Saturday, March 07, 2009

As an American, I'm a minority in my profession.

Yes, I am a minority in more ways than one.

I'm planning to attend a couple of meetings this year, so I was looking at the breakdown of speakers on the schedule.

I was surprised to note not just the breakdown of women (25-30% if you count both short and long talks, more like 10% if you count only women giving long talks). But honestly, I'm not that surprised.

You might be surprised to note, however, two things. First, both of these meetings with less-than-parity involved at least one woman organizer. So it's not like only men were involved in choosing the speakers (it is widely argued that having more women help with these tasks will necessarily result in parity, but that's not exactly true).

Second, everyone else who looked at these lists thought they were seeing parity (e.g. they thought it was 50%).

When I told them it's actually twice as bad as they perceive, they were surprised.

Our perception is so skewed, we don't even recognize how bad things are. (Quantitative measures, people! Use them! Love them!)

Personally, I was much more surprised to note how few US-born scientists there are in the US. At all levels. We're not just less than half, we're on average only a quarter of the total scientists at the post-PhD levels.

I knew that the postdoc numbers have drifted past the mid-line in recent years, with more than half the postdocs in our country coming from other countries.

And we know that while there are almost equal numbers of women postdocs as male postdocs, especially in the early years, for some reason I hadn't quite grasped what the national origin breakdown translated into for science faculty.

In other words, most of our science faculty in the US are not from the US. Already. We're not talking about outsourcing eventually becoming the norm, as for some industries. Outsourcing of scientific talent has already been the norm for a lot of years, but no one has been talking about it.

So I'm really feeling like a rare species these days, and not in a good way. There are some America-born women who are faculty, to be sure. But there are very few American-born women postdocs.

I can't help feeling like it's somehow perceived as more okay to be smart and professional if you have a cool accent, or that it's somehow more permissible to occasionally make a mistake and blame it on English not being your first language?

I've heard people say that recipients of NIH fellowships (as grad students and/or postdocs) will have a better chance at a faculty position, but I don't see that supported by the numbers.

Only US citizens are eligible for those funding sources, so if it were a real advantage, we would not be in the minority of those getting hired for faculty positions.

Among the students from my graduate school, it's mostly those who came from outside the US (I'm not saying 'overseas' because I'm including Canada) who are getting interviews now.

What's up with that? I don't see any obvious correlations with publications, creativity, or any other measure that should correlate with productivity or potential for success.

Is this just a cultural perception that they work harder? Is this the "my visa is running out" phenomenon I've blogged about before, where PIs prioritize which postdocs they promote based on who is most likely to be deported?

Is this just another factor working against me that I didn't even know about?

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At 3:38 PM, Blogger chall said...

I think there are at least one thing here that you mix up.

you say "In other words, most of our science faculty in the US are not from the US." and then you say "Only US citizens are eligible for those funding sources, so if it were a real advantage, we would not be in the minority of those getting hired for faculty positions."

So, either these people who get NIH are citizens now but they weren't born in US or they point is off. If the fact is that there are plenty of people becoming American (US citizens) I have to admit that I fail to see why this is a bad thing. [unless of course you think that it is where you are born that is the key factor here?]

As being a foreginer and a female post doc I must say that I find it so much easier to be offered positions as male American post docs (all of them are getting job offers at the moment). My non US citizenship is a real downside (not really thinking it wouldn't be), even more than me being a woman in some cases.

However, I find that there are fewer American female post docs (at least where I am) than male, even compared to the foreign ratio. In that you might be correct to assume that as a female American postdoc you have to compete with the foreign male post docs, as well as the few female foreigners on top of the male Americans.

I don't think this makes it "another factor working against you" - if nothing else because the key ingredient of getting that faculty job is networking/knowing the field/being known in the US and as a US born,bred and science thaught with an american mentor you have a huge advantage against at least the average foreign post docs.

At 4:13 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Yeah, the pale male stale humans think hiring furriners is DIVERSITY. And the PMS group (get it, I made a funny YFS!!) aren't intimidated by furriners, yah know, like they are USian ass busting wimmen.

