As our readers know, we ran a panel discussion last month in Toronto at the 5th Annual Canadian Science Policy Conference. It was a packed room and the panel featured heated exchanges at some points (even between panellists!). Many diverse opinions were shared, pointing to a clear need for academic-training reform.
Chris Corkery began by representing the Canadian Association of Postdoctoral Scholars and their recent survey findings from ~20% of Canadian postdoctoral scholars. This launched the panel discussion by showing that early career researchers in the postdoctoral stage were a growing cohort of young bright minds in their mid-30s who aspired to becoming career researchers, but found themselves in a temporary holding zone when it came to career options.
A major policy issue for Canadian universities, governments and industry is how to avoid wasting such talented individuals that represent a major national investment. We set up three perspectives to engage this issue: Rob Annan from Mitacs delivered a talk on Mitacs’ suite of programs to facilitate the transition of trainees into industrial placements, Mawana Pongo spoke of the need for governments to invest in young trainees and the creation of 2,000 fellow positions and 1,000 professor positions, and Ben Neel spoke about the view from research-focused academic institutes and “tough love” for trainees
Dr. Neel’s was perhaps the most provocative presentation, arguing that graduate students and postdoctoral fellows needed to be given a “tough love” message more often than they appeared to be receiving currently. He argued that trainees needed to become masters of their own destiny and that things “aren’t that different” to when he trained (despite admitting that the numbers of scientists being trained has far outstripped new faculty positions). Dr. Neel made some solid arguments – PhD students and postdoctoral fellows have never been particularly well compensated for their educational standing and academic jobs have never been what the majority of people end up doing, and that the real disaster is the reduction in science funding.
Where does this leave us in the policy world? Three main questions need answers:
- Should there be multiple career streams for publicly funded researchers?
- Should the time to complete a PhD be reduced? (And if so, how can this be achieved?)
- Should PhD researchers be treated like medical residents and junior accountants despite unclear career outcomes?
After our panel, CSPC President Mehrdad Hariri asked if we would consider continuing the conversation through CSPC. If this takes place, we’ll certainly let readers know. In the interim, start the conversation below and we’ll collate the responses in our next quarterly summary. As I’ve said many times before, there is little obvious incentive for anyone else to fix academic training, so it’s up to researchers to fix their own system.
This Thursday, I’ll be attending the Canadian Science Policy Conference in Toronto to run a session on the training the next generation of scientists. The session promises to be discussion-based and I hope that some practical ideas and solutions will be proposed by audience members and panelists to help address what I consider to be one of the greatest wastes of human capital in our country.
The results of the Canadian Association of Postdoctoral Scholars (CAPS) survey will launch the panel highlighting the real need for new policy solutions to address the ever-increasing numbers of science-based trainees being spun out of Canadian universities and research institutes. This human resource crisis stimulated the formation of CAPS and numerous other international groups of early career researchers (e.g., the NPA in the United States, and ICoRSA for international research staff). The panel brings together stakeholders in industry, government and academia to discuss the needs of each sector and strategies for Canada to adopt in order to come out ahead in its training and utilization of young scientists.
I’ve compiled a list of relevant posts by Jonathan and I that try to tackle some of these issues and propose solutions and I hope this will act as fodder for conference-goers to get the discussion rolling. Post-conference I’ll relay to readers who could not attend the key ideas that emerged with the intention of building consensus on the best ideas that granting agencies, universities and employers could adopt:
- Sick of studenthood, early career researchers want employee status
- Half of Canada’s early career researchers are not Canadian
- Attracting and retaining talented researchers
- Reversing the brain drain
- Too much Talent? SSHRC’s “solution” to the postdoc boom
- The PhD Placement Project
- Incredible promotion tool: student and postdoc outcomes
- Tri-Councils should learn from EMBO fellowships
- Postdoctoral mentors and a regular reality check
- Shorter PhDs and more active thesis committees
- Fewer postdocs with higher salaries? Hold your horses!
- Planning Ahead: How many of you are there and who will pay you?
- A paradigm shift in academic advancement
- Creating scientists, not science, is the key to productive universities
Science training will not magically fix itself – it’s up to young scientists to identify the challenges and help to address them. The most important product of a university is people and these people will go out into every sector of society to help improve our collective future.
- I’ll also partake in a panel on the value of science blogging in Canada on Friday. Hopefully this session will highlight the utility and meaningfulness of scientists picking up the proverbial pen and paper to get their thoughts and opinions out into the world.
