One option is to dramatically increase the number of tenured professorships and long-term research associate positions, to ensure that postdocs can find a secure home in academia. But another, seemingly harsher approach could be the tough medicine we need: Severely cut the number of available postdocs. Placing junior scientists in temporary positions that have poor odds of leading to a long-term career is unfair to them, especially when departments aren’t transparent about the fruits those labors will bear. If there’s going to be intense competition, it’s better to have it earlier, when people are better able to pivot into new directions. It’s one thing to produce scores of Ph.D.s for every one open position; it’s quite another to delay that cliff until scientists are in their mid-30s.Paul Sutter, “Universities Are Failing the Next Generation of Scientists” at Undark (March 24, 2022)
Far out theory (e.g., “Advanced aliens engineered the Big Bang…) may be one way of standing out in the crowd — and Cancel Culture is definitely a way of thinning that crowd. Sutter’s suggestions are worth pondering.
Readers may know Stony Brook astrophysicist Paul Sutter from his writings in the discipline.
See, for example, Astrophysicist: Stop looking for extraterrestrial civilizations. And accept that ‘Oumuamua was a natural object, though a very mysterious one. Paul Sutter is not saying that ET isn’t out there but that evidence of biosignatures (life) is more useful than technosignatures (intelligent life).