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graduate study is a powerful incentive for citizens of many countries.
We believe it would be unwise to place arbitrary limits on the number of visas issued for foreign students. But we do not believe that US institutions should continue to enroll unlimited numbers of foreign nationals. As decisions are made on ways to constrain further growth, the measures adopted should apply equally to all students regardless of nationality.
Recommendation 7: If, as we hope, implementation of our recommendations results in constraining further growth in PhDs awarded in the life sciences, we urge our colleagues on graduate admissions committees to resist the temptation to respond by simply increasing the number of foreign applicants admitted.
Postdoctoral fellows are also recruited from abroad. At present, half the roughly 20,000 postdoctoral fellows in the United States are foreign nationals, many of whom entered the country with PhDs awarded elsewhere. These scientists constitute an important part of the research labor force, as well as of the pool of applicants for permanent jobs in academe, industry, and government. In this instance again, we urge our colleagues to give equal opportunity to US citizens and foreigners and to refrain from hiring foreign nationals to fill the places of US scientists.
Responsibility for Effecting Change
This report has documented several dramatic changes in career trends in the life sciences over the last several decades. The rapid growth in the academic scientific establishment in the 1960s and the early 1970s set in place a training infrastructure that was built on the premise that there would be continued growth. When the inevitable slowdown in resources to support that growth occurred, it was not accompanied by a commensurate adjustment in the rate of training. The impact of the imbalance between the number of aspirants and the research opportunities is now being felt by a generation of scientists trained in the last 10 years who are finding it increasingly difficult to find permanent positions in which their hard-accumulated skills in research can be used. Unless steps are taken to put the system more in balance, the difference between students' expectations and the reality of the employment market will only widen and the workforce will become more disaffected. Such an occurrence would damage the life-science research enterprise and all the participants in it.
The training of life scientists is a highly decentralized activity. Notwithstanding the heavy dependence on federal funds, the most important decisions affecting the rate of production of life scientists are made locally by the universities and their faculties. The numbers and qualifications of students admitted to graduate study, the allocation of institutional funds for their tuition and stipends (which account for half or more of the total expenditures for graduate-student support), the requirements for the degree—all are local decisions. As a consequence, a large portion of the responsibility for implementing our recommendations falls on the shoulders of established investigators, their departments and universities, professional scientific organizations, and students themselves. Students must take the responsibility of making informed decisions about graduate study, but they must be provided accurate career information on which to base their decisions. Individual faculty members must be willing to set aside their short-term self-interest in maintaining the high level of staffing of their laboratories for the sake of the long-term stability and well-being of the scientific workforce. Directors of graduate programs must be willing to examine the future workforce needs of the scientific fields in which they train, not just the current needs of their