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Is there a science career for me?

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Re: Is there a science career for me?

Postby Dave Jensen » Fri Jun 03, 2016 3:26 pm

Yandorio wrote:"In the sciences, postdoctoral fellowships have reached a historically high number...In the sciences, the average length of postdoc time has stretched from around two to seven years, according to Sally Rockey, the deputy director for extramural research at the National Institutes of Health."

Okay, so the average is seven. Therefore it's reasonable to assume that 10 years is fairly frequent. They even have a new word for it--permadocs.


The term "permadoc" is not new. We've been using it on this forum for years. You picked a quote from an article a couple of years ago in the careers section of Chronicles, which is fine, but it's not necessarily true that there are lots of 10-year postdocs. The problem for us is more of a science PhD underemployment issue, and not PhD unemployment. Your "ten year postdocs" are certainly in the underemployed category, that's for sure. But how many of them are there, really. Not all that many at the ten year mark is my guess. But getting the numbers, and tracking them, has been so difficult with postdocs over the years!

I'm going to point out exaggerations in your future rants -- just as readers should react and point out anything on the other side that seems "Pollyanna-ish," even if they are from our moderation staff.

Dave
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Re: Is there a science career for me?

Postby D.X. » Sun Jun 05, 2016 4:20 pm

First i think as a forum one has to have most comments live provided they dont insult anyone or cross the line of decency.

In terms if opinion, be it emotional or ignorance, well provided the above creteria is not breached then its the forum members to address.

Regarding 10 postdocs i dont have the numbers - but what you do have are folks who do spend too much time in academia not realizing that there is no career advancement for them. Anecdotally i dont think these are the 10 year post docs, but you know the type, the accept some non tenure role and well thats when you get them prolonged stay folks. I know a couple of these types, they're 40 or nearing 40 years of age, and still talking "career advancement" when they should be talking "job promotion". But instead the complain and moan and cry woe is me, abd general they complain how bad academia is etc etc. the so called nay sayers, you know the type.

The risk is there, but i think on this forum there are sufficiet posts to educate both those exploring science as a career or those already with PhD level education that if one is contemplating a second or third post doc, the warning bells should sound. They and they alone are responsible for those decisions, and consequences good or bad.

As far as underemployment of PhDs yes, great, wonderful in terms of population level data. Whats more important is how one reacts and proceeds as an individual - if one dwells in the gloom and doom, then the risk is that opprtunity can pass by - because one is distracted by the gllom and doom and the others who propagate it.

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Re: Is there a science career for me?

Postby D. Martin » Sun Jun 05, 2016 6:27 pm

@ Yandorio:

Actually, I agree with Dave, do not discourage people and cite numbers that are not real or out of context. Yes, a career in science is hard but people that work hard and polish a diverse set of skills do well. To illustrate this (I have been following this website for years but only started posting some months ago, although I had followed all the advice) I started my PhD at 31 (I am from overseas with no connections whatsoever) at a top 25 school. I did my postdoc at a great school but not CalTech, Mit or any of the glamour schools. My postdoc lasted 2.5 yrs and I applied to 35 jobs, I had 4 interviews and 4 jobs offers (2 industry, 2 academia). In all cases they said I gave excellent interviews and they liked my proposals/seminars. I believe the issue is many graduates and PD do not have great "soft skills" and honestly, after following your post, I believe it is your case. Sorry if this sounds personal but the truth is with passion and great planning, people can do what they dream. But it takes excellent planning and acquiring skills that go beyond the bench
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Re: Is there a science career for me?

Postby Dave Jensen » Mon Jun 06, 2016 4:21 pm

image.png
From the August release "Next Gen PhD"
image.png (22.6 KiB) Viewed 12990 times


Here is some detail for Yandorio on his "ten year postdoc problem." This is from a survey of over 2,000 scientists done for the publication of a new book (Written by Melanie Sinche of The Jackson Laboratory and formerly of Harvard). Melanie has an August book release about "The Next Gen PhD: Careers in Science" which we are looking forward to discussing on the Forum.

