Author Topic: Academic fascism in sciences & the big. Lie abt the "shortage"" of us scientists  (Read 3905 times)

Pete at Home

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http://www.scientificamerican.com/article/does-the-us-produce-too-m/

Would love to discuss the article with those who read it and to expose the usual suspect who  pontificates without reading or knowing the subject matter.

TheDeamon

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If you go read the even older NYT retrospective on Caesar Chavez from the 1970's, which remains available on the United Farm Worker website, there is a comparable pattern in low skill labor that has been going on since the 19th century. An industry moves into an area, uses local labor until local labor "becomes too expensive" then imports another different group(usually from overseas) into the country for about a generation before they too become "too expensive." At which point they'll shift to yet another ethnic group, rinse and repeat. Technology has just allowed them to be able to shift much of the work to where the cheap labor is, instead of needing to bring it(cheap labor) to the work.

The transportation sector is another recent example in another form. The pay had essentially remained flat for decades due to various factors. Which has translated into many people not being interested in pursuing careers in that field once they learn what is involved. Not because they can't or won't do the work, but because they believe they're underpaid for what they have to deal with.

However, that "long-term inability"(1 year) to fill all those job vacancies within the industry gives it justification to be granted work visas to bring in foreign labor to fill those vacancies. Which then gives them means to continue to keep rates across the industry low, thus limiting real growth in wages, which then continues the trend of citizens vacating the industry and more foreign labor being imported.
« Last Edit: April 27, 2016, 06:49:55 AM by TheDeamon »

AI Wessex

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The trend in the article is mirrored across all college-level academic appointments.  Since 1969 the percentage of tenure-track teaching positions nationally has fallen from around 4/5 to around 1/3.  We've just seen two friends retire from teaching positions at the University of Michigan where they were highly respected lecturers for over 30 years.  According to the UM salary survey, one of them taught 2 classes per semester in his last year for ~$31K/yr with partial benefits.

Wayward Son

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Oddly enough, Dr. David Brin touched on this very subject in his latest blog.  I think he (as a PhD) has an interesting perspective.

Quote
Where this ... fellow has a point is that many science graduate student PhD candidates submit themselves to being used as driven labor, 80 hour weeks at pennies per hour, sometimes for magnificent mentors - the smartest and best people our species ever created - and sometimes for slave-driving egotists. (There is a slight field-correlation, with physics being more of the former and biology containing more of the latter.)

To which I reply, so? This is exactly the kind of retro pattern that nostalgia junkies moan for! Master-Journeyman-Apprentice stuff. All the way to medieval gowns in which the newly minted "doktor" gets to wear a monk's cowl! It goes way, way back. You guys should love it!

What's changed is that this path is now open to many, many more (and boy do they come, flocking) -- and the process is more moderated and fair (though I experienced unfairness that made me test the system... and I won, big. Oh, I'd make changes.)

Jiminy Cricket, if there are more doctorates than academic slots, guess what. It's freaking competitive! It's a market and you knew it was when you applied to graduate school. And even so, they come in droves. Why? Because the Big Prize is the best job, ever, in the history of the species! Pushing the envelope of knowledge while nurturing scientific skill and curiosity in both future winners and those who won't attain any prized professorships...

... but who will go into the job market with clear proof that: "I know how to study a problem to its very core, dissect it and discover something that no one on Earth - possibly anywhere in creation - ever knew before. It may have been a small thing, BUT I ADDED SOMETHING PREVIOUSLY UNKNOWN TO HUMAN KNOWLEDGE.

 "That is what PhD means. And sure, that's credentialed. So sue me. Better yet, hire me. For enough to make up for those 5 years as a lab (or theory) slave -- which also happened to be the best and most fascinating and most wonderful years of my entire f***ing life."


Dig it. In 1930 Galbraith and others predicted that industrial productivity would render the 40 hour week obsolete and millions would have to find new ways to occupy their time, outside the tsunami-productive factories and farms. Galbraith looked foolish for a while. But perhaps he was just 100 years premature. And if so?

I can think of worse ways to occupy our very brightest than spending their youths seeking a "credential" that says "I spent some of this time and wealth at the very frontiers of human knowledge."

Which I guess is a long way of saying that a degree is not just for getting a job. :)



Seriati

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It's interesting off the bat that the paper asserts that the primary job opportunity for science PHD's is to teach science, and laments the lack of quality professorial positions.  Once it got into depth on the explanation I found myself agreeing more their analysis than not.  The answer really has to be that the primary job opportunities for scientific grads should be non-academic, not Ponzi scheme professorial jobs where each professor has a dozen grad assistants who want to be professors.

I think the comments were almost as interesting as the article, even though many were far less well thought out.

TheDeamon

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It's interesting off the bat that the paper asserts that the primary job opportunity for science PHD's is to teach science, and laments the lack of quality professorial positions.  Once it got into depth on the explanation I found myself agreeing more their analysis than not.  The answer really has to be that the primary job opportunities for scientific grads should be non-academic, not Ponzi scheme professorial jobs where each professor has a dozen grad assistants who want to be professors.

You are mistaken, senior, tenured professors, particularly in the sciences, don't teach. They have grad students do that for them. They're off playing advisor and mentor for the grad students(and beyond), off working in university backed laboratories that they bemoan about being chronically underfunded working away at boldly advancing the frontiers of knowledge. :P

For academia, the commercial sector is a plebian undertaking subject to whims and fancies of the masses. No self-respecting man of letters would dare sell themselves out in such a way, the ones who do seemingly disappear, never to be seen or heard from in published works ever again.

Never mind the huge pharmaceutical industry that employs legions of PhD level biochemistry types, or the legion of other industries that use highly trained chemists to develop new processes, be it for new products, or better quality control.

Or the legions of PhD level people working the tech sector working on ways to ensure Moore's Law continues to hold true. The list keeps going, but since those people left academic life behind them, they do not exist to the academics.

AI Wessex

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Or the legions of PhD level people working the tech sector working on ways to ensure Moore's Law continues to hold true. The list keeps going, but since those people left academic life behind them, they do not exist to the academics.
That's pretty much true.  I don't have a coveted PhD, but I've worked with dozens over the years in software startups and established companies.  Their only "outlet" for the sort of recognition offered in industry is to 1) Get patents, which many companies don't care to acquire these days, 2) Build and release into the OS community some smashing bit of a new way to solve a problem, which is not as easy as it sounds when you work for a profit-motivated company, or 3) Present a paper at an industry conference and risk talking over the heads of 95% of the attendees that are managers or line programmers and who are there trolling for new jobs or tchotchkes.