Policy ForumCAREERS

Competition and Careers in Biosciences

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Science  14 Dec 2001:
Vol. 294, Issue 5550, pp. 2293-2294
DOI: 10.1126/science.1067477

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There is a disconnect between the scientific promise of bioscience research and the career prospects facing young bioscientists. Bioscientists work longer hours for less pay, spend many years as lowly paid postdocs, and have greater career uncertainty than most highly educated professionals. We apply the economists' tournament job market model to explain career patterns in bioscience research, which is structured so that the chance of winning a prize--an independent academic position, tenure, scientific renown--motivates researchers. We argue that market forces will not improve career prospects for young bioscientists and suggest policy interventions to make careers more economically rewarding and productive.