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I have no idea what is code of conduct when proposing a new lab and hope you can help me out.

I am looking for a Tenure Track, just finishing my PostDoc, having a good track in an emerging field and looking forward to opening a new group.

I know that at University X there is a program dedicated to opening a new labs and hiring good PIs for that, however, at this University my field is not present at all. I would love to set up a new group there, but have no idea how to approach them and propose it?

Technically the program works like they open a position from time to time, yet then it is already specified, the field, requirements, keywords, etc. Just casual job offer.

So I need to approach them before they open a position, but what is a proper way to do that?

Colleague of mine benefited from the same program, yet he contacted a senior researcher from similar field, who advocated internally for the new lab. I do not have such option, since my field is not even close to the ones already at the Uni (However it would strongly synergise with other Labs and for sure is a prospective and active field).

Shall I already contact with a CV, or first with idea for a lab? Shall I be transparent and first convince them for a lab before proposing myself as a candidate? Shall I first call, or mail?

I do not want a faux-pas or being misunderstood, how would you take it?

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  • FYI, it's faux-pas Jan 5, 2021 at 22:20
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    Why not follow your colleague’s approach? It seems to have worked for him. The fact that he was in the same area as a senior researcher at the program might have been to his advantage, which means the chances the same approach would work for you could be lower, but I don’t see any reason in principle why you shouldn’t try the same tactic. Basically if your area is exciting and you can convince people at the program that the synergies you’re mentioning are real, I’d say you have a chance.
    – Dan Romik
    Jan 5, 2021 at 22:27
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    I worry that you would be seen as arrogant if you make such a proposal and are not already on the faculty. An exception would be if you bring a gigantic grant with you, or are already a superstar in your field.
    – Buffy
    Jan 6, 2021 at 12:05
  • So maybe more general: How a new field opens at the University? E.g. There is no Rocket Science at all, and we want to bring it in? And specifically if you are part of that field and obviously want to bias central decisions so that it opens in your field (and then you may win a position from an opened call. Jan 6, 2021 at 12:09

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If I understand this correctly, you are asking if you should contact a university telling them (a), that they definitely need their first lab in field X that they currently have no lab in, or (b), what (a) says plus I’m applying for this to-be-created new position! Neither approach would have any hope in any country or field I’m familiar with.

Your question seems to be prompted by a colleague of yours being hired into a newly created lab (in an already present field) through personal connections. This combines connections with the new lab being in a field that already exists, and so does not really compare.

By and large, you can only apply to specific job openings, no matter how good your fit would be in a place. As you are in a new field, there might be neighboring fields with sufficient overlap that you can apply to openings in them as well. But the case at hand strikes me as fruitless.

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  • Thanks, I agree, that's why I asked this question. So what to do if: a) I know there is a bulk of money dedicated for new labs at this Uni b) There is no overlapping lab at Uni, but my proposed lab would fit into their development policies and long-term agendas PS. It is particularly hard in Covid when I cannot casually chat with some of senior guys over there at conference or seminar, since they are only online... Jan 6, 2021 at 8:36
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    @Intelligent: I honestly don’t know. The only way to push for this, in my experience, is through the grapevine - someone who knows someone trying to get faculty/administration where you would like to end up to consider setting up such a lab. Even if that’d work out you’d probably face modern-day opposition to bringing you in as an opportunity hire (in the U.S. at least); instead, that new lab might have to be advertised publicly - and so effective next cycle - first (your colleague’s experience might indicate that this wouldn’t be the case where you are). Jan 6, 2021 at 12:53
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    @Intelligent: While you’re probably hoping for a tt position (understandable), in this awful cycle maybe also look into being hired as a research professor (non-tt, with the goal to re-apply later). But for that you’d also have to have someone push for you with the dean. It’s tough. Talk to your PI. Maybe extend your postdoc by a year and try to network now. Good luck! Jan 6, 2021 at 12:56

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