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Does the U.S. Produce Too Many Scientists? American science education lags, right?

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posted on Apr, 5 2010 @ 03:55 PM

Found this article in Scientific American to be quite interesting, and seems to verify what I been saying for a long time: the "shortage" of US science talent that justifies the H1B program and its like is false.

For years, Americans have heard blue-ribbon commissions and major industrialists bemoan a shortage of scientists caused by an inadequate education system. A lack of high-tech talent, these critics warn, so threatens the nation’s continued competitiveness that the U.S. must drastically upgrade its K-12 science and math education and import large numbers of technically trained foreigners by promptly raising the current limit on the number of skilled foreigners allowed to enter the country to work in private industry. “We face a critical shortfall of skilled scientists and engineers who can develop new breakthrough technologies,” Microsoft chairman Bill Gates testified to Congress in March 2008.

But many less publicized Americans, including prominent labor economists, disagree. “There is no scientist shortage,” says Harvard University economist Richard Freeman, a leading expert on the academic labor force. The great lack in the American scientific labor market, he and other observers argue, is not top-flight technical talent but attractive career opportunities for the approximately 30,000 scientists and engineers—about 18,000 of them American citizens—who earn PhDs in the U.S. each year.

“People should have a reasonable expectation of being able to practice their science if they’re encouraged to become scientists,” says labor economist Michael Teitelbaum of the Alfred P. Sloan Foundation “It shouldn’t be a guarantee, but they ought to have a reasonable prospect.” But today, however, few young PhDs can get started on the career for which their graduate education purportedly trained them, namely, as faculty members in academic research institutions. Instead, scores of thousands of them spend the years after they earn their doctorates toiling in low-paying, dead-end postdoctoral “training” appointments (called postdocs) in the laboratories of professors, where they ostensibly hone skills they would need to start labs of their own when they become professors. In fact, however, only about 25 percent of those earning American science PhDs will ever land a faculty job that enables them to apply for the competitive grants that support academic research. And even fewer—15 percent by some estimates—will get a post at the kind of research university where the nation’s significant scientific work takes place.

In my eleven years of teaching I found the same students repeatedly coming back for retraining because their jobs had been outsourced or given to H1B imports. In fact, one of the reasons I no longer teach is because I couldn't keep the con going...I knew most of those I taught or trained would ever have the opportunity to exercise their skills, that no matter what, no matter how skilled or talented they were, most were wasting their time and money because the jobs aren't there, and the opportunity to create their own job wasn't there either.

As long as we allow businessmen to dominate politics, there never will be enough jobs, because that is against their interests, and businessmen are by nature and nurture autocrats unconcerned with group needs.

The article goes into significant detail, addressing the supposed inferiority of the American K-12 system, which isn't as bad as the corporate types would like us to believe; the myth allows them to blame the victims of their inadequate planning and selfish manipulations.

Please read it and then come back for discussion.

[edit on 5-4-2010 by apacheman]

posted on Apr, 5 2010 @ 04:00 PM
reply to post by apacheman

Well I don't know what to think. I always thought that it it was a case of underproduction. However as John Allen Paulous (sp) has argued US maths education is in a bad way.

I would be interested in any comments. Perhaps there is a shortage of "hard science" scientists like physicists.

posted on Apr, 5 2010 @ 04:04 PM
reply to post by Tiger5

If you read the article, nothing could be further from the truth: there are plenty of highly qualified hard science people in the US, both available and in training; too many, in fact for the number of jobs available. The problem is with the corporate structure of the US.

posted on Apr, 6 2010 @ 12:11 AM
The vast majority of scientists are coerced into working for corporations (pharmaceuticals, military contractors) etc. So it kinda limits free and creative scientific endeavor.

Not to mention the over saturated cultural norms you've got to avoid your entire childhood and adolescence to not come out an idiot.


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