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U.S. Science Gap Fictional? 475

James Cho writes "There are more science and engineering students than ever, says one Newsweek journalist. Inflated counts of Chinese and Indian students have created the myth of the U.S. science gap. While no gap exists yet, an exodus of retiring U.S. scientists could create one." From the article: "...a country's capacity for scientific and commercial innovation does not correlate directly with its number of scientists and engineers. Hard work, imagination and business practices also matter."
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U.S. Science Gap Fictional?

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  • by Anonymous Coward on Saturday February 25, 2006 @06:36AM (#14799616)
    Why bust your hump getting MS or PhD in one of the hard sciences/engineering, only to land a job making less than 80k?? OR ... you can go to law school, or get an MBA, or sell cell phones, or flip real estate, and have a much greater earning potential for much less work. Until wage scale for engineering and the sciences returns its proper level there will be a deficit of people entering those careers.
    • by kfg ( 145172 ) on Saturday February 25, 2006 @06:45AM (#14799633)
      Why bust your hump getting MS or PhD in one of the hard sciences/engineering, only to land a job making less than 80k?

      Because it is all you want to do. That's the only reason to do it in the first place. A real scientist/engineer will live in a garage and scrounge dumpsters for materials if he has to. Some of them do.

      If you're in it for the money, go sell real estate; please.

      KFG
      • "If you're in it for the money, go sell real estate; please."

        Right on. Gosh darn those scientists and engineers for wanting to make a living and pay off those hundred thousand dollar student loans and have enough money left aside to convince a prospective wife to overlook his scientist-ic geekiness and marry him.

        Maybe they should live in Russia where they paid their nuclear scientists absolutely nothing. If they don't like that they could sell real estate. Or, of course, sell nuclear technology to foreign p
        • by kfg ( 145172 ) on Saturday February 25, 2006 @07:15AM (#14799686)
          Perhaps you should read my post again.

          convince a prospective wife to overlook his scientist-ic geekiness and marry him.

          On the other hand, someone who would have a wife like this probably shouldn't be a scientist/engineer in the first place either.

          KFG
          • I read your post. You said those who are in science/engineering for the money, should do real estate.

            I am saying that is a foolish notion. People have bills to pay, you know. And if America adopts your attitude then perhaps they should move out of America to somewhere that will pay more for their knowledge.

            On the other hand, someone who would have a wife like this probably shouldn't be a scientist/engineer in the first place either.

            If you're a scientist of any good skill, you spend a lot of time in the lab

        • Gosh darn those scientists and engineers for wanting to make a living and pay off those hundred thousand dollar student loans

          You do realize that it's perfectly possible to get an engineering or science degree without borrowing money, don't you? Just don't go to the most expensive school, look into the scholarship opportunities available and work part-time during your education. Between scholarships and GI bill payments (USAF Reserves), I made money by going to school. That plus a part time job writing Math Ed. software paid my living expenses and provided useful experience to support my degrees (which are in Math and CS). Sure, I went to an obscure university, but I got a good education and with a few years of real-world experience behind me the size/name of my school ceased to matter at all. For someone one a scientific or academic track, the school you get your graduate degrees from does matter significantly more, but that's not where people acquire huge loans, and coming from an obscure college can actually *help* you get into a good grad school, assuming you've got the grades and the exam scores to prove your ability.

          Those big student loans are *not* necessary. That doesn't mean they never make sense: they do enable a more enjoyable college experience and perhaps for some people that's worth what it will take to repay the debt later. But to say that the need for the income to repay huge loans is a limiting factor preventing people from becoming scientists or engineers is just wrong.

        • Right on. Gosh darn those scientists and engineers for wanting to make a living and pay off those hundred thousand dollar student loans and have enough money left aside to convince a prospective wife to overlook his scientist-ic geekiness and marry him.

          You are a fool if you got an engineering education and have that much debt. There are so many state schools that have fine engineering programs. And most M.S. and PhD students are supported and do not pay tuition. There is a big opportunity cost in pursu
      • If you're in it for the money, go sell real estate; please.

        What do business people say? Hmm..

        You get what you pay for?

        Ain't no free lunch?

        This is what they tell customers when they gleaming-teeth-smile and power-sell the $7500 television. Then when it comes time to pay their employees what they're worth, well, guess not.

        Hey business people? Want professionals? Gotta pay a professional wage. Welcome to reality.

