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The Real Science Gap

  1. Feb 25, 2011 #1
    http://www.miller-mccune.com/science/the-real-science-gap-16191/ [Broken]

    Nothing earth shattering to people in this group, but a nice summary of the problem.
    Last edited by a moderator: May 5, 2017
  2. jcsd
  3. Feb 25, 2011 #2
    Well. Duh. I do think the lack of specific ob prospects acts as a sort of sieve. You will see people starting Med' degree (or even M.Ds) that don't really LIKE patients, treating whatever, but were drown for the "fame and fortune". Since science is not sexy in any way only people who REALLY want it do it.
  4. Feb 25, 2011 #3


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    Nice article. I do think, however, that the conclusions apply more to pure science than to engineering. i think there are still a good number of good engineering jobs available in industry. Anyone care to comment on this?
  5. Feb 25, 2011 #4
    I certainly see a lot of positions available for engineering. But I think there are also a lot more engineering graduates than science graduates so I'm not sure how that ends up stacking up.
  6. Feb 25, 2011 #5
    Great article. I really want to highlight one of the links in it: Into the eye of the storm. It's been discussed in this forum before, and is an excellent source of information on the topic. The Miller-McCune article does a good job of summarizing it but the original is worth the read as well.
  7. Feb 25, 2011 #6


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    A recent statistic from the UK Financial Times newspaper: 50% of the world's GDP is now produced by "emerging" economies.

    Another statstic from the FT, today: "China announces plans to build 45 new airports in the next 5 years". And how many does the US plan? I don't know, but I guess the answer is somewhere between 0 and 5.

    The same comparison applies to green energy. And high speed rail networks. (GE is hoping to get access to Chinese high speed rail technology, to use in the USA.)

    Sure, all of the above are more about engineering than pure science, but there must be some correlation between the two, in real-world economics.

    If you are stuck with the mindset of "threats to US dominance" (quote from the OP's link), you have already lost the game IMO.
  8. Feb 25, 2011 #7
    What seriously worries me is the number of Ph.D.'s that are finding the grass greener on the other side of the Pacific. There's something of a slient brain drain going on as people with Ph.D.'s are leaving for jobs in China. One problem is that big-ticket science is something that is inherently associated with a large state, which is why the Soviet Union was good at it. The idea that "government is inherently evil and if you are unemployed it's your own damned fault so don't complain" is something that is deeply in the US psyche, and for that most part, people in China don't believe that.

    Except that science is heavily funded in the US in order to maintain US dominance. If the US were willing to be Canada or Denmark (i.e. a nice country, but one with no pretensions to global power), then science wouldn't be funded nearly as much as it is. Big science is a product of the Cold War, and something that we have to think about is the role of since in the post-post-post Cold War.

    One thing that is interesting is to talk to someone that isn't an American. If you are American it's considered rude to question the "US #1" dogma, but you are under no restrictions if you are Canadian, French, or British. One curious thing is talking to French and British, because France and Britain were world empires at one point, and they just got tired of running the world, and I'm getting that sense of "tiredness" out of the United States.
  9. Feb 26, 2011 #8
    The EU is the world's dominate power, it's just not offical yet. It has a single economy, it has a president, all EU citizens can live and work in other member states on a permanent basis(freedom of movement). EU law overules the laws of its member states. It has a treaty which is the constitutional basis of the EU, and is slowly coalescing its military. If you didn't know, the British and French armed forces are now under joint command, it doesn't take a genius to extrapolate where this is heading.
  10. Feb 26, 2011 #9
    I don't think that the world has a dominant power right now. The US is more powerful than any other single nation, but it's not like 1990.
  11. Feb 26, 2011 #10
    Well, it maybe could be world's dominate power, but surely is not yet. It is not politically unified enough,in fact it can pretty much fall apart any time soon (maybe I'm little exaggerating here).
    There is still not consensus between members whether they want EU to be just some kind of trading coalition or USA-like-federation or something between and there hardly will be any (agreement) in near future.
  12. Feb 26, 2011 #11
    Is science really so heavily funded in the US? In both the US and the UK the "low tax" mantra is used all the time so you might expect the Scandinavian countries (and China!) to have more tax money to spend on fundamental research. A quick Google search reveals:

    Total research funding in most developed countries is between 1.5% and 3% of GDP; Sweden is the only country to exceed 4% http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Funding_of_science.
  13. Feb 26, 2011 #12

    D H

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    Summary: Yet another stupid article about how the US produces more PhDs than academia can bear.

    There is a good reason why academia produces more PhDs in technical fields than are needed by academia itself: People with PhDs are highly valued in government agencies and by industry. The problem is not that academia is producing too many PhDs. The problem is that students go into a PhD program with the assumption that this will guarantee them a spot in academia.
    Last edited by a moderator: May 5, 2017
  14. Feb 26, 2011 #13

    Andy Resnick

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    Well put.
  15. Feb 26, 2011 #14
    Is this true for PhDs specializing in particle theory as well?
  16. Feb 26, 2011 #15
    I think people get a PhD with the assumption that they can work in the field (not the subfield) in which they get their PhD. i.e. I assumed that with a phd in theoretical physics I could find technical work (maybe computer simulations, modeling,etc) related to physics somewhere. Increasingly, this isn't true- more and more people are being forced into less traditional work (finance, insurance,etc).

