more that it starts to cause problems in my society. Some inequality is doubtless necessary as a motivating factor, but we are so far beyond what is necessary. The cost of maintaining our current levels of inequality are great.

The last and most ironic victim might be capitalism itself, if inequity is allowed to persist too long at too high a level. Every business needs customers, and customers need to have money to spend. Think of the implications of every year there being less customers with less money to spend because too much wealth has accumulated at the top. The entire system eventually becomes too top heavy to stand, and collapses. We're probably still a fair ways off from that happening, but I believe we're closer than most people are willing to admit.

We are certainly close enough that we should be having serious discussions on what to do about it, what the future economy might look like. We're not even doing that. No one is seriously discussing a possible future where selling your labor for money to live is the norm, despite the fact that every year it becomes harder and harder to do so.

Re:So, just go back for a post-doc (2)

sqrt(2) (786011) | more than 2 years ago | (#40342825)

Forgive me for replying to my own post but I made a typo which completely changed the meaning of the last sentence. It should read,

No one is seriously discussing a possible future where selling your labor for money to live is not the norm, despite the fact that every year it becomes harder and harder to do so.

Re:So, just go back for a post-doc (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#40342851)

And for that matter, does it really bother you so much if someone has more wealth than you?

There is massive suffering in the world. How does one make sense of that?

The scientific explanation is that absolutely everything that happens in the world happens because of some combination of the laws of physics and random chance: there is no god, life has no purpose, free will is an illusion - i.e. the laws of physics are a mean bitch. But human memory constantly evolves to more efficiently store it's information - to adopt a simple narrative that fits with everything that is observed and remembered.

So some people will try to impose a narrative where people suffer because they deserve to suffer - where people are poor because they deserve to be poor. Of course that's obvious nonsense. Does a newborn baby "deserve" to be poor?

But if you want to make sense of it all you have to blame someone. If the poor are not to blame for being poor then the blame must lie with the people who are not poor.

And there's an interesting bit of truth in that. As the Gini coefficient increases, more and more of an economy's productive capacity will be devoted to producing frivolous luxury goods for rich people. Of course, if you simply redistribute the wealth to the poor people then your economy ends up producing some combination of basic necessities and frivolous consumer goods.

If you actually want your economy's productive capacity to be devoted to scientific progress then you have to tax the hell out of the rich, give the poor just enough basic necessities and infrastructure to be productive members of society - and dump the rest into scientific research.

Of course, that's not what people in the USA want. On the left they want their cabin in the woods with their organic vegetable patch and their new age crystals. On the right they want their cabin in the woods with their guns and their bibles. In the middle, they want their McMansions, their large screen TVs and their SUVs.

In the end, though, what everyone does and thinks and wants is determined by the laws of physics (in combination with random chance) - and, as noted, the laws of physics are a mean mean bitch.

Re:So, just go back for a post-doc (1)

JockTroll (996521) | more than 2 years ago | (#40342805)

Man does not exist to serve the economy, the economy exists to serve man and enable the nobler pursuits of humanity beyond the daily struggle for mere existence.

Who told you this bullcrap? The Pink Fluffly Fairy of Cottoncandy Pony Unicorn Rainbowland? There ain't no "nobler pursuits", there's only dog eats dog. The Ruling Elite figured this out long ago and set up a nice war between poor people so, while those at the bottom kill each other for a moldy piece of bread fished out of the trash, those at the top feast on caviar and champagne while fucking underage hookers. Keep believing the lie, if it helps drowning out the sound of the guys at the top laughinh at you.

Re:So, just go back for a post-doc (1)

sqrt(2) (786011) | more than 2 years ago | (#40342831)

Cottoncandy Pony Unicorn Rainbowland

Whimsyshire, surely.

Re:So, just go back for a post-doc (2)

Mindcontrolled (1388007) | more than 2 years ago | (#40342997)

Psssht. You missed the latest conservatard meme that scientists are only doing it FOR TEH GRANTS. Haven't you heard that by grant-whoring you get to drive a Porsche with complimentary bitches to snort coke out of their navels? Or does that only apply to climatology? I am confused these days....

thoughtful recs that all require more NIH funding. (4, Informative)

neurocutie (677249) | more than 2 years ago | (#40341935)

The report cited is quite thoughtful and accurate in identifying trends, inefficiencies and recommends important solutions. Unfortunately the bulk of them cannot be implemented while maintaining US biomedical research excellence without a greater infusion of funds from Congress -- the system is the way it is partly because the research community is already being seriously squeezed for funding. If the Repubs/Romney have their way (Mitt has talked about a 20-30% slashing of NIH funding), then it really doesn't matter, as the whole system is headed for collapse and the US will truly fall behind and lose a decade or two at the least. The report is correct in looking at trends that span a decade, but even 4 years of a slashed budget would seriously cripple the system and drive away top talent. It is already happen even with the current NIH funding situation (very poor, less than 10% chance for any grant application to be funded).

