Exactement! Alt career training is bullshit

Read the whole thing here:


However, rather than reduce the number of PhD students, they suggest that PhD training programmes should offer students opportunities to learn the rudiments of other science-related careers (such as biotech, scientific publishing or science policy). I disagree. Why must students be trained for other careers while they struggle to learn the skills that are essential for research?

This half-baked notion tries to mask its obvious but unstated goal, which is to justify recruiting more PhD students to work in labs.

The same notion, unfortunately, prevents construction of a sustainable biomedical research workforce.

ht @mrhunsaker and @brembs


4 Comments on “Exactement! Alt career training is bullshit”

  1. DJMH says:

    I’m all with you (and the author of that opinion piece) on the biomedical system relying too heavily on trainees, but I still think the alt-career training/placement is a great idea, for the simple reason that it is still really hard to predict, looking at entering first-year students, who is going to stick around in research and who will be happier elsewhere. E.g. going in, I thought for sure I wasn’t staying with research, but oops.

    If you can only take in a smaller number of students, the other problem is that you will probably use the crummy metrics available on 23 year olds (what college they attended, GPA) which aren’t probably great predictors of research science success either.

    So I would still vote to slash the number of incoming students, but not by quite as much, and to put in a stronger Sorting Hat at the two year mark, to encourage students who have gotten training in science but want non-academic careers to gtfo while they are still young and attractive. And then make sure to support those students with plenty of alt-career contacts, training, etc.

    But my solution costs programs money, because the first two years are more subsidized by the program than by PIs, so it isn’t going anywhere.

  2. DJMH says:

    Oh actually now that I read the article, that’s one of the things he says…that there should be a split at the MS stage.

  3. rxnm says:

    Yeah, I thought the leaving with a Masters option was a great one, and one that I think (?) used to be more common.

  4. […] Furthermore, no malice or scheming is required on behalf of individual managers to contribute to exploitation, which will arise naturally from an excess of labor and an absence of regulation. Where most of the blame lies is with the failure of regulators: when things like the Tilghman Report (PDF) are commissioned and written and greeted with denial and open resistance, or when the NIH refuses to even acknowledge the existence of the vast majority of postdocs (those not paid by NRSAs) in their analysis of the trainee pipeline, or when SfN’s solution is to beg industry to keep hiring our discarded postdocs. Oh, and maybe teaching? Or be a science writer! Policy something? All the #alt-bullshit. […]

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