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This new, weekly “Open Reading Frame” feature will highlight a recent short, non-journal article that, just like a biological ORF*, should be read all the way through. No long reflections; no stop codons. Just good reading. – EGB

The context:
Over the past few years, the biomedical funding crunch has further exacerbated the disconnect between the number of Ph.D.s produced and the number of faculty positions, and amount of grant funding, available. At the same time, we’ve seen an increase in the number of young (and even mid-career) scientists transitioning into parallel career tracks, whether by interest or by necessity. A number of prominent scientists (including Dr. Bruce Alberts) have chimed in on the apparent problem and, among other recommendations, suggest that we ought to pare down the size of Ph.D. programs in order to improve the numbers.

The article:
Brandeis’ Dr. Eve Marder has a different take on the issue, and suggests that, until we can determine prior to admission who’s going to “blossom into a great scientist” – truthfully, a hard thing to know, as the requisite creativity and determination are often discovered somewhere on the pre-doctoral proving ground  – we should value all our graduates, and be supportive of whatever they choose to do with their degrees. She points out that, no matter to which field they ultimately apply their training, they will go on to be “better citizens of the world because of whatever time they spend confronting some of the deep mysteries of the universe.”

Please read and enjoy Dr. Marder’s uplifting perspective.

(Marder’s article is Creative Commons-distributed, so you shouldn’t have any paywall issues; the Alberts article may not be as easily accessed.)

*EDIT: Thanks to a reader for pointing out that I didn’t define “open reading frame”! In genetics, the term “open reading frame,” or ORF, refers to a section of the genetic code that the genetic read-and-write machinery will read straight through. Sometimes, this machinery can be made to pause, or stop entirely, by a portion of code called a “stop codon.” An open reading frame contains no such signal, and ensures that the gene in question will ultimately be translated into a complete, functional protein. The Wikipedia article is brief but useful if you’d like to know more.

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