Re:thoughtful recs that all require more NIH fundi (2, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#40342053)

While this is also true, the current system is completely unsustainable unless the funding basically increases exponentially, which is never going to happen. The problem is that for each faculty (each lab), you typically have ~4 postdocs and ~4 PhD students at a time... so after 5 years, you've gone from needing 1 faculty position to 5. If they each get jobs, after another 5 years you're up to 25 positions... unless funding (and, equally as importantly, university positions/space) is going to increase exponentially, it eventually falls apart.

It's exactly the same training problem as other fields (law, medicine) in that you're constantly training more people than there are current positions... except that in those fields if you really can't find a position, you can go open your own practice. In biomedicine, that's nearly impossible - any serious research lab is going to require a significant amount of funding and resources that you basically can't get outside the university/grant system, and it's very difficult to do a biomedical startup without having a prototype already existing (since it's biology, and the failure rate is high simply because we don't understand enough about most systems yet to know what will work and what won't without actually testing it).

Re:thoughtful recs that all require more NIH fundi (2)

Ruie (30480) | more than 2 years ago | (#40342963)

While this is also true, the current system is completely unsustainable unless the funding basically increases exponentially, which is never going to happen. The problem is that for each faculty (each lab), you typically have ~4 postdocs and ~4 PhD students at a time... so after 5 years, you've gone from needing 1 faculty position to 5. If they each get jobs, after another 5 years you're up to 25 positions... unless funding (and, equally as importantly, university positions/space) is going to increase exponentially, it eventually falls apart.

It's exactly the same training problem as other fields (law, medicine) in that you're constantly training more people than there are current positions... except that in those fields if you really can't find a position, you can go open your own practice. In biomedicine, that's nearly impossible - any serious research lab is going to require a significant amount of funding and resources that you basically can't get outside the university/grant system, and it's very difficult to do a biomedical startup without having a prototype already existing (since it's biology, and the failure rate is high simply because we don't understand enough about most systems yet to know what will work and what won't without actually testing it).

There is a flaw in your argument - the population of United States is growing much more slowly. So at some point everyone will be trained. Wouldn't that be nice ?

Re:thoughtful recs that all require more NIH fundi (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#40342217)

In reality there is not enough biomedical research funding, because there are still hundreds of thousands of diseases which do not currently have cures.

There is currently a surplus in insurance sales people and their support staff (actuaries, etc). If the billions of dollars spent each year on funding the medical insurance business could be diverted to curing diseases then this would be a win-win situation for the biomedical field and for patients. Of course if this happened then the insurance people would not be able to maintain their lifestyles, so you can expect the lobbyists will ensure that the medical industry is always under-funded.

Re:thoughtful recs that all require more NIH fundi (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#40342363)

In reality there is not enough biomedical research funding, because there are still hundreds of thousands of diseases which do not currently have cures.

At the very least, there are thousands and thousands of genes which have not been studied in any real detail. There's plenty of biomedical research to do that's fairly routine (i.e. doesn't require an absolute best-fo-the-best superstar Einstein). I mean, just go through all the 20,000 or so genes in the human genome and, for each gene that's not already well studied, assign a team of a hundred or so people to studied that particular gene. You'd need a million or so researchers - so the cost might be comparable to the cost of the Iraq war (i.e. easily within the budget of a country like the USA).

"Biomedical" is too broad a category (3, Informative)

damn_registrars (1103043) | more than 2 years ago | (#40341937)

Within the umbrella of biomedicine, there are vastly different job outlooks. Some areas can't hire post-docs and staff scientists fast enough. Others can't afford to pay anyone other than a grad student (who works for less than minimum wage in most cases).

Re:"Biomedical" is too broad a category (5, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#40342291)

Some areas can't hire post-docs and staff scientists fast enough.

Really? Which ones? Do tell.

I'm on my second post-doc in bioinformatics - and I had to move to Asia just to get that. Many nights I'm literally awake at 3am wondering how I'm going to feed my family when my current contract runs out.

In a couple years, sequencing a human genome is going to cost $1,000 (or less) and millions of people will have genome sequences to be analyzed. Ideally, I'd get a job writing software for (medical) genome analysis. But there's only so much of that kind of software that's really needed and lots of young hotshots looking to prove themselves. So realistically that's a long shot.

In a few years most major hospitals will probably have bioinformatics departments to analyze genome sequence (like radiology departments to analyze x-rays) so maybe I could find something there. But then this morning I was thinking maybe I could go back to school and get a masters in genetic counseling.

So, anyway, if you actually know where the biomedical jobs are, I'd love to know. It sure would be great not to have to worry quite so much about how I'm going to feed my family

Re:"Biomedical" is too broad a category (2)

Samantha Wright (1324923) | more than 2 years ago | (#40342841)

Try Canada? I keep hearing from my supervisors and senior coworkers here that every bioinformatician they've ever known has gone on to great things and is making a hundred thousand at some hospital somewhere.

