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America’s Vanishing Pharma Jobs

An op-ed in today’s New York Post, by Josh Bloom, director of chemical and pharmaceutical sciences at the American Council of Science and Health, expresses dismay over diminished prospects for scientists in the United States, and astonishment at continuing efforts to sell science as a career in the face of diminished prospects:

The folks at Scientific American have launched “1,000 Scientists in
1,000 Days” — a program to bring together scientists, teachers and
students to improve America’s “dismal” showing among wealthy countries
(27th out of 29) in graduating college students with degrees in science
or engineering. I’m sure they mean well — but, at least as it applies
to the field of chemistry, “1,000 Unemployed Scientists Living With
Their Parents at Age 35 While Working at the Gap” would be a better name.

Bloom, who says he spent 20 years working in drug discovery, focuses on the pharmaceutical industry and blames that industry’s decline — and the resulting layoffs and off-shoring of research — for the sad state of science careers in the United States.

Bloom proposes no solutions, except to say that we should lay off those
well-intentioned science recruitment efforts until we can find a way to
stop laying off scientists. His argument may lack nuance, and his focus
on pharma is a touch myopic, but I think he’s basically right.

he is right or not, he raises a question of immense national
significance: How can we continue to attract really smart people into
science — which we absolutely must do — if so many of the people who
enter science fail to find satisfying careers?

Meanwhile, in his Forbes blog (“The Medicine Show”), Matthew Herper wonders (with some of his commenters)
whether the pharmaceuticals industry was destroyed by bad management —
specifically, by a myopic perspective that focused on the short-term
bottom line and failed to recognize — and thus lost — large amounts of
long-term scientific and commercial value.

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