Yandorio, I think we can forget about calling out problems that six people in over 2000 are experiencing. Let's focus on the bigger numbers, and issues that are appropriate for the majority.

Thanks, Dave Jensen
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Re: Is there a science career for me?

Postby Dick Woodward » Mon Jun 06, 2016 8:16 pm

I would just like to point out that it is entirely possible for a PhD to have a fulfilling science-based career that does not involve being a PI, or an academic, or even going into a lab very much. In the early 1990s, I ran a marketing and sales department at a very small biosafety testing company. At various times, I had five PhDs working with me in that department. Here's where they are currently: one is on the VP level at at top-tier pharma company; one has been, and still is, a program manager at a series of pharmas and biotechs, two are senior business development people in the CRO industry, and one of these, who also has a law degree, also handles the contract work; and one is a scientist at the World Health Organization (I'm not actually certain how much research she actually does, as I think that her duties are actually closer to running programs). Toss myself into the mix (my bio is elsewhere on the Forum), and you have 6 PhDs from a small department in a small company that have had a great time and very fulfilling careers without a) being academics or other PIs and b) for the most part, not really doing that much in the way of laboratory work. While I do not know how much post-doctoral time most of these colleagues spent, I would be willing to bet that, in total, it was quite a bit less than 10 years. (Incidentally, for those who keep track of such things, 3 of the 6 are ladies; in my world, ability and gender have no correlation.)

This is not to disparage post-docs; the world needs basic science researchers, and the advisors and moderators of this forum hope that the forum has helped them understand what they are getting in to, and that the forum has provided them support as they traverse a difficult career path. What I do hope that these examples have shown is that there are a large number of science-oriented career paths that do not require the up to 5 years of post-doctoral work that the chart in Dave Jensen's previous post shows 89% of postdocs do. Scientific thinking is not limited to the laboratory, and training as a scientist is the gateway for many careers that do not require lab coats.

To also echo D. Martin's comments, all of the people that I mentioned above had great "soft skills"; not necessarily when they joined our department, but absolutely when they left. Soft skills are also critical in academia (in general, people will not collaborate with you if they don't like you) but some academics still say that "my science speaks for itself". It does so, but very, very softly...

One man's thoughts...

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Re: Is there a science career for me?

Postby Yandorio » Mon Jun 06, 2016 11:43 pm

"Many postdocs move on to fulfilling careers elsewhere, but those who want to continue in research can find themselves thwarted. They end up trapped as ‘permadocs’: doing multiple postdoc terms, staying in these positions for many years..."

The average time for a single post-doc spot may seldom be ten years,
but I was talking about cumulative postdoc years. I don't know
any colleagues from my NYU days who did less than 6 years total
postdoc years unless they left the field.
That graph is in direct conflict with the NIH statement by Sally
Rockey who said the average postdoc length had grown from just 2 to 7 years over a few decades.
Let's say the postdoc *is* just 5 years average...that's 5+5= 10 years post-undergrad work to lead to the increasingly elusive PI job, where tenure is often denied and NIH grant approval keeps getting lower. Who's going to spend 10 years doing science when you can be a doctor or vet in 4 years or a dentist in 3, making better money soon after and with higher job security? You'd have to be crazy or foolish, getting back to Joanna's question.
Last edited by Yandorio on Tue Jun 07, 2016 10:44 pm, edited 1 time in total.
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Re: Is there a science career for me?

Postby D.X. » Tue Jun 07, 2016 6:51 am

Yandorio wrote:"Many postdocs move on to fulfilling careers elsewhere, but those who want to continue in research can find themselves thwarted. They end up trapped as ‘permadocs’: doing multiple postdoc terms, staying in these positions for many years..."

