Many of us do PhD as a stop gap arrangement, because there was nothing better to do. Many of us register for doctorate so that we can continue availing the facilities of an institute. The time is primarily “utilised” for the preparation of other competitive exams, or pursuing other vocations. This kind of “surplus schooling” often is quite unproductive. Such “disposable academics” are considered “the ugly underbelly of academia” by some, because many of them are either underemployed or are not suitably employed. More than the number, the quality of PhD is important. One way of improving the quality is to revise the reward and recognition structure. The journal Nature in one of its issues a few years ago suggested some approaches to shake up the “hallowed foundations of academia”. Maybe some kind of “academic birth control” is necessary at some places. We must recognise that the fruits of research are meant for everyone, but research is not for everyone. Some think that the time taken for the completion of a PhD is too long. In one survey, IIT students mentioned several reasons for not doing PhD in India. Among the reasons assigned were too much time, too many pre-PhD courses, and uninspiring supervisors. Some supervisors, however, are too ‘inspiring’; they don’t hesitate to supervise more than a dozen students at a time. There is a need to change this trend.
Many PhD holders are poor team workers. They are less adept at dealing with changing challenges. Developing independence is a crucial step to becoming an investigator. In other words, many recommend some non-academic training for PhDs. They believe courses in marketing, communication and leadership are useful for a scientist alongside academic acumen of critical thinking and analysis. An issue that needs consideration is to “trample the boundary” among scientific disciplines because of the trans-disciplinary nature of science and technology.
It is now 45 years I graduated from ‘abcderian’ to ‘doctoral’ ignorance. But as they say, ignorance is bliss.