Sunday, June 27, 2010

A glut of scientists? Possibly.

Warning: I say nothing funny in this post. Avert your eyes if that makes you uneasy.

I found this article about the labor market for scientists and engineers thought provoking. The article makes some interesting claims:

  • US K-12 STEM* education is doing just fine compaired to other countries
  • Lots of people are interested in STEM education and jobs in the US, although many are foreign-born and here temporarily
  • US students shy away from STEM faculty careers because of the many years of education and training required compared to other, more lucrative fields
  • Science and engineering students seem to buy into the fantasy that tenure track faculty positions are easy to find
  • This last point was most surprising to me since I didn't think STEM students would fall for that line of BS as our liberal arts colleagues did (no insult intended, that's just the impression I got from reading RYS).

    Again, a very stimulating read. I'm interested in comments, especially from STEM faculty.

    * acronym alert: STEM = science, technology, engineering & math


    1. That's hardly news to me.

      After I quit my teaching job several years ago, I applied for job after job after job. I also sent out hundreds of letters of inquiry in the hope of finding leads. Out of all of that, the number of interviews I had I could count on both hands.

      It wasn't for lack of qualifications or experience. I have degrees in two engineering disciplines, including 2 master's and a Ph. D., and I'm professionally registered in 3 regions of my country. I also have several years of industrial experience and taught for over a decade at the post-secondary level.

      I was often told that there wasn't a "fit", whatever that meant. The reality was that companies wanted young, cheap labour. With my qualifications, I'd be too expensive and, at my age, I know how the game is played and how things ought to be done, so I wouldn't readily buy any employer hogwash.

    2. Ironic, isn't it, how almost no one doing medical research in the U.S. today has health insurance? And all the while, the powers-that-be gibber about a shortage of scientists, much as they have continuously for over 20 years now. I find this article to be mostly spot-on, although I don't think the prospects for reform are as hopeless as the end of the article suggests. If the next human to set foot on the Moon is Chinese, sent there by the People's Republic of China, rely on there being loud wailing in the U.S. about losing scientific pre-eminence, much as there was after Sputnik. The Chinese have stated in public that they intend to land a taikonaut on the Moon by 2020---I'll give them by 2025---so be ready, when the window opens.

      - Froderick Frankenstien from Fresno

      P.S. That's FrankenSTIEN!


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