Tuesday, April 18, 2006

Service economy makes work for academics, or is it academic make-work?

OK, so this is how it’s going to work -- we ship off our science and engineering jobs to lower-cost producers in Asia, and then we replace them with majors in “services science”? The NYT on the new academic discipline that hopes to fill a gaping void:
The push for services science is partly a game of catch-up — a belated recognition that services now employ more than 75 percent of American workers and that education, research and policy should reflect the shift. "Services is a drastically understudied field," said Matthew Realff, director of a new program at the National Science Foundation to finance university research in the field. "We need a revolution in services."

Kurt Koester, a 24-year-old graduate student in engineering at Berkeley, is eager to take part. Yet engineering alone, he observes, can often be outsourced to lower-cost economies overseas.

Mr. Koester's special interest is biomedical engineering, which combines engineering and biology. He is also taking the services science course at the Haas School of Business at Berkeley. He figures it will someday help him manage teams of technologists, spot innovations and new markets, and blend products and services.

"I love engineering, but I want a much broader and more diverse background," he said. "Hopefully, that will be my competitive advantage."

His personal strategy, according to economists, is the best way to prepare for an increasingly global labor market.
And then when those jobs go overseas as well, perhaps we can start training “meta-service scientists” to manage the service scientists whose jobs moved to India. It’s a plan.

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