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Schools University vs. government research

  1. Sep 9, 2005 #1
    I am wondering about the advantages/disadvantages of pursuing a career in physics at a univeristy vs. government research. Do government research projects greatly restrict what work may be done?
  2. jcsd
  3. Sep 9, 2005 #2


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    thepatriots : Can you give us a little background about yourself? Are you currently a grad student and what area of physics do you specialize in ?
  4. Sep 9, 2005 #3
    Most university research is funded by the government or the NSF (which is part of the government as well) ... unless you're talking about something top secret like nuclear weapons or matters of national security, which is still funded by the government but probably not carried out at public universities where students might have access to. My understanding is that private research in physics (research done by private companies or private universities) does exist but not nearly as big as government funded research.
  5. Sep 9, 2005 #4


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    Actually a fair amount of research at universities is funded by corporations, and in some cases, particularly biomedical, the initial research maybe government funded, but then the university may sell rights to private companies, or private biotech companies actually fund research in exchange for exclusive rights.

    These days R&D is not what it used to be - private companies and the government have both cut back. R&D expenses cut into profits at companies, and the government has to worry about big spending deficits.

    Professors at university are expected to bring in outside money, whether government or corporate, which was the case when I was at university. My professor obtain projects and grants from industry and government.

    At DOE, since the Reagan administration, the staff have been encouraged to go outside the government for funding, or actually market their technology to industry, particularly in the case of materials and processes.

    Since some R&D takes years, one will be somewhat restricted based on time and workload. If one develops an interest in other areas, one can usually find support to pursue a different course.

    Military technology is very restricted.

    As for corporate R&D, companies like IBM, GE, Siemens and ABB, to name a few, have extensive R&D programs.
  6. Sep 9, 2005 #5
    I get the impression that, particularly in the US, government research is horrendously inefficient, expensive and tied up in red tape. I'm by no means an expert though.
  7. Sep 9, 2005 #6


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    Astronuc, most Physics research in academia is govt funded - NSF and DOE being the main sources of moolah.
  8. Sep 11, 2005 #7
    I am am currently in high school, but I want to pursue physics as a career. I guess I understand your point about most work being government funded.
  9. Sep 11, 2005 #8
    That really sickens me. Companies are scaling back R&D so that the managers can make a few more bucks, and the government is scaling back to pay for a questionable war. Our priorities as a country are really screwed up right now.
  10. Sep 11, 2005 #9
    As opposed to ten years ago...? It really amazes me that in a country this large and 'modern' there isn't a greater emphasis on education and research.
  11. Sep 11, 2005 #10
    Especially education. A teacher's salary compared to what he or she is required to do is really rock bottom. An average high-school teacher teaches about 90 kids per day and has to grade ALL of their homework and tests. Oh and be nice to everybody. You can't just give 'em the ol' kick in the gut if they talk back. No, you need to take it and smile.

    With what teachers make, the resources they have, what is expected of them, and the rules they need to follow, it's no wonder they do a crappy job. The ones that do a good job despite of that amaze me.

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