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posted by janrinok on Tuesday October 07 2014, @07:42PM   Printer-friendly [Skip to comment(s)]
from the more-burger-flippers dept.

Carolyn Johnson reports in the Boston Globe that in recent years, the position of postdoctoral researcher has become less a stepping stone and more of a holding tank as postdocs are caught up in an all-but-invisible crisis, mired in a underclass as federal funding for research has leveled off, leaving the supply of well-trained scientists outstripping demand. “It’s sunk in that it’s by no means guaranteed — for anyone, really — that an academic position is possible,” says Gary McDowell, a 29-year old biologist doing his second postdoc. “There’s this huge labor force here to do the bench work, the grunt work of science. But then there’s nowhere for them to go; this massive pool of postdocs that accumulates and keeps growing.” The problem is that any researcher running a lab today is training far more people than there will ever be labs to run. Often these supremely well-educated trainees are simply cheap laborers, not learning skills for the careers where they are more likely to find jobs. This wasn’t such an issue decades ago, but universities have expanded the number of PhD students they train from about 30,000 biomedical graduate students in 1979 to 56,800 in 2009, flooding the system with trainees and drawing out the training period.

Possible solutions span a wide gamut, from halving the number of postdocs over time, to creating a new tier of staff scientists that would be better paid but one thing people seem to agree on is that simply adding more money to the pot will not by itself solve the oversupply. Facing these stark statistics, postdocs are taking matters into their own hands recently organizing a Future of Research conference in Boston that they hoped would give voice to their frustrations and hopes and help shape change. “How can we, as the next generation, run the system?” said Kristin Krukenberg, 34, a lead organizer of the conference and a biologist in her sixth year as a postdoc at Harvard Medical School after six years in graduate school. “Some of the models we see don’t seem tenable in the long run."

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  • (Score: 3, Interesting) by VLM on Tuesday October 07 2014, @07:53PM

    by VLM (445) Subscriber Badge on Tuesday October 07 2014, @07:53PM (#103277)

    “Some of the models we see don’t seem tenable in the long run."

    LOL welcome to America. And it isn't just postdocs.

    Some of the very short term problem is no jobs means post '05 grads are just staying in school or post docs. Gotta get better someday, right? Well not necessarily so, as they're discovering.

    The long term problem is "build it and they will come" is not a viable economic or lifestyle planning model, no matter how much some participants may wish it was. If there's no academic opening for you, don't matter if you drop out of HS or get that PHD, theres still not going to be an opening, but a lot of people were convinced to "strive" and "give it a try" and "succeed" and "compete". Welcome to the pyramid, kids, and in case you were wondering, no, you aint at the top.

    • (Score: 3, Insightful) by kaszz on Tuesday October 07 2014, @08:20PM

      by kaszz (4211) on Tuesday October 07 2014, @08:20PM (#103297) Journal

      The world is so full of problems that needs to be solved and here we got highly educated people kept in limbo en masse!

      How much is this problem within STEM too?

      • (Score: 1) by khallow on Wednesday October 08 2014, @12:55AM

        by khallow (3766) Subscriber Badge on Wednesday October 08 2014, @12:55AM (#103396) Journal

        The world is so full of problems that needs to be solved and here we got highly educated people kept in limbo en masse!

        This is why I think we're at the end of the golden age of academic science. This is one of the symptoms. Lots of smart young people who thought they were becoming scientists are dumped into an untenable, desperate situation and wasting much of their lives in the process. Another is the long time habit of assigning authority only to established scientists (with a similar heavy bias in funding). In the past, dying was enough to free up space for new blood and allow new ideas to enter use. Now, there's so much competition, that it's not hard for a crusty elite to find eager replacements to perpetuate the misconceptions and ignorance of their elders.

        I think we'll see in coming decades a profound stagnation of academia. That doesn't necessarily mean an end to scientific research, but rather that it transitions to other areas like private industry.

        • (Score: 3, Interesting) by kaszz on Wednesday October 08 2014, @01:57AM

          by kaszz (4211) on Wednesday October 08 2014, @01:57AM (#103409) Journal

          Perhaps a societal retardation to smart people doing things in their basement?

          In historic times. "Funding" was provided by private philanthropy, inheritance, your own business, corporate sponsorship, military, mundane job etc. Perhaps we are past the peak-government sponsorship curve ?

          Otoh, it also makes me wonder if there's either a lowering of standards over many decades. And/or if one has based it too much on a model that more scientists the merrier without a slightest thought on the big picture. Where is the salary going to come from and what will they do?

    • (Score: 2) by keplr on Tuesday October 07 2014, @09:31PM

      by keplr (2104) on Tuesday October 07 2014, @09:31PM (#103320) Journal

      A change that would be as positive as it is unlikely, is for society to view education itself as a sort of occupation, without any explicit goal of making money directly, and supported through state subsidy. But that's socialism! Yes, it is. So let's list the alternatives:

      1. Run a giant social experiment called "What happens to the 1% when a hundred million people (with three guns each [gunpolicy.org]) can't afford food and shelter?"
      2. There is no option 2.

      Choose your own adventure, libertarian edition!

