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Open Badges Comment

Economies of scale

Gregory A Petsko

Author affiliations

Rosenstiel Basic Medical Sciences Research Center, Brandeis University, Waltham, MA 02454-9110, USA

Citation and License

Genome Biology 2012, 13:154  doi:10.1186/gb-2012-13-4-154

Published: 30 April 2012

First paragraph (this article has no abstract)

If you're a young scientist and you want to start the day off with a pick-me-downer, you'll find it in the 7 March 2012 online edition of The Atlantic [1]. You can't miss it: it has the eye-catching headline 'Do we really need more scientists?' It's an opinion piece by organic chemist Derek Lowe, who works in the pharmaceutical industry and who appears to think we do. He starts by pointing out that smart people who want to get rich will probably choose Wall Street over the sciences, and then states, 'It takes a certain personality type to really get into this stuff'. The type, he explains, likes figuring things out and making complicated things work, and is driven by curiosity, so clearly the scientific life is not for everyone. But then he gets down to the real problem with the science labor market: a dearth of jobs. 'A lot of people with physics and chemistry degrees are having trouble finding work', he asserts, 'and in my own degree field (synthetic organic chemistry), it's been a real feat not having your job evaporate out from under you. In many cases, these jobs are going off to lower-labor-cost areas like China or India, but some of them are just disappearing outright', concluding with the advice, 'Be light on your feet...learn how to learn, and don't assume that you've ever won some sort of lasting job security, because lasting job security isn't something that the world's economy is built to deliver these days'.