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Is academia a scam?

by gravenewworld
Tags: academia, scam
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twofish-quant
#37
Feb13-12, 02:43 AM
P: 6,863
Quote Quote by pi-r8 View Post
That doesn't sound so hard to me.
It's one of those things that sounds easier than it is. I do think that social networking will change the dynamics, but someone still needs to put the pieces together. Part of the reason that I'm telling people that the problems are X, Y, and Z is that I'd like to see someone work around X, Y, and Z.

You can writing someone an e-mail, but they don't have to reply.

I've personally worked on several different kinds of projects with people that I've met through internet sites (it's a millenial thing- you old folks wouldn't understand :P).
About 75% of the people that I work with, I've never met face-to-face. Everything at the office is instant messaging, e-mail, telephones, with the occasional teleconference.

I honestly think the only reason that nobody does "serious" science outside of academia is cultural inertia.
I don't think so. I haven't found any resistance at all from my peers toward me writing papers on my research. The problem is finding the time. If the *only* thing that was keeping me from publishing is "cultural inertia" then I would have done it already.

We've internalized the idea that the only people outside academia who write science articles are cranks, and therefore the only people who do that tend to actually be cranks, which justifies our belief in ignoring those people.
Who is "we"?

There is some internalization involved. From time to time, I get these crazy ideas about how I've solved the deep mysteries of the universe. However, usually I take a deep breath, get a good nights sleep, and in the morning I realize that my idea was crap. So if I have a new idea, I'm going to spend a few weeks kicking it to pieces before I even think of uploading to Archvix, and since I know what quality looks like, that keeps me from publishing something that I know is bad. And getting something good takes time and effort.

The thing that I could easily get at the university which I don't have now is a bunch of people to bounce ideas off of. So I have this crap idea that doesn't work. I mention it to someone else who agrees that it is crap, but then it might solve this other problem that they are working on, at which point we try to mold it into something interesting.
twofish-quant
#38
Feb13-12, 02:57 AM
P: 6,863
Quote Quote by pi-r8 View Post
"You should have done your due diligence" is not a valid justification of anything. Especially not when students are getting their heads filled with romantic advice like "follow your dreams", "trust your gut", and "just do what you love and don't worry about the money".
A bit of history. What happened in 2008 was not supposed to happen. In 1991, the Soviet Union fell, the web was invented and with technology and democracy, we were supposed to march to utopia, and what people put in your head (and in my head) was based on the assumption that we understand how economies worked and that recessions were impossible.

It didn't work out that way. One reason I never bought into this idea completely was that I knew enough history to look at the last dozen times people promised utopia. Also, you don't have to look far. The 1950's were one of those periods. The other thing is that a lot of the "romantics" came of age in the 1960's.

I still say that it's unreasonably difficult for science students to get a realistic understanding of what a career path through academia is like.
Sure, and part of it is that no one *knows* what a career path through academia looks like. You are asking for someone to package the future and give it to you, and this is just not possible. I can't tell you what you'll be doing in ten years, because I can't tell you what I'll be doing in ten years.

If you want an answer, the answer is "I don't know."

So instead they have to do sort of a "wink wink, nudge nudge" and let 3rd parties make the case that a college degree will get you a job.
Which is pretty common in business. The other thing that's a problem is that often the people that tell you these sorts of things actually believe them.

Also sometimes its true. As bad as the situation is, do you think that you would be better off without a college degree? Yes, most jobs that people get *could* be done without a degree, but a lot of times the first resume pass gets rid of people that don't have a degree.
Vanadium 50
#39
Feb13-12, 05:41 AM
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Does anyone have the actual paper by Sum? I keep reading how wonderful his methodology is, but can only find things in blogs. I'd like to see what his methodology actually is, rather than judge it by how near I think he comes to the "right" answer.
D H
#40
Feb13-12, 07:10 AM
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Quote Quote by Vanadium 50 View Post
Does anyone have the actual paper by Sum? I keep reading how wonderful his methodology is, but can only find things in blogs. I'd like to see what his methodology actually is, rather than judge it by how near I think he comes to the "right" answer.
I've looked. I can't find it.
Not here: http://www.northeastern.edu/clms/publications/
Not here, either: http://www.employmentpolicy.org/people/andrew-m-sum

I can find lots of blogs that quote these wonderful statistics, but not one that references the source of these statistics in the form of a white paper or journal paper. The only references provided are links to Sum's home page.


