Grantsmanship

Joe Teodoro teodoro at medcor.mcgill.ca
Sat Nov 25 17:51:54 EST 1995


Stuff deleted

: Hello Alex (et al,),
: Normally I irrate people in the sci.research.careers newsgroup, but 
this sting caught my eye.

Y'ou're starting to irrate some here too.
 
: I totally agree with you that the current situation encourages the
overproduction of PhDs.
: I disagree, howver, with the "cures"  you presrcribe. (and which  I
snipped) .   
: The answer is not  to develop a whole new system which will distribute
money   directly to   
: grad students. This is like taking aspirin for releif of a headache
who's underlying cause is a 
: tumor!
: 
: We must stop making PhDs! (Until the market improves). 

Perhaps we should stop making BAs and BSc s as well.  After all these
degrees have not really been effective routes to employment for over 2
decades now.  In fact why not cut out high school diplomas as well.  All
your average brutish labourer needs is to read and write.  All this
education can lead to nowhere but trouble.  Is this the gist of whay
you're saying?  

In a highly industrialized, modern, society the trend that the population
becomes gradually more educated is a natural and inevitable one.  The very
idea of reducing the rate or level of education offered seems inherently
counterproductive and perhaps even evil.
  
: Stipends are bait for the undergrads to take. Wiggle a few thousand
dollars in front of a senior 
: who has been living on less and his/her eyes light up and they  say
"Hey, that ain't bad. I'll 
: stay in school (or go back) and get a PhD and then I'll be able to get a
GOOD job!" 
: (Ha Ha).

If this laughable motivation is what led a student to grad studies then
he/she would never have amounted to anything with the PhD anyway.

: Stipends create an artifical market. And (to my knowledge) they only
occur in sciences (to any 
: great extent). Med students, law students etc. don't get stipends (and
there are only a few  
: scholarships) because they don't need that kind of economic
encouragement. They go to a bank and 
: when they say they have gotten into a law or  medical school, the bank 
manager falls all over   
: himself to give him/her a loan. But if you told that same bank manager
that you have been accepted 
: into a grad program to get a PhD in Bio, Chem, etc, he will  _not_ offer
you a loan. Why?  
: Because he knows (and so do the PhDs) that this young guy/gal full of
enthusiasm and enervg is a 
: bad loan risk. Even if she/he gets a job, it will be sporadic (yearly
contracts) and so 
: competeitive that repayments are questionable. The Lawyers and Doctors,
on the other hand, have 
: thier careers "tracked" into big money and security..

The comparison between students in Ph.D. programs and professional schools
is hardly a  valid one.  During the course of a law or med student's
studies he is performing no service to anymone other than him/her self. 
The grad student is serving as a valuble research assistant to the
supervising professor and should be given payment in return.

: 
: To stop the postdoc glut we should get rid of stipends! That would
_force_ the "dreamers" to face 
: the hard cold reality of asking , "gee, what is the job market really 
like for a PhD if I can't 
: even get a loan (easily) to do it?!". Would you have spent years in
pursuit of your PhD if you had 
: to pay for it?! Few would. 

Again we hear the cry about the "glut" of post-docs.  In the lobby of this
department there are no fewer than 20 announcments for oppenings for new
post-docs hanging on the wall.  I'm sure this trend is mirrored in many
other departments.  How can there be a glut in light of such obvious
demand?  There is no glut of post-doctoral positons but there are very,
very few academic positions.  An academic position has always been the
steotypical next step for a post-doc.  Such sterotypes would have to be
abondonned in the future.  Currently, a person who obtains a PhD but does
not go on to become a professor is commonly regarded as a failure.  Such
ideas will have to end.  The education obtained during a PhD is a very
flexible one which can be very marketable to prospective employers.  The
current unemployment rate among PhDs sits at 2-3% (this is essentially as
low as an unemployment rate can get after accounting people in trasition
from one job to another).  These are not the signs that a PhD is the kiss
of death which several doomsayers on this group proclaim.  Employers in
the future will demand increaingly higher standards of education from
thier applicants.  A PhD will always be a plus on any resume.

The reason why there are stipends is because professors are willing to pay
them.  Grad students are indeed a source of cheap labour in a very cash
strapped and competitive research enviroment.  Who would take the place of
students and post-docs if stipends were eliminated?  There is a huge
demand for skilled laboratory workers which only these people can fill. 
This is also the reason why science is one of the few disiplins where
stipends are actually paid.  The people are providing a service.

: 
: Stop stipends. They distort the market, encourage the over production of
PhDs and hide the truth 
: from the young fools.

Stipends ARE the market rate for grad students.   To ban them somehow (it
is never really described how this should occur) would be an artificial
distortion of the market.  There is no truth being hidden from these
"young fools" and perhaps they even have a better grasp of reality than
the poster.  To the graduating senior, grad school (and a stipend) is a
very attractive alternative to facing the job hunt with an undergraduate
degree or going back to live with your parents.  Not so foolish an
alternative I think.

: 
: Naturally, this won't happen. (Nor will the other suggestions I've seen here).

For that I am thankful.

: Too many PIs need fresh cannon-fodder for thier research and stipends
are cost effective to the 
: PI. Established scientists will fight any move to kill stipends because
it would kill thier cheap 
: labor (and the postdocs they produce as cheap labor as well). And the
short-sighted undergrads 
: would also join in complaining (especially when theey have had thier
talk with the bank).
: 
: Instead we shall all join hands and chant the mantra of scuence "All we
need is more money". and 
: continue business as usual. 

As long as the system keeps on doing good science despite budget cuts it
must be working.

: 
: Sincerely,
: 
: Jamie Love, PhD (MBA)



More information about the Bioforum mailing list