      --
      I don't respond to ACs.
      • (Score: 3, Interesting) by VLM on Tuesday October 07 2014, @09:42PM

        by VLM (445) Subscriber Badge on Tuesday October 07 2014, @09:42PM (#103326)

        I proposed that exact idea on HN, great minds thinking alike and all that, and hilariously on HN the startup kids assumed inability to get a job is exclusively and forever solely a lower class minority proto-criminal problem because thats been the propaganda for decades, so they freaked out that "those people" would be allowed in "their" schools, and no amount of explaining about the long term effects of permanent economic decline could get thru their thick heads that the perma unemployed of the future ARE todays very same Uni students. Kids these days, so stupid. I was young once but I was never that dumb, or so I like to think.

      • (Score: 2, Interesting) by khallow on Wednesday October 08 2014, @12:33AM

        by khallow (3766) Subscriber Badge on Wednesday October 08 2014, @12:33AM (#103383) Journal

        is for society to view education itself as a sort of occupation, without any explicit goal of making money directly, and supported through state subsidy.

        The problem isn't that this is socialism, but rather that it is a stupid perversion of education. The original goal of education was to provide a means to survive in the world and be able to do something useful. Even the more contemporary view of education as creating well-rounded people who can think for themselves is just an elaboration of that original idea. But to turn education into a process that people do without any consideration of value to the rest of society, that's an abomination. You might as well just pay people to dig ditches. It's cheaper and they're actually doing something productive.

        "What happens to the 1% when a hundred million people (with three guns each) can't afford food and shelter?"

        They move to another country and the hundred million people eat each other.

        There's a better approach. Make a society where one isn't punished for creating something of value or employing people. Then those hundred million people are doing productive things and buying their own groceries. No need for revolutions when you can just fix the problems.

        • (Score: 1) by lonestar on Wednesday October 08 2014, @04:42AM

          by lonestar (4437) on Wednesday October 08 2014, @04:42AM (#103443)

          Thank you x 1000 for posting something sane.

          I get really weary of reading some of the quasi-fascist crap that passes for enlightened thought these days.

        • (Score: 2) by deimtee on Wednesday October 08 2014, @09:17AM

          by deimtee (3272) on Wednesday October 08 2014, @09:17AM (#103504) Journal

          is for society to view education itself as a sort of occupation, without any explicit goal of making money directly, and supported through state subsidy.

          The problem isn't that this is socialism, but rather that it is a stupid perversion of education. The original goal of education was to provide a means to survive in the world and be able to do something useful. Even the more contemporary view of education as creating well-rounded people who can think for themselves is just an elaboration of that original idea. But to turn education into a process that people do without any consideration of value to the rest of society, that's an abomination. You might as well just pay people to dig ditches. It's cheaper and they're actually doing something productive.

          I think you are over-simplifying here. There are multiple types of education. Vocational is to learn a trade and survive, but there is also education designed to improve oneself, or simply to be a part of "higher" society.. Producing knowledge for its own sake is also seen as a worthy pursuit.

          "What happens to the 1% when a hundred million people (with three guns each) can't afford food and shelter?"

          They move to another country and the hundred million people eat each other.
          There's a better approach. Make a society where one isn't punished for creating something of value or employing people. Then those hundred million people are doing productive things and buying their own groceries. No need for revolutions when you can just fix the problems.

          They can move to another country, but real estate and other local assets can, and probably will, be seized by those they leave behind.
          Making a society like that may work, but when the ~50,000 I make each year is taxed at >30%, while those who make millions are taxed < 5% then they are playing with fire.

          --
          No problem is insoluble, but at Ksp = 2.943×10−25 Mercury Sulphide comes close.
          • (Score: 1) by khallow on Thursday October 09 2014, @05:10PM

            by khallow (3766) Subscriber Badge on Thursday October 09 2014, @05:10PM (#104122) Journal

            I think you are over-simplifying here. There are multiple types of education. Vocational is to learn a trade and survive, but there is also education designed to improve oneself, or simply to be a part of "higher" society.. Producing knowledge for its own sake is also seen as a worthy pursuit.

            And what is really different between vocation and education? It's still about survival and improving oneself. As to producing knowledge for its own sake, even supporters of the idea usually won't use their own money. That indicates to me that it's not seen as that worthy a pursuit.

            They can move to another country, but real estate and other local assets can, and probably will, be seized by those they leave behind. Making a society like that may work, but when the ~50,000 I make each year is taxed at >30%, while those who make millions are taxed Those local assets are worthless to the rich person by the ease with which they get seized. And the resulting kleptocracies tend to run assets into the ground, because there's no long term incentive to improve the asset. It'll eventually get taken from them in turn. My view is that we are already well into a cycle of such theft in much of the developed world, particularly, the US. Such things as preferential tax rates and being rewarded for short sighted business planning are examples. Stealing from them to create yet another class of short sighted undeserved wealthy elite is sure to end well.

            That last sentence also indicates where the rich can flee. They can just move over to become the new elite for another country that's at a different stage of the kleptocracy

          • (Score: 1) by khallow on Thursday October 09 2014, @05:11PM

            by khallow (3766) Subscriber Badge on Thursday October 09 2014, @05:11PM (#104123) Journal

            I think you are over-simplifying here. There are multiple types of education. Vocational is to learn a trade and survive, but there is also education designed to improve oneself, or simply to be a part of "higher" society.. Producing knowledge for its own sake is also seen as a worthy pursuit.

