The short career half-life of scientists

John Sidles sidles at u.washington.edu
Fri Dec 5 15:10:07 EST 1997


Great study posted by Art Sowers!  Art, thanks for your efforts.
Could you maybe post some numbers regarding career half-lives 
for "humanities" professions -- musicians, sculptors, playwrights, 
novelists?

This would bear on an interesting question -- is being a scientist
similar to being an artist or a writer, or is it more more like
being a lawyer or a physician?

One point that strikes me about Art Sower's statistics is the
extent to which the "stable" professions like law and medicine
are client-driven.  For example, if someone shows up with an
ankle fracture, or needing a will drafted, then the client's
needs *must* be met, even if the physician has become terribly
bored with setting ankle fractures, or the lawyer is bored with
wills.  So the disadvantage of choosing a client-driven
profession is boredom, the advantage is, the client pays you!

We might expect that other client-driven professions like
plumbing, banking, advertising, construction (and prostitution) 
would be similarly stable careers.  All of these are skilled 
professions, in which nonetheless one ends up providing the 
essentially the same service over and over.

Seems to me that science is more like sculpting or writing --
the scientist is trying to create something new, for which maybe
there is little demand, according to a vision which colleagues
may or may not share.  More interesting work, for sure.  Higher
risk of failure, also for sure.  Less certainty in paycheck,
also for sure!

Art, let's have some employment figures for the creative
professions, please!






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