Figure 3.12

Fraction of US life-science PhDs not holding permanent full-time jobs in science or engineering, 1973, 1985, and 1995.

Data from table F.1.

part-time, worked outside science and engineering, or were unemployed; the comparable fraction in 1973 was only 11%.5 What might be most alarming about the 1995 figure is that it reflects the situations of those who earned PhDs in 1989 and 1990. For those receiving their doctorates now, the prospects for finding career positions on university faculties or in government or industry where their long research training will be fully used are even less certain. For young scientists caught in this "postdoctoral holding pattern", the frustrations are understandable; most of them are 35–40 years old, and they typically receive low salaries and have little job security or status within the university setting (for example, most are not permitted to apply for research grants as independent investigators). Moreover, they are competing with a rapidly growing pool of highly talented young scientists—including many highly qualified foreign postdoctoral appointees—for a small number of jobs in academe, government, and industry. This situation—and its implications for individual scientists and the research enterprise—is a matter of great concern to the committee. We explore these implications in later chapters.

Although the prospects for permanent research positions have declined substantially for all life-science graduates, different groups have been unequally affected by the trend. As shown in figure 3.13, the fraction of women with 5–6 years of post-PhD experience who still held


During the 22-year period, the total number in these types of positions quintupled.

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