Tuesday, August 14, 2007

Fair exchange

Someone asked why it's harder for Americans to get postdoc positions in Europe than it is for Europeans to get postdoc positions in the US.

First of all, I don't think I said anything about Europe or Europeans per se, I think I said "foreign". That includes China, Japan, Canada, India, Scandinavia, etc.


aside: I was amused to read recently that India actually is the largest manufacturer of people with PhDs.


But to answer your question, in a lot of countries, there is pressure to leave and do a postdoc in the US. So mechanisms have been set up for that, where a lot of countries have funding explicitly for a postdoc to take with them to the US.

The US has very little in the way of equivalent money for postdocs to work abroad.

And those same countries who send their PhDs over here are not really set up to receive a lot of postdocs (correct me if this is not really true).

But actually the point I was trying to make was about JOBS, as in faculty positions.

The US is one of the only countries that does not openly discriminate and say explicitly in their job ads that preference will be given to citizens, as Canada, France, and a few others do. That doesn't mean Americans can't get positions abroad, because they do. But the implication is that it's harder if you're not a citizen.

I actually know more people who came to America for a postdoc and got a faculty position in the US than I do American citizens who have their own labs in the US.

Really. I've counted.

In the hierarchy of White American Academic (WAA) preferences, it seems to go like this for hiring faculty:

White American male
Foreign male
Some women*
Some minorities*

*but only if absolutely forced to by affirmative action



At 9:41 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

This is something fact-based and knowable. Do you care to get the stats on those hiring patterns, or should we just take your word on what "seems" to be the case.

To be honest, I have no idea whether more foreign men than American women get jobs. But if I use you calculation methods, that is, counting up all the people that I know and assuming that this is somehow representative of The Way Things Are, I come to a different conclusion. I'll not assert I'm right and you're wrong, though.

If someone showed me hard numbers that indicated my assumptions were wrong, I would not argue. This is a knowable, provable issue.

But after six years of being told that global warming is a hoax, the universe is intelligently designed, stem cells are immoral and Sadam Hussein's WMD's are responsible for 9/11, I'm a little tired of faith-based arguments.

At 1:39 AM, Blogger Dr. J said...

I am based in Europe, but I did say foreign, not Europe, in my comment.

Re postdoc. I know there are some countries which do have funding for their postdocs to go abroad. I don´t happen to be one of them (funding in that direction has been removed in Australia- they´re trying to get scientists BACK) and yet I have met far (far, FAR) more Australian scientists overseas than US ones. Considering the difference in population, this means US scientists are massively underrepresented, even though the financial considerations are the same. This would suggest there may be other reasons aside from funding. Some quick suggestions may be language competency and cultural pressure (it is expected for Australian scientists to go overseas to gather experience while many of the US ones I´ve met seem to be of the “Why bother, we´ve got the best here” attitude). Here may also play a role that Australian´s do seem to be slightly more open to travel and being away from home (but that´s just my personal observations and not based on any serious studies).

Re faculty positions (and based primarily on my experiences of Australia and Germany). I´ve also seen few US in faculty positions here. But then again, I´ve seen few native English speakers of any nationality in faculty positions here except in giant research organisations which operate in English. I think you are failing to acknowledge that language plays a big role, especially when you have to deal with university bureaucracy, and it´s a rare native English speaker who bothers to learn a foreign language so well that they could do it. However other nationalities working in science do often learn English that well. Also, the previous point about travelling/being far from family and your own culture applies. Foreign scientists, especially those from smaller/poorly funded countries are more likely to make those sacrifices than a US scientist.

I haven´t seen any ads here which specify German nationality, although I have seen that in Australia, where the immigration laws have gotten far too strict and stupid, and make it extremely difficult for organisations to hire foreigners. However I do know that the US citizens here in Germany have it far easier with visa´s and other allowances than I have had, and I do know that dealing with the US embassy when I was applying for US postdocs was one of the most unpleasant experiences I´ve had with a foreign government.

So, I´m really not sure it´s as black and white as you think it is.

At 5:44 AM, Blogger Schlupp said...

As a European, I'm afraid I have to plead guilty. The level of discrimination that is considered acceptable here is appaling.

