That generation would be me

Yep.

Elias Zerhouni: I think the suddenness of [the sequester] and the depth of it would be a disaster for research, which is not an activity that you can turn on and off from year to year. It’s an activity that takes time. The most impacted are the young, new investigator scientists, who are coming into science, and will now abandon the field of science. There will be a generational gap created.

My timing could not be better: I have a career-critical grant due for review in March, right after the sequester takes effect. An immediate 8% cut to the NIH budget, on top of the other things that get more expensive or harder to get thanks to the inevitable government FUBAR, will pretty much guarantee that everyone with their hats in the ring this year will have a very bad grant cycle.

Not being completely daft, I chased every alternative out there: postdocs, core facilities, sales, whatever. Thanks to the uncertain climate (and then some) even researchers with money have sphincters that could crush a diamond. I know a couple folks offering grunt-level facility jobs who have binders full of candidates including funded senior researchers and the directors of other facilities just because it’s a safe position in a non-university medical institution where the loss of NIH money will not cause quite so much blood loss. Another place slightly closer to what I’d call a dream job took four months to choose and fly in four finalists, including me, and then decided their budget didn’t support hiring anybody (of course you can interpret that a couple of ways).

The scary thing is that my paper output and research skills do stand out among people at my level (H-index of 9 at the postdoc level, if anyone’s counting). So if I have gone six months and counting with a cloud of doom over my head, science really will need to grapple with the fallout from a ‘lost’ generation of people like me who very much would like to have pursued a career in research science.






136 replies
  1. 1
    MikeJ says:

    If people like you keep doing science the Republicans will just have a whole load of new facts to deny. Easier to stop it at the source.

  2. 2
    Villago Delenda Est says:

    Short term is all that matters. Long term things, like the consequences of cutting off research funding, or doing something about climate change, or investing in infrastructure…they all impact negatively on the next fiscal quarter’s profit projections, and this will make us look bad on The Street and we’ll lose investor confidence and our phoney baloney jobs will be in danger, so we won’t go there by doing those long term things because, ultimately, you’ll be gone, and I’ll be gone.

  3. 3

    It could be worse. You could have a graduate degree in music performance.

  4. 4
    raven says:

    @Michael Bersin: At least there would be NO expectations!

  5. 5
    Anoniminous says:

    If your grant is at the NIH you probably accept Evolution so …

    DEATH TO THE GODLESS INFIDEL!

  6. 6
    Blake Suttle says:

    Yep. We’re basically seeing that same thing in slower motion in England right now. Jobs requiring a bachelor’s degree are seeing applicant pools stuffed with masters, those requiring masters degrees applicant pools bloated with PhDs. No one can get a job in what they’re trained for, because there aren’t any jobs for people trained in more. And so masters graduates and PhDs are fleeing science.

  7. 7
    Maude says:

    My father used to say he was lucky to be in science at the time he was working instead of at a later time. He did pure research. He didn’t have to publish or perish.
    He didn’t have to worry about grants or funding. He lucked out.

  8. 8
    Alex S. says:

    So, in Lindsey Graham’s words, the republicans are about to create some more angry white men. Do you already feel the hate? Come and join the dark side.

  9. 9
    Poopyman says:

    @MikeJ: You may not have any idea how close to the truth that is. This isn’t the first time in my life research has been squeezed. During the reign of St. Ronaldus a lot of unmanned missions at NASA dried up, and I ended up going to the dark side. Went back for a period in the late 90s, but have been back to DoD ever since. Anyone see a pattern here?

    Now even DoD/Intelligence is feeling the pinch, and RFPs and existing contracts are being put on ice. My career here may end in a matter of weeks, we’ll see. The good(?) in all of this is that I may have a better shot at finishing up my career back at NASA, but hell, I’m 58.

    Like I say, we shall see.

  10. 10
    Keith G says:

    In as much as luck is a part of everything: Good Luck.

    We (the big ‘we’) need you to succeed.

  11. 11
    Bobby_D says:

    Well Tim, I work in the public sector, DOD. I went into public service, rather than the private sector in 1992, as an engineer with a MS. Two reasons: 40hr weeks, job security.

    Well the “security” part of it hasn’t really worked out. In 20 years, I’ve lost two positions due to budget cuts (one federal, one state), been furloughed, had my pay cut by 52%, almost lost my current position due to re-org and funding issues, and am about to be furloughed when the sequester kicks in.

    It ain’t just research and medicine that is feeling the crunch. We’ve got a load of boomers clinging on instead of retiring, and when they do retire en masse, we will be severely short on people with management skills (because all of us GenXers have been sitting here in mid level positions waiting for mid management openings).

    Haven’t had a pay raise in over two years, and I’m “stepped out” on the GS scale, so no “step increases” for me. This whole clusterfuck reminds me of the first time I got screwed, by Gingrich and his band of merry assholes in ’96/’97.

  12. 12
    Cassidy says:

    H-index of 9

    Why does that sound like a Calvinball score?

  13. 13
    Blake Suttle says:

    Also, those of us lucky to be in “secure” university jobs are getting so squeezed in England, and soon will be in the US, from science cutbacks that research productivity plummets.

  14. 14
    Shawn in ShowMe says:

    A few more cyberattacks directed by the Chinese military and corporate media will have the boogeyman it needs to restart the Cold War. We need that boogeyman to scare us into properly funding research science. Look at the history.

  15. 15
    Zifnab25 says:

    @Shawn in ShowMe:

    A few more cyberattacks directed by the Chinese military and corporate media will have the boogeyman it needs to restart the Cold War.

    Nonsense. They’ll simply reiterate how incredibly important it is for the government to be smaller and our taxes lower. Also, balanced budgets!

    I’m sure AT&T and Comcast will totally get on the whole Chinese cyberattack thing once they’re done rolling out their new “carrier pigeon high speed network”. After all, there’s a ton of money to be made just selling information to the Chinese rather than forcing them to hack it.

  16. 16
    Villago Delenda Est says:

    @Shawn in ShowMe:

    The Chinese boogeyman is more real and immediate than the possibility of an asteroid strike? Or (wait for it…) global climate change, which of course is only a hoax dreamed up by guys like this Tim F clown to get cushy government grants for their phoney-baloney ‘research’?

    All the bases are covered as the usual suspects foreclose on fully paid up mortgages and loot the Federal Reserve to cover their failed derivatives gambling.

  17. 17
    DonT says:

    But the market…

  18. 18
    Shawn in ShowMe says:

    @Zifnab25:

    So you think AT&T and Comcast can beat General Electric and Boeing in a propaganda contest? On what planet? When we have a technologically potent boogeyman to be afraid of, research science gets funded. Those are the facts.

  19. 19
    wvng says:

    @Poopyman: I had friends at EPA who were doing essential and productive work in assessing risks from agricultural and industrial chemicals that ended under Ronnie. They were kept on, doing meaningless tasks, before they left in droves.