For the past year, I have been sitting on the publications committee for a society-run journal and in the journal’s quest to improve its impact factor (IF), it became clear to me that one of the system’s dark secrets is the “window of IF eligibility.” It single-handedly disadvantages journals whose science stands the test of time and favours journals that have speedy public relations’ campaigns.
For those not aware of it, a journal’s IF is based on two numbers for year X:
- The number of times articles published in the two years prior to year X are cited during year X
- The number of citable articles published in the two years prior to year X
The IF is simply the first number divided by the second.
This means that all articles published more than two years before the year being evaluated do not count for anything in the IF world. The IF metric significantly impacts the careers and fundability of scientists, but the practice of only counting two years post-publication is damaging for several reasons.
No benefit to standing the test of time
Not many people regularly scroll through the table of contents in journals with an IF of 3, so when very good papers are published in low-ranking journals, it sometimes takes a little time for them to get on people’s radar. Most scientists would agree that a paper needs to stand the test of time, and indeed many papers in low IF journals do exactly that, but they do not end up helping the IF of that journal.
A case in point, there was a 2003 paper in my field published in Experimental Hematology (IF < 3) that was cited 6.5 times per year in the eligibility window and an average of 10 times per year since. By contrast, a paper on the same topic in the same year in Nature Immunology (IF > 20) was cited 17 times per year in the eligibility window and an average of 11 times per year subsequently. The papers end up in the same place (i.e., cited about 10 times/yr) but they differ dramatically in their contribution to the journal’s IF (17 vs. 6.5).
Bias against poorly promoted journals
Big journals have big public relations teams – they do big press releases, and they carry an already big name. Obviously, getting quick publicity for articles will lead to citations earlier than papers that aren’t read immediately.
Artificial bias toward being trendy
Surely, in the age of reddit, Twitter and things “going viral,” we can appreciate that trendiness does not equate importance. However, our metrics for evaluating scientists almost fully rely on how trendy their research is (or at least on how trendy the journal they’ve published in is), and not how important or good quality it is. This translates into a culture that rewards buzz words and style over substance.
So, what can we do to improve the situation? Scientists could start picking up tables of contents from low IF journals (unlikely) or we could actually read beyond the abstract to see if the paper we’re citing actually proves a point and hasn’t been published somewhere else (also unlikely). I think the easiest way is to measure articles (and journals) by average citations per year since publication. I’d love to see what proportion of “high impact” papers crash and burn after the first few years post publication. It would not surprise me if the number was very large.
Last month, I found the best “come to my lab” sales pitch. After my jaw was set back into place at the numbers, I soon realized the broader implications of such a web page and its power as a general tool for academics. It takes virtually no effort to create and is something that every academic could (and should!) do. In fact, it is one of few things in this world that costs no money, takes no time, and could single-handedly alter the lives of a vast number of current and future trainees:
Academics should publicly disclose the career progression of their former trainees on their webpage.
The example that inspired this post is Tony Kouzarides’ lab at the Gurdon Institute in Cambridge. It lists a breakdown of the individual fates of 39 PhDs and postdocs that have been in his research group. The part that grabbed my attention: 21 of his trainees (54%) have gone on to start their own academic research group and are based in nine different countries (and he even provides links to their websites!).
As someone who would like to run an academic group, I think these numbers speak volumes to the training environment and resources available in the Kouzarides group. If I were interested in a career in the biotechnology industry, I would also strongly consider this lab since five of 39 trainees (13%) went directly into careers in industry and this includes one person who started their own company. The page also goes on to list the fact that the lab has a five-year reunion and an annual retreat – an incredible network of academics to be plugged into.
Of course, this is an incredibly productive group and few academics could boast such statistics; however, providing such numbers will always help potential trainees make decisions about where they would get the best training for what they want to do (and it doesn’t have to be academia). Imagine wanting to do science writing or science policy as a career and worrying that a science supervisor would not train you properly if you were not dedicated to becoming an academic. If a supervisor has a track record of producing trainees who enter these careers, perhaps they would get your nod as future supervisor. People are the products of universities (not data!) and those people go off into a wide array of important careers – we need to get serious about how we evaluate an academic’s training record.
There will be complaints from academics if such a system were mandated, but the pros far outweigh the cons in my opinion. Academics will likely complain that it is difficult to track down what some people are doing, and while I agree this might have been the case 20 years ago, the Internet makes just about everybody findable with a few clicks and tools like LinkedIn are making this job even easier (not to mention that even the biggest research groups would only have to track down five to six trainees per year).
