The system of awarding science Ph.D.s needs to be reformed or shut down, given the tough competition for limited jobs in academia, a provocative series of pieces in one of the world’s pre-eminent scientific journals said this week.
According to the multipart series in the journal Nature, the world is awash in Ph.D.s, most of them being awarded to scholars who will never find work in academia, the traditional goal of those holding a doctorate.
“In some countries, including the United States and Japan, people who have trained at great length and expense to be researchers confront a dwindling number of academic jobs and an industrial sector unable to take up the slack,” the cover article said.
Of people who received Ph.D.s in the biological sciences five to six years ago, 13 percent have tenure-track positions leading to a professorship, said Paula Stephan, who studies the economics of science at Georgia State University in Atlanta. For the rest, 10 percent work part time or not at all; 33 percent are in academic positions that don’t lead to a professorship; 22 percent are in industry; and 20 percent are at community colleges or in government or non-profit jobs, she said.