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Friday, April 22, 2011

Are PhDs Irrelevant in Developed Economies?

The world is producing more PhDs today than at any time in history. Is it time to re-examine the place of PhDs ?

Many years ago, scientist who obtained a PhD belonged to an exclusive, privileged province of a small priesthood. But this is no longer the case. Between 1998 and 2008 the number of science PhDs earned in the OECD countries grew by 40%. The growth is showing no signs of abating because a majority of countries, especially the emerging economies like China and India see a highly educated workforce as being inextricable linked with economic growth. However, in OECD countries science PhD graduates may never get a chance to deploy the full extent of their specialized training.

In the US, the proportion of scientists with PhDs who get tenured positions in universities is dropping dramatically. Industry is not picking up the surplus PhDs. The PhD labor market in Japan is equally dismal. The demand for academic positions at PhD level is on the decline because enrollment in Japanese universities is dropping. Japanese industry has no place for PhDs because traditionally, they prefer fresh undergraduates who can be trained on the job. In 2009 the tried to sell off young postdocs to industry at $47,000 without much success.

The plight of PhDs in China is remarkably different from that in the US or Japan. China’s booming economy and capacity gaps in higher education guarantees that PhD holders will find a job. It is not surprising therefore that the number of PhD holders in China is going right through the roof. But with proliferation comes the problem of quality. China’s problem is the low quality of many PhD graduates. Mediocrity begets mediocrity. Many China’s educators at the PhD level are not well qualified to supervise PhD students.

Read full article in naturenews and join the debate on
http://www.nature.com/news/2011/110419/full/472276a.html

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

Urbanization, Climate Change and Water

By 2050 there will be an additional 3 billion urban dwellers. Cities, especially in developing countries will struggle with three main issues regarding water namely; quality, quantity and delivery. In addition to the challenge of providing adequate water to urban residents owing to population growth, cities and their neighborhoods will face unprecedented hydrologic changes. In a paper published in PNAS, (April 12, 2011), McDonald et al. use a detailed hydrologic model, demographic projections, and climate change scenarios to estimate per-capita water availability for major cities in the developing world, where urban populations are growing rapidly. Their results show that currently 150 million people live in cities with perennial water shortage. Water shortage is defined here as having less than 100 litres of water per person per day, a rough measure of the amount an urban resident needs in a sanitary manner over the long-term. This includes water for cleaning, bathing, flush toilets as well as drinking.

According to McDonald and colleagues, demographic growth will increase the number of urban residents having less than 100 litres of water per day to 1 billion by 2050. Climate change will cause water shortage for an additional 100 million urbanites. More importantly, the study suggests that freshwater ecosystems in river basins with large populations of urbanites with insufficient water will likely experience flows insufficient to maintain ecological process. Cities will struggle to find enough water for the needs of their residents and will need significant investment if they are to secure adequate water supplies and safeguard functioning freshwater ecosystems for future generations.

The authors conclude that urban growth–water conundrum is solvable. But it will take money, time, political will, and effective governance. Countries with moderate to high per-capita income seem more likely to find adequate solutions to urban water problems with domestic investments, if sufficient political will is found. However, countries with low per-capita income will external financing and commitments by the international community.

See full article: www.pnas.org/cgi/doi/10.1073/pnas.1011615108

Sunday, April 17, 2011

China's Rising Scientific Output Double Edged

In recent years, the Chinese government has urged scientists to publish in reputable English-language journals, offering promotions and other rewards as an incentive.

This incentive is paying off big. The number of papers by scholars based in China published in Science Citation Index (SCI)-listed journals has quadrupled. The jump happened as China overtook other countries in output. In 2007, it passed Japan to become second in the world—behind only the United States—in number of papers published in indexed journals.

Many Chinese universities, meanwhile, have become keen on boosting their showing in Shanghai Jiao Tong University's ranking of world universities, which, though itself a Chinese invention, heavily weights publication in Science and Nature.

However, there is a downside to China's rising international profile. It will become increasingly difficult for Chinese journals to attract stellar research. Furthermore, publishing the country's best stuff overseas is damaging to Chinese scholarship.

An article in China Youth Daily, reprinted by the state news agency Xinhua, called the outflow of research to foreign journals "embarrassing."

But Chinese scientists believe that the recent increase in papers published outside China should be celebrated rather than criticized.

See full article by Mara Hvistendahl in ScienceInsider April 12 2011.
Sent from my BlackBerry® smartphone from Zain Kenya

Friday, April 15, 2011

Self-control Predicts Health, Wealth and Public Safety

The scientific community is now coming to grips with how central self-control is to many important life outcomes. The need to delay gratification, regulate impulses, and modulate emotional expression is the earliest demand that society makes on children, and success at many life tasks depends critically on children’s mastery of such self-control.