        • Hey business people? Want professionals? Gotta pay a professional wage. Welcome to reality.

          Perhaps if there were fewer worker bees and more professionals in the field they could command professional wages.

          KFG
          • Perhaps if there were fewer worker bees and more professionals in the field

            That's the way management wants it. More slaves. Less innovation. Cubicle-managers don't want innovation, knowledge, brilliance or achievement. They want control.

            they could command professional wages

            Any degree with the word "Engineer" or "Engineering" on it commands a professional wage. Period.

            • "That's the way management wants it. More slaves. Less innovation. Cubicle-managers don't want innovation, knowledge, brilliance or achievement. They want control."

              This is it in a nutshell. Why else would a company what a computer scientist to move across the continent and work in some super expensive place when via internet the party could work from home, not have to pay for relocation, save money on commuting and do the work just as effectively.

              Sorry but this said it all. The whole thing is about cont

      • It remains irritating that society is profiting from our most talented individuals. The others are only in it for the money, but their well being in the end depends on science/engineering. It is injust to value that so lowly.

        In the long run, this shall have an impact: each parent wants the best for their children. I studied physics, and landed in time in software consulting to make a very nice living. However, future prospects don't look very good. I won't really motivate my 2 children to study physics for
        • Indeed, the only thing that makes a person worth something (in terms of power, respect, and money) in American society today is their ability to directly generate or protect revenue. For this reason, pure science and fundamental research have especially suffered, and graduate students entering such programs can be assured of $7.50/hr and 12-hour workdays (no overtime paid) for the full 10 years it takes to get a PhD.

          I just finished a BS in Physics. I was originally planning to push through to a PhD, but
          • Seriously, why do waitresses get paid more than particle physicists?

            Business wants slaves. Not employees. They want brands, not products. They want control, not innovation. Business doesn't want the responsibility of employing people. They like the social contract as long as it doesn't cost them anything.

            Business isn't willing to pay for products, innovation and careers, so we get brands, mortgage commercials and layoffs.

          • 10 years is towards the higher end of the scale. You can get one in as little as four sometimes. I believe that six years is the average.

            A lot of it depends on how quickly you prepare your dissertation.
        • However, future prospects don't look very good.

          This is the first generation in the history of this society that will do worse than the previous generation. The numbers of people who are now in their 30s having never owned a home, for example, are absolutely staggering. Most people in the previous generation had owned a home for at least 5-10 years by the time they were in their mid-30s. The modern workplace simply doesn't allow that any more.

          So we have an entire generation of permarenters who are told
          • Most people in the previous generation had owned a home for at least 5-10 years by the time they were in their mid-30s. The modern workplace simply doesn't allow that any more.

            Bah. If they haven't owned a home that's because they chose not to. I'm 36 and I've owned a home for 12 years. My household income is only marginally higher than average now, and I was only making $30K when I bought the house. That's just an anecdote, of course, but the fact is that buying doesn't cost much more than renting, a

            • Bah. If they haven't owned a home that's because they chose not to. I'm 36 and I've owned a home for 12 years.

              Bullshit. Since you have had you own house for so long you haven't got out much, and I am guessing since you got a house at 24 you aren't a scientist.

              I'm pushing 30 in the next few days and I am a scientist and I have never had the chance to buy a house. Can't afford to buy a house as a student, I got my PhD at 25 relatively young. Back in England the cheapest 1 bedroom houses where around 5 tim

              • Since you have had you own house for so long you haven't got out much, and I am guessing since you got a house at 24 you aren't a scientist.

                Nope, a software developer. I tend to put that in the "engineer" class, although some disagree, of course. As for the "getting out", bit, that's subjective. Take a look at my little slashdot bio if you care, but I think I've had a rather full life thus far.

                Back in England the cheapest 1 bedroom houses where around 5 times my sallary as a Post-Doc, more than a m

          • Sorry to break your bubble here dude, but welcome to the rest of the world! How many young people do you think own houses in Japan? Here in Europe the minority owns their own houses. What is happening in the US is what has been happening in the rest of the world. Too little space too many people. Simple capitalism of supply and demand!
      • Exactly. Face it if you live in even a somewhat progressive Western industrial nation (like the U.S.) you can take a job in about whatever floats your boat and still eat 3 meals a day and have a roof over your head. If you want the best foods and the best four walls and roof around, bust your hump for money. If you adjust what you "need" (read "want") you are not likely to starve or die of exposure. You'll have a longer life and a better attitude doing something you love than going for the bucks. Currently,
      • Because it is all you want to do. That's the only reason to do it in the first place. A real scientist/engineer will live in a garage and scrounge dumpsters for materials if he has to. Some of them do.

