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Underutilized Postdoc Talent Can Help Grow U.S. Economy

on April 30, 2012 Source: Policy Dialogue on Entrepreneurship

The sluggish economy has been hard on job seekers of all backgrounds, not just those at the lower end of the education spectrum. According to a new report from the Kauffman Foundation, universities in the U.S. generate more Ph.D’s than there are faculty positions, resulting in a “glut of talented, highly educated, underemployed individuals” who may not apply their skills due to a shortage of academic opportunities.

The Rise of Fractional Scholarship calls for institutions to step forward to provide “affiliations and resources, aggregate grant support and management, and establish research communities that allow scholars to interact online and in person.”

The concept is largely the same as SETI@home, the UC Berkeley program that searches for extra-terrestrial intelligence, and other distributed computing project that tap into spare computational cycles on thousands or even millions of volunteer computers. In the case of fractional scholarship, underemployed post-graduate researchers are the volunteer home PCs—representing a vast, untapped resource that could be harnessed to address America’s thorniest scientific challenges. If that research is properly commercialized, it would certainly have a positive impact on growing the economy.

"Ideally, groups of these individuals would come together to identify, define and tackle the questions that offer the greatest potential for important scientific results and economic growth" said Samuel Arbesman, senior scholar at the Kauffman Foundation.

The institutions would benefit from the affiliation with scholars, who would spend all of their funded time on research, operating at a much lower cost than a typical university professor can.

Tags:  Samuel Arbesman, UC Berkeley, SETI@home,

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