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Thread: Is the field of science for the most part dead today?

  1. #1 Is the field of science for the most part dead today? 
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    It seems today the more research I do, the more I hear of people actually discouraging others from pursuing a careeer in science.

    My idea of being a scientist when I was young was always being in the lab, with the white lab coat on, studying through a microscope, studying amazing theories, all of the projects of course were projects I initial choose to work on, and not anyone telling me what I should be studying, coming up with amazing findings.

    But as the reality of the situation becomes clearer, it is not so clean cut as one would imagine. As said, some people are even telling science majors to switch careers entirely.

    What are your thoughts on the science field being dead right now? What will revive it and how long may it take for this revival to come about and what will be required to revive it?







    I'll post one paper in particular that really struck me the most an actually made me want to reconsider my lifelong dream. One respected professor by the name of Jonathan I. Katz actually encourages students to follow the opposite of their dreams by not becoming a scientist. Sad but he makes some very critical points worth considered for anyone.




    Are you thinking of becoming a scientist? Do you want to uncover the mysteries of nature, perform experiments or carry out calculations to learn how the world works? Forget it!

    Science is fun and exciting. The thrill of discovery is unique. If you are smart, ambitious and hard working you should major in science as an undergraduate. But that is as far as you should take it. After graduation, you will have to deal with the real world. That means that you should not even consider going to graduate school in science. Do something else instead: medical school, law school, computers or engineering, or something else which appeals to you.
    Why am I (a tenured professor of physics) trying to discourage you from following a career path which was successful for me? Because times have changed (I received my Ph.D. in 1973, and tenure in 1976). American science no longer offers a reasonable career path. If you go to graduate school in science it is in the expectation of spending your working life doing scientific research, using your ingenuity and curiosity to solve important and interesting problems. You will almost certainly be disappointed, probably when it is too late to choose another career.
    American universities train roughly twice as many Ph.D.s as there are jobs for them. When something, or someone, is a glut on the market, the price drops. In the case of Ph.D. scientists, the reduction in price takes the form of many years spent in ``holding pattern'' postdoctoral jobs. Permanent jobs don't pay much less than they used to, but instead of obtaining a real job two years after the Ph.D. (as was typical 25 years ago) most young scientists spend five, ten, or more years as postdocs. They have no prospect of permanent employment and often must obtain a new postdoctoral position and move every two years. For many more details consult the Young Scientists' Network or read the account in the May, 2001 issue of the Washington Monthly.
    As examples, consider two of the leading candidates for a recent Assistant Professorship in my department. One was 37, ten years out of graduate school (he didn't get the job). The leading candidate, whom everyone thinks is brilliant, was 35, seven years out of graduate school. Only then was he offered his first permanent job (that's not tenure, just the possibility of it six years later, and a step off the treadmill of looking for a new job every two years). The latest example is a 39 year old candidate for another Assistant Professorship; he has published 35 papers. In contrast, a doctor typically enters private practice at 29, a lawyer at 25 and makes partner at 31, and a computer scientist with a Ph.D. has a very good job at 27 (computer science and engineering are the few fields in which industrial demand makes it sensible to get a Ph.D.). Anyone with the intelligence, ambition and willingness to work hard to succeed in science can also succeed in any of these other professions.