I noticed that pattern about 10 years ago. Chinese woman and man, after Chinese woman and man, not USians - from China. And then I looked up their salaries... 10k less at least! to other dept recent hires. Hey, our crap treatment here is better than crap treatment in China - tis the grand ol USA!

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

Maybe not so directly relevant to this post, but to the general issues raised here, has anyone seen this article in Science ('And then there was one'):;321/5896/1622/DC1

(a full longitudinal study of a Yale Bio PhD class, 26 members, 17 years after entry ... only one--ONE--ended up tenured faculty!)

At 6:09 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Good post. I think many American students avoid PhD sciences precisely in part for this unspoken reason. At my Big Research undergrad alma mater, about half to a quarter GSIs were imports. Graduate school already socially strains and isolates students enough, and feeling like an immigrant in one's own country makes for no particular comfort.

This probably also explains why so few URMs who could go to graduate school actually do, choosing medical school instead.

At 7:44 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

It's always been a game with me to count up the number of different countries of origin and languages spoken in my various lab. Usually, for labs larger than 5, there are easily at least 3 different countries and or languages. I think it's a lot of fun, actually. But why is this "outsourcing?" I don't understand why we don't give US-educated international students residency and a job.

Could it be because Americans already realize that it's a lot of work for relatively little eventual reward? It's always been a struggle to get Americans into science, but why bother working for $20-60,000 for a decade or two when you (could) go to wall street? Or, you'd get paid the same with a bachelor's and going into teaching, same pay range AND summers off!

At 8:18 PM, Blogger Unbalanced Reaction said...

Interesting observation. Americans are by far the norm at small liberal arts colleges; in fact, several of my non-American friends took three (or more!) rounds of applications before they finally found a position.

At 8:42 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Maybe this is yet another factor working against you, who knows. All I know is that there's not a whole lot of American postdocs oversees (I'm not counting Canada) either - so maybe they have all just done the math and left academia to get a real job that pays better. Then again, science is so international that in many other countries you are also more likely to encounter a majority of non-natives. And getting faculty positions because we are forgiven our English mistakes? Give me a break please. Although I might give the my visa is running out approach a try. Busting my ass so far hasn't done it!

At 9:17 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I don't know that it follows that Americans are marginalized just because they are in the statistical minority (for example - and I couldn't point you the stats to back this up but know I've seen them somewhere - when men are under-represented in a group/committee/whatever they are even more disproportionately deferred to).

That said, my impression is that it is advantageous to have studied or worked in another country. Experience with a different academic system seems to be desirable. American academics have always looked favorably on my doing my PhD in another country. When they hire over here, Americans (followed by Europeans) certainly seem to get precedence over people who are from this part of the world. Have you considered applying for positions overseas?

At 10:26 PM, Blogger EcoGeoFemme said...

FWIW, I'm organizing a session at a national meeting. It will be 70% women. It just worked out that women were the best people for the topics I wanted covered.

At 12:52 AM, Blogger Phagenista said...

As a child of an immigrant myself, I'm loathe to say anything against foreign scientists coming to the US, either transiently or permanently. But one advantage each of those foreign scientists has over an all-American postdoc is international experience. For them, being in the US extends their network of collaborators and colleagues to another country. American postdocs are often encouraged to coast-swap for similar reasons, but the effect may not be as significant as if we'd gone abroad. Since grants are requiring more collaboration, perhaps that is one reason your more international colleagues are faring better on interviews.

In my field, international experience and collaborators are prized, and a noticeable fraction of the top American PhDs each year take postdocs in high profile foreign labs. Some also take faculty jobs abroad. While I chose to stay in America, I didn't restrict my job search to the US.

At 3:19 AM, Blogger DrL said...

Did it ever crossed your mind that maybe it is not that foreigners are promoted because there is discrimination against Americans, but because the Americans do not want to do these jobs?

If it were not for the foreign workforce in US academia, it would probably shrink to 1/4th of the size of what is it now, because Americans would not be willing to work for such poor pay for such extended hours required.

