JC Supply-side academics 2007 - too many PhDs

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Supply-side academics

Nature Neuroscience 10, 1337 (2007), doi:10.1038/nn1107-1337

Lead: "The number of biology PhDs has increased without a corresponding change in tenure-track positions. This oversupply has led to an intense competition for jobs and funding that may be damaging the culture of science."

http://www.nature.com/neuro/journal/v10/n11/full/nn1107-1337.html Padlock-open.png

key points

  • number of people with PhD in biology 2x over last 20 years, while tenure track positions constant
  • effects
  • may have led to delays in career progression: average age at first NIH RO1 grant 34y in 1970, 42y in 2006
  • stress and disenchantment of group leader hopefuls: in 2004, 57% of postdocs aimed for tenure-track = twice oversubscribed
  • larger fraction of PhDs to industry: 30% in 2006, 10% in 1970
  • increased competition detrimental for science: less information sharing, less individual examination due to larger number of applicants, reliance on simplified indicators
  • suggested solutions
  • increasing length of scientific training (wasteful and dissatisfying)
  • fewer PhDs or increase of tenure-track jobs
  • new research job category: career-track technicians as in RIKEN, Japan


Tough but accurate evaluation. Especially, reducing the number of PhDs and postdocs (suggested as a solution by the author) might not be in the interest of group leaders who profit from the cheap labour. -- Jakob Suckale 09:30, 30 October 2007 (CDT)