postdoc disparity

aloisia schmid a-schmi at uiuc.edu
Wed Aug 13 16:10:48 EST 1997


In article <33F1E928.5B67BE64 at ag.arizona.edu>, Bart Janssen
<bjanssen at ag.arizona.edu> wrote:

> 
> Hi there
> Yes I'm one of the male lurkers :).
> 
> I'll probably get myself into trouble but since this kind of response
> really annoys the hell out of me here's my opinion.
> 
> 1)  A post-doc should not be and is not a training period.  If a
> scientist hasn't learned how to do research in their PhD then they
> shouldn't be employed as a researcher and the University that gave them
> the degree should be soundly critisized.  That is not to say that during
> a post-doc you will not be learning, if you ever stop learning in
> science it's time to retire.  But by the time you are awarded a PhD you
> should (and most usually can) be a valuable member of a research team
> and you should be paid accordingly.  To say that post-docs are any less
> productive and valuable to the lab than the PI is specious arrogance.
> 
> 2) Simply because many people choose to enter science in spite of the
> ridiculously pathetic salaries DOES NOT MEAN that paying pathetic
> salaries is a good thing.  The two concepts are unrelated.  Science as a
> profession is profoundly valuable to society and people who enter this
> demoralising and frustrating profession should be rewarded accordingly.
> 
> My opinion, and it is very cynical, is this.  Because by the time that
> most scientists are actually in a position to alter salaries in science,
> they are a) paid reasonably and b) in a position where paying the people
> below them less means getting more workers per grant, most (and not
> certainly not all) PIs are not particularly interested in improving
> salaries.
> 
> I don't necessarily think that scientists should recieve huge incomes
> BUT the consequence of paying scientists below average wages (yes US$30
> 000 is below average given the education of scientists) is that science
> will not attract the best minds.  The response to this is usually along
> the lines of "well we don't want anyone who isn't totally dedicated" and
> "if your in Science for the money, you picked the wrong profession".
> This is bullcrap, very many professions use high salaries to attract the
> best minds and get not only the best minds but also very dedicated
> workers (eg. computing, medicine, law ....),  they also get some money
> grubbing morons, but PIs should be able to tell the difference.
> 
> In addition, it annoys me that most young scientists have to spend more
> time worrying about their mortgage/rent than their work.  And don't even
> consider being able to afford a family, that is if you actually want to
> send your own kids to college.
> 
> The sad thing is, I don't think anything will change, precisely because
> the people in the position to make changes (PIs, and those on the
> granting agencies) don't care.  By the time they reach those positions
> they are paid reasonably well, they've forgotten what its like to be a
> post-doc and have never experienced anything like the current post-doc
> market and most importantly if they can shave a few bucks off a salary
> they can afford another worker in the lab.
> 
> Arrgh this is too depressing, sorry people I ranted a bit much, but I
> really think science is suffering from not attracting and keeping the
> best minds and society as a whole will pay the penalty.
> 
> Oh and by the way, I personally am very happy with my last boss and my
> present boss and I think while they haven't paid me what I think society
> should pay scientists they have paid me as much as they could afford
> given their grants, and I appreciate that.
> 
> cheers
> Bart


Dear Bart,

     It's these kinds of lurkers I welcome whole-heartedly! 

     I agree with everything you said, and i too think my boss is the
peachiest.  But I have to admit, the money thing is really getting
depressing.  It is embarrassing.  Most
of my extended family do not have advanced degrees and the ones who do are
engineers and make a fortune.  and so to be getting paid a psot-doc salary
is almost an admission that you are not worth very much in the open
market-place.  And THEN to realize that if you bagged it and went in to
industry, and you might then make a decent salary---and you try to explain
why you AREN'T doing that...it jsut gets old after a while.  I remember
when the women-in-science issues were published in Science and they
couldn't figure out why womenw ere bailing out on academics at the new
faculty level---i.e., women got psot-docs in nubebrs equal to men, but
then they gave up on the academic track when it came time to getting a
faculty position.  Contrary to popular belief (that if it's a money thing,
men would be the ones bailing)--I think women jsut get tired of the
poverty.  

     And while I am on this tangent, let me ask this.  In biology, how
many single men are there after graduate school levels?  Hardly any!  and
how many women are single at the same level?  Tons.  I believe that one of
the reasons money gets to be an issue at this stage is that men can afford
to not care so much because they are married to women who are
supplementing the income and who are also doing most of the home-stuff. 
Including the kids.  Whereas the women are having to struggle along on one
salary that is woefully inadequate.  And the women whoa re married to men
with good salaries clearly do not have the same financial concerns.  

     i used to think leaving academics would be a really sad thing to have
to do.  I no longer feel that way.  In fact, most of the time, i feel like
I am being stupid to put myself through this....


                           Alice



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