Re:"Biomedical" is too broad a category (4, Insightful)

mcelrath (8027) | more than 2 years ago | (#40342447)

No way, "biomedical" is far too narrow. These recommendations are valid across all the sciences. I think the solution is simple: abolish post-docs (fixed-term contracts for scientists), and reduce the number of grants for grad students, replacing both with "permanent scientist" jobs. We've created an indentured underclass of scientists who have neither the job stability, nor funding to actually do science. Instead they're beholden to the latest shiny object everyone else is fascinated by, because that's what will get them the next post-doc. The entire system is organized around training professors, not doing science. Like any field with 10 times more applicants than jobs, the primary activity becomes culling the herd, not selecting the best science. As any professor will tell you, it's about finding ways to veto candidates, not selecting the best one. So we end up with everyone playing follow the leader, and searching for ever low-hanging fruit, and no one in all of science is in a position to make a long-term commitment to pursue a difficult idea.

Yeah, grad students and post-docs are cheap, but they can't actually do science. They're our best and brightest, and we only allow them to do other people's science. You better hope that the PI with 10 minutes today to think about his project between meetings has the right idea. Because, you know, people with 10 minutes between meetings are the best ones to think deeply about things and decide the best course of action. We'd be better off if we inverted the hierarchy in science. We need to give people in their late 20's and early 30's the majority of the power in the field, because that's when our minds are sharpest, and we are most capable. Hire them into permanent positions, and promote from within instead of heavily recruiting from outside.

More H1-b Visas! That's the ticket! (2)

hemp (36945) | more than 2 years ago | (#40341943)

Seriously, H1-b visas are being used to bring over more scientist.

Re:More H1-b Visas! That's the ticket! (1)

Tablizer (95088) | more than 2 years ago | (#40342729)

Perform biomedical experiments on them. Then they get a paid a salary, and citizen graduates can perform their research ;-)

Gear it to Americans. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#40341987)

These grants should be mostly for Americans.

Too many X students; not enough X jobs (5, Insightful)

virb67 (1771270) | more than 2 years ago | (#40342007)

This is true for most professions today in the U.S.. When the U.S. exported its manufacturing industry, vaporizing millions of well-paying blue collar jobs in the U.S., the middle class was told that these jobs would be replaced by even higher paying white collar or "creative" jobs for everyone--you just had to educate yourself. Well, people listened, and they educated themselves, and now they're finding out that they were sold a big fat bucket of bullshit. Just ask any recent law grad, or architecture grad, or marketing grad, or, yeah, bio-med grad. There just aren't enough of these professional jobs to replace the ones we've lost. There never was and there never will be.

Re:Too many X students; not enough X jobs (3, Insightful)

RightwingNutjob (1302813) | more than 2 years ago | (#40342035)

Nope. Too many people were told "educate yourself" and heard "go to college and get a degree in underwater basketweaving." That's problem 1. Problem 2 is a persistent cultural cancer in academia that declares and academic job as the only kind of job there is. Maybe the problem is worse in the squishier sciences, but in engineering, you can't simultaneously have "not enough highly qualified candidates" for jobs that typically start at 70k+ and a glut of PhD's unless those PhD's restrict their jobs search to academia where tenure track positions are nearly nonexistent and post-doc the pay tops out at 50k. The solution isn't to change the funding model, it's to make students aware of the fact that the world doesn't begin and end at the borders of campus.

Re:Too many X students; not enough X jobs (3, Interesting)

artor3 (1344997) | more than 2 years ago | (#40342197)

It's not just a cultural problem on the job-seekers' side. Ever hear of the phrase "over-qualified"?

If someone with a PhD applies for an entry level job in engineering, their resume is likely to get round filed.

Re:Too many X students; not enough X jobs (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#40342297)

So what? Don't include the bloody PhD then. Include masters or whatever you want.

Who says your resume must include every bloody detail of your life? Include the bits that will benefit you. Exclude things that will get you "overqualified".

Re:Too many X students; not enough X jobs (1)

Bill Dog (726542) | more than 2 years ago | (#40342455)

Good point, and one you come to realize on your own as you get later in your career, vice earlier when you're short on qualifications so you try to be as comprehensive about yourself as possible.

If specifically asked what is the highest degree you've attained, don't lie, but otherwise you tailor your resume to the job, leaving out the inapplicable stuff.

Re:Too many X students; not enough X jobs (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#40342549)

So what? Don't include the bloody PhD then. Include masters or whatever you want.

Who says your resume must include every bloody detail of your life? Include the bits that will benefit you. Exclude things that will get you "overqualified".

Right, so how exactly do I account for the elapsed time on my resume between Masters (assuming I even got one and didn't go straight to PhD) and finishing my second postdoc? Do I just make a job up? Should I say I was in a coma?

Re:Too many X students; not enough X jobs (4, Insightful)

AthanasiusKircher (1333179) | more than 2 years ago | (#40342323)

Ever hear of the phrase "over-qualified"?

THIS. A person with a Ph.D. -- whether it's in biomedical science, philosophy, or English literature -- is generally viewed by employers as a "researcher." If a person with such a Ph.D. applies for any non-research job (academic or not), he will have to convince interviewers that (1) he won't cost too much, (2) he won't be bored and is actually interested in the job, (3) he's not going to bolt for a better job the minute he can find one, etc. Often it's hard to even get an interview, since potential employers assume that you're just not going to be a good fit.