    Typical postdoctoral salaries begin at $27,000 annually in the biological sciences and about $35,000 in the physical sciences (graduate student stipends are less than half these figures). Can you support a family on that income? It suffices for a young couple in a small apartment, though I know of one physicist whose wife left him because she was tired of repeatedly moving with little prospect of settling down. When you are in your thirties you will need more: a house in a good school district and all the other necessities of ordinary middle class life. Science is a profession, not a religious vocation, and does not justify an oath of poverty or celibacy.
    Of course, you don't go into science to get rich. So you choose not to go to medical or law school, even though a doctor or lawyer typically earns two to three times as much as a scientist (one lucky enough to have a good senior-level job). I made that choice too. I became a scientist in order to have the freedom to work on problems which interest me. But you probably won't get that freedom. As a postdoc you will work on someone else's ideas, and may be treated as a technician rather than as an independent collaborator. Eventually, you will probably be squeezed out of science entirely. You can get a fine job as a computer programmer, but why not do this at 22, rather than putting up with a decade of misery in the scientific job market first? The longer you spend in science the harder you will find it to leave, and the less attractive you will be to prospective employers in other fields.
    Perhaps you are so talented that you can beat the postdoc trap; some university (there are hardly any industrial jobs in the physical sciences) will be so impressed with you that you will be hired into a tenure track position two years out of graduate school. Maybe. But the general cheapening of scientific labor means that even the most talented stay on the postdoctoral treadmill for a very long time; consider the job candidates described above. And many who appear to be very talented, with grades and recommendations to match, later find that the competition of research is more difficult, or at least different, and that they must struggle with the rest.
    Suppose you do eventually obtain a permanent job, perhaps a tenured professorship. The struggle for a job is now replaced by a struggle for grant support, and again there is a glut of scientists. Now you spend your time writing proposals rather than doing research. Worse, because your proposals are judged by your competitors you cannot follow your curiosity, but must spend your effort and talents on anticipating and deflecting criticism rather than on solving the important scientific problems. They're not the same thing: you cannot put your past successes in a proposal, because they are finished work, and your new ideas, however original and clever, are still unproven. It is proverbial that original ideas are the kiss of death for a proposal; because they have not yet been proved to work (after all, that is what you are proposing to do) they can be, and will be, rated poorly. Having achieved the promised land, you find that it is not what you wanted after all.
    What can be done? The first thing for any young person (which means anyone who does not have a permanent job in science) to do is to pursue another career. This will spare you the misery of disappointed expectations. Young Americans have generally woken up to the bad prospects and absence of a reasonable middle class career path in science and are deserting it. If you haven't yet, then join them. Leave graduate school to people from India and China, for whom the prospects at home are even worse. I have known more people whose lives have been ruined by getting a Ph.D. in physics than by drugs.
    If you are in a position of leadership in science then you should try to persuade the funding agencies to train fewer Ph.D.s. The glut of scientists is entirely the consequence of funding policies (almost all graduate education is paid for by federal grants). The funding agencies are bemoaning the scarcity of young people interested in science when they themselves caused this scarcity by destroying science as a career. They could reverse this situation by matching the number trained to the demand, but they refuse to do so, or even to discuss the problem seriously (for many years the NSF propagated a dishonest prediction of a coming shortage of scientists, and most funding agencies still act as if this were true). The result is that the best young people, who should go into science, sensibly refuse to do so, and the graduate schools are filled with weak American students and with foreigners lured by the American student visa.
    Don't Become a Scientist!



