Subscribe

Forum

Want to lobby your goverment to shape up the life sciences economy? Speak up!

Welcome to the newly redesigned Science Careers Forum. Please bookmark this site now for future reference. If you've previously posted to the forum, your current username and password will remain the same in the new system. If you've never posted or are new to the forum, you will need to create a new account.

The new forum is designed with some features to improve the user experience. Upgrades include:
- easy-to-read, threaded discussions
- ability to follow discussions and receive notifications of updates
- private messaging to other SC Forum members
- fully searchable database of posts
- ability to quote in your response
- basic HTML formatting available

Moderator: Dave Jensen
Advisors:   Ana, PG, Rich Lemert, Dick Woodward, Dave Walker
Meet the Moderator/Advisors

Want to lobby your goverment to shape up the life sciences economy? Speak up!

Postby Nate W. » Fri Jun 16, 2017 8:20 pm

Dear Dave,

For the last year, I have been working with an investment bank to vet scientific investments. This has been an excellent networking opportunity. Today, I met an extremely powerful and well recognized government employee who is interested in this skills gap problem in our economy. I explained many of the problems life scientists face in this economy as well as the gist of many career topics (e.g. the glut, funding, specialization, and hub cities) we have discussed on this forum. He is curious and wants to find out more about the situation. His speech and the Q&A took place before a national press audience with WSJ and Reuters taking notes.

Science magazine is always publishing articles about these problems and its efforts to lobby congress about these issues. Then nothing ever happens even with the Princeton president voices her concerns. He understands the importance technology transfer has on our economy and the role scientist play in basic research which lays the foundation for economic development. I would like to refer him to Paula Stephan (GSU economist) articles on this topic. Dave, I would like to mention your name in my letter. Is that ok?

This person has the power in government to make things happen. I’ll would like to get your feedback and that of the forum before writing him back. Given our conversation and my contacts, I can assure you that the letter will be read. We talked for ten minutes about the topic afterwards.

I am glad to help out this forum and any scientist struggling to find employment. Please speak up.

To those who doubt me, he is not a politician and presides over about 1/7 of the US economy. He is probably right behind the Secretary of Commerce and Treasury in his influence over the US economy.
Nate W.
 
Posts: 449
Joined: Fri Apr 06, 2012 6:48 pm

Re: Want to lobby your goverment to shape up the life sciences economy? Speak up!

Postby Dave Jensen » Sat Jun 17, 2017 6:41 pm

Hi Nate,

I responded off-line to your email. Thanks and I would be interested in reading more about any further conversations you have.

Dave
“I shall tell you a great secret, my friend. Do not wait for the last judgment, it takes place every day.” - Albert Camus
User avatar
Dave Jensen
Site Moderator
 
Posts: 7788
Joined: Tue Jan 10, 2012 11:28 pm

Re: Want to lobby your goverment to shape up the life sciences economy? Speak up!

Postby D.X. » Tue Jun 20, 2017 2:50 am

Just a Little comment from me - very few People have power to do anything in government. Alot of these issues are those of Policy and luckily I've had some direct insights into Policy and Policy Setting.

Probably the Person you're talking to belongs to a Policy making Body be it a NGO or GO, probably an influential Policy stakeholder in this regard.

My take: every Body talks about Policy. People talk about making policy and they do, they talk about mapping policy stakeholders and mobilizeing them via Generation and communication of data to validate some form of policy Agenda, hell they may even make a White paper! A sarcastic ...Woooowwwww and Oooooooo. With another sarcastic - "Bravo for you". You've spent your time and energy and resources or maybe that of somebody else to get a Policy. Great.

But very very few ever talk about Policy implementation. Because that's a tough discussion on ...tum tum tum....$ and effort. who? how? what resources? who pays? and my favorite...who's responsible? how to Triage down to local becomes a murky discussion few will want to have to the Point where you get nothing but a referencable document stating the same Problem and solution that you had maybe 5 or 7 years ago with no Action.

So enjoy the journey, Keep expectations low and Keep grounded. The other Point I've learned about Policy strategy..know ahead of time exactly what your Goal is and have a defined Benchmark of success to acheive, hopefully narrowed in scope and have a realistic timelines, then add a few more years onto that and plan to Abandon ship at some Point. (i.e. toss it off to someone when you get to certain Milestone).

good luck, i'm not clear on what it is you want with this relationship? my recommendation is you are able to sum it up in one sentance.

apologies for the negative view.

Best,

DX
D.X.
 
