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7 CHAPTE R Implications for Nonacademic Institutions The impact of postdoctoral education on the nonacademic employers of doctorates is more indirect than frontal. The funda- mental issue is that despite the rapid increase in PhD production, there do not seem to be enough high-quality doctorate recipients to satisfy the demands of all employers. Every new alternative opened to the fresh PhD reduces the num- ber of recipients available to the employers, and postdoctoral education, con- centrated mainly in the universities, is another attractive alternative. Sheer numbers, however, do not completely describe the problem. If there were a sufficient number of scientists to satisfy the demands of all consumers, nonacademic employers would still have to deal with the attitudes of the doc- torate recipients. With few exceptions, nonacademic employers are involved in research in an applied science setting. Whether product-oriented as in industry or mission-oriented as in federal laboratories and federally supported portions of nonprofit or industrial laboratories, the kind of research (or the approach to it) is different from that in the universities. Although the distinction is usually made between applied and basic science, the director of a nonprofit laboratory was probably close to the core of the problem when he said: "I believe the strongest bias of most new PhD's is not for basic and against applied research, but for research problems of their own choosing and against research prob- lems they are directed to study." How this bias is to be overcome or how mission- or product-oriented re- search can use this bias to maximum benefit is of critical importance to the 194
195 EMPLOYMENT OF NEW DOCTORATE RECIPIENTS country. The recent report of the Committee on Science and Public Policy of the National Academy of Sciences to the Daddario Subcommittee1 is only one of several efforts to deal with it. The postdoctoral, however, is at most a symp- tom of the problem, and the problem would remain even if the symptom were removed. Although it was not the purpose of this study to investigate the distribution of PhD's among the various employers of PhD's, there are three reasons why further comment might be in order. The first is simply that we have gathered information that bears on the question and should be made available. The sec- ond is that the qualifications of the postdoctoral make his disinterest in the nonacademic world all the more significant. A third reason is that many have suggested that an increased use of the postdoctoral mechanism by nonaca- demic employers may be one way of resolving the problem of distribution. Employment of New Doctorate Recipients There is certainly no a priori proper distribution of graduates among the sev- eral potential employers. It is impossible to say what percentage of PhD's in each field "should" go into industry or "should" go into academic institutions. It is possible, however, to examine the concomitants of different employment practices. In Table 39 (p. 156) we saw that departments with postdoctoral s present graduate a smaller fraction of PhD's who choose industry for a career (at least immediately) than departments without postdoctorals. Only engineer- ing, biology, and the social sciences have different patterns. Postdoctoral activ- ity is minimal in engineering and in the social sciences and has little impact on the departments. In biology there is very little industrial demand. In the physi- cal sciences, however, the effect is pronounced. We can see a similar effect in Figure 17, where the fraction of PhD's gradu- ating from the 30 leading universities in specific fields who enter particular employment categories is compared with the fraction of all. PhD's from the same institutions and fields regardless of their subsequent employment. The other category includes, in addition to those who return to a foreign country,2 1 National Academy of Sciences, Committee on Science and Public Policy, Applied Science and Technological Progress, V. S. Government Printing Office, Washington, D. C., 1967. 2The consistent surplus of the "other" category in Figures 17 and 18 from the 30 leading universities arises mainly from the significantly greater percentage of their graduates who go to a foreign country. In part these are foreign students going home and in part Ameri- can PhD's going abroad for employment. We have no explanation for this difference in behavior of the graduates from the 30 leading universities and of those from the other universities.
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197 RESEARCH FUNDS AND RECRUTIMENT OF POSTDOCTORALS those who are drafted. Only in engineering do the 30 leading universities send graduates to all non-postdoctoral employers in proportion to their overall pro- duction. In physics these institutions produce 56 percent of the PhD's, but are responsible for 71 percent of the postdoctorals, only 46 percent of those who go into industry, and 50 percent of those who go into government re- search. The complementary view of this same phenomenon is that all the uni- versities below the top 30 produce 44 percent of the PhD's, but are responsible for only 29 percent of the postdoctorals. They produce 54 percent of those who go into industry and 50 percent again of those who go into government research. If there is a correlation between the quality of the students and the reputation of the graduate school, industry and government are not getting their share of the top students immediately after the PhD. As we have pointed out, however, the vast majority of postdoctorals leave that status and subsequently take up regular employment. If we assume that the postdoctorals from the PhD Class of 1965-66 behave in the same way as those who responded to the study (Table 12, p. 63), it is possible to distribute the postdoctorals of the 1965-66 PhD class among the other employment categories. Figure 18 shows the situation for the 1965-66 PhD graduates of the 30 leading universities if their postdoctorals are distributed in this way. The only differences from the overall percentages that are statistically signifi- cant (at the 95 percent confidence level) are the physicists in industrial research and the biologists in government research.3 In the steady-state situation, there- fore, each of the employers of doctorates does get its share of the graduates of the better institutions, with the exceptions just mentioned. Whether industry and government get their "proper" share of all PhD's is a separate question, and how the growth of the number of postdoctoral positions has affected this question is a matter of debate. Research Funds and Recruitment of Postdoctorals It has been alleged, for example, that the involvement of universities in mission- oriented research and the use by universities of postdoctorals has created a competition between universities and nonacademic research organizations, both industrial and nonprofit, for federal funds and for superior young PhD's. Two questions immediately arise. Is the allegation true and, if so, is the situation necessarily bad for the universities, for the nonacademic employers, and for society? The answer to the first question is probably yes; at the very least, a Except for the "other" category, in which the statistics are significant in all fields ex- cept engineering.