Foreigners are prepared to put up with much more shit (slave labour) than Americans do, and that gives them a distinct advantage in this crap system.

Also, maybe they procrastinate less then Americans, because there are scared of their visas not being extended? Maybe they work more because of that, they work some unthinkable hours to people who do not worry about their right to live and work in US?

Maybe they offer better value for money, because they are willing to accept lesser pay than Americans? Maybe Americans have other career option accesible to them that offer them a better pay, and for foreigners academia is the only chance to get a visa to stay in US?

There maybe be more to that statistics than the reasons than you suggest, cool accents and mercy promotions.

At 3:44 AM, Blogger Dr. J said...

I'm really tempted to find you quite offensive at the moment.

I can't help feeling like it's somehow perceived as more okay to be smart and professional if you have a cool accent, or that it's somehow more permissible to occasionally make a mistake and blame it on English not being your first language?

Yeah, nice one. Us foreigner-types must only get by on the fact that we're foreign. It couldn't possibly be due to anything else.

Could it be that a lot of American postgrads/postdocs realise how crappy the conditions are and just leave? Could it be that the holes left by too few US-born scientists are being filled out of necessity by overseas scientists? Could it be that American science would grind to a halt without foreign postdocs?

Could it be that those who have taken the large, difficult step of going to a foreign country with a foreign language have shown by that alone that they are more driven to succeed than someone who sits in the same lab for years without moving?

Nothing's stopping you from going somewhere else and testing out your VISA/accent/bias theories. Would you, could you, dare? Or will you just give us another excuse and find yet another group to blame?

At 6:55 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

In Germany it is common for the best phds to go to the US for a postdoc, while the rest stays there. If there are similar customs in other counries, that should skew the successrates.

At 9:58 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

At my field's national meetings 2 years ago there was an area with big shiny posters of award winners for the society. You know a photo of the scientist, brief bio, what they did, all that. It was nice because out of 12 posters there were several women. A male postdoc whom I like - good guy really- made a comment about how women were doing really well in our field because there were so few men on those posters. His exact words were "there are no dudes winning these awards". Uh, actually ignoring one poser that was industry related (2 men but not none of us are looking to win that one) and just looking at the academic awards it was 4 women and 6 men. So by having achieved what was a least close to parity the perception was we had 'taken over' everything. He's a theory guy btw - normally good with numbers but you wonder about his assumptions.

At 10:13 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I thought most of the US born PhDs and Postdocs find either faculty or biotech industry positions so easily compared to foreign born ones who easily end up doing 6,7 year long postdocing for "cheap" and more publication? I might be wrong.

At 1:31 PM, Blogger Ms.PhD said...


I think you misunderstood my point about NIH. My point is that it gives NO ADVANTAGE despite the common rhetoric that it does.

The truth is, it makes no difference whatsoever, so restricting those things to US citizens is pointless, and getting one makes no difference to one's career either way.

See, I would have thought it would have been a disadvantage if you're not a citizen, the way it is in industry- the university or company has to pay to help you get the appropriate visas/greencard etc. and they don't have to pay that for me. But from what I can tell, nobody cares about that. It's actually no advantage whatsoever to be an American citizen, and I guess I find that a little bit counterintuitive (and apparently you do, too).

Also, I'm not sure why you think having an American mentor would be an advantage, if that PI is a sexist/selfish asshole who does not want to help you, it doesn't matter where they're from.

However, from what I can tell, most of the departments where I would be applying are mostly populated by FOREIGN PIs, so you might have a better chance finding fellow faculty from your home country than I would. That's the irony of it. One of my PIs is inherently racist and always commenting about how people from that country are so much better/smarter/harder working than us fat lazy Americans.

Anon 4:13,

You're right, actually, although I don't fully understand your comment.

There's a longstanding tradition in the US of hiring non-citizens and expecting them to be unaware that they can and should negotiate for a fair salary (or too scared to try).

Anon 5:57,

Yes, that's a great article.

Anon 6:09 and 7:44,

That's exactly my point. I don't need to go overseas- I'm already surrounded by people who speak other languages all day long.

