Friday, October 30, 2009

Greener pastures

There has been much discussion that the United States risks losing its economic competitiveness because of a work force inadequately trained in science (in case you have not noticed, the Swiss Franc has reached parity with the US Dollar!). For us in research this assertion has always been somewhat puzzling, because the US still has the best universities for science and technology.

In today's Science magazine, Yudhijit Bhattacharjee reports in her article Study Finds Science Pipeline Strong, But Losing Top Students, that according to an analysis of the data from six longitudinal federal surveys of education and employment trends conducted between 1972 and 2005, the real reason is the lack of social and economic incentives to pursue careers in science and technology.

More recent high-performing STEM graduates than in the past are finding jobs outside the field.

The researchers, led by B. Lindsay Lowell, a demographer at Georgetown University in Washington, D.C., and Harold Salzman, a sociologist at the Urban Institute and Rutgers University, New Brunswick, found that STEM graduates are being drawn to careers in management and finance starting in the early 1990s. Lowell says employers "seem to be poaching the best and the brightest" of STEM graduates by offering higher salaries for management and other non-STEM positions.

Link to Science article: http://www.sciencemag.org/cgi/content/summary/326/5953/654-a