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Science Theory Stagnation (3.3)

 ·  ☕ 16 min read

3.3 Frustration of PhD laborers and biotechnology

There are many technical gimmicks mentioned above, but in terms of advocacy, compared with biological gimmicks, they are insignificant. Of course, in the cycle of heaven, there are distortions and corrections, and the dilemma facing bioengineering/biotechnology is second to none.

The various gimmicks mentioned above may have abused the state’s public financial funds and may have defrauded investors’ money, but for researchers and students, they are actually profitable. Especially for students, the professional knowledge learned from it is not wasted, and most people can always find a job similar to their major. But as far as bioengineering gimmicks are concerned, on a large time scale, except for those who sell instruments and reagents, most of the people in the entire chain of related interests suffer. Biotechnology is far from being as successful as originally claimed. The professor’s efforts have been in vain, and students, especially doctoral students, have been completely migrant workers (not demeaning migrant workers, just showing the harm caused by the gimmick)!

3.3.1 The origin and impact of biological gimmicks

Looking back at history, after Apollo landed on the moon, the United States felt that it was difficult to break through in many technical fields. Taking into account the rapid progress after the discovery of the double helix structure, the United States took bioengineering as the next technological breakthrough point and invested huge amounts of money on it. Since the 1970s, the US NIH (National Institutes of Health) funding has made NASA only envy and hate. Contrary to the current public perception, IT technology did not have its current status. The progress of IT technology began to accelerate in the 1980s and reached a climax at the end of the last century. In the age of IT prosperity, the United States has further increased its stakes in biotechnology in order to seize the commanding heights of the future. The US Congress even passed laws to double NIH funding in just a few years at the turn of the century. The United States is the target of imitation by countries all over the world, and the academic circles of various countries have been influenced by the United States, and they have also lobbied their governments to increase investment. As a result, a super R&D bubble was blown up and spread from the United States to the world. You can look at top academic journals such as “Science” and “Nature” in recent decades, most of which are biological articles. From the 1980s to the 1990s, and then to the first decade of the new century, the concept of bioengineering was very hot. Countless experts are boasting that the 21st century is the century of bioengineering. It seems that there have been breakthroughs in bioengineering, energy issues, Environmental problems and food problems can be solved easily.

But behind the big gimmick, a few dark clouds only began to appear after a long time. One is a big bubble in papers, and the other is a surplus of talents.

The complexity of the biological system far exceeds initial estimates. After decades of research and development, biology still stays at the point of knowing what it is, far from knowing it, let alone guiding practice. Biological research and development personnel often boast that basic research has achieved many major results, but most of the so-called results and technological applications are irrelevant. To borrow the words of a biological expert from Zhihu: Except for the scientific research itself, many research advances in the biological industry have almost no practical significance in the short term (in fact, I want to say a long time). Regardless of whether it is “Analysis of XX protein is expected to cure cancer” or “The increase in neuron release of a certain behavioral transmitter, it is expected to clarify the neurophysiological mechanism behind this behavior”, these studies are basically all on their own The small circle of the subject caused a certain impact. The media took out of context and made sense (for example, the work published by Daniel Susumu Lab in “Science” in 2013, “Creating a false memory in the hippocampus”, was simply blown into the reality of Inception Version), hardly any impact on real life. [Zhihu asked “Why are the employment prospects of bio-related graduates so bleak?” Why are the employment prospects of bio-related graduates so bleak? -Career planning-Know almost]

You can pay attention to the life around you. It has been 15 years since the 21st century and there is basically no large-scale application of bioengineering technology. With hopeless applications, the huge biological R&D team can only publish papers to attract government attention. When I was a PhD student, I had a close relationship with a doctoral supervisor and his doctoral students next door. The doctoral supervisor also had a part-time administrative job. Once I saw a statistics on the recruitment of overseas teachers on his desk. There are so many applicants, especially the grade of the article is very scary. The PhD supervisor told me that there is a tacit understanding within the school that biomedical impact factors should be calculated separately from other disciplines, especially engineering. You know, the IEEE trans. on Info for IT is a little more than 2, and there are more than 200 biomedical journals with an impact factor of more than 5. If a Ph.D. can publish 1-2 papers on IEEE trans. on Info, there is basically no problem in applying. If it is a biological subject, the impact factor above 10 is only considered preliminary qualification.

