Sunday, March 11, 2007

The Ground of Science is Shattering and the Ivory Towers are Collapsing: A Revolution of the Super-Educated Masses for the 21st Century

As would be expected in any growing and prosperous civilization, the number of PhDs produced in the US continues to rise, as you can see below in these stats from the National Science Foundation, with interestingly the most dramatic increases in PhDs awarded to non-citizens. Don't expect to find these graduates in academic positions any time soon, as the number of permanent faculty and tenure-track positions has been taking a nosedive, at least in North America. Rather, PhDs these days are more likely to find non-traditional employment in science, through industry, entrepeneurial enterprises, patent or investment advisory and part-time/contract teaching. This will probably mean goodbye to the reign of tenureship politics and hello to an era dominated by independence, initiative and adaptability in science for the 21st century. Couple this with innovations in online open publishing (publish first, peer-review later), online networking/discussion tools such as Nature Network and open access to data around the world, and what you have is a revolution. I can't wait to see how science is done in 2050.