Job Search Research Plans

November 27, 2008

A key element of any faculty job application is the applicant’s Research Plan, the document that search committees use to get a sense of what she might do in her new lab, and her ability to argue coherently for the importance and feasibility of her work. The Research Plan is a forward-looking precis of future research directions built on the foundation of what the applicant has done in her present position (generally post-doctoral).
It is absolutely essential to understand that what you present to search committees as your Research Plan is not necessarily the same as your actual plan for future research. In fact, the two have very different purposes. The purpose of the former is to convince those who control the resources you need to pursue your research to allocate it to you. The purpose of the latter is to guide your research once you have secured those resources.
It is also essential to recognize that everyone involved in the process of assessing Research Plans understands the usefulness of this distinction, as will be explained in detailed below. Employing this conventional fiction that everyone involved is aware of is not lying. And failure to employ it puts the applicant at a severe disadvantage in competing for an extremely limited number of available positions.
This may not have mattered at an earlier time, when competition for faculty positions in the biomedical sciences was much less stringent and any gibbering dumbfuck with a PhD could secure a tenure-track faculty position. But nowadays–with funding very tight and vast numbers of highly qualified applicants for every faculty position–job applicants ignore this reality at their peril.

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On this day of thanks, I am grateful to you Dear Reader, for stopping by to read. For those of you compelled to comment, I offer my specific thanks for without a conversation this blogging stuff would be far duller.
Another fond thanks to those of you who blog, both friends and foes alike. You reliably kick the discussions up notches and seldom fail to educate and inform me.
A special shout-out to the hardworking surgeons and nurses and other staff of the UCSD Hospital for fixing the broken femur of a well loved octogenarian clan matriarch on this Thanksgiving day.
To the Spawn who are my greatest joys, fears and hopes all wrapped up in the cutest of packages.
And especially. To the one who is much smarter than I, save that one time she agreed to marry me. To the clearly superior (and totally hot) parent, scientist, companion, daughter, granddaughter and friend who is my life and my love, I thank you.
Thank you all.