Monday, July 16, 2012

Are GRF's a good idea, or are there better ways to improve scientific caliber in the US?
     So I have been wondering- are graduate research fellowships from the National Science Foundation a good idea, or not?  On one hand, there are too many graduate students, which in turn produces too many postdocs.  Why not half the number of GRF's and pay them twice as much?  Then you are only promoting the best scientists to stay in science, if you can identify who they are.  This would be fantastic, because then mediocre scientists might reassess their worthiness as scientists, and pursue careers that would be more lucrative for themselves and potentially more societally useful.  After all, what good are mediocre scientists?  Do they have any worth, or do they just clog the journal-sphere with mediocre or incorrect articles?
    I have no idea how to assess the value of a good scientist though.  I know that my labmate is a good scientist, but I don't know how he would be identified.  He would excel at all of the standardized tests though... but I also remember one of my classmates who absolutely crushed the chemistry GRE, and has not amounted to a good lab scientist.  My labmate's problem, however, is the fact that he is an international student, and not eligible for a GRF.
     Maybe in addition to GRF's, we could give out magic cards to really good international students that allow them to instantly become American citizens... this could potentially increase our human capital by a large amount.  Instead of them wasting time going home and fighting for student visa renewals, they would be working and assimilating and making scientific advances.  When it came time to apply for postdocs, suddenly the US would be the most reasonable place for them to apply.  Everything would be so much easier for everyone involved.
     With a combination of a small number of high-powered fellowships and magic green cards for the most talented international students, we could improve the caliber of science in the US without producing a huge excess of both great and okay scientists.  This would help everyone in the long run, and the rubbish scientists would not waste their time playing a game they are destined to lose.  Any comments, big empty world?

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