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Subject: Re: To junior & senior scientists
From: Steve Gutreuter <[log in to unmask]>
Reply-To:Academic forum on fisheries ecology and related topics <[log in to unmask]>
Date:Tue, 8 Apr 1997 11:54:52 -0500

text/plain (64 lines)

Aldo-Pier Solari <[log in to unmask]> wrote:

> I feel I've got to write down this:
> - At FE-request, I keep getting messages from  junior  scientists
> where  they tell me 'they've got to quit'.  The main reasons are:
>     - Cannot stand 'uncertainty' any longer
>         [uncertainty  with  regard  to  funds,  jobs  and  future
>          perspectives];
>     - No steady jobs;
>     - No temporary jobs;
> Science as a whole is loosing very valuable junior scientists,  I
> am  afraid.   Some  of the senior scientists do not seem to care:
> They do not have the  time  to  do  their part of the 'fight' and
> those who'd have taken over some day just got to quit.

Count me among the seniors...who do care.  The above seems to be
based in part on some perception that things have changed substantially
for the worse.  I began graduate studies 21 years ago, and can attest
that the situation has not worsened dramatically.  All who pursue
careers in science need to understand it has been an unpleasant reality
that there are relatively few opportunities in many areas of science.
Those that _choose_ to pursue careers in 'low-demand' areas of
science run the substantial risk of failing to find a job.  That has
been reality for a long time.

All I can write to "juniors," with whom I do emphathize, is that if
you choose to pursue a low-demand area of science such as ecology,
then you run a high risk of failing to find meaningful employment.
If you cannot accept the consequences of that gamble, make another
choice.  There are some very high-demand areas that are not alien to
science; computer programming, medicine, and software and material
engineering are some examples.  My own advice to "juniors" is
to think carefully about your tolerance for risk and consider the
consequences to your life and happiness.

Even for "seniors" there is no such thing as job security other
than the collection of skills that each person has that can be traded
for a salary.  Some universities are even eliminating the tenure
system, threatening the once-sacrosanct security of academic jobs.
Science spending is being reduced, and even good "seniors" are loosing
their jobs.  If one is concerned about job security, whether a "junior"
or "senior", then one needs to have or develop skills for which there
is an ongoing demand.

Last, I do ponder and question the ethics of academia.  I wonder
how so may reconcile their own self-interest of training additional
graduate students with the grim reality of the job market in some
areas.  I am not passing judgement (I would be guilty of any such
judgement), but just wondering whether "juniors" also ponder and
_question_ these issues.

| Steve Gutreuter, Ph.D.              Upper Mississippi Science Center |
|                                               U.S. Geological Survey |
| TEL: (608) 781-6222                             2630 Fanta Reed Road |
| FAX: (608) 783-6066                     La Crosse, WI 54603-1223 USA |
"Science may be described as the art of systematic over-simplification."
                                                           - Karl Popper

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