I saw this report from the NIH advisory committee. The summary of the problem: there are too many graduate studnets (sic) produced in biomedical fields for the number of academic positions that will be available for them in the future.
Same old story: ignoring the fact academia is not the only career for someone with a science PhD. The NIH report doesn’t make this mistake. From the summary (emphasis added):
The model should include an assessment of present and future needs in the academic research arena, but also current and future needs in industry, science policy, education, communication, and other pathways. The model will also require an assessment of current and future availability of trainees from the domestic and international communities.
In the actual report they note that the number going into academia has dropped, ~34 percent in 1993 to ~26 percent today. So it hasn’t been the case that most biomedical PhDs go into academia for at least 10 years. Why are people pretending that this is the case?
One thing I don’t get is the claim that graduate school does not prepare you for a non-academic career. (In contrast to my time in school, when I heard the complaint that it doesn’t prepare you for an academic career, because there was little to no preparation for becoming a teacher.) Maybe my own experience in physics is atypical, but I didn’t have to learn a whole lot about how to conduct research when I got my current job outside of academia (working in a government lab). The implication of the study is that in biology this isn’t the case, so sure, you should go ahead and fix that.
There may well be a good argument that we have too many graduate students. But comparing that number directly to the number of academic positions isn’t one of them.