        If you're in it for the money, go sell real estate; please.

        I don't get this. Science should be paid decently well because of it's importance to society. And frankly, it is. But I don't understand the point of view of people who revel in its economic marginalization. I, for one, would be very happy to have

      • by Solandri ( 704621 ) on Saturday February 25, 2006 @01:40PM (#14800901)
        If you're in it for the money, go sell real estate; please.

        Money isn't some evil reward that only greedy people desire. Money is a measure of how much society values your time and work.

        If people who took a few months' night classes to get a real estate license can make more money than people who studied 12 years for a technical degree in a difficult field but necessary field, that points to a fundamental problem in how society values individual accomplishments.

        Ideally the valuation would be based on how much your work contributes to the betterment of society. Indeed, a free market tends to push valuation and wages in that direction. Unfortunately, your proximity to those who "set the price" often has a greater influence on the valuation of your work. That's why real estate brokers, bankers, membership-based professional fields (e.g. lawyers, doctors), managers, CEOs, etc. tend to be overpaid. They have enough control over "setting the price" that they can thwart free market forces to (correctly) devalue their wages to better match their contribution to society.

        • Real estate (Score:3, Informative)

          by wytcld ( 179112 )
          The median real estate broker makes about the equivalent of minimum wage. The ones that make the big bucks are a small minority in the profession, and they generally bring personal assets that aren't common, and aren't the product of "a few months' night classes." The pay distribution is pretty similar to that of writers -- sure there are a few writers who make millions of dollars for what's for them pretty easy work, but the median income for writers from their writing similary is not even a living wage. T
      • Obviously written by someone who A) hasn't busted their hump in a field they loved for 20+ years and are still treated like a white-collar janitor, or B) a real estate agent.
    • by Prince Vegeta SSJ4 ( 718736 ) on Saturday February 25, 2006 @07:56AM (#14799755)
      Education alone does not guarantee that you will make boatloads of money. Why should it? There are several factors which determine earning power.

      One thing that is not taught in school: How to make money.

      You can be virtually guaranteed a decent (50-80k) paying job if you have an engineering / science degree. However, there is some relationship between risk and reward. Perhaps this is why there are wealthy people in sports/arts/entertainment/business ownership - because the risk is so great (fail before you make it, and your broke). Also, alot of scientific/engineering tasks have been commoditized (sp?).

      Sure some people dont have to work hard/smart at all to make mega bucks. Some poeple hit the lottery

      What I believe is powerful, is the ability to tie several disciplines together.

      Now who do I give the most respect to? Engineers & Scientists. But respect != money.

      PS - it's 7:30 on a saturday, so I don't care that much about my spelling or grammar (for all of you grammar nazis out there).

      Also, I busted my Hump to get an engineering degree. Then I busted my hump to get a law degree. Then I busted (well kinda cruised at this point) my hump to get an MBA. Yes, the hardest was engineering. Should I be uber rich? I certainly don't feel entitled to be. looking at things from different perspectives, the key to wealth is being prepared to identify/execute/take advantage of an opportunity when it comes along.

      I know poor lawyers, rich college dropouts, rich engineers, poor athletes. looking at things from different perspectives, the key to wealth is being prepared to identify/execute/take advantage of an opportunity when it comes along - that's what seems to be common among the wealthy. Sure, some or even alot of it is luck...but if the luck comes your way, you have to be able to take advantage of the situation.

      • "You can be virtually guaranteed a decent (50-80k) paying job"

        Woah up there, buddy. When you say stuff like a decent (decent) income is 50k to 80k, you are doing a great disservice and illustrating the terrible gap in the US.

        A decent paying income is one that gets you 30k a year. On 30k a year, you can live like any other person easily. If you're a one-person household, you can probably like on 22k and still be pretty fine -- you'll always have food; shelter; clothes; and, with the way credit is availabl
    • You American engineers have no reason to complain about money.

      No scientist or engineer here in Europe can expect to make anything like $80,000 straight out of college. You're lucky if you make half that after several years of work experience.

      In addition to that, you pay less income tax, and the cost of living is far lower in most parts of the US.

