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Glacial Motion, Craven Institutions.

21 May 2012

I got another note from the East Coasty University. So the deal is this: that collaborator I was arguing with in the last post is an MD PhD at East Coasty University, and arranged for me to have a faculty appointment there as an adjunct so that we could do a research project together. Truth be told, I’m more of a consultant than a professor. I don’t teach (But of course, few PhDs working in schools of medicine actually teach.), and I only actually even show up about five times a year to do field work on my emergency department project.

So given the weird and sorry state of affairs where I currently work, and the fact that my funding will be up in October and there’s no hope of having new funding in place before then, I’m seeking employment elsewhere. I have not been told I’ll be terminated when my funding is up. In fact, I’m pretty certain my position is secure until March. There’s even a decent chance I’d have another year of bridge funding after that. But I don’t know. I’d be really happy to move someplace where there were a better chance to be secure for longer. Though, I’m not sure that’s true of East Coasty University. It’s a place where you really have to produce.

So I heard back from a professor there, who put me in touch with an Assistant Professor and a grad student who have interests along the lines of what I do. But his letter is slightly confusing, and very brief. It’s not at all clear to me that he’s looking at this as a request for a faculty position (joint between public health and the medical school). I feel like I’d have gotten the same letter if I were just contacting them about looking for a CI on a grant submission. And the Assistant Professor he put me in contact with is one of those amazing people, with a PhD more recent than mine, but with 45 papers and articles in JAMA and the Lancet, etc.. Very intimidating.

But I’m going to go out there in June sometime, and meet with people, and at the same time with an institution nearby. I may be able to cobble together a position from among two or three institutions. It’s a strange world I live in. There is still a university here where I am that wants to hire me on for 25% time and call me an Assistant Professor. They’ve already approved me and I’ve said I’ll take it if they can get it done. But they have to have funding for the position before they can hire.

I think it’s getting to the point that many universities are going to expect people for non-TT positions to have their own funding up front. Along the lines of: apply for grants, and when you get one, we’ll hire you. But I don’t write grants for free, on speculation. And I would say that I hope no one will, but I’m not so naive. And if universities can get away with it, they’ll do exactly that. It’s very strange to want to get into an industry that I have such contempt for the administration of. But I see it everywhere among scientists. Few of us think the system works well. We see universities cutting pay and staff, funding lines getting tighter and tighter, eliminating tenure. And yet, especially for private universities, the F&A percents are getting higher and higher, and endowments and tuition are soaring.

The university system is as craven as any institutional system of corporations, governments, churches, etc.. And I want in. What does that say about me?

2 Comments leave one →
  1. 21 May 2012 11:26

    It is a dog eat dog world in academia. I hope that it works out. As I’ve written before, I had trouble stomaching the administrative stuff a few years before I left. Too many controlling personalities that sadly enough were in control. Glad to be out.

  2. furtheron permalink
    22 May 2012 07:20

    I’m a newbie to academia – about 8 months in. I’m amazed anything happens – frankly it is so chaotic and there is little governance and direction. On the one hand you think that is what you should have to allow that freedom to think/innovate but boy for someone supposedly trying to help out on the admin side – i.e. supply of IT systems to researchers it is frankly a nightmare.

    “Oh we don’t do it like that in this school”… “My faculty will never agree to that” …. “We stopped using x system years back – are you still using the data from that for us?” etc. etc.

    I don’t think academia is too far from corporate world in terms of avarice in fact so far I’d say I’m seen more of it here than in the corporate world – normally there the mavericks are soon seen and either lauded with honours or told to get on their bikes.

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