Thanks to Inside AI for posting this article from the New York Times.
According to a new study, in 2018 a total of 41 AI professors left their academic roles for the private sector. Compare that to 26 that left their roles from 2004 to 2009 inclusive.
Researchers from the University of Rochester published their findings in a study released in August of 2019, documenting the significant brain drain that saw 153 artificial intelligence researchers moving from academia to lucrative roles in industry.
So, what does this mean for those professors, their students, their research and the state of the art?
The study found that graduate students in the field of AI were less likely to found new AI companies and attract less funding when they did.
The biggest area hit was the study of deep learning. “The knowledge transfer is lost, and because of that, so is innovation,” said Michael Gofman, a professor at the University of Rochester and an author of the study. Google, Facebook, Amazon, Microsoft, Uber, Nvidia and Facebook – among others – have benefitted from the migration. And while each of those companies continues to praise and encourage participation in ongoing research, clearly the priorities lie with the development of innovative – and proprietary – technology.
The long-term study found that students suffered the most if they graduated around 5 years after the professor left. Some institutions have suffered more than most. Carnegie-Mellon lost 17 tenured professors to Uber alone.
Clearly the private sector need to think longer-term about the impact their hiring practises are having on the next crop of sharp minds, and the impact on independent research being done in the world’s top universities.