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For Love of Science - or Money?

This article is more than 10 years old.

Earlier this week we discussed Asia, America, and higher ed, and we asked whether the boom in funding for Asia’s universities -- billions and billions pouring in -- would leave U.S. higher ed in the dust, especially in science and technology-related fields.

A new study, highlighted in Science magazine this week (and reviewed in BusinessWeek) supports the idea that U.S. dominance in engineering and science is threatened – but not for lack of training and education. It finds that, while we train and graduate plenty of scientists and engineers, they’re not continuing in their fields because of a lack of social and economic incentives.

It’s not that we haven’t been giving out enough degrees. It’s more that it's a tough job market for a few top research positions, and our scientists and engineers can make a lot more money (for which they don't have to constantly reapply) if they defect to positions in management and finance.  (Calvin Trillin wrote recently in The New York Times that our financial system fell apart because “smart guys started going to Wall Street.”)

However, the most recent data included in this study comes from 2005, before the economic crisis hit. With new regulations on bankers’ pay in the pipeline, and a general disillusionment with Wall Street, will the next generation of scientists and engineers stick with the science?

Scientists- and engineers-in-training, what do you think?

This program aired on October 30, 2009. The audio for this program is not available.

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