("Only French citizens" is illegal though, at least, they'd have to accept EU citizens living in France. Not that this would help you. Nor anyone else, because they'd probably have to sue.)

At 5:57 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

"Bend down low and let me tell you what I know"

"Foreigners" may be more successful in academia because they see it as a great opprotunity to work in America. According to a University Professor friend of mine, Americans in science tend to be lazy and distracted. American students see the education process a right to which they are entitled.

My Professor insists that there is a place for anyone, regardless of race or gender, in science provided that they are hard-working, thorough, have original ideas, and communicate and get foster good relationships with others in their profession. Unfortunately Americans have been raised in a society that values TV more than books.

Maybe it is time to stop making excuses? Put your nose to the gindstone. Focus on what you are doing and not all of the people who seem to be holding you back. It is somewhat difficult to simpathise with you and all of the repression that you feel in your position. You have a great life, although you may not make as much money as you would like (a lot more money than a lot of us) You have a great deal of freedom to focus on your goals.

You have a tremendous opportunity that very few people have. End your pity-party and start thinking about solutions instead of problems. Instead of blogging about how people have slowed you, how about all of the people who have helped you along. See the avenues to success instead of all of the potholes.

Live one day in my life and you will know just how good you have it.


At 7:15 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Imagine if the U.S. severely limited the numbers of foreign nationals who could come to the US for postdocs and grad school. This would solve the low pay for postdocs problem, as there would be an immediate labor crisis and the NIH would be forced to raise wages to reasonable levels to attract more young Americans to science.

I'm not saying I advocate this, just food for thought.

At 7:38 AM, Anonymous evgeny said...

I think that if you apply for a job in China, India, etc... they would be happy to offer you one since you would be well qualified. In the latter country you won't have to worry about language, but I imagine with your American training, tenure would be a cinch. Good luck!

At 7:56 AM, Blogger Day ByDay said...

Hmmm... well I sat on two hiring committees (as the grad student representative) at a university in Canada... and although the ads did say "preference will be given to residents of Canada" or something along those lines, the candidate's citizenship/residency status never played a role in who made the short list, and who was eventually offered the position. The committee cared more about catching the best candidate they could. I think the only time we worried about foreign candidates was if we considered them a "flight risk" - because perhaps the worst case for a hiring committee is to offer the position and have all the top candidates accept offers elsewhere. But this could happen with "native" candidates as well.

But maybe the committees I sat on were atypical (you know, n=2 ain't so big).

At 11:13 AM, Anonymous evgeny said...

Oh oh, I just got the following email...

"An opportunity is available at The MITRE Corporation (www.mitre.org)
for a postdoctoral position to support a three-year MITRE Sponsored Research program. This applied research opportunity will focus on the development and testing of technologies for the detection of RNA viruses. Practical experience in molecular virology, recombinant techniques, RNA construct design and assembly, and cell culture assays is required. The candidate must also have excellent communication skills and the ability to work successfully within a team. The laboratory is located at our McLean site in VA in close proximity to Washington DC and bio-research institutions engaged in
these efforts. This position offers an excellent opportunity for professional growth within a diverse multidisciplinary team, with the possibility of future permanent employment at MITRE, freedom to publish in peer reviewed journals, and opportunities for presentation
at international science meetings. U.S. citizenship needed. Superior stipend offered."

Seems that I can't have certain jobs for some reason... Evil American bastards. If it wasn't for their excellent education and opportunity to usurp a faculty postion I would kill them all. Allah Akbar.

At 11:42 AM, Blogger Ms.PhD said...

Anonymous #1,

Actually it's NOT knowable right now, because statistics of who applied for all the faculty positions is NOT information available to the public for all schools. We only know who got the jobs, and even that is hard to track since there's no centralized clearinghouse (that I'm aware of) for listing ALL the new assistant faculty hired in the US.

It's like when we learned a few years ago that NOBODY was keeping track of how many postdocs there are in the US, least of all NIH.

Dr. J, I think it was someone else who said Europe.

I agree that the emphasis on foreign languages is... nonexistent in the US and that is one factor. And yes perhaps there is more emphasis on staying near one's family than going abroad to get, shall we say, broadened. And yes there is a "we've got the best here" attitude- look at any report on statistics of research spending and you'll see that, even with the war, the US is still at or near the very top (note that Americans judge everything by price, not by quality).