Same goes for someone with a 4-year degree applying for a job that only requires a high-school diploma. etc.

There are those jokes about philosophy Ph.D.'s working at McDonald's or waiting tables, but the reality is that overqualified people often have significant trouble landing a position unless it's low enough to be considered "temp level" or the kind of thing that high school kids do part-time.

Yes, many will eventually convince an employer to take a chance on an "overqualified" candidate, and they can then work their way up to a reasonable salary. But I know young people who have multiple master's degrees and years of experience, but have ended up out of work for well over a year waiting for a reasonable job to come along -- and by "reasonable," I mean something that would at least put them into the equivalent of an entry level position for a bachelor's degree in their field (or, frankly, any related field).

For Ph.D.'s, the stigma tends to be worse. Looking outside of academia is fine, but trying for professional jobs outside of high-level research is often quite difficult.

Re:Too many X students; not enough X jobs (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#40342995)

Definitely some truth to this. I got into software in a big way during my biophysics PhD. Decided I wanted to go into software, and since graduating, have had two interviews at Google, but otherwise heard nothing back from any of the other places I inquired at. The grad program even paid for me to take some undergrad and grad CS courses, which I killed. One guy even audibly coughed *bullshit* after I got up to turn in one of my finals after 20 minutes. Even the professor looked perplexed, and I had a small moment of panic as I checked the page backs to make sure I hadn't missed half the test.

I suppose most hirers just aren;t interested in a just over 30, largely self-taught programmer with a science Ph.D.

I've since found something pretty good (as a scientist who mostly programs), but I still feel slightly uncomfortable, like I'm walking a tight rope. I would also have liked to have had the experience of working on large, team-oriented, commercial software.

Re:Too many X students; not enough X jobs (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#40342439)

It's not just a cultural problem on the job-seekers' side. Ever hear of the phrase "over-qualified"?

Actually that is a "cultural problem". As in, you've been hanging around academia too long, here in business we take showers, work 10 hour days, and get right-to-the-fuckin-point because time efficiency is critical. Go stroke your beard somewhere else, Karl.

Although, in my experience this usually comes up as an urban mythical story. Such as "My third-cousin Fred can't find a job because of the minority quotas -er- because they say he's 'overqualified'."

Re:Too many X students; not enough X jobs (0)

sociocapitalist (2471722) | more than 2 years ago | (#40342889)

It's not like you have to actually tell the potential employer you have a PhD. Tell them what you have / know that is applicable to the job, nothing more, nothing less. And don't put your life on facebook for the world to see.

Re:Too many X students; not enough X jobs (4, Insightful)

Brannoncyll (894648) | more than 2 years ago | (#40342339)

There are other aspects of academic jobs that many scientists (such as myself) value more than the salary. I could quite easily leave and work for a finance company as a quantitative analyst, earning 3 or 4 times my current salary, and many in my position do just that, but in doing so I would have to give up my freedom to pursue my ideas to go work for someone else. I enjoy my job too much for that.

Re:Too many X students; not enough X jobs (2, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#40342567)

I could quite easily leave and work for a finance company as a quantitative analyst, earning 3 or 4 times my current salary, and many in my position do just that, but in doing so I would have to give up my freedom to pursue my ideas to go work for someone else. I enjoy my job too much for that.

Bullshit. This is what people tell themselves because a friend-of-a-friend got hired at a bank in the early 90's. Fire an application off to Goldman Sachs and tell them you've worked in academia all your life, and now you've decided you would like to make 300K. You can tell them about all the "high impact papers" you (i.e. students who have worked for you) have written. Maybe mention you've heard of Black–Scholes. I'm sure they'll be kicking down your door.

Re:Too many X students; not enough X jobs (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#40342391)

you can't simultaneously have "not enough highly qualified candidates" for jobs that typically start at 70k+ and a glut of PhD's unless those PhD's restrict their jobs search to academia where tenure track positions are nearly nonexistent and post-doc the pay tops out at 50k.

Sure you can. Define "highly qualified candidates" as so high that the PhD's do not meet the "standard". Or make the work so unpleasant that people are happy to take the pay cut to work in academia.

The solution isn't to change the funding model, it's to make students aware of the fact that the world doesn't begin and end at the borders of campus.

I have yet to meet a PhD in science or engineering who could not compare salaries across jobs. They also tend to be clever enough to look at other factors, like cost of living and intrest in the work. Consider the following two job offers:
    * A 70k$/year job in San Jose or New York city, where you work on borring nonsense. The house you want costs 1,500k$.
    * A 50k$/year job in a small university town, where you get to keep working on the field you care about. The house you want costs 300k$.
Most of the PhDs I know would choose the second job. The ones that would not are making a choice to live in a city (and pay for the privilege, in dollars and in happiness on the job).

Re:Too many X students; not enough X jobs (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#40342413)

Also, you forgot to mention, academia jobs are much more fun than industry jobs, especially in biomedicine. Who wants to do research for a drug company their entire life? A professorship where you research what you want is much more fun.