I used to think this was fun, but now I'm over it. I'm sick of the cultural barriers and attitude- the assumption that I somehow have an advantage because I'm American by birth is completely wrong, but I still get ostracized because I can't blend in with all the other transplants. I can't justify taking two week (or longer) vacations to go home and see my family, even though they're equally far away. But culturally it's okay for the Europeans to do so. There are a LOT of disadvantages to being an American postdoc that the foreign postdocs don't seem to understand.


I didn't know that. This sounds like typical US protectionism- it's important to have our children taught by native English speakers, right? So it's actually an unspoken requirement there?

Anon 8:42,

You make a good point, I guess it is like this everywhere else, too, scientists are just expected to go anywhere and everywhere so it's always a mix.

I'm not saying that foreigners are getting faculty positions ONLY because you're forgiven for English mistakes, but I've repeatedly seen foreign male applicants make ridiculously offensive gaffes, scientific and otherwise, or give an incomprehensible seminar, and everyone wrote it off as cultural/forgivable because it was easier to ascribe it to an "honest" mistake made by someone speaking English as a second/third language.

Or my other personal favorite, British men who are ascribed genius status and it seems to be purely due to to the cool accent (so far as I can tell, their work isn't any better than anyone else's).

In contrast, in the same job searches, I've seen super-overachieving American women not get offers because of the most minor infractions of how she dressed or answered questions about her personal life.

It's stereotype bias, I think. Everyone pictures scientists as being like Einstein- older, male, with foreign accent.

Anon 9:17,

when men are under-represented in a group/committee/whatever they are even more disproportionately deferred to

That's just sexism. Women tend to defer to men out of habit. But I would love to know where you saw that.

I don't think it works at the cultural level, though. In my university, there are quite a few American faculty, but they don't seem to have any more power or input than the non-Americans do, and the majority always rules (decisions usually don't break down along cultural lines, but sometimes they do).


Good for you! I don't know how you have time to do that, you must be very organized. I know a few people who have done it as postdocs, and they were in super-supportive labs.


I can see what you're saying. I think it takes a lot of courage to go abroad and usually really far from your friends and family. That's gotta help you gain confidence in all sorts of ways, in addition to the obvious networking advantages.

I do think in the past, though, it was more common for postdocs to be transient and part of a deal that virtually guaranteed a job back in the home country. That doesn't seem to be the case anymore. In the US, if an American postdoc goes abroad, everyone assumes we're never coming back. It's sort of a one-way trip for us if we decide to go (at least in my field).


Yes. But it doesn't really matter WHY, I actually didn't say anything about why. I was just pointing out that this is now the status- Americans are the minority. It's quite different to function as a minority.

I think the "procrastinate less" model is probably not true, but I can't say I've ever polled anyone about it. I know in my case that's definitely NOT a factor.

I NEVER said these were "mercy promotions." I'm quite disgusted at how many of you are trying to put words in my post that were NOT there.

I just know that some PIs go out of their way to help their foreign postdocs get positions so they won't get deported, and tell their American postdocs to fend for themselves. Like they expect us to have all kinds of resources and the foreign postdocs are somehow more in need of help. It's actually not true that American postdocs have more resources. We really don't.

Dr. J,

I think I already responded to the points you raised, as you weren't the only one who raised them.

Anon 6:55,

Maybe that's my problem. I'm a mediocre American competing with the best of the best from everywhere else.

I'm not sure if that makes me feel better or worse. Maybe they should have kicked me out a long time ago, and just spared me the delusion?

Anon 9:58,

LOL. Great story!

Anon 10:13,

That's sort of my point. I would have thought so, too. But I guess the statistics are skewed for a variety of reasons- there are more foreign postdocs to begin with, so I guess it's not that surprising that there are also proportionately more foreign postdocs becoming tenure-track faculty in this country.

At my university, it's more common for foreign postdocs to get a faculty position than to stay a long time.

A long postdoc position implies that someone has to pay you for a long time off their grants, and most PIs don't want to do that unless you have had several years of fellowship support.