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199 RESEARCH FUNDS AND RECRUITMENT OF POSTDOCTORALS number of firms are conscious of making proposals for research contracts in competition with universities. The second question is more difficult. A vice-president for research and development in a large and diversified company would like to reduce the competition by dividing the responsibility for various research activities more cleanly among the institutions: The competition for funds from mission-oriented agencies among universities and other research organizations makes it increasingly important to define some approximate roles for different kinds of places. Universities should continue to stress teaching of fundamen- tals, including fundamentals of research techniques [and] including the techniques of se- lecting research problems. Industrial laboratories should stress research fairly clearly lead- ing to the solution of problems promptly affecting human welfare. The vice-president for research in an oil company says: We believe that by engaging in specific end-product research using mission-oriented funds, universities are putting themselves in a position of directly competing with research insti- tutes, government laboratories, and industrial research groups. They are subjecting them- selves thereby to pressures to be treated in the same way as nonuniversity research insti- tutions with respect to overhead allowances on contracts, tax treatment, etc. For the nonuniversity research institution the effects include increased competition for men with training at the doctoral level, increasing unavailability of professors for consulting, lec- tures, etc. The director of research for an optical company sees postdoctoral appoint- ments as a significant factor in the competition: It is not only apparent that competition has developed between universities and other research organizations for funds, it is also apparent that the funding policies have led to a competition of all the research organizations for candidates for postdoctoral appoint- ments. This [has] created high mobility within the scientific community, although it is sometimes seriously questionable how much it has increased our scientific talent. More seriously, perhaps, this escalation of competition for postdoctoral candidates [has] caused an intensification of research programs attractive to the candidates and not neces- sarily leading to the training necessary, particularly in the nonuniversity or research insti- tution. Industrial institutions therefore lack highly creative people who are motivated to accept the discipline of industrial problems. On the other hand, some who note the competition see little harm in it or even see benefit in it. The spokesman for a consulting firm writes: It is true that there is competition between universities and other research organizations for funds. There has always been competition, I believe; I think there should be. Such competition is desirable if the fund-disbursing agencies have a reasonably enlightened atti- tude and adopt policies which have a reasonable balance and which are continuously sub- ject to scrutiny and review. In our business ... we are sometimes at a considerable disad- vantage in respect to competition from universities and "not-for-profit" research institu- tions because of a peculiar attitude which has grown up to the effect that there is some- thing unholy about the free enterprise system as applied to research and development. Other than this bit of irrationality, we find no reason to complain of the competition.
