I don’t know if there are some small startups in the world where they hire researchers to write papers. If so, is it possible for them to write good papers almost without advisors and professors or even doctors? What they only have is probably the open source materials like papers on Axive and Sciencedirect and etc..

I have never encountered any small company having research department only for publishing papers. Is it common?

Only a small fraction of PhD graduates in STEM end up as (tenured) professors. For example, see this question and plenty of other material on the internet.

Many PhD graduates end up wokring in government or industry. Some of those are research positions where a PhD is valued if not required (perhaps the specialisation is less important), but I also know STEM PhD graduates who work as programmers (quite common), as a miner, in the military, or as a reindeer herder (yes).

Within STEM, what fraction of PhD graduates end up in jobs for which a PhD is a requirement? And what fraction in jobs for which it is considered valuable, even if not required?

In order not to muddy the waters with graduates doing postdocs still hoping for an academic career before giving up, let’s consider the first long-term (5 years+) position or whatever they’re doing 10 years after completing the PhD.

This is in reference to my question: How to do a PhD to equip myself for a job as assistant professor.

I was told in the answer and in the comments that chances of landing a job as an assistant professor are quite slim. Very few people will actually get a job.
An article of 2014 shows only 3% of PhD graduates actually get a job.

But I have two questions:

  1. Why do so many people still apply for a PhD in some reputed institutes in India even knowing the harsh reality? I found there are 1500 applications for four PhD scholarship positions.

    • One answer says that people move to industry, but I still don’t understand how after doing a PhD in suppose differential geometry or algebraic geometry one can do a job in industry if he/she gets no position as an assistant professor.
  2. Are people jobless after a PhD?
    Completion of a PhD requires so much effort. So why is there no value after doing it?

NOTE

I am updating the question as the answer with most votes has not met my requirements and maybe he/others can add something significant.

I don’t understand how my application consisting of a PhD in Complex Analysis/Geometry would fit into something like Finance/Consulting.
Won’t people with a degree in Finance get more advantage than me.

This is in reference to my question: How to do a PhD to equip myself for a job as assistant professor.

I was told in the answer and in the comments that chances of landing a job as an assistant professor are quite slim. Very few people will actually get a job.
An article of 2014 shows only 3% of PhD graduates actually get a job.

But I have two questions:

  • Why do so many people still apply for a PhD in some reputed institutes in India even knowing the harsh reality? I found there are 1500 applications for four PhD scholarship positions.

  • The answer says people move to industry. I still don’t understand how after doing a PhD in suppose differential geometry or algebraic geometry one can do a job in industry if he/she gets no position as an assistant professor.

  • Are people jobless after a PhD?
    Completion of a PhD requires so much effort. So why is there no value after doing it?

NOTE

I am updating the question as the answer with most votes has not met my requirements and maybe he/others can add something significant.

I don’t understand how my application consisting of a PhD in Complex Analysis/Geometry would fit into something like Finance/Consulting.
Won’t people with a degree in Finance get more advantage in me.

Please Highlight

This is in reference to my question: How to do a PhD to equip myself for a job as assistant professor.

I was told in the answer and in the comments that chances of landing a job as an assistant professor is quite slim. Very few people will actually get a job.
An article of 2014 shows only 3% of PhD graduates actually get a job.

But I have two questions:

  • Why do so many people still apply for a PhD in some reputed institutes in India even knowing the harsh reality? I found there are 1500 applications for four PhD scholarship positions.

  • The answer says people move to industry. I still don’t understand how after doing a PhD in suppose say differential geometry or algebraic geometry one can do a job in industry if he/she gets no position as an assistant professor.

  • Are people jobless after a PhD?
    Completion of a PhD requires so much effort. So why is there no value after doing it?

I’m currently in my first postdoctoral research position at a European university, in pure maths. I’m considering changing to software development. In case I would rather like to return to academia, how hard is it, as compared to trying to stay in academia right away?

