Academe vs. Industry survey

SLF notmyaddress at
Wed May 9 13:40:43 EST 2001

A recent survey posted by THE SCIENTIST compared experiences in academe
vs. industry.

The summary is at
The survey data (and very interesting comments!) can be found at

I suggest people take a look at the survey and comment here as to
whether it gels with their experience.  We have a lot of younger readers
who may be weighing options in academe vs industry, and this is likely
to be one of their tools of comparison.

A reader of this list emailed me with the following comments (she can't
post them herself):

>  I just had to comment on the The Scientist survey comparing academia
> and industry. What did you think about that? Some of the opinions
> there are the opposite of what I had generally heard and personally
> experienced. Some of the comments were really very interesting, but I
> would have liked to known the breakdown between genders in the
> survey. And also how long the participants who were in academia had
> been there. I remember a somewhat similar survey from The Scientist
> (can't remember the name of the article) and most of the respondents
> had been in academia for quite a long time. I don't think the
> experiences of someone who has been a professor for 20 years can
> compare to the current situation.
> Another thing that struck me was some of the negative comments about
> industry, especially the long working hours. From my own experience,
> and others I have talked to, industry is the place to go if you want
> to work a 40 hour week!
> I guess what I'm wondering is how representative the results of the
> survey are.

She added:

> What bothered me about the survey was the lumping together of all
> industry. I can't imagine that doing science is the same in a large
> pharmaceutical company as it is in a small start-up. Or 'virtual'
> pharma. The cultures are totally different. But, as I have found in
> my limited experience in both big pharma and biotech, I'll bet they
> all treat women better than academia.

My comments in reply

In my experience, companies have to make a product, and they need the
talent to do that.  Academics are not making a product.  Instead,  they
are individual franchise holders.  It has relatively little effect on my
work as a professor if the guy down the hall leaves, since we're all
independent.   I have no direct stake in his success. Quite different if
our department is a single team making a product.

For this reason, I suspect that industry is somewhat better at treating
women:  they DO need to pay attention to each other, and the
contributions they can all make to the product--or the bottom line.

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S L Forsburg, PhD  Associate Professor
Molecular Biology and Virology Lab
The Salk Institute, La Jolla CA

Women in Biology Internet Launch Page
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