I'm not saying this is how most professorships end up (there's a lot of BS you need to deal with), but this is a big reason why people like to stay in academia.

I apreciate.. (0)

josmatyb (2663391) | more than 2 years ago | (#40342021)

Thanks for good information...

Which kinds of graduate students? (1)

elashish14 (1302231) | more than 2 years ago | (#40342039)

Masters or PhD? There's a big difference. Biomedical science and engineering usually require advanced degrees and as much experience as possible. This is something that a PhD does a lot better than a Master's. It's not like computer science or mechanical engineering where you can just get a Master's and get a regular job. There just aren't that many jobs like that in the biomedical field (at least as far as I know, maybe someone can confirm or correct me).

How is it that all the comments thus far (4, Informative)

ph0rk (118461) | more than 2 years ago | (#40342051)

are nearly entirely made by people who don't know what they are talking about?

This is a real problem in all of the sciences. The biomedical sciences have had the best money for a long time, and if they are beginning to have problems, it isn't good.

For those not in the know: grad students are slave labor. postdocs are a notch better, but only barely. Remember how Gordon Freeman was treated in the intro to half-life? Consider that a documentary.

Re:How is it that all the comments thus far (4, Funny)

artor3 (1344997) | more than 2 years ago | (#40342219)

How is it that all the comments thus far are nearly entirely made by people who don't know what they are talking about?

Welcome to Slashdot!

Re:How is it that all the comments thus far (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#40342279)

"grad students are slave labor."

It becomes impossible to reason with people when definitions are so misunderstood.

Re:How is it that all the comments thus far (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#40342373)

Correct. The problem is biology gets tons of funding, allowing labs to hire too many people. Grad students aren't "cheap" or "slave labor" as a lot of people think. One grad student costs stipend+tuition (at my school, ~$83k per year). A post-doc is much cheaper ($50k if they're lucky).

We have so much funding at the top (millions of dollars per year for a single professor) but so few positions for graduates. This is simple math. If a professor can train 50+ students in his/her career before retiring, then 49 of these students must be absorbed by (1) industry, or (2) growth, to keep employment high.

Right now this is unsustainable, but with growth in biotech, industry might start picking up some of the slack

Cut the postdoctoral jobs at the grant level (4, Insightful)

Pausanias (681077) | more than 2 years ago | (#40342403)

Nobody wants to admit it but slashing funding for postdocs is the right answer. Right now it's so easy to get a postdoc job that professors consider themselves a success if their students get a postdoc position. meanwhile, if you're supervising a postdoc who can't get a tenure-track appointment, it's considered "moving on to the industry" and no big deal.

If we cut funding for postdocs, this has several benefits. 1) the bottleneck is moved to the grad student level, and fewer grad students will apply; 2) those who would have left academia after their 3rd postdoc wind up wasting less of their life at low pay; 3) the lack of slave labor will cause us professors to actually do the fucking research ourselves rather than being remote grant writing machines as some of my esteemed colleagues have become; 4) more tenure-track jobs will be created from the savings if the grant system adapts by turning into UK style block grants which fund entire departments rather than (often competing) individuals.

Re:Cut the postdoctoral jobs at the grant level (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#40342575)

YES YES YES. I don't want to respond while logged in for fear of this coming back to bite me, but you've absolutely hit the nail on the head. The current system lets people float along until they are 40 thinking that maybe it will work out for them. Then they get to the age where they are too old to get another postdoc, but lack the "real world" experience necessary to get a job. Combined with the fact that those contract positions had no benefits, that 40 year old is screwed.

Re:Cut the postdoc -- what is the priority? (3, Interesting)

neurocutie (677249) | more than 2 years ago | (#40342637)

Slashing postdoc funding may reduce grad students and training, but is that the real goal here? The goal that I'm interested in is doing the most research and gaining the most understanding about biology, science, etc, etc. Postdocs in fact are the MOST PRODUCTIVE workers in research in terms of research output -- they are much cheaper than faculty, they are well-trained and do what they are doing in the lab, they don't have to worry about grants, admin, teaching, etc. The most productive labs are the ones that have the most postdocs. And from the point of view of the individual, one's BEST YEARS are the postdoc years, for these same reasons.

so if the goal is reducing trainees, fine, slash way. But if you actually want research RESULTS and productivity, you need to insure a healthy and plentiful stream of well-trained postdocs.

if anything, the LEAST effective people in the chain are the SENIOR faculty, they are the most expensive and do the least research. Cut there if you want to cut something... (which I don't, I'd rather cut bombs and missles... its ridiculous that the monies we are talking about saving and slashing amount to a couple of bombs and missles...)

Re:Cut the postdoctoral jobs at the grant level (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#40342727)

If we cut funding for postdocs, this has several benefits. 1) the bottleneck is moved to the grad student level, and fewer grad students will apply;

If by "fewer", you mean that on average each professor only graduates one or two PhDs of the course of the professor's entire career then I might agree with you. Otherwise, there's still a massive human cost - doing a career change immediately after finishing a biomedical PhD isn't really much better than doing a career change after a couple post-docs.

