Private Funders Have a Role In the Training of Life Scientists

The authors of the recent National Research Council (NRC) report Trends in the Early Careers of Life Scientists deserve kudos for their honest, unsentimental view of life science graduate student and postdoctoral experiences. What is unfortunate is that it took so long for the truth to win out. The report contained recommendations to freeze graduate school enrollment to prevent a flood of researcher applicants on a tightening job market (P. Smaglik, E. Russo, The Scientist, 12[19]:6, Sept. 28,

Susan Fitzpatrick
Nov 22, 1998

The authors of the recent National Research Council (NRC) report Trends in the Early Careers of Life Scientists deserve kudos for their honest, unsentimental view of life science graduate student and postdoctoral experiences. What is unfortunate is that it took so long for the truth to win out. The report contained recommendations to freeze graduate school enrollment to prevent a flood of researcher applicants on a tightening job market (P. Smaglik, E. Russo, The Scientist, 12[19]:6, Sept. 28, 1998).

At least since the early 1980s, biomedical graduate students, primarily training at academic medical centers, could expect to spend six to eight years completing their Ph.D. degrees. What then awaited them was four to five years of postdoctoral positions, sometimes euphemistically called "training." For more than a few, the reward--finally at age 30 plus--was "promotion" to a research faculty position (translation: no hope of tenure; you get to...

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