Another complaint will be that young academics will not have a track record and risk getting defined by their first few students/postdocs. While I share this concern, I think it would also prod these academics to invest in the careers of their students and postdocs and maybe even get a little more creative with their trainee statistics pages (e.g., four of five of my trainees have been awarded fellowships since arriving in my group, etc.).
The best part of all of this is that it would give funding organizations access to the information so they can evaluate academics on their training record. Some funding agencies already try to collect this, but most of what I have observed so far relates to a supervisor’s ability to train academics and this data is almost always kept in a database and not made public.
We cannot afford to be complacent about the the quality of training at our institutions and need to make such changes sooner rather than later – and granting councils should not be afraid to put some teeth into their policies when it comes to training record, no academic is better than the sum of their trainees.
Our readers might be interested to know that the Canadian Association of Postdoctoral Scholars initiated and completed its 2013 survey of Canadian postdocs and had an incredible 1,800 responses. The survey data is currently being analyzed and compiled and we’ll be very excited to read and write about the results when they become available. From the Black Hole newsroom, we are still preparing our resource site (apologies to those who have been waiting!) and hope to have it ready this autumn and we are always looking to have guest posts on topics that our readers are passionate about. Just email us at email@example.com if you are keen to contribute.
For now, here’s a recap of this quarter’s posts:
- National Research Council funding priorities miss the point
- What happens when you insufficiently fund basic research
- Federal research institutes should host crowdfunding initiatives
- Re-inventing crowdfunding for academic research
- Democratizing academic research through crowd funding
- To close the gender gap, make other jobs sexy
- Tri-Councils should learn from EMBO fellowships
- Postdoctoral mentors and a regular reality check
- Calling for a unified paper submission style
Dave continued to write for the Signals blog with three entries:
- Dear student: Read the supplementary material
- Political furor drives government funding for clinical trial – who should fund stem cell therapy trials?
- The importance of unequal division in stem cells
Many of our readers supported the idea of a unified journal submission style and we’ll explore the idea of pushing this concept at some higher levels. SB made some excellent points regarding the article on closing the gender gap by encouraging men to leave science – suggesting rather that we build a culture that supports women. Jonathan’s entries on crowdfunding science generated some buzz with concerns about the peer-review process of grant funding.
We hope that everyone is enjoying their summer and look forward to excellent continued discussion in the autumn.
When I was in the early stages of my undergraduate degree, I thought long and hard about doing an MBA in combination with science. It seemed to me that the sector was underdeveloped in Canada and good science training was going to be essential to a successful career. I was motivated to go out and create products that were useful for people and make money while doing so.
That was circa 2001 and, upon reflection, I believe that my science mentors from 3rd year undergraduate onwards steered me away from the biotech industry repeatedly and uncompromisingly – demonizing such careers as “selling out” or “not real science.” To be fair, I am quite happy with where I ended up and the scientific mentoring I have received along the way has been incredible, but some part of me wonders how much of a demographic shift in science training could be achieved if the impressions left on young minds were different.
Just the other day, I started thinking about this issue through the gender lens and arrived at a theory that made me curious (apologies to any social scientist out there who has already done this – please forward/link to relevant articles!). Basically, I wonder if the glorification of careers in industry (or other non-academic careers like patent law) could shift the gender balance in academic circles.
If you google “traits of successful entrepreneurs” and click through a few lists, you’ll note the convergence on key characteristics like “driven,” “risk taker,” “forward looking” and “confident.” This immediately brought me back to an article I wrote years ago on gender bias in reference letters, where these character traits were associated more often with men than women in letters from academic employers. This in turn made me wonder if we’ve been approaching gender imbalance in the wrong way – instead of programs designed to keep women in academia, why not create reasons for men to leave?
Men think they are great, sometimes they aren’t
There is no need for direct incentive – simply have mentors pitch it as an attractive, well-respected position and men will apply for it. I cringe a little every time I go to a career day and hear, “Only 20% of you will become professors, so everyone in this room should be thinking about non-academic careers.” While the spirit of the statement is something I agree with (everyone should consider non-academic careers), the tone of such statements is often one of fear and failure. Practical people say, “screw that, it’s not worth the risk, the instability, or the pressure” and arrogant/confident people say, “That’s really bad news for those 80%, glad I’m not one of them.” Sadly I think this type of career day drives more women out of academic research.