      If you're not willing to work for less than $80,000 straight out of college, are you surprised your jobs are moving to India?
  • by Antony-Kyre ( 807195 ) on Saturday February 25, 2006 @06:36AM (#14799617)
    I don't think it's an issue of the number of scientists, but rather how many do something so useful as to significantly change our society for the better.

    If the federal government wants to increase our scientific advancements, it would be in their best interest to offer prizes for such things as solar panel efficiency, new energy devices, spaceship design (easy way to get to Mars if we had to), cure for certain diseases, etc.

    (I don't know if they currently do prizes or not. I haven't read up on it.)

    By prizes, I mean maybe a tax-free cash payout, no personal income taxes for the person for life, etc. Prizes that would guarantee security for the person for life.
    • Prizes are nice to encourage research and development, but it's far behind funding the work in the first place. Nothing can be done if no money is available and funding isn't generated through speculating on a future rich prize market.

      Besides which, prizes are generally about chanelling development not the research which gets you to the point of development.

    • Prices have a lot of problems, as some previous posters have already said. But it is not all that is wrong with your argument. Thei point with science is that you don't know upfront what research will ultimately change the way people live, and what will go nowhere.

      When Newton started working on the planets orbit, nobody could even imagine that it would lead to the industrial revolution. Or, to put it on more recent facts, who could tell that creating a protocol to interconnect a few computers on some unive

    • These prizes already exist. They are called patents.

    • I think the key issue is that the number is an indicator. The statement was:

      "country's capacity for scientific and commercial innovation does not correlate directly with its number of scientists"

      If you think about it, it really does. The per capita number of scientists will be directly correlated to the satus of scientists in that society and the rewards for being in that field, and that status and those rewards increase the overall chances that someone who would have done excellent work in a field is goi

  • How ironic... (Score:3, Insightful)

    by themysteryman73 ( 771100 ) on Saturday February 25, 2006 @06:37AM (#14799618)
    I find it ironic that the only people likely to care about this apparent decline in US Scientists is us, the Science types.
    • That's not so much ironic so much as it is unfortunate. It's not an unexpected outcome (because people interested in a certain field would be expected to be most interested in developments in said field), but it is a sorry state of affairs.
    • Well, speaking as a "Science" type: It does become very lonely if you don't have a single co-worker who understands elementary statistics. Having more "science" types around could be a plus.

      Not to mention the worrying ease by which it is possible to convince management of nearly anything, if you show them an analysis based on not one parameter, but two -- apparently this is so sophisticated that it must be true.

  • Hard work, imagination and business practices also matters if you don't have trained people to do the science in the first place. Science has all but become a dirty word in the west and is associated with odd balls and hard work.

  • by samuel4242 ( 630369 ) on Saturday February 25, 2006 @07:07AM (#14799669)
    The universities love to talk about the "science gap" because they hope to tap into Washington's money faucet. Congress fell for the missile gap during the Cold War and the PhD-granting institutions figured out that they could use the same logic to get more cash. But the cash isn't spread out evenly. Tons of it goes to create new PhDs but little goes to employ them. That's why less than 5% of the PhDs get jobs in academia practicing their specialty. There just aren't that many jobs.
    To get rid of the PhD gap, they should stop flushing newly minted PhDs out of the system. Create a sustainable system where 50-80% of the PhDs can use the knowledge they have. Too many have to go out and get a new career. It's just a rip off of the US taxpayer.
    So whenever big science comes along talking about a shortage of funding, I laugh. They're terrible liars.
    • I think you are missing a big point. IP generated business.

      The federal government poured a lot of money into science and engineering R&D in the 50s and 60s, and there were a lot of patents generated as a result. This poured IP into US based businesses. And they used it to make money and jobs for people in the US.

      In recent years, science and engineering R&D money from the government has waned in favor of biomedical R&D, and IP from medical discovery is on the rise.

      At the same time, other nations
    • I can see where some people would mark the parent as being a troll, but he really does hit on some good points.

