Goodbye academia? Hello, academia.

More and more scholars are leaving their academic posts (see [1] [2] [3]). As it turns out, it’s not possible to fully leave academia unless you write a detailed blog post about it. So, here’s mine.

I resigned from my postdoctoral position at Harvard two months ago. My academic career was fairly typical. I spent the last twelve years doing research. After college, I worked at CERN for a few years, then pursued a Ph.D. at UCLA and a 3-year Postdoc at Harvard. During my Ph.D. and Postdoc I did not even apply to a single tenure-track job. Why? My research background is very (maybe, way too) interdisciplinary: B.Sc. in Astronomy, M.Sc. in Computer Science, at CERN I did Data Science (basically working in Tim Berners-Lee former group), my Ph.D. is in Information Science, and my Postdoc in Astrophysics. Who the hell is going to hire me? While many praise academic interdisciplinarity as an asset, at the end of the day to get tenured you need to be able to teach core classes in one discipline. So, even though I was working in an amazing research group and my publication record was just fine, I decided to leave.

Leaving a postdoc at a top institution was a hard and risky decision to make. Yet, with so many PhDs and postdocs leaving academia today, I certainly don’t feel alone. But, how common (or rare) is it to leave academia? Last week I attended the ScienceOnline conference and in a session called Alternative careers in science, Eva Amsen discussed the infographic below.

This figure which appears in a Physics World article (originally in a 2010 Royal Society Report), shows that over half of PhD graduates in science leave academia right away, with only 3.5% eventually pursuing a research or