    Your thoughts?


    Last edited by tariqblaze; October 20th, 2013 at 07:40 AM.
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  3. #2  
    Forum Radioactive Isotope cosmictraveler's Avatar
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    Never let anyone distract you from what you want to do because it is your life not anyone else's.


    When the power of love overcomes the love of power the world will know peace.
    Jimi Hendrix
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    well I would advise same not only on science but to everyone.... follow your dreams Is biggest motivational speech and same time the biggest bullshit...
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  5. #4  
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    My idea of being a scientist when I was young was always being in the lad, with the white lab coat on, studying through a microscope, studying amazing theories, all of the projects of course were projects I initial choose to work on, and not anyone telling me what I should be studying, coming up with amazing findings.
    That's from films and TV - it's not the way science is done. The wealthy loner pursuing his private interests is a long gone anachronism.

    Science is a team effort. Not a glamorous solitary pursuit. (Though it often seems like that to people working on their PhD, because they're supposed to be doing something new and on their own. But not glamorous.)
    "Courage is what it takes to stand up and speak; courage is also what it takes to sit down and listen." Winston Churchill
    "nature is like a game of Jenga; you never know which brick you pull out will cause the whole stack to collapse" Lucy Cooke
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  6. #5  
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    Quote Originally Posted by cosmictraveler View Post
    Never let anyone distract you from what you want to do because it is your life not anyone else's.
    It is not distractions im worried about, but the fact that maybe im going into something I dont fully understand the complexities of. Listening to people who have experience in the field is a good idea. Im only considering these points and evaluating them as something necessary. Actually im grateful someone is telling this information so I have a better idea of what I am getting into before I get into it so at least I am not surprised it I actually do follow through either way.
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  7. #6  
    Forum Radioactive Isotope cosmictraveler's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by tariqblaze View Post
    Quote Originally Posted by cosmictraveler View Post
    Never let anyone distract you from what you want to do because it is your life not anyone else's.
    It is not distractions im worried about, but the fact that maybe im going into something I dont fully understand the complexities of. Listening to people who have experience in the field is a good idea. Im only considering these points and evaluating them as something necessary. Actually im grateful someone is telling this information so I have a better idea of what I am getting into before I get into it so at least I am not surprised it I actually do follow through either way.
    Talk to counselors at colleges that you want to attend to get their opinions about your fears and goals. They are there to help you as well so use them to understand more about your goals and worries.
    When the power of love overcomes the love of power the world will know peace.
    Jimi Hendrix
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    Quote Originally Posted by adelady View Post
    My idea of being a scientist when I was young was always being in the lad, with the white lab coat on, studying through a microscope, studying amazing theories, all of the projects of course were projects I initial choose to work on, and not anyone telling me what I should be studying, coming up with amazing findings.
    That's from films and TV - it's not the way science is done. The wealthy loner pursuing his private interests is a long gone anachronism.

    Science is a team effort. Not a glamorous solitary pursuit. (Though it often seems like that to people working on their PhD, because they're supposed to be doing something new and on their own. But not glamorous.)
    What about getting your PhD? Is it still not the reality for them or was this all just something TV made up?
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  9. #8  
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    Quote Originally Posted by cosmictraveler View Post
    Quote Originally Posted by tariqblaze View Post
    Quote Originally Posted by cosmictraveler View Post
    Never let anyone distract you from what you want to do because it is your life not anyone else's.
    It is not distractions im worried about, but the fact that maybe im going into something I dont fully understand the complexities of. Listening to people who have experience in the field is a good idea. Im only considering these points and evaluating them as something necessary. Actually im grateful someone is telling this information so I have a better idea of what I am getting into before I get into it so at least I am not surprised it I actually do follow through either way.
    Talk to counselors at colleges that you want to attend to get their opinions about your fears and goals. They are there to help you as well so use them to understand more about your goals and worries.
    I did and I do. But different professors will tell you different things. Especially professors that have no vested interest or duty to give you the clean version of the reality and not the dirty. I did talk to one professor who actually told me nothing is what it really seems and even if it isnt what I put out for, the knowledge is still always going to help in life whether its just to learn or get the job you thought you would get.
    He also told me that right now, things arent really the same for scientist. At least he did admit this.

    I rather someone tell me the honest truth and then let me make the decision of whether I wanna take the risks, then filling my head up with optimistic cliches.
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  10. #9  
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    Getting a PhD is often a kind of ordeal for an individual. But even then in many fields, you can have a whole team go out to a glacier or a rainforest or a dig and the handful of PhD students in the group will each be working on their own tiny portion of the data collection.

    See this group at NASA. Snow Data System Portal

    There are 2 PhD students in the group. McKenzie Skiles went to Greenland this year as part of the Dark Snow project led by Dr Jason Box. This sort of thing happens all over the world in all kinds of fields.
    "Courage is what it takes to stand up and speak; courage is also what it takes to sit down and listen." Winston Churchill
    "nature is like a game of Jenga; you never know which brick you pull out will cause the whole stack to collapse" Lucy Cooke
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  11. #10  
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    For me I see all these professions as games, I think you should find something you like and enjoy the game. If you stop liking the game change the game. I have met many people with many titles and they have thrown it all away because they lost interest.
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