Nature 454, 1049 (28 August 2008) | doi:10.1038/4541049a; Published online 27 August 2008

Postdoc glut means academic pathway needs an overhaul

Ian M. Brooks1

  1. UTHSC Postdoctoral Association, and Department of Pharmacology, University of Tennessee Health Science Center, Memphis, Tennessee 38163, USA


In his Correspondence 'Fewer academics are not the answer to funding woes' (Nature 454, 397; 2008), Philip Strange suggests that we need to increase the number of trained scientists to help deal with current and future crises such as climate change. But, according to the US National Science Board's Science and Engineering Indicators 2008 (, fewer than 20% of postdoctoral scientists in the United States find tenure-track faculty positions. This suggests that, at least in the United States, we could already have a glut of trained scientists.

Perhaps the solution is not financial at its core at all. A major overhaul of the academic training pathway for life-scientists is long overdue. Issues linked to today's financial and job markets are an indicator that the time is right for a serious self-appraisal on the part of academia. Are we training too many students? And what should we do with all the postdocs?