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Mutation or Extinction?

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Mutation or Extinction?

Postby A.Gee » Fri May 19, 2006 3:45 pm

I've thought about this subject since the first post and just feel that I need to contribute as well. That is because I don't quite agree with the inclination that the discussion leans towards, and I find that even the first post has the notion that 'academia is the problem and industry comes squeaky clean' or that 'academia is the bad guys and industry is the role model'.

I personally would be extremely disappointed if academia remains un-academic, since science is permanent and business or management trend is just a trend. Industry is not the 'real' world, only a different one (and there are many previous excellent posts which describe the differences). When I look for external collaborators in academia, the last thing I want is to have someone who speaks the same language as myself and work in similar ways as those in my lab, since that means that we start at the same level and I would learn nothing new.

Some thrive in the industrial environment and others in academia. Even within the same company, people struggle to move from one part of the spectrum to another, say from research to product development, or from long term corporate research to more applied, short term projects. I see this happening in my department. There are as many ogres in industry as there are in academia (personally I've had much, much, MUCH better luck in academia than in my current company). I was told in my recent job applications that there were over 700 applicants responding to a multiple academic position advert, while I was the only applicant responding to an industrial vacancy. So it is not quite true that people are desperate to join industry rather than academia.

To answer Dave's original question, I would hazard a guess that due to lack of opportunities in academia nowadays, many more 'academic' type personalities decide to take the plunge in industry. They would, of course, have the necessary competencies, otherwise they would not have been hired. However, science is perceived differently in industry (you don't save lives because it is morally good, but because it is an opportunity to make money - business is business, not charity) and this leaves many of these otherwise good scientists rather dissatisfied.
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Mutation or Extinction?

Postby Dave Jensen » Fri May 19, 2006 4:10 pm

Agee said, "I've thought about this subject since the first post and just feel that I need to contribute as well. That is because I don't quite agree with the inclination that the discussion leans towards, and I find that even the first post has the notion that 'academia is the problem and industry comes squeaky clean' or that 'academia is the bad guys and industry is the role model'

I don't think that was the intent of the question. It seems to me to be simply a statement of fact, that these two worlds are separated by a gap, they don't work in unison or by the same rules. (As a side note, that's what much of this forum discussion is all about -- making the rules clear to young people making that transition). There are people who are "cut out" for industry, and people who are cut out for academia. The problem is that industry requires people who are trained a certain way, and that increaingly the university is not churning them out. People come out with certain skills, and these skills are not the ones that industry needs. And industry won't invest a plugged nickel in training programs, certain very large companies excluded.

No one has said that people are desparate to join industry. Don't know where some of those comments came from!

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Mutation or Extinction? - Value of academic pedigree

Postby Kevin Foley » Mon May 22, 2006 5:51 pm

Regarding my earlier contention that current PhD students and postdocs have more exposure to the biotech industry than was prevalent in my day, I wonder if this is largely true for only certain labs and institutions?

Here's a list of the "Top 10 Commercial Science Universities by 2002" that includes the number of faculty who are biotech company founders or members of the scientific advisory boards for biotech companies. Obviously, you are more likely to have had some exposure to industry if you attended one of these schools, particularly if you were in the lab of a professor who started or worked with a biotech company.

University----------Founders----------SAB----------Total
Harvard-------------------25-----------------159------------184
UCSD---------------------34-----------------83-------------117
Stanford-------------------21-----------------67-------------88
UCSF----------------------12-----------------74-------------86
UWash----------------------8-----------------47-------------55
MIT--------------------------16-----------------37-------------53
John Hopkins------------7------------------32-------------39
Yale-------------------------6------------------31-------------37
Columbia-------------------4-----------------32------------36
Cornell----------------------3------------------28------------31

From T.E. Stuart & W.W.Ding, "When Do Scientists Become Entrepreneurs? The Social Structural Antecedents of Commercial Activity in the Academic Life Sciences."

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Mutation or Extinction? - Value of academic pedigree

Postby Dave Jensen » Mon May 22, 2006 6:21 pm

Great post Kevin . . . our friend Kelly always talks about the advantages of the really top academic labs, and how that pedigree can help a person on the tenure track. From your post, it appears quite evident that the same holds true for an industry career. These universities are obviously much more attuned to the process of training for industry; at least in the labs of those professors who have started companies or who are on SAB's (Scientific Advisory Boards).

One strange comment, however . . . I've met more than one Professor who has been on the founding team of a biotech company, and yet who remained in academia, trying to keep his or her own postdocs and grad students on the academic path as well.

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Mutation or Extinction?

Postby Dave Jensen » Thu Jun 01, 2006 4:10 pm

One fellow gave me a link for a very good program in academia; I wish I had included this in my article. The link goes to a program that seems to be very closely developed with the cooperation and participation of industry. It even includes internships. Why can't more universities do this???

(Thanks to forum regular Glen)

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