200 IMPLICATIONS FOR NONACADEMIC INSTITUTIONS The director of an aircraft company's research center comments as follows on the impact of directed research on the universities and consequently on the whole research community: Two different trends have arisen as a result of the competition for funds from mission- oriented agencies. In quite a few cases I feel that the universities have allowed the rela- tive availability of funds to establish research priorities, and thereby have lost the direc- tion of their effort, or, what is worse, have allowed research accomplishment to supplant their major mission of teaching. But he adds: This has not been the case everywhere, for some have been able to use mission-oriented tasks to broaden the viewpoint and experience of people who might otherwise have be- come rather narrow specialists. Additionally, the pursuit of these mission-oriented prob- lems within the university community has attracted the attention of faculty and students alike to many of the subtleties of "systems type" problems. In those cases, substantial benefits have accrued to both the universities and the students in terms of their ability to contribute to large-scale programs. The development of postdoctoral education in the universities is put into perspective by the research vice-president of another firm: I see nothing wrong with postdoctoral education provided it is a bona fide attempt on the part of a postdoctoral fellow to obtain highly specialized training and experience in a field for which he feels some special long-term commitment. ... I think a case for offer- ing postdoctoral opportunities, in either a university or in nonuniversity organizations, can be made only if such organizations have on their staff recognized experts in appropri- ate fields. I don.t think postdoctoral experience can ever be justified simply on the basis that the new PhD would like to spend a year in California, or Europe, or wherever, before he settles down to a regular job. Neither do I think that postdoctoral fellowships can ever be justified merely by the fact that a professor needs a couple of new PhD.s to help him carry out a government-funded research program, although I am certain that this is not infrequently the case. . . . Recruitment by nonuniversity institutions (and universities, too, for that matter) is unquestionably made more difficult by any factor which increases the number of alternatives to the prospective employee, and postdoctoral fellowships are obviously one such alternative. But he concluded: "I do not feel that this need be a problem if postdoctoral education [is] restricted to something like the criteria which I have indicated above." The problem then is not the competition, but the failure of some universi- ties to ensure that academic criteria are applied to the nature of the research and to the involvement of students and postdoctoral s in the research. When the research is of a kind that permits the education of the junior participants, the nonacademic world is one of the ultimate beneficiaries. That the nonacademic employers of doctorates are not opposed to mission- oriented research (or at least applied science research), in the universities is
201 RESEARCH FUNDS AND RECRUITMENT OF POSTDOCTORALS reflected in their response to another allegation. It has been charged that the university experience of the young PhD tends to motivate him away from applied research to "basic" problems. It is further suggested that the postdoc- toral position only aggravates this situation. Sentiment in this regard exists not only in the nonacademic world but also appears in statements of some academicians.4 The vice-president for science and engineering of an electronics firm says: "The impact of'postdoctoral education is to further strengthen the aloofness of the young PhD from the real world and further motivate him away from applied research." The vice-president for research of a food concern expresses the same view: "No doubt the effect is to make the postdoctoral even more academically oriented." The research vice-president of another firm agrees: Postdoctoral education clearly tends to accentuate this tendency. . . . However, the roots of this problem go deeper than postdoctoral education. There has arisen an unfortunate tendency for the engineering and applied sciences to slavishly imitate the cult of the pure sciences, instead of fulfilling their proper role. If this were rectified and carried through postdoctoral work, the problem of interfacing with industry would be a long way toward solution. The chief scientist of an aircraft company makes a related point: The problem of motivation of the young PhD ... is a very real one. We find that many PhD's have a completely erroneous view of the nature of applied research within industry, and that this ignorance appears to start with the student.s instructor at the university. It appears on occasion that this instructor himself has developed an imaginary view of the nature of industrial research, and this deters the student from leaving the more basic re- search of the university. Clearly, postdoctoral education at the university will do nothing to help the situation. The managing director of a nonprofit organization engaged in plant research has similar misgivings about the unfortunate influence of the faculty: Most of the professors have completely forgotten that the primary problem of research is to solve problems of benefit to society. To them, research has become an exercise in abstract exploration in an imaginative world of their own. The inevitable consequence is that their ideas are implanted in their students. thinking so strongly that they become a basic part of the students. concept of research. . . . The postdoctoral is a symptom rather than a cause of deterioration in purposefulness of modem science. It has, however, robbed development and mission-oriented research of manpower. The senior vice-president of a nonprofit institution interested in information systems is concerned about the desire of young investigators to be undirected in their research: 4See The Evolution and Prospects for Applied Physical Science in the United States, by Edward Teller. Applied Science and Technological Progress: A Report to the Committee on Science and Astronautics, U. S. House of Representatives, by the National Academy of Sciences, 1967, p. 365.