    Yes, science phds are smart people, and smart people will find reasonable work. I don't think anyone would claim that physicists are starving on the streets. The issue is that getting a phd isn't actually doing anything for a lot of people's careers.
  17. Feb 26, 2011 #16

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    Quants aren't forced into that line of work. They enter it quite willingly. As a postdoc they face years of relatively low wages before even having a chance to become an untenured professor. A much nicer wage is available if they broaden their scope, looking to work more or less in their field but in a non-academic setting (e.g., industry, government). They would however be hard pressed to get a six figure income straight out of college. It takes a long time for someone working in a technical field to break the six figure barrier, even if that person has a PhD on their resume.

    Quants get six figure incomes, easily, oftentimes well into six figures, and it doesn't take years to reach those extremely high salaries. Physicists working as physicists won't see that kind of money, ever. (Another option is to get into upper management or own ones own company, but the technical people who do that are no longer doing technical work, either.)
  18. Feb 26, 2011 #17
    I've talked to roughly a dozen phd physicists working in insurance and finance, and they all say that if a stable research job magically fell into their lap they would take it, even with the massive paycut. I admit its anecdotal (and a massive sample bias, as its all students of collaborators), but I think a lot of theory phds in particular find out there is really no industry demand, and the national labs are just as competitive as the universities.
  19. Feb 26, 2011 #18


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    I work in a company started by a PhD. He does technical work, while another PhD does much of the admin work. Most of us manage projects, as well as performing the technical work. We expect entry level engineers (or it could apply to physicists) to develop expertise in their work such that they will replace us some day - in addition to contributing growing the company.

    Quants make 6 figure incomes because the finance industry has the money. Several large science and technology companies downsized their R&D groups because they cost money, and basically cut into the bonuses management pay themselves.

    US industry now goes to the government for R&D support.

    The Chinese and Korean governments support their industries. It makes sense, since those industries export to the world, including the US. Sadly, we now see US technology used in commercial products sold in the US, but supporting millions of jobs outside the US. That would be fine if those jobs resulted in the purchase of US products, but they don't - at least not at the level to offset the ~$500 billion annual trade deficit.

    While it might make business sense for GE to import Chinese high speed rail technology, it doesn't help the US economy because such technology is sponsored by state and federal government, whose financing comes from taxpayers. Taxpayers need jobs to earn a living and pay taxes - and we currently have a severe deficit of taxes and jobs.
  20. Feb 26, 2011 #19

    D H

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    Emphasis mine:
    Sample bias, false expectations, and, I suspect, more than a bit of hubris. Those stable research jobs are small in number. What's wrong with looking a bit further afield, such as a stable non-research but physics-oriented job, and what's wrong with looking a bit harder than having the job magically fall into their laps?

    I have interviewed several PhDs who seek work with my employer. Mostly they're aerospace engineers; only one or two physics PhDs, but similar issues arises with aerospace PhDs. One of the things I look for when interviewing freshly-minted PhDs is an attitude against working in industry. Are they going to jump ship as soon as one of those rare jobs in academia shows up because academia is where they really want to be? Do they secretly look down on those who work in industry? Even when they lie ("I'm just not interested in a career in academia") it is still fairly easy to ferret out such individuals.

    I suspect these employment issues are limited to the most theoretical of theoretical physicists. This complaint comes up regularly at PhysicsForums, but very rarely from experimentalists or solid state physicists. Part of the problem here is that what is important to academia and to freshly-minted PhDs with an academic mindset isn't quite so important elsewhere. Physics departments need to pay a bit more attention to the reason they are getting a lot more endowments and grants than are archaeology departments. Hint: It's not because industry wants more cosmologists. High-tech industry wants cosmologists about as much as they want cosmeticians.

    Fortunately, for now, finance and insurance have come to the rescue with over-the-top salaries magically plopped into the laps of those misguided students. Don't look for this trend to continue. Business schools are now starting to teach the kinds of mathematics that is needed in order to be a quant. This will eventually dry up the demand for physicists and astronomers to serve as quants.
  21. Feb 26, 2011 #20
    These articles only focus on academia, why? As soon as industry was brought up it immediately goes right back to academia. It's telling the same story over and over..

    Why is industry always looked down upon for R&D from the academics? Is industry R&D research lame in comparison to academia research? Is it better because academics can choose their research more freely?

    I just get a bad feeling in my stomach about these type of articles because I know there's all these bright eyed PhD's thinking that they will get a research position in academia and do their "own" research. I have several friends that are in PhD programs thinking this exact same thing and when I ask them about industry research they shake their head in disgust.

    I, personally, thought this way too until I found out that I'm the type of person that given any problem will still enjoy to "research" it myself. It doesn't matter how mundane the problem either, if I don't know the answer myself then I want to think of way to get it. To me, this is real research. I know, I know true "research" doesn't have any type of answer in existence yet.

    I'll give the Leibniz and Newton story because it describes how I feel about this more. Even though both of these men discovered calculus at the same time, they probably didn't do it at the exact same time. Meaning that there was an answer somewhere in the world relative to one of them but still pushed through and discovered it on their own. Wouldn't this be described as real research? Or did only one of them actually do research and the other worked on a mundane problem that was already discovered?

    The type of people that go into research for fame and prestige make me sick. They just sound like a bunch of kids that if they don't get their way (type of research) then they'll whine. I hear it all the time on this forum, "I want to do string theory and solve what Einstein was working on!" Any problem is interesting in it's own way, it doesn't have to be string theory.

    Can someone explain to me why so many PhD's want to go into academia when it's industry that has the money for R&D?

    http://www.census.gov/compendia/statab/2011/tables/11s0801.pdf [Broken]
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