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Lots of Competition

When times are flush for biomedical researchers, there are more openings for faculty and more spots for graduate students and postdocs to fuel those labs, and the number of those positions decline as funds and opportunities become scare. Jeremy Berg, an associate senior vice-chancellor at the University of Pittsburgh, writes at ASBMB Today that because of the length of scientific training, the job outlook at the start can be different from what it is at the end.

Berg, who is also the former director of the National Institute of General Medical Sciences, argues that there are currently too many people pursuing PhDs. He calls a recent statement from National Institutes of Health Director Francis Collins and Deputy Director for Extramural Research Sally Rockey "painfully disconnected from reality." They had said that "there is no definitive evidence that PhD production exceeds current employment opportunities."

"Almost anyone who has talked with or tried to help young scientists launch their independent careers knows that current employment opportunities are extremely competitive in all sectors," Berg adds.

He then suggests that steps should be taken to "reduce the strong coupling of research activity with training" so that there are not so many young investigators vying for the same positions.