Indentured Scientists and Post-Doc Purgatory

We are at risk of training a lost generation of scientists unless we give them the knowledge, skills and attitudes, networks, resources, mentors and experiential learning they need to succeed both within and without the halls of academia.

is in trouble and badly out of synch with the realities of the marketplace. In fact, only 10% of PhDs will be able to get a tenure track academic job and the situation is worsening. Young scientists are being victimized by year after year of postdocs in a system that is rigged to favor an elite few. This comes at great personal, organizational, financial, and systemic cost to our university research ecosystems and US global scientific global competitiveness. In fact, there are many reasons not to get a PhD, particularly in life sciences. One is the ever-expanding graduate student debt burden, which can easily exceed $100,000.

There are many reasons why things have gotten to this point—lack of an entrepreneurial university mindset, vested interests protecting their turf, a scientific culture that thinks industry, the idea that commercialization or money is "dirty" and antithetical to the purity of science, lack of leadership, and much more. Students and a few brave faculty and administrators are pushing back and taking things and their destinies into their own hands. For example:

1. Graduate student clubs designed to introduce students to life science technology companies and opportunities.

2 . Bioinnovation and entrepreneurship education offerings.

3. Entrepreneur in residence programs at academic health centers.

4. Expanded internships and experiential learning programs.

5. Building open networks across departments, industries and geography.

6. Funding internal seed stage financing mechanisms, including university based crowd funding sites.

7. International faculty and student exchange programs.

8. Collaborative innovation networks designed to share best practices, like the Society for International Bioentrepreneurship Education and Research (SIBER) LinkedIn group.

9. Recruiting outsiders to lead advancement efforts designed to transform gifts into investments.

10. Eliminating systemic anti-entrepreneurial practices at universities.

We are at risk of training a lost generation of scientists unless we give them the knowledge, skills and attitudes, networks, resources, mentors and experiential learning they need to succeed both within and without the halls of academia. Subjecting STEM graduates who are looking for non-academic careers to post-doc purgatory as indentured servants needs to stop.