The instructor (Elissa Hoffman) wants her students to become fluent in online learning and discussion.
This brings today's discussion around to the topic of diversity in science, careers in science and a much under appreciated goal of "outreach" efforts. That's right people, we scientists are out there to get hold of your impressionable children and sway them into our "lifestyle"!
Diversity, and the promotion thereof, is a topic that is considered all up and down the science careers. The goal being to lower potential "artificial" barriers to recruiting the very best and the brightest into a career in science. This sort of thing is important to some people, including YHN. The three areas of greatest and most overt consideration are ethnic background, sex and economic background although really, just about any consistently underrepresented slice of humanity needs to be tapped. Smarter = better science doncha know!
The NIH stipend level for graduate student fellowships in Fiscal Year 2007 was $20,772. It's a classic glass half-full/empty situation. Scientists, and academics generally, like to moan about compensation. We had a little discussion on this before in case you are interested. Postdoctoral fellows start at $36,996 and are making $46,992 in with 5 years of prior experience. Is that half-full or half-empty?
What should not be lost in all this is that we are being paid to do science. From the start of graduate school. The fact that "going to graduate school" in the sciences means not that you will be obliged to pay for yet more "school" but that you will be paid to go to "school" is a very important concept to get across to highschoolers who are starting to think about career paths.
The good Dr. Free-Ride was recently pondering the privileges of class via a set of queries which one is supposed to answer regarding one's upbringing. She also likes to talk about the "Tribe of Science" and this relates. It is not chance that the children of academics disproportionately go on to academic careers. It is a matter of cultural "privilege" to understand from a vary young age that intellectual pursuits, careers undertaken in selfish intellectual interest may actually pay the bills! A middle to upper-middle class conceit yes. As are the values of much-delayed gratification. Not to mention the valuing of a nearly vocational, er, vocation over "just a job". How about you DearReader? When did you come to the realization that you could make a living from this science gig?
I think this is one of the most fundamental "outreach" steps that can and should be taken in primary and secondary education. It generalizes quite well to most any "diversity" or "underrepresented group" goals that one might champion. And my experience, limited though it is, with students right up into undergraduate (even at at heavily research-focused universities) ranks is that they are somewhat surprised to find that grad students draw a stipend. That they will be paid instead of having to pay. Now just think, in the absence of this information is the "smart" person going to think "Gee, science is for me!"?