      It's a pretty well known fact that Graduate students and post docs are cheap labor for Academia. In most cases, Post-docs are cheaper to higher than Tech's. In reality, if we were to only train the number of PhD's that we have jobs for, then there would be no people to do science in Academia. This is where the well known phrase: "A PI is only as good as his/her graduate students" comes from. Th
  • by DukeLinux ( 644551 ) on Saturday February 25, 2006 @07:51AM (#14799746)
    I am an engineer with a Master's Degree and even one of those silly Professional Engineer licenses. I work for a Mortgage company as an analyst / project manager. I gave-up on engineering years ago due to low salaries, poor opportunities and companies going down the tubes. People who fix cars make way more than engineers. Not a slam on them as I am thinking about going to tech school to do such a career change. There is simply a glut of people out there with technical degrees. Try hiring a programmer; you get flooded with thousands of resumes.
  • by cubicledrone ( 681598 ) on Saturday February 25, 2006 @07:58AM (#14799762)
    Hard work is meaningless in a bureaucracy. Imagination and innovation are simply incompatible with bureaucracy and office politics. Only business practices matter. That is why the modern workplace is an adversarial, backwards, anti-innovation toilet.

    • Hard work is meaningless in a bureaucracy. Imagination and innovation are simply incompatible with bureaucracy and office politics. Only business practices matter. That is why the modern workplace is an adversarial, backwards, anti-innovation toilet.

      Dude, you need to change jobs. There are places that aren't like that.

    • You just need a better mission statement!
  • The real lack (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Veteran ( 203989 ) on Saturday February 25, 2006 @08:34AM (#14799855)
    Business men claim that there is a lack of engineering talent grown here in the U.S. What they really mean is that there is a lack of U.S. engineers who are willing to work 60 hours a week for coolie wages - which is why they hire foreign engineers, programmers etc.

    Technical people get very little respect in the U.S. Last week's Battlestar Galactica - where an engineering officer was promoted to command showed the way that the "people people" view technical people: "they only know how to deal with machines", "its all about the people - don't forget that" Of course "people people" are not technical people for the very simple reason that they can't be. The technical people who go into management tend to be technical incompetents who couldn't cut it where they were.

    "People people" tend simply to be emotional bullies - stand up to them and they wilt. "People people" tend to make bad decisions that screw things up - hurting a lot of people in the process. Mostly their emotional strength is used for such ridiculous things as breaking off relationships - instead of making things work, they insure things are broken. While technical people get little respect from managers most managers don't know that the technical people are laughing at them behind their backs.

    And yes, there is such a thing as a good manager - just like there is such a thing as an incompetent engineer.
    • Veteran wrote:

      Business men claim that there is a lack of engineering talent grown here in the U.S. What they really mean is that there is a lack of U.S. engineers who are willing to work 60 hours a week for coolie wages - which is why they hire foreign engineers, programmers etc.

      Too true. Some businessmen realize that these kind of conditions drive off talented people. Some do not. The ones who do not are the ones doing real harm to technical fields and the country in general.

      Veteran also wrote:

    • Re:The real lack (Score:2, Interesting)

      The only time you here about this 'lack' is when Business/Gov can't hire an Engineer/Scientist for near min. wage.

      I worked in a research lab programming while getting a degree in the 80's and saw a large number of young scientist trying to get established. In the lab I worked in we had 5 postdocs, none of which got funding and all ended up leaving the field, most after a series of 2-5 year postdoc's. Not enough funding in the field. The only one of my general age group I know of who made some progress is my
  • Hard work, imagination and business practices also matter.

    A mere lack of scientists could be recovered from. But look at it through these three traits, and now the US is doomed.

  • Mr. President, we must not allow a science gap!
  • by j0el ( 154005 ) on Saturday February 25, 2006 @09:31AM (#14800009)
    Steve Jobs, Bill Gates, Larry Ellison, all deeply involved in technology but no degree for them. While not even close to their level i left college and joined the Navy. In 1972 I started working in tech. Did some systems programming. Did some hardware design and was deeply involved in a few very significant products. Put 2 kids through college, eventually got a BS an MS and an MBA at night cause I wanted to. Have anice house. Had a nice airplane. Lived in 3 countries. Retired froma major vendor after 33 years. Started a second career with a small "free software" company and love it. And I am no genius.

    And I know some bright people do have degrees. rms for example

    Point: While I would have been disappointed if my kids did not get degrees, I wouldn't confuse education with diplomas.

  • by Mutatis Mutandis ( 921530 ) on Saturday February 25, 2006 @09:49AM (#14800057)

    Hard work, imagination and business practices also matter.

    In my experience, many organisations are organized in such way that it is barely possible for scientists to run a project successfully to completion. The more complacent they are, the more dysfunctional they tend to be.

