Are departments and Universities realizing their mistake?

Oct 26 2015 Published by under Academics, Careerism

Entirely predictable but I have not heard a lot about this, personally.

What about you Dear Reader? And if you have heard muttering, what is the source of the concern that is driving it?

21 responses so far

  • Susan says:

    We had about half the usual number of applicants for our TT position this year. The top is just as pedigreed as ever, but that's a big drop.

  • Laffer says:

    In my department there are several retiring faculty and our main complaint is an aging department and not enough Junior faculty. There is a preference to not recruit at Associate even if they are just as young as the 8 year postdoc applicants. But, the allure of pre-existing funding and track record is hard to ignore. For the to-be Associate, a step down to a lesser name school for tenure seems like a good deal.

  • drugmonkey says:

    Are those Associate level TT lines?

  • Philapodia says:

    My department and college doesn't seem to give a rats fart about career trajectories, we just hear whinging about where have all the indirect costs gone and that we have to step up our grant writing game (on our own time of course) to try and keep the IDC crack flowing. It doesn't help that there was recently budget shenanigans much higher up the food chain and that everyone is expected to cut their own costs to help cover it, including re-adsorbing retiring TT lines. Makes for inspiring and motivational faculty meetings, let me tell you.

  • The New PI says:

    My understanding is that nowadays it's hard to survive as a mid-career investigator because R01 renewals are so unreliable. Where I am, we have no mid-career because hiring was on hold for 20 years. So we have full professors on the verge of retirement and new faculty. Trying to hire mid-level, but it's been very difficult...

  • potnia theron says:

    this is, as usual, subfield dependent. Departments that didn't do a big mid-late boomer expansion (as opposed to earlier, that is folks 70+ now), and grew steadily didn't & don't have this problem. My current dept is in fact, GenX heavy, but its not a BSD/Glam Science kind of place. My old dept, which was, had a few BSDs (who could and would not tolerate competition) and lots of young faculty, and lots and lots of churning. No one was permitted to get tenure and stay.

  • Susan says:

    no, assistant. Generally the pool of people who started postdocs in about the ARRA era. Maybe they all heard the doom and gloom, funding lines that went down after the ARRA bump, and got out already.

  • Newbie PI says:

    It would not surprise me if Associate Professors were disappearing. My first experience on study section last week left me terrified about what it takes to get an R01 renewed. A PI with a game-changing Science paper and 10 JBC papers was called "moderately productive with papers published primarily in a single society journal of medium impact." I almost choked when I saw that during the Read Phase.

  • qaz says:

    As far as I can tell, universities (and NIH) are perfectly happy replacing those aging full-prof baby boomers with newly-minted assistant-prof millennials. The only one's I've heard complaining about the lack of mid-range associate and junior-full profs are other mid-range profs frustrated that they have to cover the same amount of classes/administration with a smaller crew.

  • shrew says:

    To briefly elaborate: at the new place, which is small, they lost some really good midcareer people to greener pastures, and the boomer department head is quite concerned that he alone cannot support the career development of all these junior faculty.

    At the old ILAF department, the boomers are beginning to get sick and there are no obvious successors to leadership. They'll just keep recruiting high-profile people though (including an attempt to recruit one of the midcareer people who left my new place, underlining the fact that multiple institutions are competing for a small pool of successful midcareer faculty).

    However, in both cases, I see the root cause as boomers worried about their legacies in the form of a particular department they "built".

    At one of my interviews last year, I noticed the dept was actually pretty solid with midcareer, which was nice, but they weren't very successful with funding, or had been doing admin work, which means they just can't really be rainmakers vis a vis junior faculty funding success. The gutting of Gen X keeps paying dividends.

  • AcademicLurker says:

    A PI with a game-changing Science paper and 10 JBC papers was called "moderately productive with papers published primarily in a single society journal of medium impact."

    Please tell me that you at least punched the reviewer who wrote that in the mouth.