Medical school talent shows
Something I’ve noticed over my years near medical students is that there is an incredible pool of general talent – just go investigate a med school talent show or concert series. I’ve always wondered what brought some of them into medicine when they could clearly be at the cutting edge of the performing arts. I’m sure there are also many mathematics geniuses, athletes, etc., but again, why medicine? I think that a sizable fraction enter medical school because they can, not because they should, and see it as “reaching the top.”
On the other hand, I’ve also noticed people who would be incredibly good doctors (smart, dedicated, personable, etc.) that haven’t built their CV in the same way to make themselves look amazing and they are often on the outside looking in at doctors who are really clever, but don’t even want to be doctors. I fear that exactly the same happens in academic circles and insist that not everyone who can be a professor should be one.
Make other jobs sexy – introduce new food
The current system has one successful metric: get a professor job. If you put that carrot in front of a bunch of clever, motivated people and tell the losers that they cannot eat, it’s easy to predict what will happen. However, if you put several additional food options in front of people, choices are made for better reasons (taste, nutrition, etc.) rather than be focused on a prize you may not wish to win.
Overall, I think that the life sciences, especially in Canada, would do well to develop an enthusiasm for supporting the careers of young scientist/entrepreneur types. I’m not suggesting cutting corners on academic training – obtaining a PhD should always be a rigorous process – but rather I am suggesting that we see non-academic careers as viable options for academic trainees and encourage people to pursue them.
People often ask me what I would do if I were in charge of fellowships for Canadian trainees. In response, I will often slip into my usual refrain of making investment in people the basic tenet of any fellowship program. As it currently stands, the career track for academics artificially selects for those that can handle small amounts of stability and an incredible amount of career uncertainty. Many believe that a fellowship program that fights against this is dreaming a dream too big, but there is one organization working its tail off to combat the tide and Canadian funding agencies should be taking notes.
The European Molecular Biology Organization (EMBO) is at the forefront in fellowship program design. Its long-term fellowship program for postdoctoral fellows has the following components:
- useful eligibility rules
- child care allowance
- dependent allowance
- travel allowance
- parental leave
- part-time work policy (such that fellows can do 3 or 4 day weeks and remain funded)
- private pension plan
- Fellow’s Network
And EMBO is not a boutique funding organization (the 2013 Spring competition awarded 100 fellowships) so they’ve clearly figured out a way to invest in a broad set of useful programs for the diverse life situations that young scientists find themselves in. For this post, I want to highlight three of these components as things which every major trainee funding organization should consider implementing straight away:
Useful eligibility rules:
EMBO is realistic about who it wants to fund and makes no bones about telling those that do not fit the criteria that their application will be thrown into the bin straight away. Statements like: “Applicants must have at least one first author publication accepted in press or published in an international peer reviewed journal at the time of application” make it very obvious that if you don’t have a paper, you will not be getting a fellowship. This cuts down on wasted application time and reduces peer review burden.
Private Pension Plan:
One of the most drilled home messages of financial advisers is to start pension savings early. This is not only advisable for the Canada Pension Plan (where each year helps you earn more later), but also private pension plans where compound interest relies on early starts. Early career researchers, often located in foreign countries, will often not get enrolled into any sort of pension plan until their mid-late 30s due to the transience of academic training. EMBO therefore created its own, internationally transferable, pension plan for its fellows – genius.
One of the greatest travesties of the Canadian trainee funding system is the lack of connectivity that the funding organizations have with the recipients of their money. While former trainees will remain on mailing lists sometimes, that’s about as good as it gets. After funding expires, fellows often drop off the face of the earth. EMBO, it seems, has figured this one out too – their FellowsNet is highly interactive and also appears to be for life (can someone confirm this?). It is not simply about record keeping, but rather is about creating a community of like-minded individuals who build lifelong friendships and collaborations.
From my own experience, my hat needs to be tipped in the direction of CIHR for their progressive research allowance policy. This funding allowed me to have decision making power over which conferences I attended and avoided many awkward discussions about where funding would come from. I can see the movement in the right direction at CIHR, and thankfully there are groups like EMBO doing the trail-blazing – all we need to do is follow along.
There has been a lot of rumbling over the last few years about how poorly compensated postdoctoral fellows are and how the system churns out too many doctoral students. Many have suggested that the best solution is to trim the number of positions and increase the salaries of those remaining. However, I suspect that many of the people arguing for better pay and fewer postdoc positions do not consider that they might be part of the cohort who would lose their jobs if such a measure were undertaken.