I am very curious: How did he count graduate students? A good percentage of physical science (physics, chemistry, geology, meteorology, ...) undergrads proceed on to graduate school rather than getting a job armed only with their undergraduate degree.
Vanadium 50
#41
Feb13-12, 10:42 AM
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Exactly one of the questions I have. Note that the difference between the two sets of numbers is approximately the number of people who go on to graduate school.
daveyinaz
#42
Feb13-12, 11:33 AM
P: 225
Quote Quote by pi-r8 View Post
"You should have done your due diligence" is not a valid justification of anything. Especially not when students are getting their heads filled with romantic advice like "follow your dreams", "trust your gut", and "just do what you love and don't worry about the money".
True dat homie! Like someone said...the tenet of all those too afraid to admit they are scamming someone.
Locrian
#43
Feb13-12, 12:58 PM
P: 1,733
Quote Quote by Mépris View Post
There's a few degrees like physiotherapy (an undergraduate course in many countries), accounting, actuarial science or social work, that I just cannot understand the existence of. Those should be in trade schools. Heck, one doesn't even need an accounting/actuarial science degree to get that kind of job. Not sure about the US, but elsewhere, one needs to do take a set of exams by an external body, say the ACCA. The thing I'm not certain of is whether someone with a major in accounting can get an accounting gig without being certified by something like the ACCA. Likewise for an actuary.
In the US you really can't get most accounting jobs without an accounting degree, and the majority will require a CPA for any real progression. There are some accounting jobs that are little more than book keeping that one can get without an accounting degree, but those are best avoided.

The only requirement to work as an actuary in the US are the actuarial designations, which do not require a college degree. However, they do require a lot of mathematical background. No one I know has ever heard of anyone becoming a credentialled actuary without a college degree.

IMNSHO, neither of those professions belong in trade schools in the US.
nickyrtr
#44
Feb23-12, 12:13 PM
P: 89
A thought about postdocs ...

The money is not great, but it's enough to live on, and anyone who has chosen a career in science isn't in it for the money anyway. The work itself can be quite interesting and rewarding. Not so much if you have a bad boss, but the same is true of any profession. One could be a postdoc indefinitely and count it as a satisfying career if only a couple of things changed:

- Change the view in our science subculture that a postdoc is just an apprenticeship for something else. Modern science apparently needs lots of people doing what postdocs do, and far fewer doing what tenure-track faculty do. The former should therefore be viewed as a worthy career destination for most science PhD's.

- Give the postdoc role some measure of temporal and geographic stability. One should not have to move halfway across the country (or world) every couple of years to stay employed. Lifetime employment at one institution is probably too much to hope for, but at least give science workers as much job stability as in other professional fields.
Locrian
#45
Feb23-12, 12:29 PM
P: 1,733
Quote Quote by nickyrtr View Post
The money is not great, but it's enough to live on, and anyone who has chosen a career in science isn't in it for the money anyway.
False.

But what do you expect from statements like these? It would be miraculous if it were true.
Choppy
#46
Feb23-12, 02:31 PM
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P: 2,669
Quote Quote by nickyrtr View Post
A thought about postdocs ...

The money is not great, but it's enough to live on, and anyone who has chosen a career in science isn't in it for the money anyway. The work itself can be quite interesting and rewarding. Not so much if you have a bad boss, but the same is true of any profession. One could be a postdoc indefinitely and count it as a satisfying career if only a couple of things changed:

- Change the view in our science subculture that a postdoc is just an apprenticeship for something else. Modern science apparently needs lots of people doing what postdocs do, and far fewer doing what tenure-track faculty do. The former should therefore be viewed as a worthy career destination for most science PhD's.

- Give the postdoc role some measure of temporal and geographic stability. One should not have to move halfway across the country (or world) every couple of years to stay employed. Lifetime employment at one institution is probably too much to hope for, but at least give science workers as much job stability as in other professional fields.
I'm not sure what Locrian is disagreeing with. I think Nickyrtr's opening statement is reasonable. There are situations where a high cost of living or supporting a large family or extravagant lifestyle would be impractical on a post-doctoral salary, but for the most part "enough to live on" is a fair statement, in my opinion. It is also fair to assume that most scientists are not primarily driven by earning potential. There are some..., but they usually become scientist-entrepreneurs.

With respect to NickyRTR's second point giving stability to the postdoc role - it's a nice idea, but the implementation is the difficult part. HOW would you propose we do this? Post-docs are generally hired to work on specific, time-limited projects. Once a project is completed, keeping a post-doc is just an extra cost with no added value. When new projects come up, often people with different skill sets are needed and you have a pool of newly trained, freshly graduated students who can walk in and start working on day one with little to no investment in training on your part.
deRham
#47
Feb23-12, 03:39 PM
P: 410
No you don't. You never have a permanent job. I've switched fields every five years or so. There is no such thing as a permanent job. I hear rumors that they existed once before, but that was before my time. I've never had a permanent job. My current job pays well, but I could be out the door tomorrow.
This leads/relates to one of my questions for a long time, which is why there is a chasm between truly permanent jobs in academia and purely temporary ones. Someone brought up that they pay for people to learn but not to do (at least not in the exact same sense they learn - that is, if you learn theoretical topics in QFT, you have a high chance of ending up not doing QFT).