    I remember a few years ago when a friend at the CDC had to stop a research project in anticipation of a looming gov’t shutdown because she would not have been allowed into the labs to keep things going. Lost weeks of work. This stuff doesn’t just start back up, and some never will.

  20. 20
    Aaron says:

    And what about the MS scientists? I graduated with two MS degrees two years ago in subjects that used to be considered safe (molecular biology and plant pathology), with good grades, and I am still essentially unemployed. The biotech crash, combined with budgetary cuts at all levels, H1B imports and the gutting of the scientific regulatory apparatus that used to be a safety valve for scientists who need to work, has left me working a temp IT job, similar to the one I was working out of high school, except it pays a third as much and has no benefits or job security. I’ve been applying all over the country for anything for more than a year now with no bites. I’ve gotten a few call backs explaining that I am competing against PHD’s with patents and extensive publication histories for what used to be entry level science jobs. I kind of feel like I wasted my youth on education now; I wish I had trained to be a plumber instead of a scientist.

    When Obama comes on TV and says our nation needs more engineers and scientists, I laugh. Then I cry. I am now advising my younger cousins to avoid college entirely, or train to work in one of the greed industries if they can stomach it. Wasting ten years and countless dollars to be unemployed and unemployable is a maddening horror.

  21. 21
    Poopyman says:

    @Poopyman: One thing I failed to make clear above is that my situation isn’t at all unique, nor was it back in the late 80s. I doubt we’ll ever know how much research and knowledge never happened because of crap like this. And as TimF points out, stopping research in areas like medicine impacts us all. I don’t know if any of the folks who dropped out of research and engineering programs ever came back. Every time this happens the student-teacher-researcher chain is broken, and it takes a long time to recreate it again.

  22. 22
    Comrade Scrutinizer says:

    You can do what I had to do—wind up working as an adjunct in a community college. Of course, our hours are being cut back now due to the CCs not wanting to pay the employer’s share for ACA. So here I am at 57 with two adjunct jobs, thinking about working at the snack bar at the local bowling alley to make ends meet. And I think to myself, what a wonderful world.

  23. 23
    poco says:

    Slightly different, though not really, a couple of friends have applied for NEH grants and are in a similar boat–the money there is already woeful, and now it is going to get worse.

    And they are the ones who got promoted to Assoc. level without getting tenure, because the Uni decided that austerity was the path to follow, and everybody in this cohort got denied tenure, and given 2 years extended contracts. The promotion is supposed to help them find jobs elsewhere (hah! in this climate!!) And they are brilliant, if we lose them our department will really suffer, and the Uni’s revenues haven’t suffered at all (its pvt.) but the admins thought this was a great time to shout recession and refuse to tenure, and generally squeeze faculty.

  24. 24
    Mike Furlan says:

    All the science we need to know is in the Bible. Why fund any more research?

  25. 25
    geg6 says:

    OT, but big news for Pennsylvania Juicers…

    Janeen Orie and PA Supreme Court Justice Joan Orie Melvin have just been found guilty…looks like they will be spending time with their sister, former state rep Jane Orie, in prison. Justice Orie Melvin was found guilty on all but one count and Janeen Orie on all counts.

    Fucking awesome!

    http://northallegheny.patch.co.....r-acd66483

  26. 26
    Hill Dweller says:

    @Shawn in ShowMe: Way too many plutocrats depend on Chinese slave labor. I doubt they’ll risk that cash cow by turning China into another Soviet Union type boogie man.

  27. 27
    kay says:

    @geg6:

    Thanks. I love this crazy sisters story.

  28. 28
    aimai says:

    @Aaron:

    Yikes. This is horrific hearing. I knew it was true for history grads, and certainly true for anthropology–I just discouraged my heading to college aged daughter from going into history or english, which she loves, in favor of science. I’m old now but its been true for my field, anthropology, for a long time. Our professors, the ones who trained us, came up in a time of expanding opportunity. There were so many colleges and universities adding anthro departments that you could be hired from a chance meeting at a bar. By the time I was on the market there had been mad inflation and you needed at least one book, two for tenure. By now? no jobs at all.

  29. 29
    Shawn in ShowMe says:

    @Hill Dweller:

    There’s no shortage of slave laborers on this planet. Just ramp up production in the rest of Southeast Asia and India.

  30. 30
    Violet says:

    I’m so sorry, Tim. It really sucks.

    Research will be done, but it will be done in other countries and we’ll fall behinder and behinder.

    It’s happening already and anyone interested in the weather is aware of it. The European model has been rocking the last couple of hurricane seasons beating the American model in accuracy by quite a bit. Just this morning I saw Al Roker on the Today Show talking about how the European model was showing the upcoming nor’easter hitting the east coast. The other Today Show talking heads joked with Al when he mentioned the European model–“your favorite model!”–and he said yes, “we like the European model” and mentioned its accuracy. Then they must have realized they were praising those soshulist Europeans, so they quickly said, “We like the American models too” but then explained that the Euro was more accurate.

    It’s not by accident it’s more accurate. It’s research and money.

  31. 31
    maya says:

    Well, Tim, you can always fall back on taking dog portraits, or, as so many, many of the gen Xers out my way do – grow beaucoup dope. However, if they shut down the USPO too, it may be difficult to pay bills with money orders and you definitely do not want to open a traceable checking account.

    If life gives you stems and shake make hash.

  32. 32
    Walker says:

    @poco:

    Are you saying that the administrators overrode departmental tenure recommendations? If so, wherever you are must be a horrible place to work.

  33. 33
    catclub says:

    Well, you could be a young science grad/postdoc in Spain or Greece.

    See, now it is not so bad.

  34. 34

    @Aaron: So do you think that international students who have graduated with a PhD from a school in the US should not be able to work in the US? Because H1-B is also a visa of choice for foreign born scientists.

    The devaluation of labor is the biggest economic story of the last few decades, the 1% want us all to fight for a smaller and smaller share of the spoils. It doesn’t matter whether you have PhD or you are a migrant laborer or working for minimum wage at Walmart. While the 1% get richer trading each other worthless scraps of paper (derivatives)

  35. 35
    Higgs Boson's Mate says:

    If we needed science then God would have given us lab coats.

  36. 36
    ArchTeryx says:

    Yeah, I’m definitely in this boat, having taken a low-level tech job about a year ago to survive, after being laid off (premature termination) from my NIH postdoc. I’m trying to network my way to a better job, but what chance do I, or any 40-something Ph.D., have in this market? May as well prepare to move to Europe (once they get their head out of austerity’s ass) or start a bright new career as a Wal Mart greeter.

    And yeah, I’ve looked at a LOT of alternates – academic research was last on my list. I’ve even got industry experience (few people at my stage can say that) but it hasn’t been enough for a single interview after 4 years of trying.

  37. 37

    Ultimately this is a stupid move even if one regards the selfish interests of the 1%. They are eating their seed corn.