Did I say it was black and white? I'm just trying to have a discussion here.

Anonymous #2 says:
"According to a University Professor friend of mine, Americans in science tend to be lazy and distracted. American students see the education process a right to which they are entitled."

Um, yeah, we do. But again, I'm not talking about education, I'm talking about JOBS IN EDUCATION.

"My Professor insists that there is a place for anyone, regardless of race or gender, in science provided that they are hard-working, thorough, have original ideas, and communicate and get foster good relationships with others in their profession."
I think this is a) a bit idealistic and b) actually pretty demanding. I don't think most of the PIs I know fit these criteria of being hard working, thorough, have original ideas, communicate and foster good relationships. So why do they have jobs when I can name plenty of people who have all those qualities and felt there was no place for them in science?

"Unfortunately Americans have been raised in a society that values TV more than books."

This is true.

"Instead of blogging about how people have slowed you, how about all of the people who have helped you along."

I'll choose to ignore the other comments you made that assume I'm a lazy American. But I might just take this suggestion to blog about the people who have helped me.

But not right now. I have work to do.

At 2:39 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Anonymous #2 says:"According to a University Professor friend of mine, Americans in science tend to be lazy and distracted."

Wow! That's a blanket statement if I ever heard one. And wrong. It just makes my head explode thinking about it. I think laziness and distractedness are pretty universal, and if you really look and listen you will see that many people who look like they are working are really working to look like they are working. I'm not going to go farther with this, but I think you need to rethink your assumptions.
-Angry, Lazy American

At 4:56 PM, Blogger v./ said...

I think you see fewer Americans getting a faculty position (and a post doc) in Europe, simply because the number of positions is far, far less than in the US. Europe is more competitive (I can describe at length the system in France, but it's gonna take a while) simply because there are fewer labs, with fewer money for research. And also, the pay is less in comparison with an average American University salary for Ass. Prof. (at least in Bio). Even as dwindling as the funding is here in the US, it is still far more substantial than the one in most European countries. Another point is that most Europeans (and chinese, indian, soth american, etc) have learned English and so it's easier to get used to the country, whereas many americans have not learned French or German or Italian and may find harder to live in a foreign society.

At 4:59 PM, Anonymous Zuska said...

"My Professor insists that there is a place for anyone, regardless of race or gender, in science provided that they are hard-working, thorough, have original ideas, and communicate and get foster good relationships with others in their profession. Unfortunately Americans have been raised in a society that values TV more than books."

Your professor is living in fantasy land. First, there aren't enough positions for everyone. Second, there's no such thing as "regardless of race or gender" in science or anything else in the U.S. Race and gender ALWAYS affect what goes on in hiring and evaluation. Some committees and departments do a better job than others of trying to mitigate those effects. Most don't.

About viewing education as a right: this is off the mark, too. If Americans TRULY viewed education as a right, they would be demanding their state and federal government to spend more on higher education, to have more need-based aid available rather than merit scholarships, among other things, so that no one need be excluded from higher education because of finances. But we don't think education is a right, we think it's a privilege that you pay for. Which is messed up. Education should be seen as a right, and as an investment by society in its future.

At 7:19 PM, Blogger Ms.PhD said...

Yay, Zuska!

Yay, angry American!

Oh and let me add one more little tidbit to the reasons why most American scientists don't want to go abroad: the anti-American sentiment is really strong right now. I've experienced it when I traveled to Europe, and it wasn't fun. In fact, it made me want to come home, and you all know I can totally understand why everyone hates us. I really can. But I wanted to put a sign on my head that said, "I didn't vote for him and I don't approve of the war!"

At 10:20 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

seems like you hit a couple nerves based on the comments here. postdoc positions were invented simply because there were too many grad students and not enough faculty positions to begin with. and it's stayed this way for a reason (post-postdoc anyone?). what a great scam. underpay people to work long hours with little job security. and just who is that desperate than the people who want to come to this country? we need to face facts and change the system already.

At 6:02 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

"I didn't vote for him and I don't approve of the war!"

But your ability to evaluate information objectively and rationallly, and your insistance that you are right and everyone who disagrees with you is wrong, are well-matchind with his.