I have sometimes wondered what would happen if there were an intermediate, non-permanent position between a postdoc and a full professorship, and maybe even fewer "tenure" positions...but someone can feel free to vehemently object, provided a good reason is given. The reason is that I daresay a fair number of individuals leave academia not just because it's hard to find a job, but rather that it's hard to find a job you have *any* reasonable likelihood of keeping. Nothing is permanent. Even full professorships aren't, because you can die. But the point is an expectation of a reasonable chance at some security.

on specific, time-limited projects. Once a project is completed, keeping a post-doc is just an extra cost with no added value
Presumably when someone is hired, he/she has some long term tasks to perform. I imagine what would happen is you have some senior faculty member with whom you discuss what you plan to do in the future after some reasonable stage of time (maybe a year), and you get to stay if you've made good enough progress to convince the faculty member of your ability to follow through.
LogicX
#48
Feb23-12, 05:20 PM
P: 181
So, this thread is making me very worried. How hard are chemistry jobs to come by compared to physics? I feel like chemistry has a lot of industrial application, or are all those jobs populated by chemical engineers?
JDoolin
#49
Feb23-12, 05:32 PM
PF Gold
P: 706
Well, what do you love? If you love money, you'll probably find a way to make money, whatever you do. If you love chemistry and money, you'll find a way to make money doing chemistry. If you love chemistry, and don't love money, you'll probably enjoy doing chemistry, and not make a lot of money.
Pyrrhus
#50
Feb24-12, 11:21 PM
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Salary for postdoc is about what in Physics?

I saw several postdocs in my field about 80k-90k USD.
ParticleGrl
#51
Feb25-12, 12:38 AM
P: 681
Quote Quote by Pyrrhus View Post
Salary for postdoc is about what in Physics?

I saw several postdocs in my field about 80k-90k USD.
The salary for physics is about half that, maybe 40-45k. The spread is very large however. Theorists as a group tend to be on the low side, experimentalists on the higher side.

If you have postdocs at 80-90k, can I hazard a guess that a postdoc isn't necessary for many who pursue careers in your field? For physics, you generally have to do 1 or 2 postdocs to have a shot at any job in the field (at least in theoretical physics, the average is 6 years of postdocing for those who land tenure track positions).
Pyrrhus
#52
Feb25-12, 01:53 AM
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Quote Quote by ParticleGrl View Post
The salary for physics is about half that, maybe 40-45k. The spread is very large however. Theorists as a group tend to be on the low side, experimentalists on the higher side.

If you have postdocs at 80-90k, can I hazard a guess that a postdoc isn't necessary for many who pursue careers in your field? For physics, you generally have to do 1 or 2 postdocs to have a shot at any job in the field (at least in theoretical physics, the average is 6 years of postdocing for those who land tenure track positions).
In my field, postdocs are not the norm. Many find jobs in industry at banks, consulting firms, research centers, federal reserve, government... and Others (mostly those at the top Econ schools) find faculty positions right after graduating.

Postdoc are nice if you want to learn from a top scientist (usually a nobel laureate in econ).
ParticleGrl
#53
Feb25-12, 02:18 AM
P: 681
Here is an economics project then- why is the labor market for economists so much better than the labor market for scientists? Does this say anything about where our economy is headed?
nickyrtr
#54
Feb25-12, 06:56 AM
P: 89
Quote Quote by Choppy View Post
[...]
With respect to NickyRTR's second point giving stability to the postdoc role - it's a nice idea, but the implementation is the difficult part. HOW would you propose we do this? Post-docs are generally hired to work on specific, time-limited projects. Once a project is completed, keeping a post-doc is just an extra cost with no added value.
By that logic, a university science department should also hire its top tier faculty on a short-term, contract basis, rather than offering lifetime tenure, yet they don't. It's not for teaching purposes either, because most of the classes are taught by grad student TA's and part-time adjuncts.

Other organizations, outside academia, also serve diverse, time-limited projects but still manage to keep a permanent staff. The military never knows what war it will have to fight with what operational conditions, yet it has career officers and enlisted. A law firm never knows what cases will arise, but still manages to keep a permanent staff of lawyers and clerks. It can be done.

When new projects come up, often people with different skill sets are needed and you have a pool of newly trained, freshly graduated students who can walk in and start working on day one with little to no investment in training on your part.
Why would you expect a new graduate to be better trained than a postdoc that has recently completed a research project in the field? The only advantage that I can imagine for the new graduate is that s/he is younger and more energetic, with fewer family commitments. That is the reason the private sector often prefers to hire younger job applicants; such age preference is of course illegal in many countries, but it still happens and is difficult to prove.


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