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Policy

Misconstruing Scientist Shortages

April 15, 2013 | APPEARED IN VOLUME 91, ISSUE 15

As an American Chemical Society member for about 30 years, I have been mystified by the continual assertion that the U.S. faces a general shortage of science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) professionals. What objective data, such as from the Bureau of Labor Statistics, actually support this assertion?

Nevertheless, there seems to be limited official response from ACS regarding the present employment situation and how much worse it may become in the near future. For instance, on Feb. 7, the New York Times published “America’s Genius Glut,” a story by Ross Eisenbrey of the Economic Policy Institute. The article indicates that the U.S. has about 9 million people with STEM degrees, but only about 3 million have a job in a STEM field. To better illustrate the real truth about the jobs situation, perhaps C&EN needs to show photographs of newly minted scientists with signs reading, “Unemployed STEM professional—will work for food.” Imagine how much worse things are likely to get for American workers if President Barack Obama gets his stated wish and every foreign STEM graduate gets a green card (Wall Street Journal, Review & Outlook section, Jan. 30).

If ACS really exists to serve its membership—rather than large institutions such as major universities and multinational companies that principally want a bottomless pit of cheap labor—it is time to consult with other scientific societies and learn their views on the current employment outlook. If these organizations also report poor prospects for their members, then it is time to present a common front to the White House and Congress, clearly stating that there is no general shortage of STEM professionals.

This really should have been done long ago. Dismal job prospects for physical scientists are not new. On April 14, 1993, the Wall Street Journal published an article entitled “Black Hole Opens in Scientist Job Rolls” by G. Pascal Zachary. At roughly the same time, the New York Times published a story by Malcolm W. Browne entitled “Amid ‘Shortage,’ Young Physicists See Few Jobs.”

The truth needs to be spoken to our masters in Washington, D.C., quickly, before they sell the rank and file of this society down the river so as to further benefit ultra-high-net-worth types in places like Silicon Valley.

Wm. Charles L. Jamison
Warrenton, Va.

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