According to David Plotz at Slate, “America Needs More Scientists and Engineers.”
America needs Thomas Edisons and Craig Venters, but it really needs a lot more good scientists, more competent scientists, even more mediocre scientists.
I’m not sure I agree. At least, not in the traditional sense. You see, we’re graduating more scientists and engineers than ever before, postdocs are getting longer, and there are fewer and fewer tenure track jobs available. What we’re not doing is enabling many PhD’s to succeed outside of the traditional academic system.
Over the next month, Slate plans to offer:
new methods for how to teach science and math. We’ll focus on how to keep girls interested in science…And, most importantly, we’ll collect your best ideas for how to improve American science education.
I understand these are good intentions. In fact, I have been thinking and writing about the same topics for a long time. Here are two ways to have a significant impact without adding “more” scientists and engineers to the pipeline..
- Arm scientists with communication skills. You want a scientific workforce that can really make a difference? Prepare more scientists for work in public policy, journalism, and media. Don’t label these as an “alternative” careers, but viable, exciting, and rewarding ways to contribute where it matters.
- So you want to keep girls focused in science? It’s not a numbers problem until graduate school – plenty of young women are engaged in science and engineering as undergraduates. It’s a retention problem! Keeping women in the academic pipeline means fundamentally changing academia to be more accommodating to us.
Of course, that’s only the beginning. Chris Mooney and I have a lot more to say on this in Unscientific America.