Insanity: doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results.
doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results.
me, but I feel the need to do a touch of ranting. Over the last month, I’ve been spending a
fair amount of time with postdocs who are out trying to navigate the commercial
job market, and I’ve found one thing that personally I find highly depressing.
the 15 years since I was a postdoc, almost nothing has changed.
that I mean that postdocs still have very few resources to help them with the
decisions they face. The statistics are
pretty clear, and have been for quite some time, in that somewhere between 50%
and 80% of current postdocs will end up in the commercial sector, yet
universities and research labs still persist in exclusively training their
scientists for an academic track. In
other words, universities and research organizations are ignoring the needs of
at least half of their graduates.
it shows. I know of one well-known
biotech company here in Maryland that simply refuses to even interview postdocs
because they have so few business skills.
Other companies aren’t so extreme, but in the commercial sector, it
often seems that a postdoc is as much of a hindrance as it is a help.
why have universities and research labs been failing a majority of postdocs for
15 years? My colleagues and I have a
pretty good perspective on this. Over
the past couple of years we’ve been providing workshops and online tools aimed
at helping scientists better understand the business application of their
skills through our SciPhD program, and one of the resounding problems we’ve
observed is that the postdoc offices at universities and research labs are so
strapped for cash that they can’t afford to help.
spent a fair bit of my career in a university setting, I can honestly say this
is complete bunk. What is happening is
that universities are choosing not to spend money to help postdocs
transition to the commercial sector.
example, the NIH recently launched the Early Independence Award Program (http://www.nature.com/news/2010/101006/full/467635a.html)
which is a 5 year, $12.5 million program that will jumpstart the careers of ten
scientists. While I have no quarrel with
the goals or funding of this program, I do think that spending an equivalent
amount of money on promoting the careers of scientists heading to the
commercial sector would benefit a lot more than just ten people.
why are postdocs bound for the commercial world still being ignored? I think the answer boils down to money, and
that universities and researchers value grants above all else. As long as promotion and tenure for faculty
depend primarily on the number of publications a professor has and the size of
the grants they have been able to obtain, the situation won’t change.
aren’t trying to cause a problem for their postdocs, it is just that they have
no incentive to change the situation. It
simply doesn’t matter to a university what happens to its grad students and
postdocs after they leave. So, they keep
doing the same thing over and over, and postdocs suffer from the insanity.
does the insanity stop? Well, the bottom
line is that postdocs and grad students have to make some noise. Universities and research labs have to
understand that the needs of the majority of their students aren’t being
adequately addressed. I know it is hard
because the change that is needed is fairly significant. It requires budgets to be re-allocated and
that is almost certainly going to lead to resistance.
is the status-quo acceptable? Are you
happy with the help you’re getting? Do
you have any ideas on how to change the system so that a track into the
commercial side gets as much support as academic careers?