  • MF says:

    Yes, the impression I get is that people talk about big shots who cannot get funding (just read an article in my society's newsletter with handwringing about a really good, relatively big shot scientist closing his lab) but noone says much about mid-range, mid-career people. And the hope seems to be that new, early stage people will keep coming in to bring in some new funding...

  • dsks says:

    "A PI with a game-changing Science paper and 10 JBC papers was called "moderately productive with papers published primarily in a single society journal of medium impact."

    Damn. And what are they insinuating in re "papers published primarily in a single society journal"? That the PI only got these in because they're cozy with an editor or something?

  • AcademicLurker says:

    It's not like anything significant ever gets published in JBC anyhow...

  • My institution (ILAF medical school) is very good about taking the long view in making tenure decisions and not basing it solely on the currently relatively random fact of "how many R01s do you have RIGHT NOW". My institution is also very good about giving mid-career tenured faculty who are hitting a funding dry spell the opportunity to maintain research momentum and restore their funding stream, as opposed to immediately cutting them to the bone.

    I have heard rumors of at least one peer institution that is telling department chairs to as quickly as possible fire any non-tenured faculty who have no R01 support, regardless of their tenure-track status and how promising their research is.

  • Laffer says:

    These aren't dedicated Associate TT lines, but job ads open to Assistant/Associate. We've had a couple of 'endowed chairs' we filled with Associates in the past 5 years.

    Applicants that are already TT Assistant Professors with proven funding & publications are hard to refuse, with the option of resetting their tenure clock, and the better ones coming for tenure.

    New blood is new blood. But yes, we're top heavy with reasonably productive/funded full Profs and some Associates nearing retirement. The uneven funding game right now makes life dangerous even for tenured Associates because they spent their load getting tenure and didn't continue killing it to make it to full. That level of productivity may be the new normal.

  • Ola says:

    Off topic. Steve McKnight has finally found some vertically ascending science to lose his jizz over:
    http://www.sciencemag.org/content/350/6259/366.full

  • Dave says:

    I have heard rumors of at least one peer institution that is telling department chairs to as quickly as possible fire any non-tenured faculty who have no R01 support, regardless of their tenure-track status and how promising their research is

    They're starting late........

  • Rheophile says:

    Only have the applicant's side here, but all of the places I interviewed at eventually hired established people.

  • Mytchondria says:

    I went to a party at my alma mater BSD uni this fall only to find the same grey beards doing the same things. And they were old as Fuckke when I was there. Now they are shorter, deafer and with absurdly long ear and chest hair. The faculty who joined 15 years ago are called 'new faculty' bc they axed 7 Jr faculty in the last 4 years. Ain't no assc profs there...

    Who the hell will do the committee work??

  • The Other Dave says:

    You're assuming that mistakes have been made. Some institutions have done quite well over the last decade. NIH funding at UCSF, for example, has *increased* (https://www.ucsf.edu/sites/default/files/fields/field_insert_file/news/chart_2.png).

    My university has managed to hold things about the same. But it varies a lot by college and department.

    You're also assuming that institutions would consider the 'lost generation' to be a mistake on their part. I don't know how UCSF managed their growth, but my big state university held the line by increasing soft money churn at the medical school, and starting several aggressive seed grant programs where applications were scored based on how much extramural funding the project was likely to get (This was *the* explicit primary criterion for seed funding, and I know because I was chair of the committee and that's exactly what we said. The program boasts a 14-fold return and is self-sustaining).

    Most lesser research universities I know, and less research intensive colleges and departments in my university, are turning to different sources of funding. There is, for example, a blossoming of expensive master's programs in things like economics and health care administration. The tuition gravy train is still going well, and more people are hopping aboard.

    The days of stable academic research jobs are over. Universities and research institutes have become increasingly privatized, or at least more private-acting. If you went into academia thinking that it would be better than bouncing around biotech companies, then you have't been paying attention.

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