Thursday, August 27, 2015

Life after academia. Review of "Alternative Careers in Science" by Cynthia Robbins-Roth

Getting tenure-track positions in academia are becoming more unrealistic as time passes. In my view, there are 3 reasons for it: (1) abundance of qualified but cheap scientists (mostly postdocs, mostly from oversees), (2) reduction of federal funds for basic research and (3) introduction anti-ageing laws that allowed tenured academicians to stay in their position indefinitely.

So what can you do if you like science, but due to circumstance beyond your control, would not able to accumulate sufficient academic scores (mostly papers in top journals, plus little help from your supervisor) to qualify for artificially complicated academic position?    

I imagine that in the beginning almost 100% percent of PhD students or postdocs believe that they will be "one" who can do it that impossible task and land the position in academia. however, as time goes, many will realize that it is better to look for some alternative career options.

The best option is, of course, to found a company. If you can do it, then only thing left is to applaud you. Though, in reality very few people can have necessary knowledge and connections to start  a science-oriented business. 

The most common alternative is to switch to industry. If you are lucky you may end up in a company that do a cutting-edge science. However, ordinarily biomedical industry is focused on very narrow field and quite happy to just do repeatable and scalable science. There is lots of misunderstanding about what exactly biotech industry does. Many believe that biotech industry does innovative work, from traditional science point of view. In reality, so called "innovations" that are coming from biotech are mainly to do with "formatting" of scientific innovation generated mostly in academic centers.

Basically, if you just started thinking about life after academia, you may consider this 2006 book. To tell you truth, it is quite "old". In fact, it is so old that some of the websites it refers to no longer exist :) But if you can get it from local library or through friends or colleagues, try it. It have some useful generic information. One thing that is missing from those individual stories told in this book is some kind of authenticity. The way the authors are describing their transitions from one field to another feel like "packaged for sale" stories.

posted by David Usharauli

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