Most of us now recognize that innovation drives our Canadian economy and much more. And that research within universities is a key source of innovation. While innovation happens in many places, it burns with the greatest intensity within the young minds of graduate students and post-doctoral researchers who focus their energies on finding answers to challenging questions. While much of the credit for the advances they make are given to the professors who supervise their efforts or to the institutions where their efforts take place, the reality is that these brilliant and energetic people at the peak of their capacities are the critical engine that converts hope for a better future into reality.
Each day these unheralded Canadian superstars push us ahead. Why do they do it?
It’s not for the pay (graduate student stipends are far lower than full-time workers earning minimum wage, even if they limited their work to full-time – they mostly put in hours far beyond full time work). Post-doctoral scientists (after a decade of training) receive more – earning about minimum wage.
It’s not for the job security. They have none.
They do so because they expect to be rewarded in the future. This includes financially. If they do well, they hope to achieve a relatively high paying job with good stability. But it also includes intellectual satisfaction.
They hope to advance ideas that they can be proud of – ideas that make a difference in the field of study to which they are dedicated.
It’s a high-risk path to follow. They give up many years of earnings and career progression that they would make in jobs – advances they see their friends making while they are ‘studying’. Often the work does not go smoothly, leading many to give up the efforts mid-journey and all to confront high levels of anxiety and stress about their futures.
Most, however, will eventually find their way to interesting jobs. But for the majority of the students those jobs will not match their expectations when they started. Some will become, like me, a university professor (but increasingly difficult to achieve). Others may start companies, work in industry, take on government positions, or transition into roles that build on their domain expertise (e.g. project managers).
While many will eventually find their way to interesting jobs, we should be doing far more to make their difficult journeys easier. For their success is our collective success. We’re paying a great deal to support academic training capacity, and we reap great rewards from the work that the experts emerging from universities pursue within Canada. In fact, Canada may benefit more than most. Many outstanding international students pursue their training in Canada, and a high portion elect to become permanent residents and citizens.
So what are the problems and how do we fix them? Why did a bunch of graduate students and post-doctoral researchers protest today in Canada for better conditions?
1. We do not pay them enough. For instance, the Canadian government post-graduate scholarship for doctorates provides $21,000 per year. (Minimum wage would be ~$40,000). We should double the minimum awards and double the minimum stipends allowed by universities for full-time graduate students. (For many fields a full-time graduate student will make only ~$16,000.00.)
2. We keep them in school too long. In many countries around the globe doctoral students must complete their studies in less than 4 years. We often allow their studies to take 6 years in Canada. Many supervisors and programs failing to push students to completion (for some supervisors there is great benefit to keep someone around who is doing amazing work for $16,000 per year). There needs to be legislation that imposes time limit protections like in other places in the world.
3. We train too many people for the job market. This creates great stress for the students and diverts their capacities from other domains where they could also be successful. We should have a thoughtful determination of how many students we want to train in Canada in each field based on projected demand.
4. We should create and support more positions for researchers who are not faculty members. Many of the best scholars want to pursue active research, which professors like myself do not get to do (we are teaching, supervising, writing and running universities, none of which is actual hands-on research). In many countries there are respected roles for ‘research professors’, which we achieve in Canada by letting people linger as low-paid post-doctoral apprentices for far too long.
Some of the changes will cost money. New funding to support the innovators is needed, but that is actually a small investment on government scales. More importantly, we need to change the way we do things and implement rules that protect the interests of the trainees and apprentices. It’s ultimately about prioritization of interests – are we aiming to maximize productivity within research centers or are we trying to maximize the achieved potential of the young adults that drive our innovation?
We’ve been discussing ways to make things better for decades. So my hope is low. But maybe the national walkouts today will push us forward.
Great shoe making work by Tillman Dierkes!
My v talented shoe-making son https://www.instagram.com/tillmandiy/ made a pair of cowboy boots, wore them for 5 months, entered in patina contest, now hoping for people's choice award.
By Apr 14, download Patina Contest app, register, vote for his boots https://app.patinaproject.com/p/15afde49-23e7-4933-b2d9-c68b68513bca
When traffic cones along a road in New Zealand began mysteriously moving around, the Transport Agency set up a CCTV to pin down the culprits
It turned out a Kea parrot moved them to get attention from humans & get fed
[read more: https://buff.ly/3nSt01o]
How does a girl from small town Saskatchewan, Canada, find her way through life and end up working at the headquarters of a multinational crop science company in St Louis, Missouri?
This story is one part navel gazing (so, yeah, I might brag a little) but it’s also two parts… https://twitter.com/i/web/status/1644430251710115858
📢 New job opportunity! We are accepting applications for the position of Project Manager, Equity Diversity & Inclusion with Research Support Services.
Learn more and apply here: https://bcchr.info/jobs
.@BCChildrensHosp researchers and health professionals are bringing the latest in health science to students and community members of all ages in the Kootenays. Check out @TheNelsonDaily's feature: https://bcchr.info/40OqlUE
Registration has been extended to April 12 - sign up now!
From Kellie and Sherrie Robinson:
"With deep sadness and broken hearts, we bring the news that our beloved Dad, Red Robinson, passed this morning at 8:15am after a brief illness." http://bit.ly/redrobinson
This years theme focuses on urbanization & soul science. Participants will visit different sites and engage with a critical Indigenous studies methodology. Photos are from #SINGCanada2022
Deeply appreciative of the support for @QMUNITY being generated for the Pride Night, an organization that is saving the lives of youth with their efforts.🏳️🌈⚧️
Vancouver Canucks to celebrate the 2SLGBTQIA+ community at Pride Night, this Friday against the Calgary Flames.
Why don't we all agree to pay our politicians what they would have made in 2003 https://twitter.com/Cara_Haney/status/1641162233940963328
Defining the pace of computational progress for 2 generations. Moore's Law helped shape the way we perceive the future.
Today, we lost a visionary.
Gordon Moore, thank you for everything.
#MiniMedSchool BC is heading to the Kootenays! World-class researchers will present discoveries in health research not only to students grades 10-12 on May 5, but to all community members at the first ever Mini Science Night on May 4.
Bioinformatics enthusiast, UBC professor, BC Children's Hospital scientist, He/Him
QOTO: Question Others to Teach Ourselves
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