Most of the foreign postdocs who have had that look great on paper (very fundable) and end up getting jobs, either in the US or back in their home country.

At 2:19 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Hi, this is Anon 8.42 pm.
Regarding your language/poor English/forgiving mistakes:
I have to say that, as a foreigner, I have always been AMAZED at the sheer patience that most Americans are able to display when a talk is completely unintelligble. Accents are one thing, but oftentimes discussions and question and answer sessions just never seem to get off the ground or go anywhere and remain stuck in an exchange of friendly smiles. It always makes me feel like a bad person when I feel that that's just a waste of my time. That being said, I still assume that maybe some people are better in writing or in one-on-ones. And maybe some of their ideas are really brilliant, and as long as they hire someone to write their manuscript: good for them. And you have to admit - a British accent is simply very, very sexy.

At 3:05 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

If foreign scientist postdocs were not allowed to come here en masse (currently 60% of postdocs are foreign), they would have to raise the salaries to hire American scientists.

At 3:23 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Some of it might be statistics... Americans make up less than 5 percent of the world population but it's #1 in research. Naturally there is going to be an influx of foreign talent. Also in a lot of these countries the nonacademic options are much more limited. Even in the worsening economy, a lot of countries are getting hammered worse.

At 6:00 PM, Anonymous an immigrant said...

I am an immigrant and have now obtained US citizenship but am still a postdoc. This gives me many advantages open to americans such as eligibility for more fellowships, and I took advantage of that. But I also identify a lot (perhaps more) with the foreign postdocs I have known, in other ways.

I do feel that in general, foreigners are more willing to endure hardship than Americans. I think that is one reason why there are so many foreign postdocs - more americans simply drop out of science when they get fed up with the system.

Another reason I think is that many foreign postdocs desire to stay on in the US tp pursue the American Dream. But they have few options to do so other than landing real permanent jobs. So that is extra incentive for them to continue enduring the postdoc system. They simply have very few other options that the americans who drop out of science have. I have had postdoc friends whose visas were expiring and were so desperate for another chance to stay in the US that they even considered marrying (an american). This is a whole level of hardship that american postdocs never experience.

Also, in many other countries the high school and undergraduate education system is less forgiving than that in america. I did high school in my homeland until senior year which is when my family emigrated here. Being in high school here in america was piece of cake compared to what I went through in my homeland. The american school system coddles students. Even the undergrads are often coddled and entitled - when I've had to teach undergrad classes I'm appalled at how many students are so entitled they expect good grades just for showing up to class. This I think causes many americans to have low tolerance for hardship and unfairness (which is what is encountered during postdoctoral years) and since they have other options outside of science, they wisely take them.

It is tough to be a foreigner in the US.many members of my family are now living here but some had to wait over 15 years from the time of application for green card

At 8:58 PM, Blogger Professor in Training said...

As you are a postdoc who is a US citizen, you probably are in a minority but at the faculty level I would argue that this isn't the case for a couple of reasons:

1. Native English speakers have a natural advantage when interviewing for faculty positions (of course, this doesn't give you an advantage over native English speaking foreigners).

2. In order for us foreigners to stay here permanently we need to transition from J or H visas to permanent residency/green card status and employers must jump through hoops to prove that we were more qualified and more suitable for the position than any US citizen that applied.

Is this just another factor working against me that I didn't even know about?

Yes. The whole world is against you. In all seriousness, you can blame your current situation on anything you like - gender, luck, foreign invasions - but I still maintain that you need to do what you can to get out of your toxic postdoc and move on. You can play the blame game for the next 10 years and it's not going to help your current dilemma.

At 3:11 AM, Anonymous RFS said...

Hi YFS. I liked your post. This is a really touchy issue. I've seen the same thing though in physics. Here, in some fields the number of US born scientists has essentially become zero (look at rumor mills, lab members, etc). Kind of crazy, and it is something that I also do not understand. Of course in academics working with our international colleagues is important, and many of my good friends are international. So this is why it is such a touchy issue. But I know what you are saying. Is this a fad? Will it pass?