            And what is really different between vocation and education? It's still about survival and improving oneself. As to producing knowledge for its own sake, even supporters of the idea usually won't use their own money. That indicates to me that it's not seen as that worthy a pursuit.

            They can move to another country, but real estate and other local assets can, and probably will, be seized by those they leave behind. Making a society like that may work, but when the ~50,000 I make each year is taxed at >30%, while those who make millions are taxed Those local assets are worthless to the rich person by the ease with which they get seized. And the resulting kleptocracies tend to run assets into the ground, because there's no long term incentive to improve the asset. It'll eventually get taken from them in turn. My view is that we are already well into a cycle of such theft in much of the developed world, particularly, the US. Such things as preferential tax rates and being rewarded for short sighted business planning are examples. Stealing from them to create yet another class of short sighted undeserved wealthy elite is sure to end well.

            That last sentence also indicates where the rich can flee. They can just move over to become the new elite for another country that's at a different stage of the kleptocracy cycle.

          • (Score: 1) by khallow on Thursday October 09 2014, @05:16PM

            by khallow (3766) Subscriber Badge on Thursday October 09 2014, @05:16PM (#104126) Journal
            Ugh. Fixing syntax in my reply.

            I think you are over-simplifying here. There are multiple types of education. Vocational is to learn a trade and survive, but there is also education designed to improve oneself, or simply to be a part of "higher" society.. Producing knowledge for its own sake is also seen as a worthy pursuit.

            And what is really different between vocation and education? It's still about survival and improving oneself. As to producing knowledge for its own sake, even supporters of the idea usually won't use their own money. That indicates to me that it's not seen as that worthy a pursuit.

            They can move to another country, but real estate and other local assets can, and probably will, be seized by those they leave behind. Making a society like that may work, but when the ~50,000 I make each year is taxed at > 30%, while those who make millions are taxed < 5% then they are playing with fire.

            Those local assets are worthless to the rich person by the ease with which they get seized. And the resulting kleptocracies tend to run assets into the ground, because there's no long term incentive to improve the asset. It'll eventually get taken from them in turn. My view is that we are already well into a cycle of such theft in much of the developed world, particularly, the US. Such things as preferential tax rates and being rewarded for short sighted business planning are examples. Stealing from them to create yet another class of short sighted undeserved wealthy elite is sure to end well.

            That last sentence also indicates where the rich can flee. They can just move over to become the new elite for another country that's at a different stage of the kleptocracy cycle.

        • (Score: 2) by Phoenix666 on Wednesday October 08 2014, @04:10PM

          by Phoenix666 (552) Subscriber Badge on Wednesday October 08 2014, @04:10PM (#103641) Journal

          What country do you think they can move to that will be more tolerant of gross accumulation of unearned wealth? France? Good luck with that.

          The other flaw is you have assumed the 1% are productive, useful members of society. Doctors are useful, engineers are useful, and many other classes of professionals and skilled workers are useful. Hedge fund managers are not useful, and contribute nothing of value to the world. That covers nearly every sort of person at investment banks who get the big bucks. We could tie them in a sack full of rocks and toss the lot into the Gulf Stream and nothing of value would have been lost. Well, perhaps the Zeta cartel might miss the guys at HSBC who launder billions of their drug dollars for them [bloomberg.com], but the rest of us won't.

          --
          Washington DC delenda est.
          • (Score: 1) by khallow on Thursday October 09 2014, @05:25PM

            by khallow (3766) Subscriber Badge on Thursday October 09 2014, @05:25PM (#104131) Journal

            What country do you think they can move to that will be more tolerant of gross accumulation of unearned wealth?

            The same country in about ten to twenty years. I view it as a cycle where the old rich get robbed by the next generation of rich. Just move out for a few years and wait till the laws favor rich people again. Even hardcore destruction of the wealthy is temporary. The USSR, for example, was a hostile place for about 80 years, but it's back to business now.

            Hedge fund managers are not useful, and contribute nothing of value to the world.

            Then why do they exist? It's not like people are keen on paying others with getting something in return.

            • (Score: 2) by Phoenix666 on Tuesday October 14 2014, @02:39PM

              by Phoenix666 (552) Subscriber Badge on Tuesday October 14 2014, @02:39PM (#105946) Journal

              I think it goes deeper. Why sink your fortunes into technologies and things that can be rendered obsolete by innovation? Why not figure out a way to fleece the world without actually having a real basis to your wealth that can be rendered obsolete? For the 18th and 19th and 20th centuries, it has been a wildly successful model for them. Except now we've reached the end stage where that dodge has become known to everyone, and everyone has become aware that it is really, truly, and materially subverting the survival of the human species because it is diverting energy and resources from activities that matter. The bankers will soon all be put to death, and they really deserve to be put to death. Their crime: smothering the genius of human innovation, and with it, the lives and dreams of billions, in the cradle.

              The flow of money is central to human economic activity, but it ought to be treated as public infrastructure, in the same way that the interstate highway system replaced the privately-owned toll roads. No one ought to be able to charge transaction costs anymore. If we can get that, mankind will get another 10,000 year lease on life. If not, we might all be done in 100 years.