  38. 38
    Walker says:

    @Violet:

    It’s not by accident it’s more accurate. It’s research and money.

    Interesting. Because in general the European funding model is pretty screwed up. Too much shallow industry work and too little foundational.

  39. 39
    Poopyman says:

    .. And of course the one thing you kids (may) have that us oldsters almost certainly don’t is debt from your college loans. Remember that wonderful year of 2005? And the Bankruptcy Abuse Prevention and Consumer Protection Act, sponsored by Sen. Charles Grassley (R-Iowa)? Ah, a Republican-controlled Congress.

    Good times. Good times to come as well.

  40. 40
    Hill Dweller says:

    @Shawn in ShowMe: But they also want access to the Chinese market.

    The Chinese have brilliantly(and ruthlessly) exploited our greed. Their labor and consumer markets are now vital to a huge chunk of corporate America, despite it ultimately destroying the middle class here.

    The Chinese will have to do far more than some hacking for the oligarchs in this country to advocate shutting off that money stream.

  41. 41
    Walker says:

    @aimai:

    I work help with admissions at my uni and we see a lot if science-focused applications from people whose heart is clearly in a different area. We also hold this against the applicant and do not admit them.

  42. 42
    Violet says:

    @Walker: Here’s an interesting article on it. A relevant bit:

    The US model has lagged behind in these areas for a number of years, but the money needed to push ahead has never shaken loose. The National Centers for Environmental Prediction did get a new building this year, and an upgrade to the supercomputer is scheduled for August 2013. Unfortunately, that upgrade won’t be nearly enough to begin catching up to the ECMWF. Cliff Mass, a professor of Atmospheric Sciences at the University of Washington, told Ars the new system would be about 50 percent more powerful than the existing one—a far cry from the performance leap he has advocated.

  43. 43
    Walker says:

    @Walker:

    So iPhones don’t have edit buttons in the new site? I guess the typos remain.

  44. 44
    Poopyman says:

    @Walker: You need to explain this further. Admissions as a student? You don’t let students in “whose heart is clearly in a different area”? How can you tell? Why disqualify them without giving them a chance to fail academically if they qualify otherwise?

  45. 45

    What is even worse is this is a manufactured crisis.

  46. 46
    Belafon (formerly anonevent) says:

    @Zifnab25: Carrier pigeons networks.

  47. 47
    jamick6000 says:

    @Aaron:

    When Obama comes on TV and says our nation needs more engineers and scientists, I laugh. Then I cry.

    very true

  48. 48
    poco says:

    @Walker: Yep, our candidates had unanimous votes from the dept., as did most of the others in social sciences and humanities.

    They were all denied tenure, not based at all on merit, in fact the admin went out of their way to assure us of that, but on enrollment numbers. But our enrollment numbers haven’t changed much, as we pointed out in a detailed statistical analysis, except for one glorious year. But that one glorious year is now the yardstick, and all other years fall short, there has been no change in the uni’s revenues, but yeah–it is clearly becoming a shitty place to work.

  49. 49
    catclub says:

    @Belafon (formerly anonevent): IPOCP

    Internet Protocol Over Carrier Pigeon

  50. 50
    Shawn in ShowMe says:

    @Poopyman:

    I too am interested in this explanation. Folks can be passionate about more than one field at a time. Exhibit A — practically everyone in this thread. You think our first love is politics??

  51. 51
    Kip the Wonder Rat says:

    Really sorry to hear this, Tim. For several years I’ve lobbied the GA and OK delegates about research funding. Every Dem office was well-prepared for the visits and didn’t need to have the foibles of research support explained to them. Every Rep office, and I mean every single one, from the top guy (and they are all men) to the gruntiest grunt were the most anti-science creeps and cretins I’ve ever had the displeasure to meet. And yes, this does include a couple of offices headed up by quacks with “MD” after their sorry names.

    Not that any of this helps you.

    My suggestion: Go hard for academic administration posts, if you can stomach it. It sure as hell is a growth industry around these parts.

  52. 52
    Belafon (formerly anonevent) says:

    One of the other effects of the sequestration cuts is that food prices will go up: Less government inspectors means food, especially meat, will take longer to get to market => Lower Supply => Higher Prices. Plus, you’ll be more likely to get sick.

  53. 53
    geg6 says:

    @aimai:

    Well, I’m not so sure that is a sound thing to counsel your daughter, aimai. I’ve seen lots of college students in my time in higher education and it never works out when a parent pushes a student into a major that they aren’t passionate about. And there are a lot of employers out there, despite the screaming of wingnuts with STEM fetishes, who prefer to hire people who can communicate and who have a well-rounded education. As they tell us on our advisory boards, they can teach a good student pretty much anything they need to know to do most white collar jobs, but you can’t teach an IT major or engineer how to communicate or think outside their own little boxes. I’ll be seeing a former student tomorrow who graduated in liberal arts a year ago who now works for Bayer Corp. as a department head. She had enough classes in chemistry and IT to know what her team should be doing and she is, as her supervising VP says, a firecracker under their asses. In one year on the job, her department won an company-wide innovation award.

  54. 54
    KeithOK says:

    @Zifnab25:

    Expect a cyber-security fee on your internet bill in the near future.

  55. 55
    Higgs Boson's Mate says:

    Pervasive and willful ignorance have not given science funding a miss. The 1% and their minions seem to be completely ignorant about how we got here. Vaccines, jet aircraft, refrigeration, solid state devices all just happened and they’ll keep happening here without any financial inconvenience to the people who really count, right? None of the 1% are going to miss a meal or a Mercedes because we’ve fallen behind in basic research.

  56. 56
    Mr Blifil says:

    At least you have not decided to become an actor in the regional theatre.

  57. 57
    JPL says:

    @Belafon (formerly anonevent): If the elderly are more prone to die of food related illnesses won’t this be good for long term social security benefits…
    Look at the dark side.

  58. 58
    Walker says:

    @Poopyman:

    I am a faculty reader for applications (e.g. I read the essays, both common app and supplemental, as well as review extra curriculars). You regularly see and outstanding writer or linguiphile who says they want to study biology with middling science scores and little science extra curriculars. Had they said they really wanted to study English or a language, we would have taken them. But if they say Bio, they compete with the Intel and Seimens contestants and do not get in.

  59. 59
    Aaron says:

    @schrodinger’s cat: Not really. If I could choose one reform to the H1B program, it would be a strict requirement that foreign applicants be paid exactly the same as domestic applicants. Otherwise, it’s just a way to devalue our labor by abusing the foreign-born with lower wages and the ever present threat of deportation.

  60. 60
    Ben Franklin says:

    15 of our science-oriented GOP Senators want Obama to pull Hagel’s nomination.

    John Brennan? Not so much.