How about the extreme case: would it be a bad thing if science done in the US was done by immigrants that intend to stay here?

Nobody talks about these things in my field either...

At 3:13 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Yes, foreign scientists in the U.S. are the norm - in all fields.

As to your "cool accent" comment:
I am a U.S. scientist in Europe. I will say for sure that I feel taken more seriously as a foreign scientist here than a domestic scientist in the U.S. Sure, there is still HUGE sexism, but people no longer question my credentials based upon my gender. I've heard the same from other women.

At 8:17 AM, Blogger Alfredo said...

First you say: Our perception is so skewed, we don't even recognize how bad things are. (Quantitative measures, people! Use them! Love them!)

Then: I can't help feeling like it's somehow perceived as more okay to be smart and professional if you have a cool accent, or that it's somehow more permissible to occasionally make a mistake and blame it on English not being your first language?

If you are trying to understand the situation, why don't you follow what you said about in the first quote.

Of course if you are just whining, and want to share your instint-driven perceptions, well, go right ahead..

At 12:48 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

"I can't help feeling like it's somehow perceived as more okay to be smart and professional if you have a cool accent, or that it's somehow more permissible to occasionally make a mistake and blame it on English not being your first language?"

while I agree with many of your points of view, i really think this one is totally ridiculous.

Everybody knows why scientists go abroad or emigrate, and it's definitely not because they look cooler by speaking another language... but because it is important to have an international carrier/environment to work and they want to fight for what they want to do.

Everybody knows how most people is so little interested in science, therefore the low numbers of american people in usa on science, but due to the good conditions so many people move there...

anyway, stop trying to find arguments not to get everything you wish, and be reasonable, life is not always easy and fair.

I'm sure you don't want to have science full of women just for the statistics...


At 12:58 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Living elsewhere in the world, it is very hard for me to see American nationals as a minority group. In fact, we have many Americans and Canadians who come here, sometimes as postdocs, but more often to fill faculty positions. Is this right or wrong? - in my view there are advantages and disadvantages. This post though comes across to me as xenophobic, although I am not sure whether that is what you intended.

At 1:19 PM, Anonymous Liz said...

Nice post, Ms PhD, and something I have thought about often. I did my PhD in the States, did a postdoc in Europe and eventually obtained a permanent position in my postdoc lab.

I was always divided on the justness of the proponderance of foreign profs in the US, and now find myself wondering if I have a moral right to take a prized research job from a deserving native.

Of course, science is an international pursuit, and I love that aspect. I was also a minority in my PhD lab as an American, but didn't feel marginalized in any way, quite the contrary, (my advisor was American-born). There was only one American postdoc in my PhD lab during the time I was there, and he got a TT job, so, it is impossible for me to agree that Americans are at a disadvantage, with such limited data, and strongly feel that the postdocs who were "promoted" were so only on the basis of merit.

However, I admit that I have wondered how so many non-citizens manage to gain faculty positions in the U.S. Certainly you do not see a similar situation in France, where, as an educated guess, 90% of senior researchers or PIs are French by birth. However, you have to realize that the best and the brightest still do choose the U.S. for their postdoc and career, which is a concern here! So much so that the State has recently begun devising incentives for French people to return and work in France.

I DO think that perhaps I was hired, in part, because of my nationality. I certainly know that I am a benefit to the lab, because of what I bring as an American, particularly in terms of language skills. I am now trying to make contacts with non-French organizations to find ways of bringing foreigners to do postdocs in France, to try to open up the system more on that level.

Honestly, I have never seen foreigners receive any extra help on the basis of their visa status or accent or anything like that in the U.S. Then again, I have noticed a great deal of ridiculous self-loathing by Americans in the last few years, so I wonder if things have changed. Your "racist" PI sounds like a real peach, God save us.

Finally to address other points, from personal experience, I am not sure that private schools do not hire less foreign born profs than the big diploma factories. Also, is it true you have to have American nationality to be PI on an NIH grant? The NSF only requires American residency.

Hang in there,

P.S. Sorry if this posts multiple times, I am stymied!