You hint that you'd like to see more tenured faculty positions. The advantage that would have over creating more permanent staff scientist positions is that the tenured faculty positions would have more freedom for scientific creativity.

On the other hand, I wouldn't be surprised to see a lot of college level education go online in the next decade or so. It's actually already happening in a big way at the community college level. I'm not sure that the research university concept is viable in the longer term. I wouldn't be surprised to eventually see a big shift to having research done by staff scientists at dedicated government research institutes.

Re:How is it that all the comments thus far (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#40342835)

So, all I need is to walk around with a bloody crowbar then?

System is rotten (4, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#40342073)

As the boyfriend of a neuroscience postdoc I'm often baffled at how broken this system has become. Many scientific reports are false or suffer serious problems that are never revealed because the level of competition created by the squeezed grant funding has made a an incorrect hypothesis a career ending disaster. The work load is really high too. Labs have Saturday mandatory work hours and 11-12 hour work days during the week. All this with a 40k salary and limited benefits. Surely the brain is poorly enough understood that there's plenty of room for research. The system as it is, with so much bad research out there by scientists who were afraid of abandoning their hypothesis and watching their career disintegrate, is fully rotten. I'm convinced radical changes are necessary for it to offer any benefit to society at all.

Re:System is rotten (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#40342153)

ha ha, I thought myself electronics, saved nearly a decade of my life, and thousands of dollars in debt, work about 10 hours a day, rarely work saturdays, make a little over 40 grand in a part of the country where 40 grand gets you a nice house and a fairly fat chunk of land with 2 fairly new cars and I just listen to all the stories above and laugh my ass off at all you suckers

enjoy your futureless pit of debt

Re:System is rotten (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#40342235)

Grad students are typically paid $20-$30k/yr.

Re:System is rotten (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#40342395)

They are paid tuition+stipend. For me, this amounts to $50k + $36k = $86k per year. Not necessarily cheap...

Re:System is rotten (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#40342593)

You don't actually cost the university 50K / year though. That number is artificially inflated and then reduced. Sorry to burst your bubble, but you actually get paid $36k year.

The argument "but I get a degree out of it" doesn't hold water either; if you had a real job, you would get experience which would either 1) justify a raise or 2) justify a better job.

Re:System is rotten (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#40342251)

LOL, this guy is hilarious. Mod him up! (+5 funny)

Re:System is rotten (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#40342691)

Grad student here that has been a victim of being undervalued in his career in information systems:

I find that Academia in America has some serious defects and one part of it is moneychasing. Moneychasing destroys scientific integrity, but on the flipside money is necessary to get anything of value done. Academia is screwed in America because of the whole, you have one chance to change the world fallacy, In that researchers are expected to have the right hypothesis on the first try and work on a very limited budget and do everything right on the first try. Anyone over the age of 20 will tell you, that is simply not the way the world works. It takes several tries from several different directions to find out anything, to build anything or to fix anything. One solution I have taken on as a direction is to do research in a business environment as an entrepreneur, this cuts through the tangled problems of pay, and tolerance of asking the wrong questions at the outset as well as, quite frankly, cutting out mounds and mounds of purely political bullshit. Food for thought.

Not changing anything (2)

pesho (843750) | more than 2 years ago | (#40342187)

If you read the recommendations they are not aimed at reducing the number of PhDs in training. They are aimed at reducing the training time for biomedical PhDs to about 5 years with stated maximum of 6. This is stupid on several levels:

1. We need to train a lot less PhDs in biomedical sciences. Reducing the training period will only mean that we will train more PhDs not less. There aren't enough jobs to absorb all the PhD's trained in US. Most of the graduates that stay in the field compete for jobs that would require only MSc degree. Quite a large number of graduates end up with jobs that have little to do heir training (sales reps, etc).The whole biomedical jobs field is a pyramid with a broad base of grad students and post docs and veri narrow tip of academic and high skill industry jobs.

2. Putting artificial limits on the training period will reduce the quality of the training. The reason why a PhD degree takes 6,7 or more years is that it requires peer review journal publications and the bar on these has rapidly risen in the past years. Such publications require in depth studies, often involving animal models or clinical data that take years to generate and analyze.

It would make more sense to re-purpose graduate programs to training MSc and then offer the opportunity to those students who are passionate about science to pursue PhDs. Strangely, I don't see any estimates in the report on the projected numbers of jobs requiring PhDs or the carriers undertaken by PhD graduates.

Re:Not changing anything - NOT TRUE (2)

neurocutie (677249) | more than 2 years ago | (#40342685)

The recs, if implemented, would actually have a huge dampening effect on numbers of grad students, both directly and indirectly...

- rec to reduce or prohibit grad student funding on research grants, shifting them to training grants. There is NO WAY that the numbers of slots on training grants, even if you quadrupled those grants, would amount to even just 5% of the numbers of grad students paid off of research grants. This rec would slashing the numbers of grad students (and graduate programs), by at least 80%.

