20 April 2009

"Training the Next Generation of Astronomers"

An interesting article on how future astronomers are being trained, this article makes a few key points on the current process. (Full text available for free via the download links.)

For example, the current generation of grad students are being trained to perform research, when in reality most astronomers do not spend the majority of their time actually performing research. Most researchers instead are managers, grant writers, and are in charge of budgets, none of which are skills we learn as grad students.

In addition 11% of PhD earning astronomers go into EPO (Education and Public Outreach) careers, and many researchers also perform some component of EPO as well. Without EPO, the public would not have such a love for astronomy, congress wouldn't fund NASA nearly as much, and even the HST would have been retired a decade ago.

A large portion of the paper is also dedicated to the family unfriendliness of academia, making the point that this doesn't hurt only women, but also those men who wish to play a larger role in their families.

Give the article a read!


Allison said...

I would say grad students ARE trained to write grants etc. Don't you have to write funding applications for grad awards etc? In my MSc I had to write a whole NSERC grad funding application, including a lit review and project proposal, even though I knew it wouldn't even make the departmental cut off because of my marks.

But managing and budgeting... yeah, PI's are not at all trained in those skills, and as a result are often TERRIBLE at the first, and simply chintzy at the second.

zandperl said...

It probably depends upon your specific program, but most programs in physics and astronomy that I've heard of, the advisor writes the grant applications for his own projects and includes a stipend for a grad student in it. Sometimes astronomy grad students will write applications for telescope time, but they are not trained in how to do so, they're simply thrown in and told to figure it out on their own.

Levinson Axelrod said...

Thanks for providing the article. Enjoyed the read.