As a science Ph.D. student, I always thought there would be plenty of jobs out there for me upon graduation. That idea was proven wrong when I read an article from The Washington Post this weekend.
The facts show that there are simply not enough science jobs to go around, especially Ph.D. level positions. The most interesting point the author made in the Washington Post article was that although the unemployment rate among chemists is 4.6%, the real rate is much higher because many scientists work outside their field. For younger chemists this is shown in that only 38% of new Ph.D. chemists were employed in 2011.
I decided to do a little digging on the federal budget and basic science research. According to a spreadsheet prepared by the Association for the Advancement of Science, the actual 2011 fiscal year budget contained $144 billion for research and development (with about $30 billion of that for basic research). While this may seem like a huge figure, it was only 4% of the 2011 US budget ($3.63 trillion). The funding level isn’t getting better either…
This lack of government funding should make any scientist wonder how we can get the public and government to understand the importance of basic science research. The influx of excellent science writers definitely is a big help. Within this community, we need to figure our how to get more scientists communicating effectively about their research to the general public.