In a recent column on education, The New York Times' Paul Krugman said that many jobs for recent college grads are being rendered "obsolete" by advances in technology. For scientists, adds Mike the Mad Biologist, this is nothing new. "At a recent celebration type-of-thing, a colleague explained how a Prominent Genomic Researcher realized that the next leap forward in biology was going to happen when biologists would view their science as an information science," he says. "The future was not going to involve benches filled with dozens of Ph.D.s furiously pipetting." There are many informatics problems for researchers to solve, Mike says, due to the sheer amount of data being generated by sequencers that are getting faster and cheaper. Automation will probably be the "next great leap forward," though it won't happen for at least five or 10 years — machines can do tedious jobs reliably, quickly, and without giving in to boredom, which would allow for data production to be done much more quickly and would decrease the need for grad students and postdocs as "cheap labor," he adds. Then, postdocs could concentrate their training on better analysis and less on technique, which could increase their prospects for good jobs.
Mar 11, 2011