The two scenarios I’d like to compare are:

  1. Finishing my current postdoc and apply for new postdocs (let’s assume that all relevant application deadlines are still in the future).

  2. Finishing my current postdoc, working n years in software development and then apply for new postdocs.

How big does n have to become such that the chances of application success in the second scenario are significantly lower?

I’m currently in my first postdoctoral research position at a European university, in pure maths. I’m considering changing to software development. In case I would rather like to return to academia, how hard is it, as compared to trying to stay in academia right away?

The two scenarios I’d like to compare are:

  1. Finishing my current postdoc and apply for new postdocs (let’s assume that all relevant application deadlines are still in the future).

  2. Finishing my current postdoc, working Nyears years in software development and then apply for new postdocs.

How big does Nyears have to become such that the chances of application success in the second scenario are significantly lower?

About 5 years ago, Jake VanderPlas wrote an interesting and in my opinion, crucial, piece on why many academic cultures are unsustainable in the long run, and will eventually be outcompeted industry if not totally collapse due to excessive brain drain.

His key argument is that desirable academic skills are increasing indistinguishable from desirable industry skills, the difference is that industry pays more, and produces vastly more interesting results with higher impact. Thus raising the natural question: why stay in academia? For instance, why would any post-doc earn 40k when they can earn 200k using the same skillset working at IBM, Apple, Google, Uber, Ebay, Amazon, Yahoo, Etsy, Ali Baba….this list is endless.

This brain drain has been documented in recent articles such as:

  1. “Big tech firms’ AI hiring frenzy leads to brain drain at UK universities
    High demand at companies such as Google could leave fewer talented scientists to teach next generation, academics fear”

  2. “‘We can’t compete’: why universities are losing their best AI scientists A handful of companies are luring away top researchers, but academics say they are killing the geese that lay the golden eggs”

  3. “AI academic warns on brain drain to tech groups”

It seems the author’s prediction has by and large came to fruition.

Key excerpt from the first article:

With virtually the entire world utilizing the tools of data-intensive discovery, the same skills academia now ignores and devalues are precisely the skills which are most valued and rewarded within industry.

The result of this perfect storm is that skilled researchers feel an insidious gradient out of research and into industry jobs. While software-focused jobs do exist within academia, they tend to be lower-paid positions without the prestige and opportunity for advancement found in the tenure track. Industry is highly attractive: it is addressing interesting and pressing problems; it offers good pay and benefits; it offers a path out of the migratory rat-wheel of temporary postdoctoral positions, and often even encourages research and publication in fundamental topics. Most importantly, perhaps, industry offers positions with a real possibility for prestige and career advancement. It’s really a wonder that any of us stay in the academy at all.

Couple years ago I have read similar question being asked (perhaps precisely on this StackExchange), and at the time the common consensus was one of denial. A few prominent professors predicted that no such brain drain would occur due to historical tendencies they have seen in the students, in other words, a non-issue. But now it seems that the brain drain cannot be stopped, a quick survey of my fellow graduate students quickly revealed that none of them wanted to remain in academia after graduation.

Out of this denial and leadership vacuum in academia, a very insidious academic culture has developed: students would start a PhD degree just to take enough industry-oriented courses and then quickly leave for industry. I have personally witnessed this in many fellow graduate students.

So, once again, is there anyway for academia to stop or halt the one way brain flowing from academia to industry? What can academic culture change in order to attract bright and talent students to carry on with fundamental research?

I am currently studying information transmission in biological neural networks at a (fairly prestigious) university, specifically, the interaction between neurons and their surrounding glial cells. Most of my research is about modeling and simulation of these cells as dynamical equations. It is hoped through a better theoretical understanding of the brain, one day this line research will allow us to build biocomputers that far outperforms any software models existing today. There are far more things that the brain can do but machines cannot, e.g., consciousness, selective memory, imagination.

