Are We Training Too Many Scientists?

It?s time to come to grips with how we?re misleading and hurting young aspiring researchers.

Richard Gallagher
Sep 1, 2006

"Many mentors seem to feel that anything other than an academic research career represents a failure, or a waste of the investment in training," FASEB?s Carrie Wolinetz wrote in these pages last year. She?s right. Why do so many senior academic scientists imbue their trainees with the idea that academic careers are the only worthwhile ones? Many leading researchers have a stake in biotech companies that they have helped found and yet this uppity mindset persists.

There are at least two good reasons to encourage smart young scientists to pursue careers outside of academia. One is that industry can provide an equally challenging and worthwhile career, with greater financial reward. The other is that opportunities in academia are rarer than hen?s teeth.

Industry already absorbs a large number of newly minted PhDs - who often require radical retraining before they become useful - yet a stark problem remains: overproduction.

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