National science training policy and early scientific careers in France and the United States

Monica Gaughan, Stephane Robin

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

67 Scopus citations


The economic health of nations and regions is increasingly coming to rest on the scientific and technical labor force conducting scientific research. As such, enormous social resources are directed to educating and training those who will fire the engines of economic growth. In the first part of this paper, we compare recent investment in the scientific and technical labor forces by two giants of nationally-supported research endeavors: France and the United States. We find that France is more invested in scientific and technical training, but that both nations invest directly and indirectly in the scientific and technical labor force. French policy is more likely to support the individual graduate student directly through a national grant, while graduate students in the US tend to rely indirectly on federal support through research grants to other researchers. We then use duration models on individual data to predict entry into a permanent academic position within three years of completing a Ph.D. We do not find that industrial support of graduate training has any effect on later success in obtaining a position. There is, however, evidence of different academic labor markets operating in each country. In France, entry into a position has not depended on period factors, while in the US more recent cohorts have been more successful in obtaining permanent employment. Furthermore, postdoctoral positions in France delay or deter academic careers, but have no impact on entry in the US: this suggest that two different modes of scientific human resources management operate in France and in the USA. In the USA, Ph.D.s are seen as an essential element in the process of knowledge transfer, and early mobility does not affect entry into permanent academic careers. In France, few incentives are given to encourage mobility, which merely deters the access to permanent jobs. Finally, we found that graduates of the most prestigious undergraduate institutions were systematically advantaged in obtaining permanent academic employment, suggesting that academic stratification occurs very early in the training path in each country.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)569-581
Number of pages13
JournalResearch Policy
Issue number4
StatePublished - May 2004
Externally publishedYes


  • France
  • Scientific and technical human capital
  • Scientific labor force
  • Scientific research
  • United States

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Strategy and Management
  • Management Science and Operations Research
  • Management of Technology and Innovation


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