Chief Science Correspondent
In hopes of inspiring the next generation to consider careers in biology, physics, and engineering, our nation has striven to make science education a priority.
“When students excel in math and science, they help America compete for the jobs and industries of the future,” President Obama said at the 2012 White House Science Fair, an event initiated during his administration.
Encouraging science careers to young students is certainly a step in the right direction. Yet as 1 in 5 scientists admit that they are considering leaving the U.S. to pursue their careers elsewhere, the effort may make for a losing battle. The likely culprit: A lack of sufficient funding to support these new generations of scientists.
Something in science has gone downhill since 2003 - and it's time to fix it.
If a laboratory can't receive funding, they won't be able to hire new researchers. And if these laboratories can't hire, then the increasing numbers of students who earn doctoral degrees in the
sciences will be unable to find work. A recent study found that only 25 percent of American Ph.D.-level scientists will find a job in their field, and only 15 percent will ever receive a competitive national grant.
The NIH and the NSF function as two of the top providers of funding for science research for universities and other research institutions. The NIH allocates grants for medical research projects, supporting projects that investigate cancer, stem cells and the human genome. The NSF encompasses a spectrum of research projects that are non-medical and less focused on human health, such as animal physiology and climate change.
“We could be doing so much better. We should be going so much faster,” NIH Director Francis Collins said at recent a dinner event. “Why can’t we turn this around, why can’t this be a real national priority?”
These reports show a that our nation has witnessed 20 percent increase in the number of scientists in the past decade, alongside a 20 percent decrease in funding. It is appropriate to note that it was just over a decade ago that our nation celebrated one many have called of the greatest triumphs of modern science: the Human Genome Project.
Our nation has fostered the development of thousands of brilliant scientists who have the potential to change the world. These scientists likely hold an almost infinite scope of potential, but if they don't receive funding, this potential will never be realized. If we want to have a chance in continuing to thrive as a nation of science, we need to invest in our scientists - after they get their Ph.D.s.