The piece ends with this revealing quote from Laura Niedernhofer:
Although (Niedernhofer) is continuing her ageing research with her three postdocs, she has a new standard question she asks before hiring them: will they consider only academic research as a job? “I can’t guarantee that they will get that,” she says, “and I don’t want to be the one to break their hearts.”
There is just so many presumptions built into that statement.
First, there’s the presumption that academia is the One True Career Path. There’s the implication that anything else is a failure. Why else would it be viewed as “heartbreaking” to not get an academic job?
Second, there’s the presumption that somehow, having trouble getting an academic career is a new thing, when the stats have shown for years that most people who get doctoral degrees don’t go into academia. Academia is the “alternative career,” and has been for a long time. This situation didn’t start with sequestration, and won’t end if every federal science funding agency got a 10% budget increase. It won’t end if every federal science funding agency had its budget double.
It’s always good to ask people you’re hiring about their career aspirations. But if this is a good question today, it would have been even better if people had started asking it ten years ago or more.
Additional, 13 September 2013: See Scicurious’s take on the pressures of “academia or bust.”
More cuts loom for U.S. science