Friday, March 20, 2009

Academic positions

Thoreau has an interesting article about the perverse effects that can happen when trying to encourage diversity. What I am beginning to realize is that the academic career path is a high risk/moderate reward path. Some students will end up with decent jobs that give freedom and opportunities to think; others will end up in quite different areas than they intended. But the standard academic program has a lot of the characteristics of a pyramid scheme in that the goal that is placed before PhD students, tenured faculty positions, is increasingly unrealistic.

In epidemiology we are seeing an increasing reliance on soft money positions. I am not sure, in the long run, whether this reliance is a good or a bad feature. But it sure makes the implicit bargain of "years of sacrifice" being rewarded less obvious.

But the real issue with faculty seems to be the training versus placement issues. Most of the other concerns are perverse effects of that particular "elephant in the room".

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