The average time for a single post-doc spot may seldom be ten years,
but I was talking about cumulative postdoc years. I don't know
any colleagues from my NYU days who did less than 6 years total
postdoc years unless they left the field.
That graph is in direct conflict with the NIH statement by Salley
Rockey who said the average postdoc length had grown from just 2 to 7 years.
Let's say the postdoc *is* just 5 years average...that's 5+5= 10 years post-undergrad work to lead to the increasingly elusive PI job, where tenure is often denied and NIH grant approval keeps getting lower. Who's going to spend 10 years doing science when you can be a doctor or vet in 4 years or a dentist in 3, making better money soon after and with higher job security? You'd have to be crazy or foolish, getting back to Joanna's question.


Well Yandorio, now you're making your orignal comment merky and blurring reality a bit here (again).

It is well established that gradschool is one the average 5 to 6 years plus it is well established that a path to a tenure track role as a post doc is consistent with Dave's Chart and your 5 year assessment, totalling 10 years post undergrad work. As far as I know, that's been the reality for decades. Not News this is standard, established and accepted. So what's your Point?

If you Bridge in other degree paths as you did for Doc or Dentist - the Information regarding timelines is false and I'm not going to entertain further discussion here, other that be informed and be fair balanced if you give a recommendation.

And Dick gave some valueable advise. And adding to that, despite the career choice one makes, one should always be open minded to possibilities. I'm one with a 1 year post-doc and am in a pharma Company in the commerical side. I'm not any smarter than any of the other PhD holders outhere, other that i invested in tooling up, Networking, Information gathering and honed in on skills I thought would be beneficial to my career and Job advancement. Not rocket science and consistent with the advice given here on the Forum. I didn't let irrelevant population data, negative views of others blur my interests or aspriations. I did my Information gathering as others did and came to my own conclusions - I appreciated most the advise that was fair-balanced, informative and guiding.


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Re: Is there a science career for me?

Postby Yandorio » Tue Jun 07, 2016 10:36 pm

"It is well established that gradschool is one the average 5 to 6 years plus it is well established that a path to a tenure track role as a post doc is consistent with Dave's Chart and your 5 year assessment, totalling 10 years post undergrad work. As far as I know, that's been the reality for decades. Not News this is standard, established and accepted. So what's your Point?"

Actually that's not true. "Decades" ago the norm was a two year
postdoc (a little over 3 by 1981) and the ratio of PI jobs to PhDs in the Biomedical Sciences was not anywhere so bleak. People were not leaving the field in droves at age 40 to seek out another degree.
The point is that Joanna wanted straight talk about the current situation in Science and I gave her my opinion. What's your point?
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Re: Is there a science career for me?

Postby D.X. » Wed Jun 08, 2016 2:47 am

Well I wouldn't go back to the 1980's that's when there was the great University Expansion that occured in the 1970s -- where Facutly Jobs were dropping from the sky. So I acknowledge that. However, by the 1990's the situation was anecdotally what I described (when I was a Student in the US) and discussion of non-traditional careers for scientist was starting to intensify.

My point is that today I would not say folks are spending 10 years as a post doc for careers (as Dave showed thats not true). And if there is an individual that is having that experience, well the cause is not at the environmental level, but more at the individual level - i.e. sum of individual decisions

What is true is that this path, like any other advanced degree path, is long and it has its ups and downs and I wouldn't state as fact that the norm as you suggested is for one to spend 10 years post-PhD (your original claim) or suggest there wouldn't be "any" career options.

Just look at all the users of the Forum -- from Rich, to Dick to Ana and me. So my point is fair & balanced. There are great careers to be had if one decides their interest is in research-based science and if one should late decide to apply that knowledge elsewhere, one can. Thats my point.....it's just like any other career.
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Re: Is there a science career for me?

Postby Neel » Tue Jun 28, 2016 5:52 am

I certainly think there are parts in life sciences organizations that would put less accentuation on development and in the meantime would put a high esteem on people who have interest/involvement in measurements, which you appear to have. Quality confirmation and control, or Six Sigma sorts of parts might be something worth being thankful for to investigate. In these parts, you would help scientists move advancements into substantial, excellent items and/or administrations.
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