I'm a scientist, I have good ideas, and you should pay me to pursue them

I love science. It is my passion, and it is my dream to be able to be a student of it for the rest of my life. But everyday, I am confronted with the mountain of bullshit that stands in the way of that goal.

1. I am tired of hearing that I haven't published enough.

2. I am tired of watching the defense budget increase exponentially every year, while simultaneously watching the budget for our major science funding outlets butchered like a cheap piece of meat.

3. I am tired of watching the rest of the world kick our asses in math, science, engineering, etc. because we cut budgets to educate our kids.

4. On that note, I'm tired of stupid kids.

5. I'm tired of people asking me why I didn't go to medical school

6. I'm tired of people who don't believe in global warming.

7. I'm tired of people who's greatest concern with the world is whether or not Lyndsay Lohan will serve jail time. She's a drunk... so probably she will... and who gives a damn, we have bigger problems.

If you are not a scientist, you should still join this group. Maybe you will get a sense of what we go through on a daily basis.

1. We go to college and get a degree. But while we are getting that degree, we work a 40-60 hour week on top of our classes to get experience in a lab, so that we can go to a grad school that actually matters. And we do it for almost no pay.

2. We go to grad school. If you are lucky, you get to work for an advisor that gives a damn about you and wants to see you succeed, but still makes your life a living hell for 5-10 years (depending on your field, your project, and your ability to make data magically pop out of your ass). We get paid worse than Wal-Mart employees to work 80 hour weeks, and are made to feel guilty for taking any time off. All of this work potentially culminates in the publication of a paper that most people won't read. You should not try to read it. You probably would not understand it, and trying to explain it would be too frustrating. Just say good job and move on.

3. We might go on to do a postdoc. At this point, most of our med school friends are starting to make better money, and the kids in business and law school are already buying small islands in the caribbean. We are being paid about the same amount of money as a secretary. Some secretaries make much more than we do. We have probably changed fields, so any of the stuff that we did in grad school does not matter to the new people that we are trying to impress. Also, every event that we go to is full of people with PhD's or people trying to get them, so that degree that we got that you are so proud of does not mean much. We work. There is no time limit. You can still eat, but you have to eat in the breakroom at the lab, and you can sleep, but never more than 3-4 hours. There's about a 50% chance that you will accumulate data that is earth-shattering enough in a very esoteric way to about twenty people in the world that you may have a chance at moving on to being a lowly assistant professor. There's also a 50% chance that you will become a homeless meth addict.

4. Let's say you make it in the top 50% of that deal. You get a job at a major university as an assistant professor. You now have a mountain of administrative responsibilities that you were never trained to do. You have to start training your own grad students and postdocs. Most of the good postdocs are taken by the world-renowned faculty members, so you are stuck with people who will do anything to come to the US to avoid various forms of persecution in their home countries. The grad students can be good... or they can be terrible. But no matter what, you have to make them do work that is so complicated only a few people in the world do it. In the meantime, you don't actually get to do science anymore. All of the experimental techniques that you worked so hard to perfect become meaningless, and you sit behind a desk and write grants all day. If you write 15 grants, 1 of them might get funded. The trouble is, there are only three groups to apply to...
You also have to teach. You will run into about 1-2 really great students every semester that keep you just interested enough in teaching that the other 300 don't make you want to commit suicide. You will have to justify your very existence every single day to the fourty levels of beaurocratic assholes above you and they might say thank you twenty years later with a plaque.

5. All of these steps lead up to the possibility of your making tenure. However, universities are trying to do away with tenure, so that you have to go through all of this and still have no job security. If you don't make tenure, you might be able to find a job somewhere else... but it will probably be in North Dakota or rural Idaho.

I stare in the face of these odds everyday. They suck. I know that I could leave science today and go to law school, business school, medical school, etc. I would make more money, and I would be as good or better at it than anyone else. I choose to live a life devoted to academic science because I love it, I am passionate about it, and I can't imagine doing anything else. If you vote or are politically oriented in any direction, you should remember that this situation is as bad or worse for any other academic discipline. Scientists in academia ask for chump change compared to most of the rest of our budget, and are continually told that there's not enough money to fund us, and that we are actually going to have to take a pay cut. That's pretty sad... I have no idea what you can do about it, but I take solace in the fact that I know some pretty smart people.