At 2:18 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Something to ponder; connect the dots.

1) The rest of the world assigns a higher status to an academic career than Americans.

2) The advisor of a J-1 PD enjoys supreme power. For the J-1 it is either up (to tenure track) or over (to another PD). Foreign PhDs can not compete on US industry jobs, and so they go where they can, academia.

3) At least in European countries, only the best of the best go to grad school. In the US more get the chance. Hence the weeding out for European students happen pre-grad school and for US students, it happens post-grad school.

4) The highest achievable position for a non-US person in a given field or rather with a given specialized skill set might be a postdoc or faculty position in the US. For instance, I am not employable in myCountry in myField. Contrast that with the highest achievable position for a US person. That might be Wall St. or Silicon Valley.

5) In that regard, if borders were open to people in the same way that they are open to trade, you would see massive competition on industry jobs as well, because foreigners too realize that US academic jobs suck. It's just that the alternative (going back to myCountry and inverting matrices for a small electronics company, say) sucks even more. Right now, because of the visa system, you only see it in academia (and IT).

6) There is more funding going to science in the US than is generally the case in other countries. People go where the money is.

However, you are in luck. With the way the economy is going and the fact that foreigners are generally treated worse (maybe because they have funny accents), there is now a reverse brain drain of foreign born PhDs going back to their countries. This could be a real problem, obviously not for US-born scientists as their competition is leaving, but for the US as a whole, because close to half of their scientists are foreign-born.

At 3:42 PM, Anonymous ruthzilla said...

Really this post makes you look silly . Few of the other commenters pointed this out. Whining about foreigners makes you look like either a spoiled brat or a stupid redneck. Blaming your competition for your failure to get ahead is classic hick behavior. Especially the line about foreign accents. Why don't you spend a year teaching in South America and see if they complain about your accent in Spanish.

At 8:38 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Stop your bitching and work harder!

At 5:42 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

What you say may be true in your specific research area, but I think you should be careful not to over generalise the situation. I did a postdoc in a top US school am a foreigner, and one whose native language happens to be English. There were at least 12 nationalities in the group I was working in, and of 10-12 postdocs, half were American at any one time. What I saw there was certainly that unless someone had an exceptional record, it was much harder to get either a faculty position or one in industry as a foreigner. I was luckier than most and did get a couple of really nice offers for faculty positions, but in the end, I knew I wasn't willing to give up my citizenship to access most funding, and was happy to be head hunted by a good school back home.
What I am saying is that the visa situation is not often simple for foreigners, so no employer wants to go to thatr effort unless someone really stacks up, cute accent or not.

At 7:33 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Despite all of your complaints about men, I have to say my blog post would be aptly titled "As an American male I'm a minority in my profession". I'm a postdoc at a high level American institution, biomed sciences. The VAST majority of postdocs in our department are not Americans, and I'd say more than 60% are female. That's why I have so much trouble understanding your rants against men;Don't get me wrong, I can see that there's discrimination against women based on your blog and the responses from other women. I just don't see it as much in my day to day life. Its hard to imagine that the male minority here is actually controlling the female majority.

Anyhow, I think you may see a shift in the demographics of science in the next several years. If the majority of postdocs and grad students are women, then soon the majority of PI's should be as well. Men just aren't into the biomed sciences these days, and its understandable. You can't make a very good living on a postdoc salary, and unless you have some family money or your spouse makes a lot of money, its really not worth the pain and effort.

At 11:50 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Hey YFS, what happened to the discussion (I haven't seen any new comments for a few days)? I think that this is a very interesting topic, though it is a touchy one for a lot of people. I hope we can get some interesting debates going on here. I hope you're not too busy to moderate :)

At 12:53 PM, Anonymous John said...

"Did it ever crossed your mind that maybe it is not that foreigners are promoted because there is discrimination against Americans, but because the Americans do not want to do these jobs?"

Ah yes, the "jobs Americans won't do" gambit. Here's the list:

Migrant farm laborers
Construction work
Janitorial work

Wait what?