    John Cornyn of Texas, the No. 2 Senate Republican; Lindsey Graham and Tim Scott of South Carolina; Roger Wicker of Mississippi; David Vitter of Louisiana; Ted Cruz of Texas; Mike Lee of Utah; Patrick J. Toomey of Pennsylvania; Marco Rubio of Florida; Dan Coats of Indiana; Ron Johnson of Wisconsin; James E. Risch of Idaho; John Barrasso of Wyoming; and Tom Coburn and James Inhofe of Oklahoma.

    http://www.nytimes.com/2013/02.....wanted=all

  61. 61
    jamick6000 says:

    An immediate 8% cut to the NIH budget, on top of the other things that get more expensive or harder to get thanks to the inevitable government FUBAR, will pretty much guarantee that everyone with their hats in the ring this year will have a very bad grant cycle.

    Is it known how NIH is going to handle the sequester? This might not be true.

  62. 62
    Higgs Boson's Mate says:

    @KeithOK:

    Expect a cyber-security fee on your internet bill in the near future.

    Now that’s the American Way; charge for a service that you can’t possibly provide. Hell’s bells, spam was invented shortly after SMTP and they still can’t control that.

  63. 63

    @Aaron: That is the requirement even now. Are you saying that post-docs/scientists on H1-B are paid less than permanent residents or citizens?
    The employment based immigration system is big mess and has not been updated since the 1960s and the bigots in GOP who say that they are not against immigrants just the illegal ones, have done nothing to update legal immigration system either. Unless you are a researcher of extraordinary ability (EB1-a) you cannot self petition for a green card, you have to depend on your employer to do so.

  64. 64
    chopper says:

    @Aaron:

    the wife is finishing up her phd right now. hope to god she ends up being one of the lucky ones who didn’t spend 10 years in grad school for nothin’.

    FIL is retiring from NIH. guess he picked the right year to leave. ugh.

  65. 65
    Walker says:

    @schrodinger’s cat:

    Unless you are a researcher of extraordinary ability (EB1-a) you cannot self petition for a green card, you have to depend on your employer to do so.

    Oh, those can be a mess too. I had a colleague who had letters from way up in the NSF who still had a very hard time with this process (granted it was a over a dispute on whether he had met the Fullbright return residency requirements).

  66. 66
    Mnemosyne says:

    @schrodinger’s cat:

    Are you saying that post-docs/scientists on H1-B are paid less than permanent residents or citizens?

    I think he’s saying that the universities may be playing the same game that Silicon Valley played for years, which was to cut the salary of the position they were offering by 50% and then claim that they had to have an H1-B because they couldn’t find any American citizens for the job at the “prevailing rate.”

  67. 67

    @Walker: Assembling a package for EB1-A usually takes years. Because you have to convince the UCSCIS, that your research is valuable and you are top-notch.

  68. 68
    jl says:

    @jamick6000: From my experience, researchers are very efficient and resourceful at stretching dollars. After all, they have had years of practice.

    How funding agencies and university bureaucracies handle it is another matter. Some funding agencies will be aggressive and push as much cash out the door to keep things going, others will do nothing, and hunker down. Good thing about most government research funding is that the cash is up front, so at least you can finish your current research plan.

    Smart universities will do a form of work sharing, usually with furloughs to keep everyone on board for as long as possible. They have an understanding of the costs of losing human capital.

    A lot of corporate funding is worse, since often the cash is not up front, and funding and research plans can be cancelled or changed at any moment for all sorts of BS corporate reasons.

  69. 69
    Walker says:

    @schrodinger’s cat:

    I am saying that even with the letters and the package, he had 5 years of legal wrangling.

  70. 70
    Poopyman says:

    @Walker: OooooKay. Just out of curiosity, how many of the students at your institution change majors? I’m assuming that’s allowed.

    Not that my skepticism is going to make a difference. You’ll do what you’ll do. Just seems like an F’ed up way of making decisions, although THAT is probably common to all colleges/unis.

  71. 71
    mathguy says:

    @Kip the Wonder Rat: Teaching at a premed mill has made me think that MD stands for “Mediocre Dumbshit.” All but a few are above average people that think they are anointed geniuses when that MD pops up behind their name. “What do you call the person last in their medical school graduating class? Doctor.”

  72. 72
    Walker says:

    @jl:

    Smart universities will do a form of work sharing, usually with furloughs to keep everyone on board for as long as possible. They have an understanding of the costs of losing human capital.

    Of certain types of human capital (or maybe my institution is not that smart). We had out 10%-out-of-each department austerity back in 2009. Faculty could not be touched, so it all came out of support staff. Support staff that did a lot of student service work that the faculty are not really equipped to do. We are paying for it now.

  73. 73
    Aaron says:

    @schrodinger’s cat: Yes, they are. Regularly and routinely. I had Indian friends who would complain about how much less they were making than their native-born collegues to me, because they knew I was sympathetic and wouldn’t rat on them. If they make a stink, they are deported, so they don’t. Sure, the wages are reported as being equal, but what is actually paid out is not, and everyones wages work their way down to those levels. That is why it needs to be a strict requirement, one that is checked, investigated, and prosecuted.

  74. 74
    gene108 says:

    @Aaron:

    If I could choose one reform to the H1B program, it would be a strict requirement that foreign applicants be paid exactly the same as domestic applicants.

    What’s the difference in wage rates for the sciences?

    I have a couple of cousins on H1-b in IT and they make a bit over 100k a year. I’m not sure how much wages are being driven down by H1-b’s in IT per se.

    The bigger issue is companies wanting to slash IT budgets and basically outsourcing projects to IBM, Wipro, etc. at rates that require work to be done partly off-shore, so anyone who comes on an H1-b, will not get paid much because the end client may not be paying as much as they used to years ago for IT work.

  75. 75
    Older_Wiser says:

    With all the emphasis on gaining an education (something anyone with any sense would recommend) can we really afford to do something like the Republicans are hellbent on doing? Their intent to send us back to the dark ages will break us. Do we really want scientists serving lattes or selling fake Rolexes on the street? They may be asking for a brain drain from the US.

  76. 76
    jl says:

    @Walker: Last cash crunch my place furloughed everybody pretty much equally from staff to the chancellor, with some adjustments for how much external funding you had. Not enough faculty with tenure and power to block that approach.

    Since workload remained about the same for faculty and top brass, it was basically a pay cut.

  77. 77

    @Mnemosyne: Grad students and post-docs have always been poorly paid. H1-B and J-1 are the two visa types available to universities use to employ scientists and post-docs who are not citizens or permanent residents. Also if you take a look at the pipeline, most graduate departments in the sciences have a more than 50% of their students who are not citizens. Are you saying that international students who get their educations in US universities should not get jobs here in their fields of specialization.

  78. 78
    gene108 says:

    @schrodinger’s cat:

    Are you saying that international students who get their educations in US universities should not get jobs here in their fields of specialization.

    Lots of foreign born researchers have won Nobel Prizes in the sciences.

    The pathetic thing about America is since the end of WW2, this country has been so damn dominant in science research that we don’t give a fuck, if an American wins the Nobel Prize in Physics, Chemistry, etc.

