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Planetary Science Workforce Survey Announcement

June 22, 2011

Just how many planetary scientists are there working in the US?
And how did they get to their current positions?

The American Institute of Physics is conducting a NASA-sponsored survey of the workforce in planetary sciences. If you are a member of AGU, DPS/AAS, the Meteoritical Society or attend LPSC then you will likely receive an email request to fill in an online survey.

In the meantime, a survey of 48 US academic departments that include planetary science was completed this spring.

Description of the project and results of the department survey are posted here.

  • Thanks to NASA for sponsoring this and Fran Bagenal for making it happen!
6 Comments leave one →
  1. sutari permalink
    June 30, 2011 3:43 pm

    I did the survey too. One thing I noticed was that one of the questions was “have you ever turned down a job…” basically the two body problem. I pointed out that they did not ask “have you ever not bothered to apply for a job” because of the two body problem.

    • Fran Bagenal permalink
      August 27, 2011 12:33 am

      Sorry not to respond sooner.
      Yes, the initial goals of the project are to (a) understand the academic input/output in planetary science; (b) to explore where professional planetary scientists are trained, in what, and where they are employed. I fully expect that we will follow up with (c) non-academic career tracks, and (d) what non-academic employers are looking for.
      Yes, we need to value the contributions across the whole spectrum of the workforce. It is just taking us a while to study the full demographics.
      In the meantime, I am happy to report than we have had over ~1500 responses to the survey!
      Fran Bagenal

  2. julie permalink
    June 30, 2011 12:31 am

    I am sure it would be useful that the survey asks about the place where the PhD was obtained, in the US or abroad. Some of the questions really apply to a curriculum developed in the US. Hence the answers from US-residing foreign scientists to these questions are not necessarily relevant to the information actually sought by this survey.

  3. squawky permalink
    June 29, 2011 10:35 pm

    The survey is described (see link below) to look specifically at PhD level scientists and their career pathways – it’s not designed to be a survey of the entire community (despite the name).

    You can read the description of the project online at

  4. Grad Student permalink
    June 29, 2011 4:41 pm

    I just got the survey ~10 seconds ago and decided to take it right away. I was only given a total of two questions–once I said that I didn’t have a PhD, the survey was over. Not only are students a significant part of the planetary workforce (that’s my full time job!), but this survey seems to ignore the many professionals who have terminal bachelor’s and master’s degrees who are employed as planetary scientists.

    • July 6, 2011 10:02 am

      Indeed, leaving out folks without a Ph.D. leaves out a certain portion of the workforce. A Ph.D. is not necessarily required to have a career in planetary science—very few people I work with in mission operations have more than a Master’s, and there are some whose terminal degree is a Bachelor’s. The link squawky provided below does say that the study may be expanded to include people working in industry, EPO, and operations jobs depending on the results of the initial study, but I think leaving out those types of jobs in the initial study limits its scope, skews the results, and perpetuates the stigma that is attached to not having a Ph.D. in the planetary science community. A non-academic job in this field is still a planetary science career (and an option a lot of students don’t realize they have).

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