On November 30, University Affairs posted two articles that summarise and discuss the major issues that came up in our session at the 3rd Annual Canadian Science Policy Conference:
- Is Canada producing too many PhDs? Yes, no and maybe
- The problem with PhD training in Canada
It was really great to have Léo in attendance at this session as his journalistic eye and his vast experience covering issues in Canadian universities allows him to clearly distil the key points from our session – I strongly encourage a read through.
After reading these, you may ask: “What exactly was accomplished?”, and this is a question that I have reflected on myself since the conference as well. For one, I was very pleased that we could get a stage to present this issue – many people fail to appreciate the resources that get poured into the training of scientists and what an enormous waste it is to have the vast majority of them aiming for something they will simply not become (as opposed to those who train in medicine, law, and accounting who will generally become doctors, lawyers, and accountants).
The second item is one that the UA articles really bring home. We need to encourage people in PhD programs (and in postdocs) to look beyond academia. I would not suggest a mass exodus by any stretch, but with a less than 20% rate of becoming a tenure track professor, one owes it to themselves to consider what else they might do with their high level of training. We need people to actively pursue non-academic careers, and not fall victim to labels of “failing” in academia.
Thanks to the University Affairs folks, as well as to Mehrdad Hariri and his team for putting off a great conference and a special personal thanks to one team member (Marcius Extavour) for helping the Education and Training of Scientists session get organized in timely manner.