Why So Many Scientists Are Abandoning Their Fields
Here’s my article for Wired about why so many scientists ended up working in the tech industry:
Tech companies are snapping up scientists with backgrounds in fields like physics, mathematics and bioscience — people we might expect to be busy curing cancer, saving the environment or discovering the origin of the universe. It’s easy to be cynical about this. “The best minds of my generation are thinking about how to make people click ads,” former Facebook data scientist Jeff Hammerbacher told Business Week in 2010. But it’s happening for a reason.
It’s not that tech companies need people with PhDs. Many of the best data scientists in the business only have bachelor’s degrees. It turns out that many scientists are moving into tech because opportunities aren’t as prevalent as you might think.
The U.S. produced 100,000 PhDs between 2005 and 2009, while creating only 16,000 new professorships, according to data cited by The Economist. Though we’re used to hearing about PhDs in the humanities ending up as low-paid adjunct professors or baristas, we tend to expect another fate for people who major in fields like bioscience or physics. But even the natural sciences produce more PhDs than professorships. […]
Those that do land jobs are often frustrated. “Scientists spend more time chasing funding than thinking about the science,” Berkolz says. And because funding sources are so risk adverse, the type of research funded tends to be conservative. “Scientists are supposed to be all about falsifiability,” Miller says. “But your job as a professor is to never be wrong. It’s hard to be intellectually experimental when you’re a scientist.”
I think this is also probably why some researchers fabricate experimental data.
“America's "millennials," typically defined as the generation born during 1980-95, so roughly seventeen to thirty-two years old in 2012, grew up witnessing an era of unprecedented inequality of income, a catastrophic financial bubble, and a contagion of corporate fraud led by Wall Street. They have reached the age of majority and have tried to find jobs in the worst financial crisis since the Great Depression. They have never experienced firsthand a government that champions the principles of a mixed economy, regulation of corporate abuse, and fair redistribution of income.”—Bit from “Occupy Global Capitalism” by Jeffrey D. Sachs in The Occupy Handbook.
Russell Howard talking about the recession and 50 Shades of Grey.
- Russell Howard: We, basically, came out of recession because of the Olympics and 50 Shades of Grey.
- Russell Howard: So we came out of recession because of the MoBot and the mum rub. How lovely is that?
- Russell Howard: That's what brought us out of the recession.
- Russell Howard: Wanking mums.
- Russell Howard: You shouldn't feel bad about it! That's wonderful!
- Russell Howard: We wanked our way out of recession!
- Jimmy Carr: Well done Britain!
- Russell Howard: You're all heroes!
- Russell Howard: We're back in the green 'cause you flicked your bean!