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I am currently a TT faculty at a R3 (4 year teaching) school and I would like to go to a more research focussed place. After talking to seniors in my field, I understood that I need strong research program to be able to make the transition from R3 to R2 or R1. However, I feel it's very difficult to continue research while I'm in a R3 school because 1)teaching load is high 2) my school doesn't value research that much so there won't be many opportunities like course buy outs etc 3)I need excellent teaching evaluations because I will be applying for jobs. Is there a better way to plan and execute this transition or is it even possible to go from R3 to R1? Am I chasing something that's not achievable? It would be great to hear success stories and some tips as well.

ps: I have other questions about whether or not to disclose to your current department that you are applying for jobs. But I will ask that in a separate post.

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I'd suggest two things. First is that you don't risk not getting tenure. So, keep doing the things that your current institution values and do them well.

But to move on into a more research oriented situation, you can get yourself connected to others who do serious research and work with them as a collaborator and eventually a co-author. This can build a reputation for yourself that might be attractive to an R1 or R2 institution.

I suspect, from your "handle" here that you are in mathematics. Fortunately that field is easier than many others for collaboration at a distance. You can attend seminars at some nearby R1, perhaps, and introduce yourself. Conferences are another possibility. Your school library may not be adequate, but interlibrary loan will get you anything you need.

The plan may take a while to reach fruition, but it can be done.

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The bad news is that this is very difficult, that many more people attempt such a move than succeed. And the Covid-19 has made a hash out of university budgets, making future faculty hiring more uncertain.

There are two pieces of good news however:

  1. One is that, due to the pandemic, a huge amount of academic activity has moved online. For example, if you are in math, there are huge lists of seminars and conferences, most of which are held online and are open to all. Find some talks to attend, ask questions, and try to chat with the speakers and other participants afterwards. And, if you have research to present, some conferences invite participants to give contributed talks.

  2. The way to succeed at moving is to succeed at what you'd be doing at an R1 anyway: be an active researcher. So, to the extent that you have the time and energy, just start doing the work that you want to do: Learn as much as you can; talk to people; find open questions to work on; and get results.

As far as moving goes, the odds are probably against you. I myself tried to "move up" and wasn't successful. But doing good research is its own reward, and much less dependent on the vagaries of the job market. And who knows, you might get lucky.

Good luck.

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