However, in recent years I find that I am becoming more and more disillusioned with my purpose of doing graduate research, and my disillusionment is shared by several of my colleagues.

This disillusionment is specifically driven by the rapid commercial success enjoyed by industries due to the advent of exponentially increased computing power and data (along with many other factors). For example, wearable computing, AR for gaming, speech and image recognition and personal robots, etc. There are four “trends” that continuously distract me from being fully committed to my research.

  1. It seems that most of the groundbreaking research is performed at research labs at large tech companies such as Google, Baidu, Facebook or major hospitals, instead of universities. These companies have the money, the resources, the public relation, the infrastructure as well as the aggregation of brains to produce truly innovative products, and their products tend to have greater and more immediate impacts on people’s lives. It doesn’t help that historically academic journals are publishing these success stories on a regular basis.

  2. People in the industry are slowly but surely enjoying greater and more immediate name recognition as compared to people in academia. In fact, it seems that industry researchers are seen as more “successful” as compared to their strictly academic counterparts (especially those without the prestigious title of “Company-X’s Professor”). Many companies proudly display their list of researchers (on well-maintained websites no less!).
    Sure, fame should not be one’s motivation for producing good science. But we all wish that our research results could be more widely recognized.

  3. The ladder from academia to industry is too high and is becoming even higher. Many industry jobs (even in simulation work) require years of industrial experience, primarily in coding and writing software. These skills are not emphasized in much of the research departments outside of computer science. Knowing how to perform parallel computing in C++ is not an essential skill in creating clear and well-reasoned simulations or supporting graphics, nor advance the state of research and ultimately, human knowledge. Therefore even one graduate with a PhD, he or she will be put at a significant disadvantage as someone who started out doing and this trend is not abating. In sum, the transferable skills obtainable due to industry experience far outnumber the ones that can be acquired in academia.

  4. Money (- coupled with interesting research opportunities). For example, according to some self-reported salaries, machine learning jobs are paying 100k – 200k and even 600k at the high-ends. While money has never been a strong motivator for me, it seems that with this type of funding, any type of research could be greatly accelerated without the stress of applying for grants and seeking scholarships that pay 1/4-th of what you can obtain with holding a job in a company that potentially does its own interesting research.

Note that this is not an argument as to why one should quit research and join industry on the basis of their success, but rather aligning one’s skill set or research towards industry/commercial purposes instead of performing the type of research without industrial demand. Simulating biological systems and analyzing related dynamical models is not as strongly in demand as knowing software engineering or machine learning, I am not sure if this trend will ever change.


I have heard many counter-arguments to these points. For example, research in the industry tends to be product driven and ultimately contributes nothing to advancing knowledge.

Or much of the commercial success enjoyed recently are the result of engineering without the science behind them.

Or that we are at the peak of a hype-cycle, and things will eventually die down, as for every success story there are hundreds of failures.

Or what my supervisor believes: good research is independent from where it is produced.

But I find it difficult to recognize the increasingly unfair trends and I cannot help but feel that academicians are devalued. Will the research that we perform at universities will ever be recognized (in our lifetime)? Or have an impact comparable to what industries do on a regular basis? Can my talents be put towards better use and am I wasting my time? Should I change my research directly to pursuit skills that are more valuable in industry? Should I quit graduate school and work in industry full-time?

These questions distract me from focusing on my research, especially the more theoretical aspects, and I find that I am constantly making choices that deviate from my research goals such as by partaking in classes that form the basis of these commercial products. My copy of Winfree’s “the geometry of biological time” is slowly gathering dust, while the copy “How to Program in Python” sitting by my bed side. How can I maintain a good attitude towards doing research while seeing all these rapid success enjoyed by large and well-funded companies?

I am currently studying information transmission in biological neural networks at a (fairly prestigious) university, specifically, the interaction between neurons and their surrounding glial cells. Most of my research is about modeling and simulation of these cells as dynamical equations. It is hoped through a better theoretical understanding of the brain, one day this line research will allow us to build biocomputers that far outperforms any software models existing today. There are far more things that the brain can do but machines cannot, e.g., consciousness, selective memory, imagination.