- rec to pay postdocs more, ok but HOW, where does the money come from? The rec amounts to a 30-50% increase in the COST of a postdoc, once you add in the benefits packages proposed. This rec simply means reducing the numbers of postdocs by 30-50% (there isn't more money available anywhere). And this reduction in postdoc slots would in turn reduce the numbers of grad students. Not to mention that it is a stupid recommendation because postdocs are the MOST productive members of any decent lab.

- rec to increase staff scientists (nevermind the question of how to pay for them since such positions costs 4-5X as much as a grad student). This rec also would directly reduce the numbers of grad students since the point is to have staff scientists do the lab work that grad students now do.

All these proposals not only reduce the numbers of grad students trained, but, more importantly, would INCREASE the cost of doing research (or reduce the amount of results given the same funding levels), all at a time when NIH funding is flat and may well be slashed (as Romney is proposing). All bad moves in my view...

What we need to do is stop pouring so much money into the military... the monies that all these proposals affect amount to just a few bombs and missles...

As an academic in engineering... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#40342223)

at a large research university, with a strong biomedical engineering program, I've seen first-hand, that our biomed students remove biomedical engineering from their CVs and just go with their traditional major (mechanical, electrical, etc.), to find jobs. At our institution, biomed is a very prestigious and highly selective program, with significant additional coursework requirements. The field is heavily promoted to idealistic young scholars, basically so that researchers can get free labor in mandatory research internship semesters. AC for obvious reasons.

Micro (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#40342233)

I'm attending school right now for microbiology, and I was hoping to get into researching pathogens in a medical setting. Is this something I should maybe avoid, or is there a decent job market I could look forward to entering in a couple of years?

Thanks (4, Insightful)

cratermoon (765155) | more than 2 years ago | (#40342243)

THANK YOU!

Every time I read another article or book about how we need more STEM education in schools I want to pull my hair out and scream "HOW ABOUT SOME FUCKING JOBS THAT PAY?"

Let's be honest, getting a degree in the sciences, math, or technology is hard. It takes dedication right from an early age in school where science and math studies are bastardized by political interests that insist on BS like "teaching the controversy", and even if you can get a good education, those interests play second fiddle to athletics and prom night.

Then you go into college where you get weed-out classes and tons of labs that cost a lot of additional money over tuition, books, and room and board.

After *that*, if you have the dedication, you do graduate work for an advanced degree and possibly post-doc work.

After all that, *if* you can find a job, you get paid for a year's work about what a Wall Street broker makes during the time he's sitting on the toilet taking a dump, and forget about tenure-track educational positions, those are rarer than hen's teeth in the 21st century.

I'm not done yet -- if you do manage to go though all that, you end up a field where the very basis of your work - the scientific method and things like evolution and global warming - are just punching bags to idiot politicians who won't hesitate to destroy your reputation and career if your findings don't square with their personal fantasies.

If the US is serious about science, math and technology, they'll stop harping about needing more education and start paying attention to revitalizing the field's job prospects and respectability.

Re:Thanks (1)

lbbros (900904) | more than 2 years ago | (#40342959)

After all that, *if* you can find a job, you get paid for a year's work about what a Wall Street broker makes during the time he's sitting on the toilet taking a dump

Sorry for the bluntness, but so what? I'm only worried about my pay if it doesn't give me enough to have a reasonable standard of life. Why should I be envious of my other peers?

You've gotta wonder if there's going to be ... (3, Interesting)

MacTO (1161105) | more than 2 years ago | (#40342287)

... a backlash against education. Schools have been training too many people for certain disciplines for decades, but it seems as though they are now training too many people for all disciplines. In some cases, there are 10 people holding a degree in a field for every job opening. Not only are those other 9 people looking for work out of their field, they are often stuck with minimum wage jobs, over four years of lost income, and their career is set back over four years.

So what are these graduates going to end up telling their children?

Re:You've gotta wonder if there's going to be ... (2)

DesScorp (410532) | more than 2 years ago | (#40342367)

... a backlash against education.

I think there's almost certainly going to be a backlash against college in general... and that's good and long overdue. The "all kids should go to college" idea has resulted in too many students in too many colleges with too many dollars being shoveled into a bubble that might equal the housing bubble. And as STEM is hard, few kids choose it, opting for easier majors, relying on the old myth that simply waving their diploma will get them a good job. Thousands of social sciences, ethnic/gender studies, and humanities majors are discovering that fallacy the hard way now. And because of the sheer glut of graduates in a bad economy... most of reduced quality and from reduced academic rigor... even STEM and business graduates are finding it harder than usual. There's a reason why so many non-STEM and non-business grads try law school... they want high earnings, have no future with a bachelors, and go "Hey! I know! Lawyers make lots of money!". This is an annoyance to serious students that actually wanted to practice law from the get-go.

When the Higher Ed bubble bursts, it's gonna be something to see. If it's anything like the housing or tech bubbles in scale, expect a lot of schools to shut their doors... and many of them will be longstanding colleges you'd think immune.

