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Editor's Blog

New York Mayor Bloomberg: “There is no such thing as … too many scientists”

In a speech yesterday on immigration reform, New York City mayor Michael Bloomberg suggested that current immigration policies could contribute to the loss of needed, skilled technical talent. This is from The Ticker blog at the Chronicle of Higher Education:

“Turning [foreign students who have just graduated] out of the country is, to put it bluntly, about
the dumbest thing that we could possibly do,” Mr. Bloomberg said in a speech
to the U.S. Chamber of Commerce and the Partnership for a New American
Economy. “The fact is, there is no such thing as too many engineers, too
many scientists, or too many technological innovators. We need all of
them in this country.”

At Science Careers, we believe in the potential of science to solve crucial problems and promote economic development more than most people do — including, I suspect, Mayor Bloomberg. But I’m less sure about his claim that you can never have too many. Scientific careers are, among other things, economic entities — very special ones, but economic entities nonetheless. With any economic entity, when supply and demand get too far out of wack, bad things happen; too much supply leads to falling prices — wages in this case — which isn’t good for the profession. It’s even arguable whether having too many scientists is good for the companies that employ them: Will companies benefit if science becomes a low-prestige, low-wage career? Or would they — as I believe — be better off it it remains a career that attracts the most capable members of our society, as well as other societies?

That’s something I hope Bloomberg — and others who believe as he does — will consider.