Posts: 1081
Joined: Tue Jan 10, 2012 11:29 pm

Re: Want to lobby your goverment to shape up the life sciences economy? Speak up!

Postby Steven Z. » Tue Jun 20, 2017 10:25 am

I wouldn't even know where to begin to address the problems with science careers. The whole system is corrupt and dysfunctional at every level.

Starting with Academia: They are putting out science graduates and PhD's at a rate they know cannot be supported by the economy. However, academia benefits from this. They depend on a constant stream of young students to work as TA's and RA's to work for cheap at their University. They then further depend on the glut of PhD's to produce desperate unemployed scientists to work as post-docs for cheap. As a result, they have every incentive to maintain the status quo. They don't even hold PI's accountable for their often abusive, self-serving behavior and ensure that the department is fostering a quality educational program. It has literally degenerated into a Ponzi scheme. I suspect there is also an attitude among many PI's that "I went through this h#ll so should you."

Things are not a whole lot better in Industry. I routinely get and see job offers for degreed scientists offering pay fit for a garbage man. I have hung up on so many recruiters wanting me to take jobs without benefits for $15-20 an hour that I no longer take their calls. I see numerous companies especially the larger corps packing their labs with people working via a staffing agency so they don't offer any sort of development and benefits and just churn and burn through talent cycle after cycle. They also go trough layoff after layoff and have the gall to claim with a straight face that there is a shortage.

What do you do when you are depending on people making poor investments? You market very very hard like time share salesmen and high cost wealth management firms. I look at the people screaming about talent shortages in the same light.
Steven Z.
 
Posts: 65
Joined: Tue Jan 10, 2012 11:33 pm

Re: Want to lobby your goverment to shape up the life sciences economy? Speak up!

Postby D.X. » Wed Jun 21, 2017 2:37 am

Well Steven Z. post also supports my Point...what exactly are you asking for? and more specifically what is the ONE Problem you would like addresseed when it comes to Lobbying and Policy making?

If you walk in the room for your Policy stakeholder with a laundry list of issues then you'll get a bunch of nothing. At least that's what i've been learning with trying to intergrate a policy strategy into my brand planning. If you're not focused and narrowed with the Topic at had (what ever that is) you get nothing now, most certain, and definately nothing in the future.

So what is the Problem and issue? Nate listed a bunch of them but what's the root cause?

Which begs the question, as triggered by Steven Z. post...is there a Problem? is the System dysfunctional at all Levels? is there Talent shortage? etc. etc.

My answer...no.

You'll find this same discussion i'm sure within the MBA community, within the Law community, and guess what, even the physcian and pharmacist community. All 38,000 foot view Problems. EAch community has their Problems and issues. Alot of These Topics are distractors.

And sure some may find themselves with no funding, or bad PI relationship/Management, entry-level Jobs that pay low, ok but that's life and it how you deal with it as an individual.

What happened to pick up dust yourself off? Move on. What happened to being predictive and acting on it? What happend to taking individual ownership for your own career path? Seems like those who get lost in this isses of - Life Science Economy - seem to Forget the above.

Dr. Suess's "Oh the places you will go!" nice acknowledges potential hick ups but it also says move on!

My view, you take all this "stuff" and process it at the individual Level and respond accordingly.

Know what the "Problems" are and navigate around and through it in a focused manner to get to the end Goal. We make our choices in life based on what seems right at the time, even with future thinking, and nothing is writen that says you have to accept issues - you work around them or even leverage them to get what you want.

So good luck with the policy stuff, dont waste to much time, you get more from being on a Forum like this learning how to navigate.

Dx
D.X.
 
Posts: 1081
Joined: Tue Jan 10, 2012 11:29 pm

Re: Want to lobby your goverment to shape up the life sciences economy? Speak up!

Postby Nate W. » Wed Jun 21, 2017 1:43 pm

DX, I am quite busy right now. In short, I want to dispel the notion among policy makers that there is a "skills gap" in STEM. They are misinformed about the issue. Further, I want encourage more private equity and private sector investment in biotech and medical related fields. It is only this type of investment, not an increase in federal funding by the NSF and NIH, that will create jobs as well as alleviate the PhD glut. More jobs in the private sector for scientists will lessen the ridiculous expectations and credentials required to get a job in these fields. Plus, I tried of academic leaders over analyzing the problem with articles about the STEM and glut problem, yet, never taking a practical step to translate innovations and discoveries for commercialization, which leads to the creation of economically viable jobs for STEM, especially those in the life sciences. Your academic leaders in life sciences preside over a 35B dollar enterprise called NIH/NSF peer funding for basic research but only think about themselves when training scientists in their labs. These leaders don't know how who to lobby and who can actually effect change.

