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Permanent position April 24, 2012

Posted by mareserinitatis in education, research, science.
Tags: , , ,

The other day, I was talking with a professor who was asking about my employment situation.  After clarifying where I was at, he said, “But your husband has a permanent position, right?”

“Permanent insofar as he’s on soft money, too.”

One thing that’s become fairly obvious is that there has been a bit of confusion about our research center.  A lot of people don’t realize we run entirely on soft money, which is a very uncomfortable situation to be in.  It’s even more uncomfortable when both members of a couple are in that situation.

I recently read this article about the money trail in academia, and it got me thinking: what would happen if PIs were in the same situation as some of the rest of us.  That is, what if they not only had no tenure, but also had to bring in their own salary?  (I say this is the realization that, in some places, this is the case.)

I have a lot of thoughts on what may happen, but I’m going to put them in a separate post.  In fact, by the time this post has been published, I will already have my post written so as to be untainted by potential comments.  In the meantime, however, I’m curious what you think.  Do you think this sort of system would help or hurt academia?  Encourage or discourage competition, quality, efficiency?  Do you think this would motivate the system to change or would it just be more of the same?


1. - April 24, 2012

I think my already bad advising situation would get much worse. My PI already spends most of his time writing grants to support the group (which is frankly too big for what we do). On the other hand, he might finally stop trying to do all the things, and make the group more streamlined. He’d also have more incentive to get papers out the door in a more reasonable amount of time.

One of the biggest drawback I see is that the security of tenure is part of what allows scientists (maybe less so in engineering) to pursue more controversial avenues. Because you’re being funded by a specific grant at all times, I think there is less freedom to work on odd-ball side projects as well.

2. - April 24, 2012

We can do better than opinion here. A recent research paper indicated that stability, of the sort you get by having tenure, increases scientific productivity.

I blogged about this here: http://neurodojo.blogspot.com/2012/04/science-careers-fair-play-or-field-of.html

mareserinitatis - April 24, 2012

Nice. Citing actual research gives me warm fuzzies. :-)

3. karifur - April 24, 2012

I would like to file a complaint – the subject of this post was misleading because I thought it meant you had secured yourself a permanent position and was all ready to congratulate you and then I read the post and found I was mistaken. Phooey.

mareserinitatis - April 24, 2012

I apologize. Believe me, no one is sadder about that than me (and maybe Mike).

4. NotReally - April 25, 2012

It is all in the game and the system, the system is flawed, and it is not going to be fixed.

5. No deadwood here | Engineer Blogs - April 26, 2012

[...] Tuesday, I posed a question on my own blog: what would happen if academia required PIs to fund their own salary and not get [...]

6. GEARS - April 27, 2012

I think if you didn’t offer tenure with some amount of secured salary (although some positions are on 100% soft money), you wouldn’t have faculty to teach, let alone do research. I know I wouldn’t be doing it. Adjunct money is not enough to entice me to teach, especially when industry salaries pay waaaay more.


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