Science is at the crux of human advancement – money is spent in millions by governments all over the world to enable radical betterment of the human society through scientific research. Scientists maybe considered the harbingers of hope, but in reality there is very little hope left for some researchers who have faced the harsh reality of science as a career.
As a Ph.D. student, one is frustrated almost on a daily basis. Experiments fail. Bouts of self-doubt and existential crisis plague the minds of once high-flying achievers. As an undergraduate or a postgraduate student, one is easily pulled into a fictitious romantic endeavour with science. The adventures entice you, the promises of grand achievements drive you beyond your wildest imaginations, and then reality hits you. It hits you so hard that you start to wonder what the purpose of a doctoral degree is. The highest academic degree that one can possibly obtain: A degree that does not even guarantee you a job. Forget about unemployment after receiving the degree. I know not a handful but, sadly, many who have been forced to go to the unemployment office even before finishing their thesis. It is not a rosy picture. Of course, there are people who, despite the hardships of PhD, come out successful and manage to survive in academia or find a job in the industry. But what about the other end of the spectrum? – the ones who were sent home unemployed even before finishing their degree, those sent out without any publications because of the ineptitude of their supervisors, the ones commonly referred to as the pity PhDs. These are not people who are incapable of performing scientific research; these are people who have been failed by an improperly monitored education system. For a few years now the faults in the PhD system have been openly recognized and widely discussed amongst the scientific community – I only wish they (universities, educational institutions, etc.) would make it clearer to the general public that it is not all that fine and dandy in the world of science. False advertisements spring hope in the hearts of students, who think that focused lab work and good grades will see them through to a career in academia, when in reality there are several other factors that come in to play. Science is no longer the romanticized haven for lab rats. You need to have the social skills of a successful sales person, the tact of a politician, the writing/poetic skills on par with Shakespeare and Wordsworth. For some, however, the advice of having to redefine their personalities at the age of 28+ comes a little too late. Unemployment and a society that fails to comprehend their circumstances are what some disheartened researchers have to face.