              --
              Washington DC delenda est.
              • (Score: 1) by khallow on Wednesday October 15 2014, @04:28AM

                by khallow (3766) Subscriber Badge on Wednesday October 15 2014, @04:28AM (#106166) Journal

                The flow of money is central to human economic activity, but it ought to be treated as public infrastructure, in the same way that the interstate highway system replaced the privately-owned toll roads.

                I'd rather have bankers than politicians controlling the flow of money.

                No one ought to be able to charge transaction costs anymore.

                Nonsense. There are transaction costs. And it is entirely reasonable for the people benefiting from the transactions to pay for those costs.

                This is just a typical poorly thought out screed. End result is that the bankers move out while the society eats itself and return when circumstances change again.

              • (Score: 1) by khallow on Wednesday October 15 2014, @04:31AM

                by khallow (3766) Subscriber Badge on Wednesday October 15 2014, @04:31AM (#106169) Journal
                And while I'm thinking of it, a typical problem of public infrastructure like US interstate highways is the maintenance problem. There's lots of political gain to be had from new construction, but not from maintenance of old infrastructure. Hence, the public infrastructure devolves to a situation where there are considerable sums spent on new construction while the old languishes.
        • (Score: 2) by Thexalon on Wednesday October 08 2014, @05:05PM

          by Thexalon (636) on Wednesday October 08 2014, @05:05PM (#103669)

          Make a society where one isn't punished for creating something of value or employing people.

          What exactly do you mean by "punished"?

          If I had to hazard a guess, what you mean is that they're taxed. I don't really see that as a punishment. There are three reasons why:
          1. If you have, for example, $11 billion because you created Tesla Motors, but with taxes you would have made $14 billion, what exactly would that extra $3 billion have done for you? I mean, with $11 billion, you can already completely fund all sorts of other businesses, own multiple mansions complete with a staff of servants, earn about $500 million a year without really trying very hard, travel anywhere you want on the planet, take about as many trips on Spaceship One as you want, and so forth.

          2. Many taxes are regressive, and actually hurt poor people more than rich people. Investment income is taxed far less than wages and salaries, and wages and salaries above $120K are in fact taxed at a lower rate than they might appear thanks to the FICA cap.

          3. Most people in US society at least naturally defer to rich people. For example, one fun social experiment some folks in Vermont tried was sitting at green lights timing how long it took for somebody to honk, using various cars - a Mercedes had a good 10-15 seconds longer than a VW bug to move along. Basically, whenever someone with billions in their name walks into a room, almost everyone there is falling over themselves trying to keep that billionaire happy.

          A lot of non-masochists would dream of being punished in that way.

          --
          The inverse of "I told you so" is "Nobody could have predicted"
          • (Score: 1) by khallow on Thursday October 09 2014, @05:28PM

            by khallow (3766) Subscriber Badge on Thursday October 09 2014, @05:28PM (#104132) Journal

            Make a society where one isn't punished for creating something of value or employing people.

            What exactly do you mean by "punished"?

            Disincentives to employ others such as higher costs, more bureaucratic regulations, and increased liability.

            • (Score: 1) by mmarujo on Friday October 10 2014, @05:06PM

              by mmarujo (347) Subscriber Badge on Friday October 10 2014, @05:06PM (#104535)

              Do you really believe that an employer hires someone as a function of either of those factors? As in "If I paid less tax I would hire someone just because."?

              An employer hires the minimum amount necessary in order to fulfill his business labor need, no more, no less.

              • (Score: 1) by khallow on Friday October 10 2014, @05:30PM

                by khallow (3766) Subscriber Badge on Friday October 10 2014, @05:30PM (#104542) Journal

                Do you really believe that an employer hires someone as a function of either of those factors? As in "If I paid less tax I would hire someone just because."?

                An employer hires the minimum amount necessary in order to fulfill his business labor need, no more, no less.

                Yes, but keep in mind that you're asking the wrong questions. Does the cost of an employee which includes all those goverment-related costs outweigh the benefit I get from hiring that additional employee in a particular position? They aren't hiring employees just because. But neither are they looking for the absolute minimum number of employees to theoretically do the job, regardless of cost or profit.

                Further, even if we lived in a magical world where the considerable government overhead of employing someone somehow was never a factor, employers would still have less resources available to employ people because of those costs.

    • (Score: 3, Interesting) by Thexalon on Wednesday October 08 2014, @12:05PM

      by Thexalon (636) on Wednesday October 08 2014, @12:05PM (#103536)

      (For those who don't know who Larry Summers is: He an economist who has been Bill Clinton's Treasury Secretary, then President of Harvard until the faculty kicked him out of that position, Chair of the Council of Economic Advisors in the Obama administration, and came close to being Chairman of the Federal Reserve.)

      Larry Summers has been pushing, for decades, 2 central economic ideas: Free trade, and higher education. His stated claim was that if all Americans got a good education, we could outsource all the lousy work (e.g. manufacturing iPhones), do all the cool work like scientific research and software development, and that would leave America richer. On that theory, he negotiated NAFTA, and then free trade agreements with China and much of southeast Asia, as well as pushing for the widespread use of student loans.

      The reason this all was utter nonsense was that a lot of the lousy jobs can't be moved to another country, and there's limits on the number of good jobs available. If everyone in America has a PhD, then what you end up with is not everyone making a full tenured professor's salary, but with PhDs mopping floors for a living. This is the old Fallacy of Composition, where what's smart for one person (getting a good education in a field you can work well in) is not so good if everybody makes the same decision. So now we have an over-supply of highly trained people in just about every field of endeavor, which is why universities now can get away with paying their faculty less than $20K a year and not offering them anything more than a temporary position for the rest of their careers.