Journals with an SCI impact factor greater than 20 in 2007:

CA-CANCER J CLIN (Journal of Clinical Oncology)

69.026 (1)

NEW ENGL J MED (New England Journal of Medicine)

52.589 (2)

ANNU REV IMMUNOL (Annual Review of Immunology)

47.981 (3)

REV MOD PHYS (Review of Modern Physics)

38.403 (4)

ANNU REV BIOCHEM (Annual Review of Biochemistry)

31.19 (5)

CELL (cell)


PHYSIOL REV (Physiology Review)

29.6 (7)

NAT REV CANCER (Nature · Comment: Cancer)

29.19 (8)


28.751 (9)

LANCET (The Lancet)

28.638 (10)

It can be seen from this form that the biomedical journals are very impressive, killing other subjects in a flash. The reason is very simple. It cannot be industrialized. There are only multiple papers and mutual citations, so the impact factor is naturally high. Why is it so active to publish papers, because this is the only way to make a living. Most other fields of science and engineering also accept government funds for research and development, but at any rate, there is market funding. Practitioners can find jobs in society, and biotechnology is far more dependent on government funds than other majors. Bioengineering is mainly supported by the government, so high-impact papers are naturally needed to fool the government. In the past few years, the deans of the returnee life sciences at Tsinghua University and Peking University yelled, saying that the allocation of scientific research funding was unreasonable. In fact, this group of scholars was in a disadvantaged position when robbing the government pie.

With more people, strange things will happen. As mentioned earlier, science and technology interest groups try every means to protect their own interests, and biological science and technology interest groups are among the leaders, because most of the scientific research funds in biology come from the government. As long as the government reduces the funds slightly, biological research is very important. It’s hard to go on. The entire biomedical research system is built on the ever-growing bubble of the research foundation. In this bubble, doctoral students and post-doctoral students are cultivated uncontrollably, far exceeding the number that society can tolerate, and quite a number of medical schools and their researchers are all based on research funding that is considered inexhaustible. Now this bubble is about to burst, and this systemic defect has reached the point where it must be completely resolved.

As a recent example, the U.S. government has cut budgets in recent years. NIH used to have roughly twice the budget of NASA, but it is now being cut. As a result, a large number of biological scientists took to the streets. [People’s Daily Online: “The U.S. Holds Large-scale Demonstrations to Protest against the Reduction of NIH Budget” The United States Holds Large-scale Demonstrations to Protest against the Reduction of NIH Budget]

Behind the awesome thesis, there is a situation that cannot be ignored: most of the biological PhD/postdoctoral fellows are very unsatisfactory. The most typical is Fang Zhouzi (I only discuss the facts, and the other Zhouzi has no opinion). After so many years of postdoctoral work, he now earns a living from a career that has nothing to do with biology. Why is it difficult to get a job, because there is a surplus of talents!

The characteristic of biotechnology research and development is that it requires a large number of people to do experiments. The big bubble inspired by NIH has created a shortage of biological talents, especially doctoral talents, in a short period of time. In order to attract talents, the United States has offered a lot of preferential conditions, which are very attractive to Chinese in the early 21st century. Biology is good to go abroad has become a fixed impression of the public, and feedback to China’s education system level by level is the expansion of biological recruitment.