202 IMPLICATIONS FOR NONACADEMIC INSTITUTIONS I have in mind, particularly, the tendency to overvalue the kinds of individual freedom and isolated developments which often take place in a university. Such people may find it difficult later to integrate into a large, team-oriented activity such as major systems developments require. . . . This seems to be foreign to many of the university environ- ments, and does not result in persons trained to become members of large, integrated efforts. Harvey Brooks, in the lead article of the National Academy of Sciences re- port to the House Committee on Science and Astronautics5 on applied science, cites a number of the problems that face a university in providing the appropri- ate environment for applied research and suggests a number of criteria that should be prerequisites for research of that kind in the university. However, not all who perceive an academic aloofness from the "real world" agree that it is a serious problem, or even that it is a problem at all. The presi- dent of a consulting firm says: I agree that the universities have a responsibility to make sure that a reasonable propor- tion of young PhD.s should be motivated toward applied research. However, if one con- trasts the attitude of young PhD.s coming out of American universities with those from foreign universities and particularly British universities, we do not look so bad. More- over, I cannot say that the trend which I see is in the wrong direction. Indeed, I have gone through periods of concern that the universities were becoming too much involved in ap- plied research simply because mission-oriented funds were easier to come by. Another respondent sees a balance: Postdoctoral opportunities in universities do tend to extend the period of aloofness from human problems for some students. On the other hand, they frequently increase the degree of competence of young people who for some reason or another do turn their attention to the "real world." Others see no problem at all: Postdoctoral education is not harmful to industry. There is a growing need for industrial research workers who can dig into fundamental questions. There are plenty of workers who can apply what they discover. In the words of another corporation executive: The trend at the university level toward applied research could be dangerous for industry and for the country as a whole, if it in any way tended to limit the amount of attention given to basic research or research which might have broad relationships to many poten- tial applications. . . . Since industry research of necessity must relate to the perpetuation of the corporation (which means a continuing, satisfactory profit/loss position), there may be difficulty in mounting research programs which do not look to the possibility of reasonably fast economic return. The postdoctoral education is no problem but, if it would imply that there would be any less activity on the part of the university in the area of economically unrewarding research, and more activity in the payoff areas of applied slbid.
203 RESEARCH FUNDS AND RECRUITMENT OF POSTDOCTORALS research, the trend would be unfortunate. Industry and the country should look to the universities for research of the type which profit-oriented organizations cannot afford to perform. The president of another corporation agrees: Proper goals for educational institutions, 1 think, remain (1) training in scientific method and (2) the conduct of basic research not directed toward specific problem-solving. These goals will never be the goals of specialized research institutions, whether private and for profit or nonprofit. ... I do not believe that the university experience of a young PhD in motivating him away from applied research and toward basic research is bad. In fact, I think it is good. Finally, one should add the statement from the vice-president for engineering and research of an electronics company: I want to pay my respects to the fact that the young PhD or postdoctorate fellow from good universities has a sophisticated and up-to-date knowledge of what you consider to be the latest and the newest in your line of business. Considering that it takes an average of five years now to bring out a young PhD in the physical sciences, this speaks extremely well for the universities and the faculty. It is not surprising in the light of these mixed views of postdoctoral educa- tion that only a minority of institutions actively recruit for new personnel among postdoctoral students. Only a third of the respondents in industry say that they actively recruit from this source, and the proportion of respondents in nonprofit research organizations and federal and federal-contract laboratories who say that they recruit postdoctorals is not much higher. Some say that they like to hire them when they can, but they do not actively seek them; others that they look for them when they need their particular expertise. But the im- pression remains that outside the universities postdoctorals are not at much of a premium. Some corporations that recruit among postdoctorals look for them not because they prefer them but because they would be missing good talent by overlooking them. The spokesman for a major chemical concern writes: "We actively seek but do not necessarily prefer research personnel with post- doctoral experience." The vice-chairman of the board of an electronics firm writes in the same vein: We do not actively seek postdoctoral experience. We look for individuals, not for cate- gories, and we will hire any man whose experience and personal qualifications suggest that he is a good risk. If the postdoctoral category happens to relate to a particular indi- vidual with demonstrated creativity and exceptional performance, we will reach for him as a candidate for staff membership. The following statement by the vice-president for research of a major firm in the field of graphical reproduction appears to sum up the situation for many: We do look for ''fresh" PhD's and those with one or two years of postdoctoral experience. We have had an increasing number of individuals with postdoctoral training join the Labo-
204 IMPLICATIONS FOR NONACADEMIC INSTITUTIONS ratories in recent years. We do not necessarily prefer such individuals; any preference is based on whether the added year or two in the university will enable a man to contribute more effectively because of the specialization which the additional training has developed. He goes on to say: I have the feeling that most of the individuals taking postdoctoral work believe that today, to obtain good academic appointments, postdoctoral experience is required or, at least, is an asset in looking for a job. It is my impression resulting from our interviewing PhD candi- dates that those who have already developed an interest in industrial research feel that one or two years in the university will not be of much assistance to them in furthering their career. They are anxious to get on with the job where they are convinced their future lies. The overall impression is that the implications of postdoctoral education for the nonacademic employers of doctorate recipients is slight. Whatever the failings that are perceived in the doctoral programs or in academic attitudes, they do not indict postdoctoral study, which is generally understood to be preparing PhD's for academic posts. There is, however, evidence that the cou- pling between the universities and the nonuniversity institutions is not as smooth as it might be. Lack of mutual understanding is apparent on both sides, and efforts should be made to educate both about needs and missions.