comment by RyanCarey ·
2020-09-30T08:28:20.068Z · EA(p) · GW(p)
EAs have reason to favour Top-5 postdocs over Top-100 tenure?
Related to Hacking Academia [EA(p) · GW(p)].
A bunch of people face a choice between being a postdoc at one of the top 5 universities, and being a professor at one of the top 100 universities. For the purpose of this post, let's set aside the possibilities of working in industry, grantmaking and nonprofits. Some of the relative strengths (+) of the top-5 postdoc route are accentuated for EAs, while some of the weaknesses (-) are attenuated:
+greater access to elite talent (extra-important for EAs)
+larger university-based EA communities, many of which are at top-5 universities
-less secure research funding (less of an issue in longtermist research)
-less career security (less important for high levels of altruism)
-can't be a sole-supervisor of a PhD student (less important if one works with a full-professor who can supervise, e.g. at Berkeley or Oxford).
-harder to set up a centre (this one does seem bad for EAs, and hard to escape)
There are also considerations relating to EAs' ability to secure tenure. Sometimes, this is decreased a bit due to the research running against prevailing trends.
Overall, I think that some EAs should still pursue professorships, especially to set up research centres, or to establish a presence in an influential location [EA(p) · GW(p)] but that we will want more postdocs than is usual.
comment by Stefan_Schubert ·
2020-09-30T14:05:42.001Z · EA(p) · GW(p)
A quite obvious point that may still be worth making is that the balance of the considerations will look very different for different people. E.g. if you're able to have a connection with a top university while being a professor elsewhere, that could change the calculus. There could be numerous idiosyncratic considerations worth taking into account.
comment by HaukeHillebrandt ·
2020-09-30T09:12:04.084Z · EA(p) · GW(p)
I once got the advice from highly successful academics (tenured ivy league profs) that if you want become an academic you should "resist the temptation of the tenure track for as long as possible" and rather do another post-doc.
Once you enter the tenure track, the clock starts ticking and by the end of it, your tenure will be judged by your total publication record. If you do (another) postdoc before entering the tenure track you'll have more publications in the pipeline, which will give you a competitive edge. This might also increase your chances of getting more competitive professorship.
By the same token, it perhaps pays to do pre-doctoral fellowships and master's degrees. This is also important for picking a Euro vs. US PhD where the 3 year Euro PhD might better for people who do not want to go into academia whereas the 5 year+ US PhD might be better for academia.
comment by sbowman ·
2021-01-09T20:32:36.621Z · EA(p) · GW(p)
This is probably overstated—at most major US research universities, tenure outcomes are fairly predictable, and tenure is granted in 80-95% of cases. This obviously depends on your field and your sense of your fit with a potential tenure-track job, though.
That said, it is much easier to do research when you're at an institution that is widely considered to be competitive/credible in your field and subfield, and the set of institutions that gets that distinction can be smaller than the (US) top 100 in many cases. So, it may often make sense to go for a postdoc if you think it'll increase your odds of getting a job at a top-10 or top-50 institution.