According to the author’s personal impression, starting from junior high school, slogans such as “Sunrise Industry in the 21st Century”, “Core of the Next Round of International Competition”, “Manhattan Project in the New Era” and other slogans have been endless. The general public has been bombarded by the concept of bioengineering. . At that time, the major of bioengineering was a high-level major. At its peak, the Beijing University of Science and Technology enrolled half of the top science scholars in the country. A junior high school classmate and a high school classmate of the author were enthusiastic about the infection and jumped into the major of bioengineering. The author had never paid attention to the things behind the biology major before, but in 2007, my classmates came back from the United States and when they had a party, they said something: “I want to stabbing Chen Zhangliang. It’s too cheating.” Who is Chen? Zhang Liang? After checking, it turned out that it was a returnee who had served as the dean and vice-principal of the School of Biological Sciences at Peking University. He was once a model representative of youth. In the 1990s, this gentleman trumpeted in the media that “the 21st century is the century of biology”. At that time, China’s information was blocked and middle school students lacked social experience. For them, the vice president of Peking University was a dazzling totem and idol. Since idols say so, bioengineering must have a great future. Ever since, countless middle school students chose to major in bioengineering. It coincided with the state’s policy of expanding recruitment, it was difficult to find jobs for PhDs in biology, and coupled with the stimulus factors of SCI articles, universities were happy to meet the requirements of middle school students and immediately expanded biology majors on a large scale. After more than ten years, millions of bachelor’s, master’s, doctoral and post-doctoral students all over the world have encountered employment problems.

Repost an article: Why is it so difficult to get a job in biology? (Why is it so hard to get a job in biology?

Some people may say that of course this is the case for undergraduates, but it is different for doctoral students. Let’s take a look at the employment of doctors at Xiamen University about 6 years ago. [Prompt, the link has expired]

Let me talk about it first. If you want to be a teacher in the Department of Biology at Xiamen University, it is absolutely impossible to graduate with a Ph.D. in Biology in China. Xiamen University’s own Ph.D. graduates can only stay on campus to be a laboratory assistant, with a monthly salary of less than 4,000. Those who can stay on campus to be laboratory assistants are still relatively good doctors who have good relationships with their supervisors. As for the doctors who are not good, they are looking at the vast middle school campus, and many biology doctors are fighting for the position of one or two middle school biology teachers. At that time, I went to four people to apply for two biology teacher positions, two of them were doctors of Xiamen University, one was a master of Wuhan University, and one was from Quanzhou Normal University (two courses). The one who got the position was a doctor and the one from Quanzhou Normal University.

In the “2014 China University Student Employment Report” published by the third-party educational data consulting and evaluation agency Max Research Institute, the top ten red card majors for employment actually have four titles of biology. [Sohu News “The latest China’s top ten cheating professionals are released” The latest China’s top ten cheating professionals are released-Sohu]

Employment is so difficult that even industry leaders can’t stand it anymore. Zhihu has posts about biology experts (is it really that bad for students to get a job now?-Work-Zhihu), sincerely point out, hurry up and turn to major Well, otherwise the future is bleak. The simplest fact is that there are about 10,000 biological PhD graduates in the United States every year, but universities can only provide hundreds of faculty positions, and the industry offers very few positions. What about the many doctors, they can only continue to be post-doctors, and eventually become “thousand old”. In the United States alone, there are almost 100,000 postdoctoral fellows in biology who are supported by government funds.

gene food

It is so difficult and so common for a professional to get a job, which deeply brings out the technical difficulties behind it.

3.3.2 Research paradigm and problems

If the dilemma of biotechnology is explored from the source, it may be a problem with the R&D paradigm.

First of all, biotechnology has inherited the reductionist method inherited from physical chemistry. A large number of biological studies often start from a single point, trying to analyze the structure and function of each protein, or determine the function of each piece of DNA sequence, hoping to build a complete dictionary to clarify all the mysteries of biology. The Human Genome Project back then was based on this idea. It once claimed that knowing the gene sequence could make a perfect baby, but it naturally failed. And now many biological papers still claim that a certain protein plays a certain role in a certain process, and the research method is still “knock out genes and we find XXX, overexpressed genes we find XXX”. But the organism is an extremely complex nonlinear chaotic system. A simple cell is more complex than the space shuttle. In the organism, it is definitely not A input, it can output C every time, let alone simple recursion, 2A input can output 2C, and even worse, even 1+1=2 does not hold. In the words of a PhD in biology, even the simplest phenotype of height has been proven to be determined by hundreds of genomic loci interactions. The success of reductionist methods in the field of physics does not mean that it can be successful in the field of biology.