At 9:24 PM, Anonymous anon said...

Here, this job should get you stop whining about furriners and our of the country as well. Good luck!

P.S. Was it useful? You should check out foreign job sites like that. Die Zeit is a really good place for academics to look, but you might need to know a bit of German to enter the search criteria. For the job though, no knowledge of German is necessary. You'll get to work on your own stuff.

At 1:47 PM, Blogger Ms.PhD said...

fucking blogger!! ARGH!!! I just spent, I don't want to say how long, writing a response to many of these. But blogger ATE MY COMMENT. POS!!! fuuccccckk.

At 12:51 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

>This I think causes many americans to have low tolerance for hardship and unfairness (which is what is encountered during postdoctoral years) and since they have other options outside of science, they wisely take them.

You know, they just mosey on over to Wall Street and rake in the millions, like all Americans do when they start running low on funds. This is so ignorant! Americans in academia often seem entitled compared to foreigners because they are much more likely than any random, 'average' American to hail from the solidly middle to upper middle classes. If we strengthened our science programs in all US schools and really did get the best and brightest into grad school it would be a totally different story. It's a myth that Americans in general are lazier than others. Especially Europenans!

At 4:24 PM, Blogger butterflywings said...

Yeah, people perceive gender parity as women being in the majority...such is the way of institutionalised sexism.

I don't know about immigrants, though. (Please don't take any of the following as criticism of you as a person).

I remember from working in a lab myself, in the UK, certainly most people there were not UK born.

I don't think it's working against native UK or US women.

You're probably right, there is a perception that foreign born people work harder, and they will put up with worse pay and conditions... I don't think these things ultimately benefit anyone.

It has to be hard to make a career in a country that isn't your own, and to face prejudice and 'taking OUR jobs' mutterings.

I can see why some people found the remark about cool accents unfortunate...I don't think accents are generally seen as a positive...I've had colleagues complain about people's accents making them incomprehensible to them...people I found perfectly comprehensible, and actually their English skills were very good. I suppose those people can speak fluent Chinese? Nope, so they can shut up.

Ultimately...white men are on top in current power systems.

I fail to see that bashing immigrants is going to help the cause of women.

Maybe you didn't mean your post to read that way, but I have to confess I found it a bit I said, I don't mean this as a personal attack on you.

At 3:04 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

To Anon 7:33, about the proportion of women: it depends a lot on your field. As a mathematician, I routinely attend conferences where all the speakers are male, and sometimes I'm the only female in the audience!

At 11:22 AM, Anonymous boyie said...

This post is bordering on xenophobic, racist, and paranoid. I was expecting more from you. I'm actually quite disappointed.

I'm the child of two immigrant scientists (one of whom is now a professor at a R1 university, the other in industry), and I'm shocked at what you have to say. It's almost similar reasoning to the anti-immigrant laws in the early 1900s. You should be ashamed of yourself.

At 10:12 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Lawyer: 3 years of school, $150K starting salary.

MD: 4-7 years, $150K starting salary

Scientist: 4-10 years, $40k temporary postoc.

Americans go where the money is. The postdoc deal only sounds good to a Chinese or Indian living on $10K/year (also since it moves him to the US).

Yes, we have outsourced science because there are LOT of people out there willing to do it for less money.

And, by the way, this is a GOOD thing. It means more science gets done for less money.

If you think you have it bad, try to get a job with a PhD in the humanities.

At 4:21 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Yes, this post was very xenophobic and you are wondering about discrimination against women while writing against another group?? You're just envious. This country was founded on immigration. The immigrants you are ranting against came here as soon as they could. You ancestors also came here as soon as they could. I hope they did not take a lot of shit from those who happened to get here first (rolleyes emoticon needed). They don't take YOUR jobs, you actually do have an advantage (just look at the criteria for admission in grad school US vs. foreign applicants--much better scores required for foreiners, almost just a pulse for Americans--you wonder then why these pulse-holders are not good enough when they go on the market against hand picked foreigners?). You just have to be good enough and work hard enough, take advantage of your advantage, that's all.


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