Why now is such a cool time to be a scientist

amazing science
Image from MorgueFile

Sure, it is a difficult time to be a young scientist, particularly in the life sciences. We’ve all heard the doom and gloom about funding. After the financial crisis, grant funding is progressively drying up and venture capitalists and other investors are now less likely to pour money into biotech because it’s viewed as too high risk. A valid point since the failure rate of drugs in development is 90% and the cost of getting a drug to market is at least $1 billion.

Add to this the fact that the salary for a post doc or grad student is abysmally small and the chance of climbing the ladder all the way to become a professor, with a decent wage, is now 1/27. This is because universities are churning out many more graduate students than professor positions. So many of us have been, or will be, forced out academia.

But, but, but the science all around us is advancing at a dizzying pace. In the last year alone we have gotten the $1000 genome, the versatile new gene editing tool CRISPR, and light-sheet microscopes that can image inside cells and developing embryos in real time. MRI has been used to detect a single atom and read minds. Light can now now move objects, both microscopic and macroscopic. Messages have been sent from one brain to another across the world. Scientists have turned fiction into fact by creating an invisibility tunnel and driverless pods3D living brain sponges have been developed as a futuristic research tool. And scientists have landed a spacecraft on a comet.

I feel like we haven’t had an era of so many such significant scientific breakthroughs since the late nineteenth-early twentieth century when the car, the telephone, refrigeration and electricity all became widespread technologies within the space of a few decades.

All this means that all scientists, physicists, chemists and biologists, have exciting new tools to help us do better and faster experiments. So the data and breakthroughs should keep flowing. So long as we fix the broken funding and publishing systems to get the right science funded and published as soon as possible.

Please list in the comments below other amazing science from 2014 that I’ve not mentioned.

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