      About the only exceptions to this are computer programmers, nurses, and doctors, all of whom are making decent money out of school in the US. They're busy trying to change that by making it easier to import indentured servants^H^H H1B visa holders. (Aside: Don't be mad at the foreigners who do this - they earn about 4 times as much here as they would in their home countries, which is why they're willing to leave their families and friends behind and take what they know will be an unpleasant job working for a US megacorp.)

      --
      The inverse of "I told you so" is "Nobody could have predicted"
      • (Score: 2) by VLM on Wednesday October 08 2014, @01:00PM

        by VLM (445) Subscriber Badge on Wednesday October 08 2014, @01:00PM (#103549)

        "If everyone in America has a PhD, then what you end up with is not everyone making a full tenured professor's salary, but with PhDs mopping floors for a living."

        Locally all the service sector hourly laborers are the kids who stupidly bought into the "degree is a guaranteed ticket to a great middle class job" so they all have bachelors in something. Next time you're in a bar or restaurant or coffee shop ask your cashier what they have a degree in (assuming they aren't obviously visually 16 yrs old), you might be surprised.

        • (Score: 2) by Phoenix666 on Wednesday October 08 2014, @04:24PM

          by Phoenix666 (552) Subscriber Badge on Wednesday October 08 2014, @04:24PM (#103648) Journal

          the kids who stupidly bought into the "degree is a guaranteed ticket to a great middle class job" so they all have bachelors in something.

          This is a common theme in your posts, so let's ask what the alternative is. Should the smart, hard-working lower middle class kid in Wyoming, say, look at the labor market that exists when he's in 4th grade and say, gee, all the tech jobs are taken up, so I should limit my aspirations to flipping burgers at the local McDonald's? Should that 4th grader look at market trends and technologies and note that computers and information technology are growing by leaps and bounds and say to himself, "huh, it looks like there are and will be a lot of jobs in that field; I like working with computers so I'm gonna study hard and go get a degree in Computer Science;" then only to have you and others sit back and laugh at him, 'haha what a rube you thought you could study and go to college but now you can't have a job' when H1-B's take all of them?

          Because I don't understand what you're driving at. How ought a young person direct his energies? Do you have a better prescription for career success than working hard at something you love and are good at, or alternately aiming for an industry that looks strong and looks like it will have plenty of job opportunities? Mostly what I get from your frequent comments is that you hold people who go to college in contempt, and that you think they're foolish for having been so caddish as to take out student loans to do it. Well, kimosabe, that is the world as it is. That's the structure of the society we live in now. Bashing the young for living in it instead of doing some other thing (which you have not shared with us) is like bashing people who are injured in auto accidents for being foolish enough to travel on roads.

          --
          Washington DC delenda est.
          • (Score: 2) by VLM on Wednesday October 08 2014, @05:23PM

            by VLM (445) Subscriber Badge on Wednesday October 08 2014, @05:23PM (#103674)

            First step in fixing a problem is identifying it. So the business model of lets send all kids to college to get a degree and raise tuition until it impoverishes them for life while denigrating the vocational careers might, just maybe, result in a hell of a lot of human suffering. You won't be seeing that opinion much of anywhere.

            Second step in problem solving is when you find yourself digging into a hole, the first thing to do is stop digging. The only thing worse than being a burger flipper 4 life is being a burger flipper 4 life with $100K of debt and an economically worthless degree, but either burger guy or the taxpayer in some bailout will have to pay it back.

            Third thing is work to live not live to work. "working hard at something you love and are good at" That means my grandma who really likes sewing will be sentenced to a torturous life in an inhumane textile sweatshop in Vietnam (because we closed them everywhere else, she's actually German, which makes it even weirder). Naah she did that file clerk / secretary thing and it wasn't so bad and sewed stuff on the weekends. Its even worse for STEM people. I have had jobs that didn't exist when I was in school... I suppose worst case is a "born astronaut" when we're not doing space as a nation, what is the most humane thing to do with those people, euthanasia?

            Fourth thing is you need to live for yourself. Some paid counselor is ordered to give you advice to give yourself a financial death penalty and the kid is dumb enough to do it, well, enjoy the suffering. They're wrong to use a position of power to give bad advice, but the recipient is at least as wrong for not thinking for himself. The old peer pressure thing. Look at your own post "Well, kimosabe, that is the world as it is." No, that's for gullible people who will suffer because they'd rather suffer than think when they select as a life course.

            "Should the smart, hard-working lower middle class kid in Wyoming, say, look at the labor market that exists when he's in 4th grade and say"

            say something like, Dad picked up his truck from the shop this morning and the mechanic and shop owner got $5500 for an engine rebuild, its tiring dirty work but hey, $5500 is $5500, then he took me to lunch where the waitress with her degree in mathematics trying to pay off her $50K loan at the donut shop, got a $2 tip from my dad because its all he had left after paying the mechanic. Yesterday my school teacher indoctrinated me all day with how important it is to get a degree, man I can't wait till I'm in college, after all, everyone tells me if I get a degree, a job will magically appear that requires it, how cool is that?

