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Research Assistant Professor

PostPosted: Mon May 30, 2005 8:25 am
by James1
I would like to hear comments/experiences regarding research-track in academia. Institutes use it in different ways. It is just a post-doc? Junior faculty? the way of the future for research-intensive depts?
What do Res. Assistant Professors refer to themselves as? Is it wrong to say you are an Assistant Professor? Maybe an overgrown post-doc?
When I was in grad school, veterans of this position were considered failures or lacking ambition.

Research Assistant Professor

PostPosted: Mon May 30, 2005 9:52 am
by Ike
The way institutions use this title vary, but one thing is generally common, and that is the fact that in the eyes of many, only people who could not hack the real t-t position settle for Research Assistant Professor (RAP). I have seen it used for glorified postdocs except that they are paid more than postdocs. However, almost without exception, they have to pay their own salaries from external grants or loose the job. So the best generalization will be that RAPs are supported on soft money NEVER on hard money.

Many use it as a way to build publications and a decent grant portfolio and then split. Many though not all have few if any regular faculty responsibility such as teaching, committee work and student advising, instead spending most of their time on research just like postdocs normally do.

I think it can be a way to get your foot in the door, get some great experience, devote time to research, amass many publications and then find a regular t-t position. Though you can be promoted on the research track all the way to full research professor, there is always this nagging, discomfort that you are some kind of second class faculty in the department.

At academic medical centers and medical schools, they do not bother to put research in the title, they just call you assistant professor, but in essence it is the same thing - the part where you are partially or wholly supported on soft money that YOU must bring in. In some cases, these are t-t positions but you must still pay all or part of your salary. I did my postdoc at a major public medical school in the Northeast. For those who are productive and do not want to relocate, all you need is a good grant and they change your title to assistant professor, or the director of the division will write a letter of support that you will be given junior faculty status if you are applying for a grant that requires that. SO many of my colleagues simply got "promoted" from postdoc to assistant professor when they got their first grant. Since the group is very well funded, they sometimes change titles to assistant professor with the understanding that your salary will be paid for 2 - 3 years from current funding after which you have to bring in your own salary or loose the job. But in non-medical environments, they tend to put research in the title (RAP).

I hope this has been useful. Good luck.

say NO:Research Assistant Professor

PostPosted: Mon May 30, 2005 10:06 am
by Kelly
There is nothing in either a research assitant professor or adjunct teaching position for the individual. A research assistant professor position only gives you the "opportunity" to keep going down a deadend path while competing to generate indirect for your institution. It really doesn;t benefit you for more than 1-2 years. You get very little departmental consideration (but they'll take the indirect you generate), they'll take your lab space when they feel like it. you have no security and it is a deadend. if your institution were really interested in you for anything other than being a potential cash cow to whom they need not make any committment they would create a position for you. Same with adjunct teaching: all you are doing is making it easy (and cheap) for your institution to cover its teaching responsibilities for cheap.

I know people are going to chime in about how good it has been for them and it gives them something. I say have a little respect for yourself. If you have worked hard you deserve better. Research assitant professor positions and adjunct teaching is really just another way (in addition to post-doc) young people are being deceived and deluded in to using their skills in a way that laregly benefits someone else, not them.

say NO:Research Assistant Professor

PostPosted: Mon May 30, 2005 10:16 am
by MPB

I was a research assistant professor for 1 year at a University of California medical school. Kelly and Ike pretty much hit it on the head. As John Nance Garner once said about the vice presidency: "This job isn't worth a bucket of warm spit."

say NO:Research Assistant Professor

PostPosted: Mon May 30, 2005 10:28 am
by James1
RAP does allow one to put in grants as a PI, where as a medical school postdoc I cannot. However, small grants (pretty much worthless to institutions) often require non-fed matching funds. This is where RAP is screwed due to a lack of institutional support. Another bad thing is RAP can mentor grad students, but can not offically serve as the major advisor. What a crock!

Bottom line is RAP is second class, but you can get lucky an receive grants (opportunity is there).

The key is to get out of RAP, ASAP.

Say NO: Research Assistant Professor

PostPosted: Mon May 30, 2005 10:42 am
by Ike
Yes you can use RAP as short term opportuniy but NEVER plan to stay there for too long (3 years is the max I would recommend). At least during that time you will be able to submit grants as PI that a postdoc will not be able to do. You also get paid more than the average postdoc. Most likely your salary will be covered in the first couple of years while you are expected to bring in grant money for your own salary. The best way to use it is the ability to submit grant applications as a PI. Get a decent size grant and get the hell out and take your money with you to a regular t-t position.

Request for and help teach a class for a few semesters (to get teaching experience and student evaluations) and volunteer to advise students and get yourself to serve on a couple committees. In other words, if you must be RAP, manipulate the position to serve your needs and interests and then use the experience to get something better and more permanent with more respect.

This also applies to most PhD level Research Associate positions where you are used by the institution to generate indirect but no real security and commitment. If things get hard (say you do not have a current grant), they will take away your lab space and can even lay you off.

For IKE or others: Research Assistant Professor to Non-Res I t-t position?

PostPosted: Mon May 30, 2005 11:07 am
by James1
In your experience at an non-Res I uni, would t-t committees look to hire someone in an RAP position, who received some grant funding, and who has past undergraduate adjunct teaching experience (3yr)? (this is me!) My feeling is that these non-research intensive schools might not like someone who is currently research-only oriented.

Say NO: Research Assistant Professor

PostPosted: Mon May 30, 2005 11:10 am
by Sandra
Take extra care when taking PhD level Research Associate positions. You will be working like a dog for somebody else, not allowed to apply for grants and at the end like in my case you end up beeing layed off when things got a little rough since you are more expensive than a regular postdoc. I think the system needs a change simply because let's face it there are not enough regular t-t positions for all the young talented scientists out there. A clear description of all the responsibilities but also of the career prospectives of RAPs, research associates positions etc could be a good start so that at least you would know what you are getting into.

For James: Research Assistant Professor to Non-Res I t-t position?

PostPosted: Mon May 30, 2005 11:27 am
by Ike
I think you would have a pretty good chance for a t-t position with that kind of background and experience. My suggestion would be to hit the job market right away and keep at it until you get something and I feel you can get something.

However, a lot of people dont get t-t positions because they put too many constraints on their job search such as: don't want to go to 2nd or 3rd tier school, don't want to work in certain locations, dont want to move from a particular city or region, dont want to work at a school with no graduate program, etc. Once you ease these constraints, things get better.

I left my postdoc after one year for rural regional State U to get my foot in the door. After 3 years, I just accepted a position at a top liberal arts college in beautiful Atlanta where I get to teach very well prepared students, have my lab, hire my own personnel and still get to do research. Of course its not a 1st tier or 2nd tier school but that is less of my concern. This hiring season I applied to 13 positions at all kinds of schools including good 2nd tier research schools and got 6 campus interview invitations. I even got an interview invitation at UM College Park. But their time table was so slow I had already signed the contract at the place I am going in August but I have no regrets. A good job is more than just the institution - location, climate, cost of living, quality of life etc are other considerations and I love Atlanta. See my other posts on this matter.

Good luck.

For James: Research Assistant Professor to Non-Res I t-t position?

PostPosted: Mon May 30, 2005 11:31 am
by Ike
Oh I forgot to say that I was able to get my first major research grant of $100,000 for 2 years, which did not hurt my job search this year.