Economists are now drawing attention to individual differences in self-control as a key consideration for policy-makers who seek to enhance the physical and financial health of the population and reduce the crime rate.

A recent study published in PNAS by Moffit and colleagues demonstrates very convincingly the role that self control plays not only in better cognitive and social outcomes in adolescence, but also in many other factors and into adulthood. The study shows that childhood self-control predicts physical health, substance dependence, personal finances, and criminal offending outcomes, following a gradient of self-control.

Moffit and his colleagues followed 1,000 children for 30 years, examining the effect of early self-control on health, wealth and public safety. Controlling for socioeconomic status and IQ, they show that individuals with lower self-control experienced negative outcomes in all three areas, with greater rates of health issues like sexually transmitted infections, substance dependence, financial problems including poor credit and lack of savings, single-parent child-rearing, and even crime. These results show that self-control can have a deep influence on a wide range of activities.

To the extent that self-control influences outcomes as disparate as health, wealth, and crime, enhancing it could have broad benefits. And there is some good news: if we can find a way to improve self-control, maybe we could do better.

See full article on www.pnas.org/cgi/doi/10.1073/pnas.1010076108

Thursday, April 7, 2011

PhD graduates in Science and Engineering from US Colleges to Earn Right to Stay

In his State of the Union address in January 2011, Barack Obama urged America to “stop expelling talented, responsible young people who could be staffing our research labs or starting a new business”.

A bipartisan legislation introduced by Rep. Jeff Flake (R-AZ). Might just grant Obama his wish. If passed into law, it will allow foreign-born scientists and engineers remain in the country after earning an advanced degree from a U.S. university. Last week, a key congressional panel heard proposals to retain the “best and brightest” foreign students without disadvantaging U.S. workers. Foreign-born students receive 37% of all U.S. Ph.D. degrees in science and engineering, for example, and create a disproportionate share of start-up companies. But accomplishing that goal without igniting the passions that traditionally have made immigration reform too hot for politicians to handle? That’s a much harder job. Those who want to reform the system say they are heartened by the broad interest in the topic. The encouraging signs, they say, include President

Currently foreign-born, U.S-trained scientists, who wish to remain in the country, are eligible to obtain a temporary work visa. Many graduates begin their professional careers by seeking an employer sponsored temporary visa, called an H-1B, valid for six years.

The H-1B visa, good for up to 6 years, was created in 1990 as a way station for those on the road to earning permanent residency status, or becoming “green card” holders. But employers who use this privilege to keep wages low and restrict job mobility have abused the H-1B.

Another problem is that demand for H-1B visas historically has far exceeded supply; in boom times the annual cap, now 65,000, has been met within days of a new year.

Creating a direct path from degree to citizenship would likely make U.S. graduate schools even more attractive to foreign students. However, some labor researchers worry that institutions with low standards might start graduate programs simply to attract paying customers, without regard to quality.

Tuesday, April 5, 2011

The Invitation

By Oriah Mountain Dreamer

"It doesn't interest me what you do for a living. I want to know what you ache for, and if you dare to dream of meeting your heart's longing.

It doesn't interest me how old you are. I want to know if you will risk looking like a fool for love, for your dream, for the adventure of being alive.

It doesn't interest me what planets are squaring your moon. I want to know if you have touched the center of your own sorrow, if you have been opened by life's betrayals or have become shriveled and closed from fear of further pain!I want to know if you can sit with pain, mine or your own, without moving to hide it or fade it, or fix it.

I want to know if you can be with joy, mine or your own, if you can dance with wildness and let the ecstasy fill you to the tips of your fingers and toes without cautioning us to be careful, to be realistic, to remember the limitations of being human.

It doesn't interest me if the story you are telling me is true. I want to know if you can disappoint another to be true to yourself; if you can bear the accusation of betrayal and not betray your own soul; if you can be faithless and therefore trustworthy.

I want to know if you can see beauty even when it's not pretty, every day, and if you can source your own life from its presence.

I want to know if you can live with failure, yours and mine, and still stand on the edge of the lake and shout to the silver of the full moon, “Yes!”

It doesn't interest me to know where you live or how much money you have. I want to know if you can get up, after the night of grief and despair, weary and bruised to the bone, and do what needs to be done to feed the children.

It doesn't interest me who you know or how you came to be here. I want to know if you will stand in the center of the fire with me and not shrink back.
It doesn't interest me where or what or with whom you have studied. I want to know what sustains you, from the inside, when all else falls away.

I want to know if you can be alone with yourself and if you truly like the company you keep in the empty moments."

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