I imagine that just about everyone would like to have more money and more job security, so I always find the “pay me more” arguments tough to swallow unless they are backed up with some good reasons and a clear plan for how things will be paid for. There are certainly good examples of exploited and underpaid postdoctoral fellows – I know this is especially prevalent in Canada and would love to remedy it. However, there are several things one must bear in mind before proposing radical solutions that involve removing swathes of people from the most productive and independent part of their academic careers.
- The research needs to get done – cutting the number of postdoctoral fellows means fewer hands, and fewer heads, undertaking research. If you told a leading scientist that their lab would shrink by one-third and they would pay the same amount of money to accommodate salary increases, they would not need to be a mathematics professor to disfavour this approach.
- Some projects work out and others do not – the postdoctoral period of research is a time of great independence and involves undertaking very risky/adventurous research projects that often do not work out. We all understand this does not necessarily reflect on the innate abilities of a particular person, but if we don’t let the risky projects get started, then they won’t ever be tried.
- Selecting the “lucky ones” will be really, really hard - we already find ourselves in a state where fellowship applications get ranked as “fundable”, but do not end up getting funded.
- The squeaky wheel gets the grease – the vast majority of complaints seem to come from two places: the life sciences and the humanities. One suffers from chronic underfunding (humanities) and arguably deserves a greater share of the research pie, while the other (life sciences) suffers from over-subscription where hordes of trainees end up competing for the same jobs and spend 4-6 years (or longer!) as a postdoctoral fellow before getting past the first round of a job search.
In the life sciences, I feel that this debate always gets confused because it comes back to the two reasons that people find themselves in postdoctoral fellow positions:
- Academic training (i.e., a springboard to a PI job)
- Research (i.e., they enjoy doing bench science, and want a career doing it)
I see the former as a group who would tolerate lower pay for a few years to get the potential independence and security of a tenure track post and I see the latter as those who want a stable career in science asap (i.e. higher pay, benefits, etc). If two such groups are classed as one and the same by institutions (or themselves!), it is a guaranteed recipe for big fights about how to best represent the core issues of postdoctoral fellows.
Overall, I don’t like the idea of cutting off people from the academic track before the postdoctoral stage. Therefore I think a sensible approach is to create a system that allows postdoctoral fellows begin their training but regularly challenges them to consider alternatives. I’ll be describing the core components of this system in my next post – stay tuned.
I just finished a bit of a marathon read which gives advice to early career researchers on how to best situate themselves for success in research. The guide, Charting a course for a successful research career was written by Emeritus Professor Alan Johnson and offers some good advice for early career researchers. Its audience is extremely broad (international early career researchers in all disciplines) and the tone is quite conversational and as a consequence I found it slightly ethereal and felt the take home messages were sometimes difficult to extract. Nonetheless, a targeted read through the table of contents for the section(s) most applicable to you should get some useful tidbits out, so do take a look.
Overall, the guide insists that early career researchers must take control of their own career and focus on planning – with this I could not agree more. We have long advocated on this site the real need for PhD students and postdoctoral fellows to regularly assess their career options. Nobody else is as concerned with what you do with your training (mothers excepted) so please do not stick your head in the sand without considering how much you want to pursue academic research – the environment is too competitive to simply drift into your career.
Check out some previous posts on this topic if you are interested:
- The importance of leaving academic science on good terms
- Novel ideas for the biomedical research workforce, anyone in Canada listening?
- Engaging early – changing direction before graduation
- Introducing career streams into academic research
- Career streams in academia: Who foots the bill?
- To postdoc or not to postdoc?
- Professionals in High Demand
- Old Debate, More Participants: What do 80% of PhD holders do for a career?
- Say NO to the Second Post Doc!
For those planning on pursuing an academic career, Professor Johnson makes an excellent point that should not go unnoticed. Think ahead. Not just about where your project will go or what the next cool technique is, but make sure you are thinking about where science is going. Johnson suggests reading vision statements of universities, granting councils and political parties and asking how your research will be funded in 10 years. This is sage advice and will position you much better for hiring committee questions around your future “fundability”.