    The reason is simple. To get a scientifict project (in fact any project) near its goalpost, you typically need to coordinate a number of elements in an intelligent manner: People, for you do need a certain critical mass of scientific knowledge to get a good team; space, in terms of laboratories and offices; equipment; engineering support; money; computer hardware and software; and so on. One missing element can be enough to ruin your day.

    Now look at the typical "professionally" managed organisation and you will see that rather than coordinated, these elements tend to be fragmented, sometimes very highly fragemented, each with its own manager. Who often enough will fiercely defend his turf against any interference and takes care great to ensure that any inter-departemental coordination is only done at the highest possible level.

    The theory of it usually is that the scientists need to be "supported" by taking the responsibility for budgets and computer and other circumstantial elements out of their hands, to leave them doing what they are best at, science. Scientists are supposed to be no good at administration. But in practice it only takes two breaths for these "supporting" departments to effectively take over control of the organisation, forcing the scientists to spend more of their time on fighting the system than on research.

    It would actually be far more efficient to hire more scientists and to let them improvise things in their own sloppy way, than to hire managers and administrators who are supposed to be more efficient.

    • It would actually be far more efficient to hire more scientists and to let them improvise things in their own sloppy way, than to hire managers and administrators who are supposed to be more efficient.

      In the IT world, I used to agree with you. Then I saw what happens to very large organizations when their IT dept. is run like that. This works very well for a time, because projects do get completed faster and everything's "agile." Once it scales beyond some critical point, problems happen. Your chief technol
  • by Myrmidon ( 649 ) on Saturday February 25, 2006 @10:10AM (#14800102)
    While no gap exists yet, an exodus of retiring U.S. scientists could create one.


    I couldn't find any discussion of this statement in the cited article, so the submitter appears to have pulled it out of an unspecified nether region. Is there any actual evidence to support it?

    When I started college 17 years ago the conventional wisdom was that the job market for academic scientists was tight, but that it was bound to improve as the big cohort of professors who got tenure in the 1950s and 1960s -- when colleges and universities were expanding like mad -- retired and opened up positions for new folks.

    Now, 17 years later, the job market for academic scientists seems to be as tight as ever. So I'm pretty skeptical of the old "imminent retirement" argument. As the article does point out, the rate at which science and engineering degrees are awarded has grown by 38% over the last two decades. Doesn't this growth more than assure that we can replace our existing scientists as they retire? Has the rate at which scientists retire really grown by more than 38% since 1990?
  • by ErichTheRed ( 39327 ) on Saturday February 25, 2006 @10:30AM (#14800174)
    As several other posters mentioned, American students are becoming very worried about spending a lot of time in school and a lot of money pursuing a degree for which there will be a high supply and low demand. Doctors go into huge amounts of debt, but they know that the debt they incur now will more than pay for itself later. Same with lawyers...these two professions are immune to economic downturns, and we sure don't complain about a shortage of either!

    Now consider a student who wants to do pure engineering or scientific research. PhD's just aren't drawing the same salaries or lifetime employment that they used to. Tenured professors are an exception, but corporate research labs (AT&T, IBM, Lockheed, etc.) would invest im employees for the long term and make sure they were able to continue producing research. Today, every employee, scientific or not, is interchangeable. If you don't want to work for $60K, someone else will. Add to this fact that there are some areas of the country whose housing prices and cost of living are way out of control (New York, California, Boston area, etc.) and they just happen to have the scientific jobs right in that area (pharmaceuticals, Silicon Valley, MIT, etc.) Another point to consider is that you're out of the workforce for an additional 4+ years. Traditional pensions which kept workers comfortable for life are gone, and you have to do it yourself with a 401K and such. If you don't start right when you're 21 and get your first job, you can miss out on huge amounts of money later on in life. This is part of the reason why PhD's demand higher salaries...some of them are starting their retirement savings at 30!

    Ask yourself this: Would you be willing to watch your less-educated peers flip real estate or crawl their way up the MBA ladder, while you made comparatively less doing much more important work? For some, the answer is yes, and those are the people who should be in their chosen fields. I'm not a scientist, but I graduated with a scientific degree. I work in IT, and there's a definite difference between someone who took an MCSE course, and someone who takes the time to learn the systems they're working on inside and out. The second type of person would probably answer "yes" to this question, simply because they enjoy challenging work. Managers make more money, sure, but it is a totally different skill set. (If you think your boss isn't doing anything, look again. Good ones are constantly keeping their techies shielded from political battles so they can do their jobs.)

