Nature has an editorial reflecting on FASEB data on the career trajectories of young scientists. The Nature News piece does a tidy job of summarizing the salient points (too many biomedical PhDs, too few jobs in academia).
Graduate schools need armies of well-trained students and postdocs willing to sacrifice long hours in the lab to generate data for grant applications and IP licensing deals, not to mention carrying significant teaching loads in many cases.
The editorial notes: “the plight of the postdoc will probably change only if the issue of scientific training is addressed from the top, where it may be necessary to consider the possibility that too many scientists are being trained.”
And how about the possibility of postdocs being tempted to cut corners & engage in some degree of misconduct to obtain publishable results and thus improve their chance of securing one of those few assistant professor slots.
The concluding paragraph notes: “More effort is needed to ensure that recruitment interviews include realistic assessments of prospective students’ expectations and potential in the academic workplace.”
In other words, explain that they might face a lifelong career with a very modest salary as a grant-funded (i.e., insecure employment) super lab tech … and that industry is not necessarily the answer, as demonstrated in another Nature piece on rising scientist job cuts in the pharmaceutical industry. In a nutshell, one of my favorite demotivators.