I missed Roald Hoffman’s July essay, reproduced here, arguing that in the future, a much greater proportion of American graduate students ought to be funded by portable fellowships given to the student, rather than from research grants awarded to PIs. It’s a very interesting piece — mostly because of the argument Hoffman makes to support his prescription for American academic R&D.
Usual arguments are that portable funding for graduate students will help reshape graduate programs so they are not so focused on training students for academic careers, and that funding graduate students would foster independence and scientific creativity.
But for Hoffman, the reason for reform seems to be mainly resentment that industries hire foreign-born technical workers and thus suppress the wages of American Ph.D. holders. To him, industry is the free-rider — American industry has managed to get American taxpayers to pay for the training of all of the highly skilled technical workers they need, he says. But at the same time, somehow “when there are too few American doctorates for industrial demand, rather than have market forces work to increase the salaries for American Ph.D.’s, industry lobbies effectively to lower immigration barriers for the most highly trained,” he says.
This seems to me to be a very strange argument for reforming graduate education. I’m think that giving a greater proportion of graduate students portable fellowships to use as they see fit is an interesting idea, but I don’t know that we should turn graduate student funding into a vehicle to restrict immigration.