The late John Huston once said, “Choose your career as you would choose your spouse- for love and money.”
The money part has been dogging us for a couple of decades. We’re so worried all of the time over whether we can pay the bills that we tend to forget about the love of work. Your job is a place where you spend 1/3 or more of your day. You should enjoy it, look forward to going to work in the morning, be excited about solving new problems, deliver service to your customers to make their lives a little better, put quality into craftsmanship.
I consider myself very lucky to have a job I love. Recently, it has gotten much more interesting and I look forward to going to work each day to collaborate. This is a serendipitous revelation for me and makes me realize that learning new things can keep your mind flexible and young. For people like me who have wanted to do science since they were children, to have a place to go to discover the wonder and delight of nature is a thing divinely to be thankful for.
So, I was deeply saddened to see the following labor statistics:
Pharma Layoffs per Month, 2010
Even more disturbing is what the layoff picture in R&D looks like over the past two years:
Source: Challenger, Gray and Christmas
Regardless of how you may feel about Big Pharma, the loss of almost 100,000 jobs in the past year should set off alarm bells. Although a number of the layoffs have been related to reduction in pharmaceutical sales staff, an increasing number have been to scientific staff, specifically medicinal chemists, whose jobs are going to China and India, possibly permanently. Other layoffs in R&D are a consequence of mergers and acquisitions where salaries of scientists, frequently located in very high cost of living states, are considered a drag on the bottom line at a time when patents are expiring and new drugs can’t be approved by the FDA.
That’s thousands of well trained, dedicated scientists whose knowledge base is gone from the American workplace landscape. It is destruction of American scientific infrastructure on an unprecedented scale. But more than that, it is the loss of eager minds with almost childlike enthusiasm for science that will doom us as the greatest nation on earth. In order to keep discovering new breakthroughs in physics, biology, chemistry and medicine, we need a place to go and the means to keep a roof over our heads. Even scientists have base level caloric requirements and families and children.
I hope that lawmakers and businessmen wake up before it’s too late. There’s more to life than making obscene gobs of money.
To close out this post, here’s a video of crystallographers from the University of Michigan riding tricycles around the Advance Photon Source Syncrotron at the Argonne National Labs. May we all stay forever young, as learners, employees and American citizens.
Filed under: Financial Meltdown of 2008, Scientific Infrastructure Tagged: | APS, Argonne National Labs, Forever Young, John Huston, loss of science jobs, mergers and acquisitions, Pharmaceutical industry