We need to ditch the “academic pipeline” metaphor. Why?
The professional destinations of people who enter academic science are necessarily varied.
We do not intend or plan for everybody training in science to become academic researchers.
The pipeline metaphor dehumanizes people.
The people who leave the so-called pipeline don’t like being called drips.
The pipeline is perceived as a linear route that can only be filled at an early stage, with a single distant target for all of its contents.
The prevailing metaphor engenders a policy perspective that directs funding and effort at retention, rather than recruitment.
So then, what is better than a pipeline? I propose a subway.
The academic subway system sends students and researchers to a broad variety of professional destinations. It’s possible to hop off the subway before you get to the end of the line and there will be something there for you. You can hop on the subway anytime you want. Instead of being forced under the pressure of the pipeline to a particular destination, you can change lines at a variety of intersections.
The pipeline has not led to adequate professional representation of women and other underrepresented other groups in the sciences. Maybe a subway can get us all there more efficiently and effectively?