    I also think the gap is made up by foriegn students, just an empirical observations by educators I know. Universities can't find enough good talent at home, but they still need to fill positions. Science in this country just isn't as important anymore, I guess.

    One change that I'd like to see happen in general is a return to a stable workplace. Back in the day, it was unrealistic to switch jobs every few years and have to constantly worry about layoffs. A lot of technical people I know aren't buying houses or other things simply because they don't know whether their job will be yanked out from under them. If employers were forced to really think about their hiring as an investment, things would change for the better. The prosperity of the 50s and 60s was a result of a strong middle class with stable paychecks who could afford to buy things. Companies who hire someone with the intention of keeping them, giving them training, and putting them in places where they'll be productive will eventually see ROI. The other thing I'd like to change is the promotion structure in companies. Pure people management should not be the way to reward great technical people; it leads to ineffective management. Instead, identify your best leadership talent and technical talent, and compensate them on two parallel tracks. The more you produce, the better your compensation, in either track. That would be a fair way to go.
  • by Zero__Kelvin ( 151819 ) on Saturday February 25, 2006 @10:48AM (#14800228) Homepage


    "There are more science and engineering students than ever, says one Newsweek journalist."

    True Journalists don't make claims, they report facts. In this case, the journalist is real; he reports facts (he is one of the real journalists, at least in this case.) The NSF provides facts that prove that more scientists and engineers graduated in 2004 than ever before.

    The real gap in the US is a different educational one. There are plenty of bright people, graduating and contributing, as the facts show. Empiral evidence, however, points us in the direction of concluding that there is a large contingent of US citizens who have no idea what to believe, cannot tell the difference between a fact and a claim, and ultimately get confused and just choose to believe what they want to, or have to to, to deal with the insecure feeling one gets when the people in control of their lives cannot be trusted.

    I recently revised my theory on Bush. I do not believe he was behind the tainted election results. Those who fixed the election chose him because he falls into the latter category. He is willing to say "I have the authority to do it, or - it is true - or -it is a good idea - for the Bible/my advisors tell me so." Bush is not a puppeteer; he is the favorite puppet of the military industrial complex, American corporations, and those who would twist and manipulate the words of Christ and the Bible to facilitate their own (not very well) hidden agendas.

    Sadly ironic ... the guy was never once elected to office by the American people :-(

    Chum the waters with enough bogus journalists and you can say whatever you want. The proverbial fourth part of the checks and balances system doesn't exist anymore, because people will think "that guy is just offering up his opinion ... he is after all just another journalst. We all know how those guys work."

    There is a lack of qualified journalists in the US, not scientists, and that is where the real problem lies.
  • I just recently complete an M.S. in Electrical Engineering at Rutgers University.

    Despite being a state school where New Jersey residents get *DIRT CHEAP* tuition (thus nullifying the cost/reward argument some people have made against graduate school), the graduate engineering programs at Rutgers (at least EE) are utterly dominated by foreign students. In many of my classes, I was the *ONLY* U.S. citizen out of 10-20 students in the class. Figures of enrollment in U.S. graduate schools are most definately
    • Two comments:

      1. Even having free tuition doesn't "nullify the cost/reward argument": you need to take into account the wages you would have earned had you been employed full-time instead of being in school. (This is probably more of an issue for PhD candidates, since they're typically in school longer than those pursuing an MS, and it is also probably more of an issue for people who want to enter academic careers in which the salaries are lower than in industry, especially since some people can get a job a
    • graduate engineering programs ... are utterly dominated by foreign students

      I think this is because of immigration, visa, and residency rules. The foreign folks have to stay in school or leave the US. It would be harder to job-hunt from overseas, so they really need to get a good job before they can even think about leaving school. US citizens don't share this incentive.
  • As I've said in the past [digitalelite.com], the gap in US engineers and scientists is not actual, and studies suggesting otherwise are often biasesd and based on shady statistics.
  • Lack of Ambition (Score:2, Insightful)

    by quanminoan ( 812306 )
    I believe I can add something to this discussion.

    I'm currently an undergraduate at a small science/tech school majoring in physics. Since there are only a handful of people in my field of major the professors know each of us on a first name basis. What I'm getting at is I often speak with the professors about their research and interests.

