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CAREERS: 'A Large Surplus of Expendable Trainees'

A couple of weeks ago, Mike the Mad Biologist got people talking with his post about needing better opportunities for scientists to avoid the problem of having "an over-qualified, underpaid workforce." (Our Careers blog covered it here.) Razib at Gene Expression recently brought the issue back to the forefront, and his post garnered a slew of interesting comments. Miko, for one, comments: "We do not need more scientists, but academic science as practiced depends on a large surplus of expendable trainees (grad students and postdocs) who have to believe that a career in research is an attainable goal. This creates an overtrained, underemployed workforce, but the alternative is to make 'trainee' type research positions professional positions, which would be expensive."

Mike the Mad Biologist has a new post following up on that comment, which he says "hits the nail on the head." One option to address the problem, he suggests, is to shift more funding to large program grants instead of R01s because "one advantage of large project-oriented or center-oriented grants is that they are educational 'sinks'--they soak up surplus PhDs," he writes.

The Scan

Genome Sequences Reveal Range Mutations in Induced Pluripotent Stem Cells

Researchers in Nature Genetics detect somatic mutation variation across iPSCs generated from blood or skin fibroblast cell sources, along with selection for BCOR gene mutations.

Researchers Reprogram Plant Roots With Synthetic Genetic Circuit Strategy

Root gene expression was altered with the help of genetic circuits built around a series of synthetic transcriptional regulators in the Nicotiana benthamiana plant in a Science paper.

Infectious Disease Tracking Study Compares Genome Sequencing Approaches

Researchers in BMC Genomics see advantages for capture-based Illumina sequencing and amplicon-based sequencing on the Nanopore instrument, depending on the situation or samples available.

LINE-1 Linked to Premature Aging Conditions

Researchers report in Science Translational Medicine that the accumulation of LINE-1 RNA contributes to premature aging conditions and that symptoms can be improved by targeting them.