            Theres a "well known" and fairly obvious racket where you know the victims are going to get screwed. Its like going to a casino and having the gall to complain about losing. The way to win at the casino is not to play.

            "is like bashing people who are injured in auto accidents for being foolish enough to"

            get treated by leaches and astrology readings and homeopathy. After all, authority figures never lie, and thinking for yourself is wrong, so one of those three must be the right medical treatment for a car accident injury.

            • (Score: 2) by Phoenix666 on Thursday October 09 2014, @04:44PM

              by Phoenix666 (552) Subscriber Badge on Thursday October 09 2014, @04:44PM (#104106) Journal

              Yes, VLM, but kids in this country are not taught to challenge and question authority figures. They're not. It's one thing for you, as a wizened, experienced adult, to glibly say, oh, well, gee, the kids should have known better than to take what their guidance counselor was saying at face-value, but it's entirely different when you're that kid, without the benefit of your life experience, to abruptly stand up, announce that their guidance counselor is a tool of the 1%, and to reject their advice entire.

              See, you expect that kids should know what we adults do, which is that the whole system is a racket. You want them to challenge the conventional wisdom when every single thing within the confines of your average public school teaches them otherwise. It's not realistic.

              Throwing stones at those who were marketed to as kids of 9 years old does not help. It hurts you, and prevents a better world. Kids follow what their parents and schools tell them. If that's wrong, we need to change that messaging. But blaming the kids themselves for believing what they're told makes no sense, and helps no one.

              --
              Washington DC delenda est.
            • (Score: 2) by Phoenix666 on Tuesday October 14 2014, @02:55PM

              by Phoenix666 (552) Subscriber Badge on Tuesday October 14 2014, @02:55PM (#105951) Journal

              VLM, I respect your input and advice on technical matters--you know so much more than I do in certain areas, and I learn a lot from what you post. But this hobby horse of yours on education, well, it's kind of incoherent.

              I agree that higher education is a racket. It's BS designed to extract ever more wealth from the lower and middle classes to feed an insatiable financial sector that really produces nothing of value for anyone. But it's also pervasive. I challenge you to find a single blessed school district in this nation that isn't exhorting its students to work hard to get into a good college. Parents, too, overworked and over-burdened themselves, mostly parrot what the educational system and government are saying. So I put it to you again, where are the young people in our country supposed to get the message that they can do for themselves when their teachers and parents are telling them 24/7 to do something else? It's just not realistic.

              For example, I live in Brooklyn, NY. I have two young kids in Pre-K and K in a public school. They're both bright and creative. The school they're in is a Title 1 school, meaning most of its students are from poor families. They won't get through the school what kids in wealthier schools will get. For me, that's OK because I supplement what they get all the time. But even if they were in the best school possible I would still be urging them to follow their own educational path because I don't trust the entire system--it doesn't teach you what you need to know to be successful.

              But that's not a prescription for how to fix the nation's schools, or to deal with the enormous debt problem that awaits those students who complete the full course. We need a complete overhaul, from top-to-bottom, of a system that was designed to meet 19th century problems with 19th century solutions. If we don't get it, and get it soon, the whole world will suffer.

              --
              Washington DC delenda est.
  • (Score: 1, Interesting) by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday October 07 2014, @07:53PM

    by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday October 07 2014, @07:53PM (#103278)

    I would never encourage my children to go into academia - low pay, crappy job security, limited choice of locations. This is just the opposite of how it was two generations ago.

    • (Score: 2) by umafuckitt on Tuesday October 07 2014, @08:34PM

      by umafuckitt (20) on Tuesday October 07 2014, @08:34PM (#103307)

      It's not as bleak as you paint it. I'm in academia and I earn above median income for my area. I've heard people complain that they have a PhD but aren't earning more than their friends who left for "real" jobs after their first degrees. I don't understand that line of thinking. It's well understood that an academic career won't net you a big income.

      It's true that job security in general is low, but it's possible to find labs and institutes where it's good. In both my PhD and postdoc labs I was told that I could stay on as long as I wanted. In both cases I left to broaden my skill set and try new things. My current job has the potential to officially be permanent. This brings me on to the limited location choice. It's true if you want to live in a specific city, then your choices are limited. However, if you're flexible, academia is a great way to see loads of new places.

      • (Score: 1) by boristhespider on Tuesday October 07 2014, @08:38PM

        by boristhespider (4048) on Tuesday October 07 2014, @08:38PM (#103308)

        "In both my PhD and postdoc labs I was told that I could stay on as long as I wanted."

        What field are you in? This is very much not the norm in theoretical physics, astronomy and cosmology. No matter who you are or how good you are, when the funding is gone there's very little leeway; they might be able to find a few more months to help tide you over but after that, you're gone.

        • (Score: 2) by moondrake on Wednesday October 08 2014, @11:13AM

          by moondrake (2658) on Wednesday October 08 2014, @11:13AM (#103523)

          Also depends on the country. In Many EU countries, there are labor laws that forbid universities and institutes to extend your temporary contract. They have to fire you, or give you a permanent position after 4-6 years (depends on the country). Even when they have money to hire you for 60 years temporarily, they will fire you as that pool of money is for temp jobs, not permanent jobs. Irrespective of how good you are, you will still have to move.

