Academic job perspectives
Disclaimer: All the data in this post is just for illustrative purposes and was cobbled together rather quickly. So in case you are reading thins while thinking to hire me for a Post-Doc etc. - this is not the extent of data analysis I am capable of…
There has recently been a spell of articles publsihed about the job perspectives of early career researchers (aka PhDs and Post-Docs). Some links are below. On all of these the comment sections filled up immediately with scientists complaining about their career prospects.
The glass is half empty; at least - Credit: CC Moeview is Aaron Molina via flickr
The most striking thing for me was the fact that there was pretty much a unanimous complaint: Academia is a pyramid scheme with one permanent position on top (Principal Investigator or newspeak for professor) and 12+ people being trained for it through PhDs and a few Post Docs, who actually do the day to day work.
I have just finished a manuscript for a journal and had to spend some time on making my figures look ok.
As a matlab user, I was never happy with the built in colormaps and especially the standard jet colormap, which is really bad for diverging data, produces weird color gradients in smooth data and produces problems for colorblind people.
Explaining your work in only the ten hundred most used words is hard.
I work on high lands and the air moving around them. I look at water and warm air going up and coming down. Sometimes this causes rain. I try to understand why this happens.
New Scientist is currently running an idea competition about the future of energy. The contest is sponsored by Statoil an Oil company owned 2/3s by the Norwegian Government and the winner will go on a cruise in the Arctic and 300 m below the see at gas rig.
Entrants have to explain in 100 words or less, what energy technology will shape the next century and there is currently (28. Jan 2012 00:00) 287 pages of answers online. I must admit that I have not read them all, but they are a quite fascinating read.
You will read a lot about renewables such as solar, wind, waves or tides. A lot about nuclear fission and fusion and a lot about saving energy or going for smart grids. Then there is a lot of wacky ideas like harnessing the kinetic energy of landing air crafts by replacing runways with conveyor belt like machines etc. I guess that would be as good of an energy source as installing turbine generators on the downspouts off all buildings as calculated by xkds’s What if?
What do I believe?
I think that the 21st century will probably be the century of shale gas and unconventional oil from oil sands, shale etc. And this is going to be a bad thing. While the abundance of new fossil energy will probably limit the increase in energy prizes and will power the heavy industries of Europe and the US (The US could become energy independent and a net exporter of fossil fuels by 2030), it will make it harder to de-carbonize our societies. Even with high energy prizes, we failed to reduce our consumption.
Renewable energy will be less competitive and will be adopted slower. Less incentives are given for the development of new energy saving technologies and we will keep emitting carbon dioxide. Getting anthropogenic climate change under control will be even harder, especially since the current warming targets practically require a reduction in global CO2 emissions from 2015 and everybody knows that this is not going to happen anymore.
My New Year’s Resolutions
- Take the HSK Level I, Chinese language certificate.
- Cut down on air travel.
- Exercise 3 times per week
- Have at least one meet free day per week as meet consumption disproportionally contributes to CO2 emissions:
Source: Institute for Environmental Studies, Vrije Universiteit, 2008
- Only have meat from ruminants (including beef, lamb, game) at most once per week as the associated CO2 equivalent emissions are greatly bigger than for other meats (Methane is to blame).
Credit: Environmental Working Group, 2011
Too much air travel
This year I have been traveling a lot, and mainly by plane. A girlfriend in the US and a big measurement campaign in Tibet were the main factors.
Yesterday, I added all the flights of 2012 I could remember and according to travelmath.com I traveled 1.5 times around the globe, totaling more than 60,000 km. About half of it was connected with my work as a scientist and half of it was for personal reasons.
I then calculated the total amount of CO2 emitted by my air travel using 158 g(CO2)/km for domestic flights, 130 g(CO2)/km for medium distance flights and 105 g(CO2)/km for long-haul flights. These factors are a lot lower than what is found in the US wikipedia and don’t take into account any other effects than CO2 emissions.
For comparison, the average carbon footprint per person for 2008 in the UK and Germany were 8.5 t and 9.6 t of CO2, respectively. For 2006, the average British resident caused about 2 t of CO2 emissions for all leisure activities such as air travel, sports etc. Food contributed to about 1.5 t CO2 per capita (The Independent).
Considering all this, I should really try to cut down on travel.
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