    We’re used to having one American or foreign born person doing research in America win one of these each year.

    If you had a person doing research in China, or India, or Brazil or a host of other countries, I’d bet they’d be considered national heroes and become household names.

    Germany, prior to Hitler, had a boatload of Nobel Laureates in the sciences. Hitler drove out the intellectuals. Germany hasn’t recovered to their pre-Hitler level of Nobel worthy research.

  79. 79
    jl says:

    One thing to remember is that the sequester kicks in gradually, so the hurt will really start kicking in after six months or so, assuming neither Dems or GOP blinks.

    Looks like labor and business have reached a compromise on immigration, so reactionary GOP will have less cover for hiding their dysfunction and dishonesty.

    I hope the same thing happens with the sequester. Public is on Obama and Dems side on so many issues, and the way things are falling out on other issues, I don’t see that changing.

    02.21.2013, 04:20 PM
    Welcome to the World of Hurt
    TPM
    Josh Marshall
    With Labor and Business apparently coalescing around a set of compromise principles on immigration reform (a very big deal as Benjy Sarlin explains), the sole big political obstacle that could complicate things for Democrats looks less likely to occur. And now comes news that Obama’s popularity is soaring with Latino voters in the wake of his immigration push.

    As I said this morning, Washington and the country’s elite political class (and I mean that not as a pejorative but merely in a descriptive way) has convinced itself that the Tea Party and the base of the GOP no longer exists. They’re wrong.

    http://editors.talkingpointsme.....f_hurt.php

  80. 80
    Walker says:

    @Poopyman:

    OooooKay. Just out of curiosity, how many of the students at your institution change majors? I’m assuming that’s allowed.

    Of course they change majors. But certain majors are over-enrolled and so the bar is much higher than in others. Look, if we can read between the lines and see a legitimate reason that they would actually do major X instead of major Y, we give them the benefit of the doubt. But if you say that you REALLY want to do X then you compete with the people who really want to do X.

    We aren’t alone in this. Most of the selective universities do this.

  81. 81
    Seanly says:

    The last 4 or 5 years have been pretty bad in the infrastructure marketplace. States cut back on infrastructure funding. Congress doesn’t appropriate the full amount of money under ISTEA, 2 years+ of limping along without a highway bill & now MAP-21. The uncertainty of funding without a highway bill & now all the fiscal BS has the state DOTs holding back on putting out work.

    Like Aaron & others, I see the calls for more engineers & scientists and laments for foreign-born US-taught MS’s leaving our shores and have to laugh. There’s barely enough jobs to go around. Cut another 10% or 15% from infrastructure spending and there’ll be lots of well-educated folks out of work.

    Obama’s stimulus was too small on the actual money to help. With the strict limits on time, most of the work was spent repaving roads, etc. It takes several years to go from an idea about a road or bridge replacement to environmental clearance to design to construction.

    Oh & while I completely support more infrastructure spending so I can put food on the table & pay my mortgage (plus make up the difference in rent & mortgage on a house we can’t sell in another state), Obama got some bad info on public/private partnerships (PPP in the parlence). It costs tens of millions to do a roadway project of any size. Throw in some bridges & add in several million more. The consulting engineers & contractors who design & build our roads & bridges don’t have the financial clout to privately fund projects.

    PPP works by someone with lots of financial clout ponying up the money for the project. The state & feds might kick in a share. The private consortium then manages, maintains & operates the facility for a set amount of time. The private part of the PPP wants to make a return on their investment. This can only happen if they can charge tolls on the road or if they can be paid with interest from the public coffers. The problems with I-185 connector near Greenville SC shows what can go wrong with PPP. Nobody uses the road because it is cheaper to drive on surface roads & circumvent the high tolls.

    I also don’t care for PPP because I know that as an engineer I am ethically bound to safeguard the public welfare. Some corporation isn’t bound by those rules. If money is tight for the corporation running a stretch of road, the first thing they will do is to defer maintainance even worse than the cash-strapped state DOTs already do.

  82. 82

    @gene108: I don’t need convincing, I find that many people here are too eager to make a boogey man out H1-Bs, just like the illegal immigrants are the boogey man on the more wingier websites.

  83. 83

    @Aaron: Are universities doing this? Public Universities have to publish salaries of their employees so this should be something very easy to check.

    ETA: I am not convinced. Also, this would leave them open to all kinds of lawsuits, not to speak of immigration fraud.

  84. 84
    ThatLeftTurnInABQ says:

    @Older_Wiser:

    They may be asking for a brain drain from the US.

    The historical record of the US is kind of patchy, when it comes to long-term investment in basic research. Much of our reputation for being a post-WW2 scientific powerhouse glosses over the fact that war and genocide in Europe and East Asia drove a large number of highly educated people to emmigrate to the US and thus we reaped the cultural, technical and economic benefits of a long-term investment in education which was financed by people on other continents than ours. They sowed, we harvested. The Cold War put pressure on us to keep up the favorable climate but that too is gone now and we may be heading back to culturally driven norms that look more like the 19th Cen. than the mid-20th.

    The outsized ratio of results to domestic investment which we harvested back in the 1940s, 50s and 60s may have given Americans a skewed idea of how much one has to spend on eduction and what sort of rate of return to expect from that investment. This dovetails with our skewed understanding of how wealth creation works derived from the massive and centuries-long real estate boom which North America turned into when European colonists arrived to find the pre-Columbian Native American populations either dead, dying, or vulnerable to ethnic cleansing.

    Shorter me: Americans suffer from the cultural effects of too many resources gifted to us too easily by circumstances beyond our control and not to our credit.

  85. 85
    Mnemosyne says:

    @schrodinger’s cat:

    Are you saying that international students who get their educations in US universities should not get jobs here in their fields of specialization.

    I’m saying that international students who get their educations in the US should not be paid less than a US student would be under normal circumstances.

    The problem that has developed over the past couple of decades is that private companies have cut their salaries below what US employees would accept so they could game the system and get highly educated foreign workers for less than a US employee would cost them. I don’t know that universities are playing the same game of low-balling salaries and calling that the new “market rate” that Silicon Valley did, but given the stories I’ve seen here of people being denied tenure and having to take low-paid adjunct jobs just to stay in academia, I suspect they are.

    Personally, I think we should try to keep as many of those international students as possible and put them on a fast track for a real green card and/or citizenship, whichever they prefer, but that’s not how the system is currently set up.

    Shorter me: it’s an employer problem, not a worker problem. Foreign workers should not be paid less than US workers.

  86. 86
    Walker says:

    @gene108:

    The bigger issue is companies wanting to slash IT budgets and basically outsourcing projects to IBM, Wipro, etc. at rates that require work to be done partly off-shore, so anyone who comes on an H1-b, will not get paid much because the end client may not be paying as much as they used to years ago for IT work.

    If anything, I am seeing a reversal of that trend (based on campus recruiting). Too many companies are discovering that IT is their competitive advantage, and they have none if they outsource it.

