Disturbing the Universe

David L Clements, science and science fiction

Yes, science produces too many PhDs

2 Comments

I agree with Peter on this, and have done for some time. See appendix 3, which I wrote, here:

https://www.ras.org.uk/images/stories/ras_pdfs/careers_v12.pdf

In the Dark

I came across a blog post this morning entitled Does Science Produce Too Many PhDs? I think the answer is an obvious “yes” but I’ll use the question as an excuse to rehash an argument I have presented before, which is that most analyses of the problems facing yearly career researchers in science are looking at the issue from the wrong end. I think the crisis is essentially caused by the overproduction of PhDs in this field. To understand the magnitude of the problem, consider the following.

Assume that the number of permanent academic positions in a given field (e.g. astronomy) remains constant over time. If that is the case, each retirement (or other form of departure) from a permanent position will be replaced by one, presumably junior, scientist.

This means that over an academic career, on average, each academic will produce just one PhD who will get a…

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Author: davecl

Astronomy, science, science fiction

2 thoughts on “Yes, science produces too many PhDs

  1. Ignoring the training aspect, do you get more done for a fixed budget by using mid-career researchers at job level wages or using enthusiastic but inexperienced PhD students at student rates?

    If the latter, then it makes funding sense to employ PhDs without worrying about their career paths, especially if they accept the likely winnowing that will occur

  2. Difficult to assess as the pots of money come from different places. At a guess a postdoc is 3x as expensive as a PhD student, but I think it’s fair to say that they are much more productive than that – especially at the start. On this basis you would get more research out of more postdocs.

    However YMMV – a good student and a bad postdoc would be closer.

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