Do we need more scientists?
I very much doubt it. As evidence, let me turn first to my own field, drug research, because other high-tech fields share some of its problems. I’m a medicinal chemist—I spend my days in an actual white lab coat, thinking up potential new drug structures and new ways to find them, and then trying to make those ideas work for real out on the lab bench. I moved to my present job, though, because my last employer closed down the entire research site where I used to work. That’s been a depressingly common experience over the last few years. Since 2000, more than 300,000 people in the drug business have been laid off. Not all of them have been scientists, of course, but plenty of chemists and biologists have been hearing the swish of the ax as the industry looks to cut costs everywhere it can. These people, many of whom have been scrambling to find any work they can, are not a good audience for stories about America’s critical shortage of scientists.