          • (Score: 0) by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday October 08 2014, @03:06PM

            by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday October 08 2014, @03:06PM (#103611)

            That's certainly true in Norway, where I've worked. If you try and extend past a third year you've got a massive fight on your hands, and extending into a fourth is virtually impossible unless the university have already decided they want to take you on permanently. (And if that happens they're much more likely to advertise the post and end your contract anyway, and encourage you to apply.)

            --boristhespider

        • (Score: 2) by umafuckitt on Wednesday October 08 2014, @08:42PM

          by umafuckitt (20) on Wednesday October 08 2014, @08:42PM (#103768)

          I'm the biosciences. I also lucked out by working in labs that were well funded and where my bosses placed value on retaining experienced people.

      • (Score: 2) by TheRaven on Wednesday October 08 2014, @08:34AM

        by TheRaven (270) on Wednesday October 08 2014, @08:34AM (#103488) Journal
        I'm also in academia and the masters students that I teach all go on to first jobs that pay better than mine. PhD students doing internships in industry get paid more than senior lecturers. That said, the reason that I'm still here (in spite of some quite tempting job offers) is the intellectual freedom. The justification I need to spend time working on something is 'it seemed interesting'. Even in industrial research labs, there's a lot more pressure to be able to guarantee at the start of a project that the output will be something that they can commercialise.
        --
        sudo mod me up
  • (Score: 2) by Arik on Tuesday October 07 2014, @08:20PM

    by Arik (4543) on Tuesday October 07 2014, @08:20PM (#103298) Journal
    It's all about degree inflation.

    We used to have something called a Masters Degree. As the name would suggest, someone that received it was considered to have Mastered their field, absorbed the accumulated knowledge of his tutors and be ready to practice. That was the highest academic credential in America, going above that required more than school, it required getting out in the field and practicing and earning a professional reputation.

    Then we imported the Prussian 'doctors.' Their .phd (piled higher and deeper) degrees did not just indicate MASTERY of what had gone before, no, it involved new research, pushing the frontiers of knowledge! And they went to school longer, so their degree was better. Nowadays, you can go flip burgers with a Masters. If you want academic credentials you want to make them call you doctor.

    Do you think all the .phds we are issuing today are going to people that have really pushed the frontiers of their field with original and important research? If they were, science would be a bit more advanced than it is. The fact is most of them are doing what used to require a Masters, and the extra time they spent in school had little if any positive effect on their performance. It's a game. If you want a decent job you have to pay the education mafia, and spend years in their care, in order to get a piece of paper with the right formula on it. And if you want to keep advancing you need to spend more money, more time, and get more papers. We passed the point in most areas where the level of education being expected made any sense decades back, yet the expectations only continue to rise.

    And actual quality of education, in the old-school meaning of learning things that are useful or practical or enriching to your life, that's going down. No coïncidence I am afraid.
    --
    If laughter is the best medicine, who are the best doctors?
    • (Score: 2, Informative) by boristhespider on Tuesday October 07 2014, @08:33PM

      by boristhespider (4048) on Tuesday October 07 2014, @08:33PM (#103305)

      There's a difference between a postdoctoral researcher (which this article is discussing), and people with PhDs. There are certainly people getting PhDs for, frankly, uninspiring and unimpressive work. Those people have little or no chance of getting a postdoc, and even if they get one their chances of having more than a year is basically zero. (Most postdoctoral positions now are advertised as either 2+1, or more and more frequently, 1+1 - meaning that you start a job knowing full well that your contract is for a year "with possibility of extension" and have to immediately start applying for a new one. It takes upwards of 10 or 11 months to get a postdoc in academia through the normal channels; you apply from September to November for positions starting in August and September.) The concern is for people who are actually postdoctoral researchers, qualified in their field and highly competent and pursuing interesting research. There simply isn't the money available to employ this number of researchers but, even if there were, the setup is insane; there isn't the job security. And I'm not just meaning "Oh, they could be sacked at any time"; that's true for anyone. It's that *every single job* a postdoctoral researcher gets is fixed-term. If you're lucky, you get a 2+1, and if you're really lucky you might just get something like a 5-year, but those are scarce and it takes luck, and a fuckload of arse-licking, to go with ability before you get one. This means there's no real future in an academic job unless you happen to get lucky, or have schmoozed the right people, early on, or both - and even if you did, you're still looking at a decade of moving around once every 18 months or 2 years. Which doesn't sound bad until you realise we're not just talking moving city, we're talking moving *country*, on a salary which is OK but certainly nothing particularly stellar, for a position somewhere you may well not speak the language, knowing that it will run out and you'll be forced to move on again. And then at the end of it there's probably no job waiting for you. It's far from an ideal lifestyle and it's far from an ideal setup - something definitely has to change, and the answer isn't changing topic and attacking diminishing standards. (Which at BSc and even MSc level are irrelevant for research anyway. Either you can do research in your field, in which case you're way beyond MSc, and a PhD has barely ever prepared you properly for it, or you can't.)

      • (Score: 0) by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday October 07 2014, @08:55PM

        by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday October 07 2014, @08:55PM (#103312)

        What you are describing is an oversupply problem.

        Meaning you are being treated as contract work. You can fire them and 10 will be standing in their place tomorrow.

        Some people I talk to are getting degrees in things where there are maybe 50 or 60 positions in the whole world for. Yet they are competing with 5000 other people with the same skills and same degrees.