See:

Phdon't video (iTunes) by Dan Rather:

https://www.bing.com/videos/search?q=ph ... &FORM=VIRE

https://www.washingtonpost.com/national ... e3fa6c7e3d

http://www.pnas.org/content/111/16/5773 ... 6fb944a92b


http://www.molbiolcell.org/content/21/22/3823.long

https://www.bls.gov/opub/mlr/2015/artic ... nd-yes.htm

http://cis.org/OpedsandArticles/Camarot ... m-shortage

https://www.ibiology.org/ibiomagazine/h ... ation.html

There are many academic articles on the topic. The academics are wrong; they need to place more emphasis on private sector investment and translating those discoveries and the spinning out the those technologies into the private sector.
Nate W.
 
Posts: 449
Joined: Fri Apr 06, 2012 6:48 pm

Re: Want to lobby your goverment to shape up the life sciences economy? Speak up!

Postby Dave Jensen » Wed Jun 21, 2017 10:18 pm

Got to disagree with you on one point . . . There is indeed a skills shortage in certain areas. There aren't enough microbial physiologists. Plant breeders are like pulling teeth. Engineers in the cell culture area are always tough to find. Protein folding specialists are a nightmare to find. Formulations chemists? Good luck. These are all places where there just aren't enough scientists/engineers.

But this doesn't mean we need to start cranking up the numbers. What it means is that universities have to take the attitude that they are providing a service. And they aren't doing anyone a service (employers or students) if they allow people to spin out dissertations on weird stuff that has no basis of interest in the "non academic world."

And if companies began doing OJT (on the job training) again, you could solve the problem with many of these areas by hiring and retraining those poor folks who took the advice of their advisor and studied the genetics of a sea urchin. Things could change overnight.


Dave
“I shall tell you a great secret, my friend. Do not wait for the last judgment, it takes place every day.” - Albert Camus
User avatar
Dave Jensen
Site Moderator
 
Posts: 7788
Joined: Tue Jan 10, 2012 11:28 pm

Re: Want to lobby your goverment to shape up the life sciences economy? Speak up!

Postby Steven Z. » Thu Jun 22, 2017 10:45 am

Except companies aren't offering on the job training. They keep searching for their purple squirrels and playing tug of war with the same aging workers from their competitors while new grads are giving up and leaving the field. At some point soon that game is going to leave them up a creek.

The jobs ads are just ridiculous. Even for analytical chemist positions they start demanding experience on exact methods, instruments, and software listed in the job req.

A lot of these problems, yes other professions have similar issues , but when we have PhD grads making posts that they are contemplating suicide something has gone terribly wrong. When I described conditions in grad school my Uncle (an upper level manager in a non science field) said flat out it sounds like a fraud. When I described how I was treated at some of my jobs my brother said he used to hire unskilled workers for retail and even he didn't treat them that badly and p*ss away good reliable workers like that.

Is there anything the govt can do to fix this situation? I'm not sure because the govt isn't very good at fixing problems. Perhaps a crackdown on H1b abuses, yanking funding from abusive PI's, regulations on use of staffing agencies could help. Ultimately though I fear the only fix is the market.

I think we need to stop propagandizing and start being honest and realistic as to the severe issues in the science "pipeline".
If we did that though very few people would chose to pursue a career in science and academia especially would be up a creek. Unfortunately, noone else in my extended family has any interest in going into science after seeing what I went through.
Steven Z.
 
Posts: 65
Joined: Tue Jan 10, 2012 11:33 pm

Re: Want to lobby your goverment to shape up the life sciences economy? Speak up!

Postby Nate W. » Thu Jun 22, 2017 1:03 pm

DX, You ask why am I doing this? The answer is two fold. First, I see it as public service and an opportunity to network locally with investment bankers who are interested in the life sciences and medicine. This glut problem is directly to tied to a 30B flawed and unsustainable federal financial system to allocate money for basic research; which is meant to stimulate the economy in various sectors of our economy (especially in healthcare and agriculture) by helping create new and more effective products that solve problems in these sectors as well as create jobs for scientists. Periods of economic prosperity are often proceeded by advances in technology which is often seeded by government investment. Frankly, I am tired of the academic community hoarding promising talent and not doing anything to translate their discoveries. Plus, they only write articles and lobby Congress about solving the glut problem with only intentions of increasing NIH funding for themselves; why not give something back to those who do the research? Plus, actually create something of value rather than more articles in the library. The system of peer review funding only rewards the production of scholarly publications not the application or translational aspects of their research. Yet, most academics justify their grants with the translational aspects in mind. For example, this research will lead to better cancer vaccines or a non-opioid medication to treat pain. It is the step of trying to solve a problem and addressing applications of the technology, not just studying a problem for ad infinitum, which leads to economic progress. The academic system does not reward innovation: it rewards the production of publications, especially in Cell, Nature, and Science.

