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My husband and I work in the same research area (of theoretical computer science). We were in the same PhD program and even had the same advisor. We are a great collaboration team, and really enjoy and are productive when we work together. In addition, neither of us have anyone else to collaborate with because no one in the department really works in quite the same area (not even our advisor - long story). As a result, nearly all of my papers are co-authored with my husband. My husband has a decent number of papers without me as a co-author because he is three years ahead of me in the program, so he has his papers from before I even started, and also has had more time for more papers since I have just completed the class-heavy portion of my PhD.

My husband has recently graduated and is a tenure-track professor at a good university. I would also like to be a professor one day. From what I've seen in my field, spousal hiring seems pretty common. So we figured that we would both apply to a bunch of universities and would end up being hired as a pair. However, we have been worried that us both being in the same research area and publishing together is going to cause difficulties being hired. Since I have a few more years left in the program, my plan is to to have two or three good publications that don't include my husband (I already have one single author paper in a good place).

So my question is, how difficult will it be for us to be hired together into the same department if we have so many papers co-authored together? Will publishing a few good papers without my husband improve the situation to the point that we have a reasonable chance of being hired together, even though a significant amount of my early work was with my husband?

Additional Note: Even just in my department, several of the new hires in the last 3 or 4 years have been husband and wife pairs where they were both hired into the computer science department. So it seems that this practice is currently very common in CS. I have not seen any that shared a research area, though.

Edit: This question is very different from the one asked at PhD Student : Publish Paper with Wife? . That question is primarily about whether it is strange to publish with a spouse at all (and the spouse in question is not in academia), while my question is specifically about my husband and I getting hired together in the same department if we have co-authored a significant amount of our work together. The answers provided there don't really help with this question.

Edit: I have edited down the four questions to just a single main question.

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    One question per post, please. Also, these are mostly opinion questions, which are not permitted here. – Anonymous Physicist Jul 17 '19 at 3:31
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    I think you already know the most important things: Yes, you need to publish a lot of high quality papers. And yes, you should collaborate with a range of people to demonstrate you do not rely on one person. – Anonymous Physicist Jul 17 '19 at 3:32
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    You say that spousal hires are "common" in your field. Is this also true for assistant professors and even if they are not on the job market at the same time? I have some trouble imagining how this would work, at least in my university. Here, what people mean with spousal hiring is more often than not that the university helps find some place to work for the spouse, not give them another faculty position. One of you would need to be very, very desirable for this to even be considered. – xLeitix Jul 17 '19 at 7:47
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    I disagree with the decision to mark this a duplicate, the situation is different in a number of important ways. Quick attempt to answer the Q's: 1. similar topic is a harder hire in small schools, maybe teach different areas?; 2. yes, especially for tenure; 3. some will, but they probably will also make other implicit sexist assumptions; 4. yes, establish the differences in interests and expertise - you both work in A, but you also do B and teach C. – ParanoidGeek Jul 17 '19 at 15:54
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    @jakebeal I have made my question more concise, and I have clarified how this question is significantly different from the linked post. – user1231233278 Jul 17 '19 at 16:23
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The problem of the two of you getting hired together in the same department is much harder than for each of you getting hired separately somewhere near each other.

The problem is simply that there aren't enough job openings for two people in the same field at the same time, or even near in time. There might be exceptions, such as if you are in a very competitive and hot new area in which universities are competing for faculty in that field, but that is also rare.

But, if you are in an area with a lot of universities, such as NYC or London, for example, you could probably find employment close enough to solve your problem. One of you might need to take a job at a lower ranked place to make this work, I suppose.

Being nearby, but at different institutions would also open the options for collaborations separate from each other, as well.

You can't really control how people judge your collaboration, but if you are being interviewed separately for jobs, each of you can stand on your own in your knowledge of the field and potential for future work. But, don't obsess over what you can't control.

I'll note that it is easier for a university to solve the two-body problem if the two are in very different fields. It gets harder the more similar they are, especially the same sub-field. But being "hot" helps if you can find the place that is trying to rapidly expand. That is rare for lots of reasons and it isn't a stable situation. "Rapidly expanding" today could be "saturated" tomorrow.

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    On the topic of getting hired in the same department: A few older couples I've met in physics were quite limited in which (US) departments they'd even have a chance to work at, due to anti-nepotism policies prohibiting hiring spouses. I don't know if that's just history, or if some places still have similar policies. – Anyon Jul 17 '19 at 13:12
  • @Anyon, I'm guessing that it is a bit better now, with anti-discrimination laws providing more protection. But it might still limit the ability of one spouse to become department head or dean for nepotism reasons. (The US perspective, of course.) – Buffy Jul 17 '19 at 13:18
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    there aren't enough job openings for two people in the same field at the same time — Many universities (like mine) have dual-career hiring programs, that can create new job openings for spouses. (See provost.illinois.edu/policies/provosts-communications/…) This practice seems to be increasingly common, at least in the US, as universities slowly realize that dual-career couples won't move somewhere where only one of them has a job. – JeffE Jul 17 '19 at 21:56
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    competing for faculty in that field, but that is also rare — I'll just leave this here: cra.org/crn/2019/01/… – JeffE Jul 17 '19 at 22:04
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  1. In my (restricted) experience, it is generally a considerable problem for person A if all/most of A's good publications are joint with the same person B; and even more so if A and B are related and/or B is more senior / overall more productive.
  2. So getting good publications with someone else (preferably solo, if this is not uncommon in the field) will most definitely help. (Not just for getting a position at the same university, but for getting a position anywhere.)
  3. Otherwise people will (maybe unfairly, but quite naturally) assume that the collaboration is not symmetric.

Remark: If person B is extremely successful, then sometimes universities will quite openly and shamelessly hire a mediocre spouse A as well, just to get B. (Let me stress that I of course do not claim that you are mediocre.) I personally just found such deals always distasteful (how would a possibly better candidate C for A's position feel?), but from the point of the university this can be a rather rational strategy. This fact might even be a small ("social") disadvantage for a spouse A' which is hired because they actually are most qualified, but happen to be married to superstar B' (as some people will assume A' is hired only/mainly because they are married to B').

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The goal of both getting hired in the same department is obviously a high bar, and much more difficult than just each getting hired somewhere. For the specific goal of getting hired at the same department, there are a few competing issues:

  1. Generally speaking, it is desirable for new hires to be able to collaborate with existing academics in the department, so your track-record of collaboration is a positive for this part. The fact that you and your husband can do joint-papers together is an advantage over other applicants who have no existing research collaboration with department members;

  2. One the other hand, universities must be careful to avoid nepotism, and so the university will need to be careful to ensure that you are not advantaged in your application based on any considerations beyond the above. As you point out, it is not uncommon to see husband and wife teams in university departments (there were two pairs in my last department!) so it seems that the pendulum has not swung too far against this.

  3. Since most of your publications are collaborations with one person, there is the general danger that the hiring committee may find it difficult to assess your own contribution, or (even worse), might conclude that your contribution to the publications was insufficient. This one is a general issue that is not specific to getting hired at the same place, but it is something to be aware of.

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