When I was in Canada going to university in the late 1990s/early 2000s, there was a massive push on training engineers – Nortel was booming, RIM was emerging, and all roads led to the tech sector. When Nortel collapsed, the ripple was felt across the entire sector and many young engineers found themselves without jobs, some of whom are now in completely different fields. Is the life sciences/genomics explosion of the last decade traveling down the same path and will early career researchers who have not thought broadly about their research find themselves on the outside? Currently, Canada is investing quite a lot into regenerative medicine and genomics research and the country is well-respected in both areas, but the industrial biotechnology sector appears to be unable to attract substantial capital. If this continues, will the industrial sector be able bear the huge number of trainees we are producing?
Of course, we cannot predict the future, but it behooves young researchers to keep their heads out of the sand and think about the future – not only of their own careers, but of their field and the other fields around them.
My last post generated a fair amount of commentary both here on this site and on Reddit. It seems that many people have experienced exactly what NIH Director Francis Collins described: they’ve been made to feel like failures for leaving academia. If the vast majority of PhDs and postdoctoral fellows will not become tenure-track academics, then we should be embracing non-academic careers as the default pathway for most trainees. This requires a huge cultural shift away from seeing trainees as generators of science and toward viewing trainees themselves as the product. Making supervisors and institutes accountable for the trainees they produce, keeping lab sizes down to a size where meaningful mentorship can be maintained, and recognizing the value of non-academic careers are all key to making this shift successfully.
Tracking former students and postdocs in a meaningful way
A recent phenomenon at granting agencies has been to track the outcomes of students and postdocs, both in terms of how long they are in the lab as well as what they are currently doing for a job. A big question that spawns from this is whether particular professions or outcomes are more or less valued? If so, who decides if it’s more valuable to create a PhD-level patent lawyer vs. a sessional instructor vs. a professor? I am not sure how this information is used and I worry that it is simply to ask the question “How good is this professor at creating new professors?”
As I mentioned in my last post, the product of a university should, above all else, be its people. We consistently fail this goal by nearly exclusively valuing the production of papers and patents irrespective of what happens to the trainees involved in producing them. Instead we should be measuring a successful research PI by evaluating – in a meaningful fashion – their training and teaching abilities.
Bigger is not always better
One of the most frustrating things about measuring the “productivity” or “success” of a lab is that it is almost always done as a cumulative exercise. Rarely do you ask the question, “What is this professor’s productivity per lab member?” Not too long ago, there was an eye-opening study that showed research productivity plateaued at $750,000 of research funding and got noticeably worse as funding went up (as measured by number of publications and their average impact factor). Even this, though, did not break down the production per person, though it can be reasonably assumed that better funded labs have more people.
Big labs produce more papers, that’s very true – but how many careers are buried in the wake of such “productivity”? It would do grant evaluators well to ask how many trainees and employees does each lab have and how is the lab’s publication record distributed over those people. Anecdotally, I can cite several examples of small labs with excellent productivity that get crushed in grant evaluations for having a thin publication record – a “publication per lab researcher” metric would do such labs a great service and push the heads of larger labs to ensure that everyone in their group is being taken care of properly.
Seeing the forest for the trees and the Selfish Gene
On the note of taking care of one’s trainees, I fail to understand why professors don’t see “non-academic” career options as valuable to them. Yes, professors can have tunnel vision when it comes to doing things that benefit their lab moving forward, but surely minting new academics is not the only way to have a positive working relationship with your former trainees.
If you produce a journal editor, might thaey not end up working at a journal in your field? Would you rather have them respect the lab for the way it is run and the science that emerges from it or that they be bitter about their final few months/years and be spreading bad vibes throughout their new circles?
If you produce an industry researcher, might they not end up working for a company in your field? Good relationships with companies have often sprouted collaborations that benefits both the academic and industrial partners both through shared reagents, shared expertise, and good product development opportunities. Even the most selfish professors should be able to see this logic and be keen to have students of all career motivations leave their labs as happy as possible.
Changing the perception
I have long wondered whether people are better motivated by negative or positive reinforcement. Should we reward those professors that invest in training students and postdocs with diverse career goals or should we penalize those that neglect their university duties? As it currently stands, there does not appear to be much reward for those who invest in training and teaching and there appears to be a sizable cohort of professors who are not well-liked by their trainees.
I suggest measuring output based on all the trainees that pass through a lab by noting where they go and how well they were supported and I would also incorporate productivity per researcher into evaluation metrics. Such measures would stimulate professors to consider carefully those that they take on board and I believe would bring down overall lab size of large labs and increase the productivity per research dollar.