        So the buyer (in this case the schools themselves) can be picky. They can rotate thru dozens of people and find someone who works better/cheaper. Getting the coveted 'tenure'. Until then you keep rotating.

        In economic terms when supply goes up price goes down. You are on the wrong end of the demand curve. It is one of the reasons I picked the particular profession I did. There are thousands of open positions for it. My wife is going for an accounting degree. Her logic is sound, all businesses need an accountant and she is competent at it. It is why I do not discourage her.

        • (Score: 2) by LaminatorX on Wednesday October 08 2014, @06:06PM

          by LaminatorX (14) <laminatorxNO@SPAMgmail.com> on Wednesday October 08 2014, @06:06PM (#103690)

          What makes it so infuriating is that the same institutions that are abusing the oversupply situation are quite happy to take people's money to churn out the glut of graduates.

          --
          Banjo - Fiddle - Tolkien: The Lonely Mountain String Band. lmsb.me [lmsb.me]
      • (Score: 2) by VLM on Tuesday October 07 2014, @09:57PM

        by VLM (445) Subscriber Badge on Tuesday October 07 2014, @09:57PM (#103340)

        "on a salary which is OK but certainly nothing particularly stellar"

        Dude.... its usually like $30K in expensive areas where houses cost $750K+ for example and rent is like $2K/mo for a small apartment. And its $30K in 2014 when I was getting $33K in 1995 before I finished my BS degree, for guys with PHDs and published research.

        Its not "nothing stellar" its literally like working at McDonalds but with better benefits and better working conditions.

        • (Score: 1) by boristhespider on Tuesday October 07 2014, @10:15PM

          by boristhespider (4048) on Tuesday October 07 2014, @10:15PM (#103349)

          I'm talking from a European perspective, where the salaries are normally above national average, if not by much. Though postdocs I looked at in the States something like eight years back were paying $50k+ - again, not a huge salary but at least a step up from #30k. Which of course might reflect the relative level of money available in theory at that time.

    • (Score: 0) by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday October 07 2014, @08:33PM

      by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday October 07 2014, @08:33PM (#103306)
      Code?
    • (Score: 2) by mtrycz on Wednesday October 08 2014, @08:48AM

      by mtrycz (60) on Wednesday October 08 2014, @08:48AM (#103496)

      Is that Inconsolata?

      That's so better that the previous.

      --
      In capitalist America, ads view YOU!
  • (Score: 3, Interesting) by MrGuy on Tuesday October 07 2014, @08:22PM

    by MrGuy (1007) on Tuesday October 07 2014, @08:22PM (#103300)

    ...for Big Pharma. Or even "Little Pharma" if you can find a VC with some vision.

    Set up an incubator-type program. Give lab space, some expense budget, and very modest salaries for small groups of well-trained-but-largely-jobless grad students and post-docs to do research. Use the startup model - their primary compensation is equity in the startup, not salary. Something big comes of it? Buy out the IP (or buy the startup into your research world). Nothing comes of it? Not terribly much ventured.

    Being one of 5 co-founders of a tiny biotech startup is a very different life from being in a tenure-track faculty position. But the tenure-track positions aren't there. Best case, if you discover something amazing, and guess what? As the founder of a startup that made a major breakthrough, you're much more attractive if you want to go back to academia.

    There are TONS of problems out there that could be solved by new drugs, new treatment techniques, new medical devices. And there's plenty of money out there if we can find effective solutions to some of these problems. Really? We're letting a glut of incredibly highly trained talent rust on the vine because we can't figure out how to make use of them?

    • (Score: 2) by kaszz on Tuesday October 07 2014, @08:27PM

      by kaszz (4211) on Tuesday October 07 2014, @08:27PM (#103302) Journal

      What would this cost? Any prediction on probability for success per startup?

      • (Score: 1) by khallow on Friday October 10 2014, @09:37PM

        by khallow (3766) Subscriber Badge on Friday October 10 2014, @09:37PM (#104619) Journal
        Something like 10-20% chance of success. But I think that's weighted upwards by people who already have a start up (successful or not) under their belt. I'd put the first start up attempt as at or below 10% chance of success and the second as well above 10%, perhaps 50% or more in some situations.
    • (Score: 2) by Phoenix666 on Wednesday October 08 2014, @04:29PM

      by Phoenix666 (552) Subscriber Badge on Wednesday October 08 2014, @04:29PM (#103650) Journal

      Yes, and I feel like letting a lot of good talent rust on the vine is a great recipe for revolution and other sorts of disruptive change. Those people, trained and indebted and having worked their asses off to master complex bodies of knowledge, don't simply vanish when they cannot establish themselves in productive careers. They get pissed. And when enough of them with the skills and knowledge to do serious damage build up enough, and get pissed enough, they do. Right now in a basement somewhere somebody among them is working on a way to delete those who are siphoning massive amounts of capital out of our economy and squirrelling it away in the Caymans.

      --
      Washington DC delenda est.
  • (Score: 0) by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday October 07 2014, @09:35PM

    by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday October 07 2014, @09:35PM (#103322)

    More H1B. Blindingly obvious.

  • (Score: 0) by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday October 08 2014, @08:35AM

    by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday October 08 2014, @08:35AM (#103489)

    and shoot them with a machine gun.