Yesterday, the investors that I work for invested 2M in a small biotech that is creating non-opioid medication for pain that is less addictive. In doing so, we just created jobs for 5 scientists; one of which was an unemployed PhD scientist with significant industry experience. This is why I do this. I am doing what the academic community should do and in my opinion what all PIs have a mandate to do when they take federal taxpayer dollars for their research.

PS: Yes, I understand there needs to be balance of basic research versus more translational research.
Last edited by Nate W. on Thu Jun 22, 2017 4:46 pm, edited 2 times in total.
Nate W.
 
Posts: 449
Joined: Fri Apr 06, 2012 6:48 pm

Re: Want to lobby your goverment to shape up the life sciences economy? Speak up!

Postby Nate W. » Thu Jun 22, 2017 2:22 pm

Dave Jensen wrote:Got to disagree with you on one point . . . There is indeed a skills shortage in certain areas. There aren't enough microbial physiologists. Plant breeders are like pulling teeth. Engineers in the cell culture area are always tough to find. Protein folding specialists are a nightmare to find. Formulations chemists? Good luck. These are all places where there just aren't enough scientists/engineers.

But this doesn't mean we need to start cranking up the numbers. What it means is that universities have to take the attitude that they are providing a service. And they aren't doing anyone a service (employers or students) if they allow people to spin out dissertations on weird stuff that has no basis of interest in the "non academic world."

And if companies began doing OJT (on the job training) again, you could solve the problem with many of these areas by hiring and retraining those poor folks who took the advice of their advisor and studied the genetics of a sea urchin. Things could change overnight.


Dave


These exceptions only represent a small fraction of the total number available positions for life scientists in which there is a glut of applicants. It is my contention that the glut, the emphasis on specialization during one's dissertation, and an unwillingness to train candidates that might be a close fit due also contributes to these exceptions Dave references (or is the cause of these so called shortages). It has to do with employer expectations and what they think the market will bear due to the glut. Let me explain this. Because of the glut, the employer can be choosey and they know it. So they put a very specific ad that is nearly impossible to fill and pay recruiters good money to find the needle in the haystack. Industry can't reasonably expect there to be candidates with every conceivable niche of expertise of biology available and ready to join their team when they have a need. There maybe only a few number of people in the world that might have an understanding of a specific niche of biology and probably many are happily employed and don't want to move across the country to join a company. However, they might be better off broadening their specifications and training a candidate who is close fit but not perfect in terms of a specific niche expertise in biology. For example, a scientist at an agricultural University or Monsanto with a plant genetics degree and research experience might be an ideal fit for a Plant Breeder.

Sometimes the specificity of employer's expectations often exceeds what the market can produce (or ever produce). This doesn't mean there isn't qualified candidates who could do the job well; it just means the employers specifications are too narrow (brought on by the fact there is a glut and the flawed assumption we will find this needle in the haystack given the glut). Employers should ask themselves what is the cost of leaving the position unfilled for the perfect candidate versus the training a well qualified scientist whose expertise doesn't perfectly fit. It is the glut that leads to these unrealistic job specifications which the market will never satisfy given the nature of biological research in academia and the specialization of biologists/scientists. In the biological sciences, the overly narrow expectations are caused by the glut and would probably be broaden (and alleviated) if there wasn't a surplus of candidates.

PS: There are bioprocessing programs and research groups in academia that exist. GaTech, University of Delaware, and University of Georgia. Plus, there are many research projects that focus on diseases related to protein misfolding. With regards to formulations chemist, that's a industry specific expertise that can't only be gained through industry experience. So yeah, good luck with that!

Academia is never going to change graduate training given the demands of industry for specific skills because they are rewarded by only the production of scholarly publications. They will only go where the research will take them to publish a story. So, there is no incentive to do so
Nate W.
 
Posts: 449
Joined: Fri Apr 06, 2012 6:48 pm

Next

Return to Science Careers Forum

Who is online

Users browsing this forum: Bill L. and 25 guests