  87. 87
    aimai says:

    @Walker:

    Wow. Bitchy. I hope you don’t work for any university my child, or anyone’s child, will be considering.

  88. 88
    raven says:

    No one in the University System of Georgia has had a raise in 4 years. The President of the University of Georgia is getting a 2.5 million dollar retirement package.

  89. 89
    Walker says:

    @aimai:

    I am sorry if you feel that way, but it is not unique to my university. Sorry. We like students who want to build on their strengths, not run from them.

  90. 90

    @Mnemosyne: They are not, at least not in publicly funded universities and research labs. The problem is the glut of PhDs. There too many PhDs and too few academic jobs.

  91. 91
    aimai says:

    @geg6:

    You know, I get that people think that my comment means I’m some kind of helicopter parent but for christ’s sake people get a grip. The kid in question is a top student at an extremely science oriented highschool–she could do anything from Physics to Chemistry to English. I just explained to her that the market for history professors, anthropology professors (my own field) and english professors is totally fuckedup and has been for years. This seems like a fairly reasonable thing to point out. People change their minds once they get to college all the time. The idea that anything that is said in the applicant essay means that the kid won’t change their mind a million time is so stupid that I can’t even grasp how dumb it is.

  92. 92
    Seanly says:

    @Mnemosyne: That happens with engineers. In the back of Civil Engineer, a trade magazine published by ASCE (of which I am a member), are job listings. I’d occasionally see a job listing with an absurdly long list of very specific job requirements and then list an almost equally absurdly low wage rate for the job. The very specific job requirements (usually in some obscure structural design software) coupled with an entry level salary would deter most people from applying.

    If we were doing at least some of the level of investment we need to keep our infrastructure limping along, I would be very happy to welcome everybody who can hold a pencil & punch a calculator to work with me. We need a lot more diversity – more women, more minorities. But we’re not spending what we need to and I went through 7 months unemployed barely two years ago. Yeah, I want to protect my turf. Until we get our priorities straight, I don’t even care that there are too few American born people who want to pigeon-hole their future & go into engineering.

  93. 93
    aimai says:

    @Walker:

    Oh, fuck off. You have zero idea what my child’s strengths are or what would be considered “running from them” in the form of an application. You have a massive sense of entitlement that comes from occupying a powerful but low rung in a competitive process. Gatekeeping isn’t the same as doing something valuable.

  94. 94
    Sir Nose'D says:

    Tim F. I weep for you.

    Here at State U, we just completed a job search in the area of systems biology. The candidates were all exceptional, and lots of excellent people never were brought in for interviews. Ten years ago your H-index of 9 would have bumped you right to the top of the list.

    The best thing you can be doing if you are shooting for an academic position that includes research is to zero in on your first big idea for your first grant at the lead PI, and be ready to talk about it at job interviews.

    Hang in there.

  95. 95
    Rachel in Portland says:

    @jamick6000: No one at NIH is saying yet, but many of the institutes are already not funding grants or funding them at reduced rates (I’ve seen anywhere from 10% to 20% lopped off the budget)in anticipation. This is common under a continuing resolution, but the difference is that in the past, the funding levels would be restored and you would get that 10-20% back. I am thinking that this time they will not get it back.

  96. 96
    Mnemosyne says:

    @schrodinger’s cat:

    I should probably explain a bit: when I was in college, I had a friend from Singapore who was hired by a fairly major metropolitan newspaper as a reporter. When her H1-B came up for renewal, they let her go instead, because they didn’t want to have to publicly post her salary as was required by law. That was when she realized that she had been getting paid far less than her colleagues who did the same work.

    So, yes, employers play all kinds of half-legal games to be able to hire employees more cheaply, and they have a lot of leeway to fuck around with their foreign employees.

  97. 97
    Shawn in ShowMe says:

    @aimai:

    I just explained to her that the market for history professors, anthropology professors (my own field) and english professors is totally fuckedup and has been for years. This seems like a fairly reasonable thing to point out

    You get my vote. I’m all for adults telling young men and women the truth so they can make informed decisions. Certainly would have helped me out a lot at 18.

  98. 98

    @Mnemosyne: Employment based immigration system is heavily tilted towards the employers and this is unfair to the all the employees (citizen or non-citizen)

  99. 99
    Mnemosyne says:

    @schrodinger’s cat:

    The problem is the glut of PhDs. There too many PhDs and too few academic jobs.

    Again, though, I think this is an employer problem, not a worker problem. Universities have cut tenured positions to the bone and replaced them with untenured, part-time workers. Same thing with research institutes and the government — positions that could have been career positions for PhDs have been cut, so now they have to scramble to find a much lower position.

    The H1-B workers themselves are an inadvertent, unwilling part of the problem, but that’s how employers (including universities) have been using them.

  100. 100

    @Mnemosyne: Is it because of H1-Bs or is it because of the massive cutting of research budgets starting with Reagan administration on forward. Using post-docs and grad students is the way to conduct the same amount of research with less money.

  101. 101
    Mnemosyne says:

    @schrodinger’s cat:

    I think we agree more than we disagree. As I said, I think the main problem is that employers have been playing games to figure out how they can cut salaries, and because of the un-level playing field between employers and workers, a lot of legal foreign workers get caught up in the game. I’m sure an engineer’s starting salary of $30,000 sounds great to someone who’s just out of school and doesn’t want to go back to India, but s/he has no way of knowing that the starting salary used to be $60,000 and the employer cut it to get cheaper workers.

  102. 102
    gene108 says:

    @schrodinger’s cat:

    I think a lot of complaints from H1-b holders comes from the fact they don’t have a frame of reference to evaluate what Americans make.

    Indians tend to directly compare salaries, in a way Americans just don’t do. An American will say, “I got a nice raise”. An Indian, will say, “I got a 5k raise, what raise did you get?” Reply, “I got a 4.5k raise, I’m going to complain to the boss or quit”.

    Also, people from India have a greater propensity to save.

    They see Americans blowing money, they figure how much they’d have to make to live like that based on what they figure a normal savings rate would be.

    They don’t realize Americans don’t save money at the same rate.

    This is a broad generalization, but from what anecdotal experience I have, I find Americans to be less demanding with regards to higher wages than someone on an H1-b, i.e. if your looking for a programmer an American will work cheaper than an H1-b.

    EDIT: I think H1-b’s, at least in a consulting setting, are more cognizant of the fact their employer is making a margin on them and they want a large a share of that as they can get. An American seems to think he should be paid ‘x’ and isn’t as worried about what margins his employer makes on him.

  103. 103

    @Mnemosyne: You are conflating government and university jobs with corporate jobs.

  104. 104
    Mnemosyne says:

    @schrodinger’s cat:

    Is it because of H1-Bs or is it because of the massive cutting of research budgets starting with Reagan administration on forward.

