Tuesday, June 30, 2015

Dear Ph.D.s and Post-docs: Beware

So far I brought to their destination ten Ph.D. students. Which was their path in real life ?
One has a reasonable research carrier. Another one is trying to get into one in Saudi Arabia. Two made their step into the real life of an Engineer. Two founded a company. Two are doing a post-doc, and we will se where they will go. Other two, passed through post-docs, and still have to find their own way.
If I have to judge by my statistics, I can draw some (Bayesian) conclusions:

  • Just a few Ph.D.s can enter a research/academic carrier (between ten and twenty per cent).
  • For someone, maybe, doing a Ph.D.  was a waste of time. (But their opinion would be important)
  • Some rolled up their sleeves and are trying to make their best to get their dream (of a having an interesting job) to come true. (They can fail and need support by their former advisors, academic policies, nations' wide consciousness of the importance of their role).
  • More than four post-docs years are useless (they serve the PI, but not the postdoc). Post-docs, after a couple of years, have to come-back to reality and make plans.
  • Someone is probably lost.
I always ask myself how much responsibility I have in the worst cases, and, frankly, I do not have an answer.  I will try to do better in future.
However the problem, as highlighted by this Nature commentary,  seems to be universal, at least in many of the developed countries. Academic positions are shrinking, and, at the same time, Ph.D. students are increasing in number. And, with them, post-docs. Now, we start to see the development of these long term post-docs carriers, without hope, and I ask myself with opposite moods: is this the best we can offer to them, and, why the hell, they do not face reality (that they will not have, in most of the cases, one position) ?
On the other side, I constantly prey for the western governments increasing their investments in research and innovation, as the real, long term, solution for exiting societal and economical crises. So far they did not, and, instead, many do the contrary. Cause and effect of the decline.

Said that, I will still continue to (moderately) enrol Ph.D. students. Ph.D. time can be great. You can see the world, meet outstanding people. Be on the edge. Hope for a better future, and that it is in your hands (and certainly it is too).

1 comment:

  1. Other opinions on the same topic: https://tomate.wordpress.com/2015/04/16/the-problem-with-post-docs/