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Science Careers Blog

James Austin: September 2011

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.

According to a recent story in the Hartford Courant, the family of a Yale University graduate student murdered at her research lab in 2009 has filed a wrongful death lawsuit against the university. The filing claims that "Yale had long taken inadequate steps to ensure the safety and security of women on its campus," the Courant story says. "Sexual attacks on and harassment of women at Yale had been a well-documented and long-standing problem, and there was a widespread belief that Yale repeatedly failed to impose meaningful discipline on offenders." Furthermore, the lawsuit claims that Raymond Clark, the assailant, had "previously demonstrated aggressive behavior and a violent propensity towards women."

In June, Clark was sentenced to 44 years in prison for the murder as part of a plea agreement under the Alford doctrine, which allowed him to concede that he would likely be convicted, without admitting guilt.

In a statement, Yale said that there was "no basis" for the civil suit.

Le was reported missing 2 years ago today. Her body was found stuffed inside a laboratory wall.