However, in recent years I find that I am becoming more and more disillusioned with my purpose of doing graduate research, and my disillusionment is shared by several of my colleagues.

This disillusionment is specifically driven by the rapid commercial success enjoyed by industries due to the advent of exponentially increased computing power and data (along with many other factors). For example, wearable computing, AR for gaming, speech and image recognition and personal robots, etc. There are four “trends” that continuously distract me from being fully committed to my research.

  1. It seems that most of the groundbreaking research is performed at research labs at large tech companies such as Google, Baidu, Facebook or major hospitals, instead of universities. These companies have the money, the resources, the public relation, the infrastructure as well as the aggregation of brains to produce truly innovative products, and their products tend to have greater and more immediate impacts on people’s lives. It doesn’t help that historically academic journals are publishing these success stories on a regular basis.

  2. People in the industry are slowly but surely enjoying greater and more immediate name recognition as compared to people in academia. In fact, it seems that industry researchers are seen as more “successful” as compared to their strictly academic counterparts (especially those without the prestigious title of “Company-X’s Professor”). Many companies proudly display their list of researchers (on well-maintained websites no less!).
    Sure, fame should not be one’s motivation for producing good science. But we all wish that our research results could be more widely recognized.

  3. The ladder from academia to industry is too high and is becoming even higher. Many industry jobs (even in simulation work) require years of industrial experience, primarily in coding and writing software. These skills are not emphasized in much of the research departments outside of computer science. Knowing how to perform parallel computing in C++ is not an essential skill in creating clear and well-reasoned simulations or supporting graphics, nor advance the state of research and ultimately, human knowledge. Therefore even one graduate with a PhD, he or she will be put at a significant disadvantage as someone who started out doing and this trend is not abating. In sum, the transferable skills obtainable due to industry experience far outnumber the ones that can be acquired in academia.

  4. Money (- coupled with interesting research opportunities). For example, according to some self-reported salaries, machine learning jobs are paying 100k – 200k and even 600k at the high-ends. While money has never been a strong motivator for me, it seems that with this type of funding, any type of research could be greatly accelerated without the stress of applying for grants and seeking scholarships that pay 1/4-th of what you can obtain with holding a job in a company that potentially does its own interesting research.

Note that this is not an argument as to why one should quit research and join industry on the basis of their success, but rather aligning one’s skill set or research towards industry/commercial purposes instead of performing the type of research without industrial demand. Simulating biological systems and analyzing related dynamical models is not as strongly in demand as knowing software engineering or machine learning, I am not sure if this trend will ever change.


I have heard many counter-arguments to these points. For example, research in the industry tends to be product driven and ultimately contributes nothing to advancing knowledge.

Or much of the commercial success enjoyed recently are the result of engineering without the science behind them.

Or that we are at the peak of a hype-cycle, and things will eventually die down, as for every success story there are hundreds of failures.

Or what my supervisor believes: good research is independent from where it is produced.

But I find it difficult to recognize the increasingly unfair trends and I cannot help but feel that academicians are devalued. Will the research that we perform at universities will ever be recognized (in our lifetime)? Or have an impact comparable to what industries do on a regular basis? Can my talents be put towards better use and am I wasting my time? Should I change my research directly to pursuit skills that are more valuable in industry? Should I quit graduate school and work in industry full-time?

These questions distract me from focusing on my research, especially the more theoretical aspects, and I find that I am constantly making choices that deviate from my research goals such as by partaking in classes that form the basis of these commercial products. My copy of Winfree’s “the geometry of biological time” is slowly gathering dust, while the copy “How to Program in Python” sitting by my bed side. How can I maintain a good attitude towards doing research while seeing all these rapid success enjoyed by large and well-funded companies?