Secondly, biological research and development relies too much on experiments, and it is difficult to see the application of mathematical methods. Biological research requires experiments, but from the complaints of many biological professionals, it can be seen that experiments often require a lot of time and procedures. The long research cycle greatly increases the risks of scientific research projects, and a large number of procedures require a lot of manpower. Many Ph.Ds in biology are forced to engage in high-intensity and repetitive experimental work. As a result, many PhDs have become migrant workers. On the one hand, a boss must recruit enough students to maintain sufficient output. However, for 20 students, there is only one boss position. Moreover, PhD is not a permanent position for general staff, so even the scientific research community cannot absorb more people, so it naturally faces a surplus of talent training. On the other hand, many experiments really don’t need the training for so many years. I have seen an example: “A little girl in our laboratory who answered the phone at the front desk did experiments with us for a period of time. From undergraduate to doctoral degree, the brothers who have been in the cold window for ten years are real


1 Civilization and technology
1.1 Rough talk about paradigm
1.2 The paradigm shift experienced by human civilization
1.3 Science Theory stagnation
1.4 The gap between science and technology
1.4.1 Nature of Science
1.4.2 The core of the technology
1.4.3 Talking from Watt: Positive feedback caused by steam engine
1.4.4 Demand is not a lifesaver
1.5 Science and Technology Interest Group

2 The paradigm spring dream advocated by scientific and technological interest groups: the so-called technological explosion

2.1 Rendering and brainwashing
2.2 Papers and patents: the absurdity behind astronomical numbers
2.3-2.4 The bit world and the real world / Part and whole

3 The shadow outside the paradigm spring dream

3.1 The technological dilemma faced by humans

    3.1.1 The stagnation of energy conversion technology

    3.1.2 The dilemma of new energy

    3.1.3 Agriculture, medical and biotechnology

    3.1.4 Troubles in the depth of information technology

    3.1.5 Other technologies

 3.2 Numerous technical gimmicks

    3.2.1 Solar / PV gimmicks that fell early
    3.2.2 The enduring artificial intelligence gimmick

    3.2.3 Amazing quantum computer gimmicks
    3.2.4 Awesome nano-material gimmick
    [3.2.3-3.2.4 ](/en/posts/science-theory-stagnation-3-2-3-4/)        

    [3.2.5 New gimmicks in recent years](/en/posts/science-theory-stagnation-3-2-5/)        

3.3 Frustration of PhD laborers and biotechnology

    3.3.1 The origin and influence of biological gimmicks

    3.3.2 Research paradigm and problems

4 The dilemma of low-entropy body and the technical steps faced
4.1 From the second law of thermodynamics

    4.1.1 The wisdom of Tao Te Ching

    4.1.2 Negative entropy flow and the leap of civilization

 4.2 The backbone and forks of the technology tree

 4.3 Forever 50 years and controlled nuclear fusion

    4.3.1 Dream of perpetual motion machine

    4.3.2 Difficult delivery and gimmicks of controlled nuclear fusion

 4.4 Think calmly : the future is not necessarily better

The Pit Before 5 Steps: The Fate of Human Society

5.1 The Sociological Significance of Dissipative Structure Theory

5.2 The disappearance of the big competitive environment

5.3 Differences erased by globalization and the thermodynamic balance of human society

5.4 Aging self-locking

5.5 How to fill the hole?

The essence of 6 steps: complexity devil

6.1 What is complexity

6.2 Two rules behind the complicated world: survival of the fittest and expectation of return on capital

6.3 Technological progress and technological revolution: changes in complexity

     6.3.1 Evolution example of transportation / power system

     6.3.2 The characteristics and complexity of the technological revolution

     6.3.3  The high-complexity science devil facing

     6.3.4  Dilemma originating from technical foundation

6.4 Many evil consequences brought by high complexity ( more is different)

 6.4.1 I know you have a life and death race

 6.4.2 Maintenance costs

6.4.3 Negative feedback from society

6.5 Simple mathematical derivation

7 Silent Star implied by the prospect of terror

7.1 The Great Silence and Fermi Paradox

7.2 Three scenarios for contemplating extreme fear

7.3 The Great Sieve of the Universe

7.4 A small match

8 reflection and summary

8.1 The tragedy of Easter Island

8.2 Calmness does not mean pessimism

8.3 R&D requires a paradigm revolution

8.3.1 Starting from the central limit theorem and the law of large numbers

8.3.2 Disadvantages of the current scientific research system
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