Friday, November 03, 2006

What makes a good academic position...and when?

I have been thinking about this issue a lot in recent months since I am currently on part-time leave from my actual position at governmental research institute in small city to teach at small, sub- field specific university in remote but amazing location. My actual position is in a great department. Lots of interesting people with varied backgrounds, some big grants available and no lack of funding for basic research, very nice colleagues and options for promotions, responsibility and so on. I haven't really settled into the town yet but have an amazing apartment in the best location I have ever lived in. The downside to the job is that there is no teaching, and not necessarily regular contact with students.

My temporary teaching position is in a place I love. I have been living here before and I have always thrived here. It breaks my heart that I have to leave these parts again at the end of the semester. The students are awesome. I really do love the teaching part and I get so much nice feedback. But I have never in my life been as busy as now. I practically work round the clock and am beginning to feel how draining that is in the long run. And my time for research is effectively zero. So far this fall I have attended one meeting and written two abstracts and that was all within the past three weeks.

I should be more productive. I should use these first few years after the PhD to publish, publish and publish and yet I haven't submitted one paper since I finished a year ago. The sensible way of dealing with this is obviously to forget about more teaching intensive jobs right now and use the next couple of years to settle into my new town and research institute. Get the new projects going, publish what is left from the dissertation, publish something new, get some graduate students, build a reputation and the leap to a university position when I actually have an independent research agenda and some experience .

But I am not a very patient person. If anything is just remotely within my reach I tend to want it right now, no matter if this is a stupid decision. I know a couple of university positions in my field are coming up over the next year. This does not happen often and it might be a long time till it happens again. My initial reaction is wanting to jump at them, but seriously I think I would do much better a few years down the line with some time to publish now. On a personal level I don't think another move is a good idea. Fiance and I are planning to stay in our new city for a little while and see how it works out and we are thinking about having a child. I am beginning to think that maybe I am in a pretty good place without teaching for a couple of years and can maybe afford to wait for something better to come up. Gee, I sometimes wish I had the ability to just wait and see what happens.

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