    Neither — it’s because of the Wall Street/MBA mentality that workers are disposable cogs and you should cut your labor force to the bone and put that money elsewhere, like into executive (or administrator) salaries. The H1-Bs are just temporarily useful cogs who are being pitted against the other cogs.

  105. 105

    @Mnemosyne: Capital is valued over labor, that is the problem. Started with the Reagan administration and the end of the Cold War accelerated that trend.

  106. 106
    Linnaeus says:

    I just explained to her that the market for history professors, anthropology professors (my own field) and english professors is totally fuckedup and has been for years. This seems like a fairly reasonable thing to point out.

    The market for those particular professions is fucked up, and yes, it is reasonable to point that out. I know that first hand as a Ph.D. student in history who has reconciled himself to the very strong likelihood that a faculty position is not in my future (and, to be honest, I’m not so sure I’d want one, given what I’ve seen over the years).

    That said, I started out in the sciences (my undergrad degree is in cellular & molecular biology) and even in the mid-1990s, I was competing with Ph.D.s for entry-level lab tech jobs that you did not (and still do not) need a Ph.D. to do. I also needed to admit to myself that I really wasn’t that great of a bench researcher and so I got out and went into history.

    Which, to some, may look like I chose the fire over the frying pan. In some ways, I did. Nevertheless, I’ve found that it is possible to craft a humanities education into something livable, even if it’s not what I envisioned when I started it. I’m not saying this as a strong recommendation, but rather that it’s possible to make the best of a suboptimal situation. But I wouldn’t blame someone for taking the path that I originally began. You make the best decisions you can based on what you know at the time you make them.

  107. 107
    Mnemosyne says:

    @schrodinger’s cat:

    I think university administrators currently think of themselves as CEOs whose job is to sell their product (ie get more students) and get bonuses for themselves. It’s not like that everywhere, but I think the corporate mentality is more prevalent in universities than you think. One of the reasons our state’s tuitions have been soaring is that the UC Board of Regents made bad investments and lost money, so now students have to make up the difference.

  108. 108
    Linnaeus says:

    @Mnemosyne:

    It’s not like that everywhere, but I think the corporate mentality is more prevalent in universities than you think.

    Yep. Some years ago, the then-president of my undergrad alma mater explicitly compared my university to a corporation: the president was the CEO, the regents were a board of directors, the students were customers, and the citizens of the state (the university in question is a public university) were shareholders.

    At other universities I’ve attended, this analogy was not made quite so blatantly, but the rhetoric that the administrations employed was increasingly businesslike. Now, to be fair, there are functions of the university that are businesslike, but the guiding principles of the institution are still quite different. Or at least they were at one time.

  109. 109

    @Mnemosyne: I don’t disagree with you.

  110. 110
    JoyfulA says:

    @aimai: I was in a panel study of medical services usage last year for which the lead investigator was a anthropologist. She flew to PA from Chicago twice to interview panelists in their homes. Samoans, Pennsylvanians—

    So maybe they’re working for corporations rather than colleges these days. My late husband in the late 1960s intended to be an anthropologist until he learned that a local plum job for a PhD with hundreds of applicants paid $7,000/year, a rate less than he was earning as a part-time draftsman.

  111. 111
    Platypus says:

    Tim – Congratulations on your H index of 9. In the old days, that would be a very good omen. These days, not as much, unfortunately.

    I want to echo your post from the other side. As chair of a medical sciences department at a major research institution I’m been on multiple faculty search committees, both for my own department and others. The last few years have been depressingly the same. 100+ applications and 1 position. You interview only the top 6 candidates – absolutely stellar people who end up being on everyone’s short list. Thats leaves more than a dozen candidates who are accomplished young scientists and, in better times, would have landed a good, tenure track job. But now we don’t have the faculty positions for them. (We were recently told that we should only make job offers to superstars because, going forward, only superstars will be able to get funding.)

    I sometimes feel that we are being dishonest to our graduate students when we don’t emphasize reality enough – the vast majority of them will never be able to follow us into academia. (And that some of us tenured types wouldn’t have made it as young investigators in the current climate.)

    As to the sequester, NIH has a history of trying to look at for young investigators, in part because it has some institutional commitment to maintaining the ranks of the medical research community. That said, there may not be a lot they can do because they are already committed to funding existing grants. Depending on how sympathetic their accountants are, they may be stuck taking the sequester cuts out of funds that have yet to be committed (i.e., new grants.) Let ‘s hope that’s not the case..

    Try to hang in there for now. I’ve been around long enough to have seen funding wax and wane, and expect that things will get better eventually. (NIH is actually quite good at lobbying Congress)

  112. 112
    Nunya says:

    @Mnemosyne: I think the problem is even more fundamental; the apprentice system that prevails (at least in the biomedical sciences) is unsustainable. At the time that I completed my dissertation, my faculty advisor’s lab had churned out more than 40 newly-minted PhDs. During that time his department had added maybe 10 new positions and replaced perhaps another 10 or so outgoing professors. His was a very successful lab, but there were probably at least another couple of labs that had minted similar numbers of surplus PhDs, not to mention the remainder of the departmental labs that had all generated smaller surpluses. This was a tier 1 institution with a huge bias toward academic career paths, so very few students were well-equipped or successful in transitioning to biotech or other non-academic jobs when academic positions didn’t materialize.

  113. 113
    Debbie(aussie) says:

    Would it be wrong to say we are entering a new ‘dark ages’? We as a society can’t move forward if we keep looking at the $ for tomorrow instead of the life/style of citizens over generations.

  114. 114
    Mnemosyne says:

    @Nunya:

    Yeah, I didn’t mean to imply that corporate=academic or that there aren’t some problems that are unique to academia. But I do think that a lot of the supply problem in academia is due to the fact that universities have eliminated or downgraded the positions that used to exist for those students, not just an overeducation problem.

    But, as schrodinger’s cat remembered, I’m a corporate drone myself, so I may be overapplying corporate models to academia. (I used to work for UC, but it was on the medical center side and about 10 years ago.)

  115. 115
    Rosie Outlook says:

    @Comrade Scrutinizer: Hello Scrutinizer, what does an adjunct do? I’m not familiar with that job.

    I think one reason conservatives may like the sequester is that it makes government employment much less attractive. The main benefit of government employment has always been pay predictability and job security.

  116. 116
    Sir Nose'D says:

    @Debbie(aussie): A new dark age? Phil Williams at the Center for Strategic Studies seems to make a good case for it: google From the New Middle Ages to a New Dark Age: The Decline of the State and U.S. Strategy

  117. 117
    ThatLeftTurnInABQ says:

    @Debbie(aussie):

    Would it be wrong to say we are entering a new ‘dark ages’?

    I wouldn’t call it ‘wrong’, but why can’t we come up with some decline-and-fall analogies that are a little more outside the standard issue Euro-centric box, just for fun? Say that we are entering a new period of late Qing-dynasty self-congratulatory smugness, complacency and self-inflicted resource starvation and legacy structure consumption, or something like that? Too much Spengler and not enough Lu Xun makes Jack a dull boy.

