Fraying ties among academia, industry, and government hurt scientists and science


December 6, 2017

"PhDs hoping to find nonacademic careers—a group that, in the long run, comprises the overwhelming majority of doctorate recipients—must navigate the transition to industry or government, often with only minimal help from their professors and institutions," writes Science. "This challenge is just one symptom of what organizers and speakers at a conference held in November by the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine described as a growing disconnect between academe and those other sectors of society. As a discussion paper included in the event’s program booklet states, “the compact between education, research, and industry established over the past 150 years is being eroded.” With that erosion come significant implications for the output of the U.S. research enterprise—and the career opportunities available to current trainees and early-career researchers. ...

..."New funding approaches allowing greater attention to young scientists’ career needs are clearly a pressing need—and collaborations among academia, government, and industry offer appealing potential for exploring novel mutually beneficial options. For example, Leshin, who leads an institution with a strong “project orientation” at the undergraduate level, explained how cooperation with industry and government helps students do team-based solving of real-world problems. Students gain real-life experience and skills, and communities benefit from the practical solutions that emerge. Richard Miller, president of Olin College of Engineering in Needham, Massachusetts—which similarly emphasizes real-world, team-based problem solving—echoed her belief in the benefits of these types of collaborative models. 

"One promising example in doctoral training is the PhD Innovation Program at Dartmouth’s Thayer School of Engineering, whose doctoral students do research dissertations and also learn industry and business practices, Miller noted."

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