    If there is a deficit of science and engineering majors I doubt that is the true issue. I don't exactly believe the argument the quality and motivation of the graduates h

  • by Tablizer ( 95088 ) on Saturday February 25, 2006 @02:41PM (#14801128) Journal
    I just don't see how sci/tech/math can be our nation's comparative advantage. The laws of math and physics are the same in low-labor-rate countries. Apples fall down there too. Thus, it makes economic sense to do R&D there.

    Some cite "innovation", but it is a myth that only western countries/peoples have innovation. Most of the "innovations" that come out of the US of late are marketing or legal innovations, not really technical ones.

    For good or bad, consumer marketing is our comparative advantage because we consume more than any other country. Face the new music and prepare for the new dance. Sci/tech/math is dying or stagnant here because our cost of living is too high.
             
  • They always say that there are two things you don't talk about at work, religion and politics, because it always degenerates into an argument where both sides are utterly convinced that they're correct and usually end up doing little more than slinging mud. Productive conversation comes to nil very quickly.

    I'd like to say that, outside of work, there is one thing you shouldn't bother talking about and that's work. Why? Let's profile it the same way we would profile religion or politics. There are two si
  • Americans invent. (Score:3, Interesting)

    by JRHelgeson ( 576325 ) on Saturday February 25, 2006 @03:41PM (#14801367) Homepage Journal
    Hard work, imagination and business practices also matter.

    Not to mention a patent system that allows people to innovate without getting their @$$ sued off for the innovations they come up with. These patent holding companies are killing our innovativeness. All they do is come up with an idea, patent it, then wait for someone else to come up with the idea, do all the hard work of design and implementation, then they sue because "it was my idea first!".

    It has been said that "Americans invent as the French paint, or the Italians sculpt." If we are to stay ahead in our technical prowess, we need to remove the chains of thought that hold our top engineers back.

    There's a quote that I particularly like from Jane Jacobs in Death and Life of Great American Cities which reads: "Old ideas can sometimes use new buildings. New ideas must come from old buildings."

    This holds true for nearly all innovations. We take steps advancing ourselves from the progressions made from our forefathers. We had to invent the airplane before we could invent the jet engine. The automobile begat airbags. If some SciFi writer of the 1930's had invented a fanciful (yet at that time impossible) design for some type of internally jet propelled engine, then sued the first person(s) to come actually come up with a working plan of that idea; we may be living in a different era today.
  • by stonewolf ( 234392 ) on Saturday February 25, 2006 @06:08PM (#14801813) Homepage
    I spent the time and money to get a MSCS. After going through 2 other majors I found I simply love computer science. I love learning. I love solving problems. And, I really get a charge out of seeing products I worked on selling in stores or being used in offices.

    Troule is, the older I got, the more grey there was in my beard, the harder it got to find jobs. No matter what kind of training you have, in the US there is a serious bias against old people. Many people, (most people?) assume that if you are over 40 you can't possibly know anything about technology.

    So, after getting the graduate degree, spending thousands of dollars every years for books and training, and shipping I don't know how many commercial products, not to mention writing and publishing many articles; I can't *buy* a job in technology. I was laid off on my 49 birthday in 2001 and I have not been able to find anything since then.

    Once in a while I get an interview... It ends as soon as they see that I am "old"...

    So, I am training to be a high school teacher. I teach part time at the local CC, but I can't get on there full time. There are so many people like me out there that I am actually under qualified to teach at a community college. In my neighborhood there are a half a dozen of us. We live on savings, part time jobs, and our wives incomes. It seems you can't get away with treating old women the way you can get away with treating old men.

    So, if you want to go into science and technology, please do. The world needs you. But, plan on "retiring" by age 50 because no company needs you after that age.

    Stonewolf

    P.S.

    Forced retirement isn't all bad. At age 50 I took up a martial art and meditation. The result is that I can now kick ass on most (not all!) of my young students, but I don't want to. :-)

    • Come to academia! I'm serious; you certainly sound proficient enough to blow through a PhD in a few years and then you can leverage your age (as this is a proxy for training) as a good thing. "Old" academics are treasured - even in tech, because an "old" academic can tell you all about the g(l)ory days of punch cards. "Young" academics, OTOH, are hard-pressed to get "street-cred" in the community. Not a troll, I just would like to see you employed and helping out here in academia.

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