  118. 118
    Bill Arnold says:

    @Walker:
    This may depend on the lawyer(s) involved. I knew someone (very smart, laid off in 2009) who managed to assemble the package in about 6-8 months (including work in the prior year or so). They used a lawyer who specialized in this process.

  119. 119
    Bill Arnold says:

    @gene108:

    I’d bet they’d be considered national heroes and become household names.

    A favorite party game, “Name a famous living scientist – not the guy in the wheelchair”. I usually start with “Name a famous living engineer”.
    The engineer question is about 0 for 15 now. The scientist question is about 2 for 15.

  120. 120
  121. 121
    Linnaeus says:

    @Debbie(aussie):

    Would it be wrong to say we are entering a new ‘dark ages’? We as a society can’t move forward if we keep looking at the $ for tomorrow instead of the life/style of citizens over generations.

    Oh, I’ve been throwing around the term “neofeudalism” for quite a while now. I’m not the only one.

  122. 122
    AHH onna Droid says:

    Im Pei is a mechanical engineer, Bill. Does he count?

    I think engineers are rewarded for putting their heads down and playing it safe, which contradicts the path to famous.

    Don’t understand the H1B pollyannaism. Yes, some employers who have that available are not assholes and of course there are highly skilled foreign nationals brought in by US firms.

    The problem is that by tying immigration status to the employer you create a massive power imbalance in the company’s favor. Also, the regs about pay are flouted egregiously

  123. 123
    maurinsky says:

    This concerns me as my daughter is marrying a neurobiologist in a doctoral program, and he intends to go into research.

  124. 124
    Nunya says:

    @maurinsky: Don’t worry, he has a good two or three post-doc jobs standing between him and the CV he’ll need to be considered for any faculty jobs. Plenty of time to realize the error of his ways and take up plumbing or carpentry or some other actually-employable skill.

    /neurobiologist bitching

  125. 125
    Debbie(aussie) says:

    @ThatLeftTurnInABQ:
    True, we can be very euro- centric.

  126. 126
    liberal says:

    @Mnemosyne:

    Personally, I think we should try to keep as many of those international students as possible and put them on a fast track for a real green card and/or citizenship, whichever they prefer, but that’s not how the system is currently set up.

    Agreed. This H1-B thing smacks of indentured servitude and should be done away with.

  127. 127
    liberal says:

    @AHH onna Droid:

    The problem is that by tying immigration status to the employer you create a massive power imbalance in the company’s favor.

    No shit. It’s simply idiotic and cannot be fixed.

    If the workers are that valuable, put them on a path to citizenship.

  128. 128
    liberal says:

    @Nunya:

    I think the problem is even more fundamental; the apprentice system that prevails (at least in the biomedical sciences) is unsustainable. At the time that I completed my dissertation, my faculty advisor’s lab had churned out more than 40 newly-minted PhDs. During that time his department had added maybe 10 new positions and replaced perhaps another 10 or so outgoing professors.

    Bingo. In the steady state, the number of research positions will grow only with population, which grows pretty slowly. Which means each professor graduating not much more than one PhD.

    I think people have a biased viewpoint because of growing up during or shortly after the 60s, where AFAICT entire universities were built from scratch.

  129. 129
    liberal says:

    @Platypus:

    I sometimes feel that we are being dishonest to our graduate students when we don’t emphasize reality enough…

    The problem I saw when I was an academic was one of incentives. More graduate students for a professor is a big feather in the cap. More graduate students for the department (assuming means can be found to provide for them) means more graduate courses to teach, which are more interesting to teach than undergraduate ones (at least the ones in my department, which were mostly service courses for non-majors).

    From the talk over at Lawyers Guns and Money, it’s the same thing in law. There’s all these folks graduating from law schools who’ll never get decent jobs, and they’re saddled with lots of debt (nondischargeable, at that). But the law schools clearly have an incentive to keep churning out lots of graduates.

  130. 130
    liberal says:

    @schrodinger’s cat:

    Is it because of H1-Bs or is it because of the massive cutting of research budgets starting with Reagan administration on forward.

    I don’t think that’s true of NIH. It stopped a few years ago, but the NIH budget grew rapidly, IIRC.

    NSF is another matter entirely. I guess people focus on things they think will help them live forever, and pharma needs someone to pay for all the basic research.

  131. 131
    Bill Arnold says:

    Re “[the sequester]” and a recent post by Kevin Drum, why isn’t there more pressure to simply repeal it?
    It is very likely to cause a recession, with at least hundreds of thousands net more people losing jobs in the private/non-military-contractor sector, and more in the public/academic/military-contractor sectors). Do the Republicans really think they can blame it on Obama, given that they can simply repeal it? (Even assuming the press accepts their revisionist history, that neglects mention of the fact that the sequester was simply a mechanism to break a hostage crisis where the Republicans were threatening the world over the U.S. debt ceiling.)

  132. 132
    Xenos says:

    @Debbie(aussie): It looks like a new dark ages to me. But then, we had the same reactionary cultural forces and predatory industrial capitalism in the late 19th century, except it was worse then. And we came around after 2-3 generations and some unpleasant exagenous shocks to the system.

    So for some generations our role is not to thrive but to hold the line, culturally, spiritually, and intellectually, for the next generation. And to teach them to do the same, and to try to guide them toward finding valuable and worthy careers in a world that has few of them available.

  133. 133
    Li says:

    @ThatLeftTurnInABQ:

    This comment is abundantly wonderful.

    That is all.

  134. 134
    Gary N. Diana says:

    FWIW…

    A dozen years ago, when I was a postdoc, my faculty advisor and I wrote a successful NSF instrumentation grant proposal worth some $500k. That same grant program was de-funded during the Bush admin, and as far as I know (my current research is completely different from what I did as a post-doc), it was never brought back.

    To be sure, it sucks that there will be even less research funding, mostly thanks to the anti-science idiots in congress. Hopefully the military research (e.g., better ways to kill people) will also start feeling the pinch this time.

  135. 135

    […] this piece, for example, the author pats himself on the back for his “paper output” and high […]

  136. 136
    Donut says:

    Jesus, this is a depressing thread. I know also a one-dead one, but I can’t help but post this – in 1996 I finished by BA in History. I was one of the top students in my department with a nearly perfect GPA in my history coursework. So I was graduated with Distinction. I had many urging me to continue down the academic path, but the music industry kept calling me too. Occasionally, sitting in a van that smelled like the ass cracks and crotches of the eight men who lived in it and counting my $20/day average earrings, I used to think maybe I’d made the wrong choice. Maybe I shoulda paid attention to advisors and profs and applied to grad schools. I thought, many days, wouldn’t I have had more economic security and better fringe benefits that didn’t involve drugs and alcohol and people carrying STDs?

    I now see I made the more sensible choice.

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