Re:You've gotta wonder if there's going to be ... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#40342491)

The "all kids should go to college" idea has resulted in too many students in too many colleges with too many dollars being shoveled into a bubble that might equal the housing bubble

This is a misunderstanding. A better educated public is universally more efficient, more productive. IT IS ALWAYS A GOOD THING TO HAVE MORE EDUCATION. Even if it is in some degree that you think is shit, the truth is that, even if people just learn how to remember enough facts for a test, they are still going to be able to do their job better. While I somewhat agree that absorption rate is lagging (more due to a prolonged bad economy), in 10 years the number of people retiring will dwarf the number of people entering the working world. The participation rate in the economy is at an all time low primarily because the baby boomers are retiring. The actual problem is that turnover rates at companies are high enough that no one wants to spend time or money investing in training new recruits to a degree that 20 years ago would be standard. Its people like you, who look down on other people, who are working at HR, that require 5 years experience for jobs that are essentially doable by a person on the street.

Re:You've gotta wonder if there's going to be ... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#40342975)

A better educated public is universally more efficient, more productive.

Everyone going to college clearly is not working. For one thing, it just puts everyone in needless debt. Many people will find out that they did not actually need a college degree for their specific profession.

Sorry, but college isn't for everyone.

the truth is that, even if people just learn how to remember enough facts for a test, they are still going to be able to do their job better.

What? That's false. Rote memorization is not real learning.

Re:You've gotta wonder if there's going to be ... (1)

timeOday (582209) | more than 2 years ago | (#40342651)

What alternative is there? Go straight into the servant sector? (Oops I meant service sector.)

how does this affect MS degree holders? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#40342357)

for someone with an MS in one of the biomedical sciences, what are the job prospects in industry - as bad as for PHD holders? or are masters degree holders more likely to get those jobs b/c employers don't want to pay the premium for someone with a doctorate?

American has bought into the H-1B propaganda (2)

jfern (115937) | more than 2 years ago | (#40342429)

There are clearly too few jobs for the STEM field majors who graduate, but those who want cheaper labor have a much louder mouthpiece for their viewpoint. The media loves to compare the scores of every single 12th grader in the US to those select few in other countries who are going on to an engineering school, and then talk about how terrible we are doing in math. The comparisons are ridiculous.

Biomedical Engineering has fastest job growth (1, Insightful)

cortex (168860) | more than 2 years ago | (#40342599)

According to the US Bureau of Labor Statistics, Biomedical Engineering [bls.gov] is one of the fastest growing occupations and has a median income of over $80,000. I think that this NIH study, which was run mainly by people in academia, doesn't fully account for the jobs in industry.

Re:Biomedical Engineering has fastest job growth (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#40342743)

So what you are saying basically is that some of the facts of the article are politically based claptrap, the oh woe is me, I cant find a job so the economy is bad and its all the black guys fault?? The unemployment numbers as compared to the number of job seekers and job holders in the economy just do not match up, yet you see the republicans all over the media screaming lies like "the economy has gotten worse under Obama!" or "Obama has just increased spending over the Bush administrations previous record" which is patently false to anyone who takes 15 or so minutes to read a few scholarly based articles on Jstor or Google Scholar on the subject.(The Obama administration has had the smallest amount of spending out of the last 5 presidents, that is a fact, don't believe me ?? look it up..) I think that the news in general in an election year is slanted at Obama bashing, just because the absurdity of that is what is selling news and it has nothing to do with the truth. It is truly sad the lows to which the media has sunken , abandoning journalistic integrity to make money which amounts to dirty republican blood for oil money. Why are they screaming lies so loud and trying to make them the truth? because the GOP has realized that they are actually in the minority and are in danger of becoming a relic of history.. they are going to become a relic of history and they apparently are not going out without a fight. These guys will apparently say anything to save their jobs.

Re:Biomedical Engineering has fastest job growth (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#40342903)

According to the US Bureau of Labor Statistics, Biomedical Engineering [bls.gov] is one of the fastest growing occupations and has a median income of over $80,000. I think that this NIH study, which was run mainly by people in academia, doesn't fully account for the jobs in industry.

As an academic for whom the question of biomedical jobs is most definitely not academic, I was interested enough to follow your link.

The actual title of the table you link to is "Fastest growing occupations, 2010 and projected 2020". So, these are government projections out to 2020. Also, the number of jobs is expected to grow from about 15,000 up to 24,000 (an increase of 9,000) which in a country the size of the USA (population 300 million) really isn't that much.

But the key point comes when you look at the full table in the actual publication and see that the minimum degree required for entry to the field of "Biomedical Engineering" is a bachelors degree.

Maybe there will be lots of job opportunities for biomedical PhDs in 2020 and maybe there won't. Either way, the link you cite is totally irrelevant to the current situation.

Too many jobs? (2)

sociocapitalist (2471722) | more than 2 years ago | (#40342983)

Maybe these smart, hardworking people should think of going into business then, instead of working for someone else. There seems to be no shortage of investment money available for people with ideas.

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