At 7:06 AM, Blogger Dr. J said...

To last Anonymous: you know what? Yeah, it hit a nerve.

First I will agree with everything you said about postdoc positions. Not a problem with that, but the existence of these positions and the absence of enough professorial/permanent positions for the scientists being pumped out of uni is a completely different point to the one that was being discussed.

So back to the point: foreign postdocs in the US and vice versa, and why it hit a nerve with me. I got up the guts on my own to go to a foreign country to do a PhD(not postdoc, PhD - I was even younger) on my own, with no support from anyone. No family, no friends, no money behind me, no german language. I fought through various positions, funding problems, fucking bearocratic shit and three kinds of hell in various forms to do it. So, yeah, I get pissed when I´m told that I had it easy and that US citizens have it tough. Cause you know what? They don´t. Not at all. Ms PhD, this is not aimed at you personally, right now I´m just venting my hit nerve at Anon.

Now I will say, yes there is anti-US sentiment in Europe right now. No, you are not personally responsible for it. I copped massive amounts of shit for the whole Australian government- Tampa thing a few years ago, to the point that people deliberately turned their backs on me at parties. My husband is German - want to know how often WWII gets thrown at him personally? You know what? That kind of shit is going to happen everywhere, to everyone, for whatever reason is around at the time and you just have to live with it.

At 11:34 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

"mechanisms have been set up for that, where a lot of countries have funding explicitly for a postdoc to take with them to the US.

The US has very little in the way of equivalent money for postdocs to work abroad."

I think this is basically true (but there is some funding available from the NSF: http://www.nsf.gov/funding/pgm_summ.jsp?pims_id=5179 I don't know if there's something similar at the NIH), but I think it misses an important point. There is much less US funding for foreign postdocs than for Americans (NSF and NIH restrict fellowships to US citizens - which I actually think is basically fine) while there are international and European agencies that will support foreign postdocs studying abroad (including Americans). Just recently I mentioned to a collaborator that I knew someone that was looking for a postdoc and the collaborator immediately asked if she was American because that would really simplify things in terms of funding.

Getting back to opportunities, for those that are interested, here are some sources that provide funding to American and other international scientists to work in Europe and other countries:

1) The Humboldt foundation (Germany): http://www.humboldt-foundation.de/en/programme/stip_aus/stp_p.htm

2) DAAD(Germany) :http://www.daad.org/?p=50411

3) Human Frontier Science Foundation (many participating countries including the US): http://www.hfsp.org/about/AboutProg.php

At 5:16 PM, Blogger Ms.PhD said...

I've never heard of the Humboldt or DAAD, but I know lots of people who applied for HFS.

If I remember correctly, in reality they only fund about a handful of people every year (like, less than 20).

Not much of a drop in the bucket.

Also, I think it's interesting that you mention the difficulties of finding funding for foriegn postdocs.

Where I work, the majority (that is, more than half) the postdocs are foreign, and they are mostly paid off of R01 grants to their PIs.

In fact, this seems to be preferred by most PIs since independent funding (i.e. fellowships) mean that postdocs can work on their own ideas more easily, and leave more easily if they aren't happy. Much easier to control a postdoc paid off an R01.

At 5:32 AM, Blogger :) said...

I'd like to cite one exception to your stats. I'm a US citizen grad student in Biology studying in Israel. There are a significant number of US citizens who have chosen to do Phds, post docs and eventually get faculty positions here in Israel. It isn't easy, but I'd say most of us US citizens are Jewish and do it because of ideology. I haven't yet figured out why I see so many Asian student around here!

At 11:52 AM, Anonymous evgeny said...

I can't believe you never heard of the Humboldt fellowship or the DAAD! Isn't that the prerequisite to talking shit about Germany being unwelcoming of furriners?

Damn. Germany had a booth with lots of broshures to attract furriners for post-docs and grad school at the last meeting of our professional society. What about the Sofia Kovalevskaja award where they give you 1.6 million euros to set up your own research lab in a university for six years anywhere in Germany if you're from overseas? I hear there are 8 of those. You should look it up. They'll even teach you German for free.

At 1:35 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

And your data is based on...?

For a Ph.D., you have really impaired critical thinking skills. I suspect that has something to do with your general level of emotionality. Get a grip.


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