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I came across a job post of "Research Assistant Professor" in the biology/medical field. This institution (ranked #50-100 in National Universities) states that this is a great opportunity to get research mentorship before initiating the tenure clock. The successful candidate will get lab space, equipment, and personnel support for their research projects. However, this is a 3-year temporary position and there is no guarantee that you will transition to a tenure-track position by the end of the third year. They want to see you get an NIH R01 first.

What are your thoughts? If I am interested in a tenure-track position, should I choose a 3-year Research Assistant Professor position at this institution (ranked #50-100 in National Universities) rather than a Postdoc at a world-renowned institution (e.g., Ivy League schools, Stanford, MIT)? Just curious about your strategy.

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    Seems better than a postdoc in terms of research/publishing opportunity. And there are no guarantees after a postdoc either.
    – Jon Custer
    May 6, 2021 at 21:07
  • True. The bright side is that I would become an internal candidate by the end of the third year. May 6, 2021 at 21:13
  • From your user name - are you a clinician and is this role partly a clinical role or have clincian-training responsibilities?
    – Bryan Krause
    May 6, 2021 at 22:11
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    It seems like just an alternate title for a 3-year postdoc. May 7, 2021 at 8:18

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I don't think there can be a general answer about future outcomes for a position like this. It seems like a bigger investment for the department than a typical post doc spot, though, which may be a positive.

I would look at the history of the position in the relevant department. Are there tenure-track faculty there that came from this path? I'd also ask current tenured faculty in the department, not just in leadership, for their candid opinions on the future of tenure-track slots in the department. It might be that these positions exist for political reasons that make future tenured spots unlikely, or it may be that it's a good introductory role.

Good luck.

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It's possible that a Research Assistant Professor position remains only a Research Professorship, meaning that it's not TT and you have to self-fund with grants. However, I would think that a Research Assistant Professor who is publishing and obtaining grants as PI could be more competitive for TT positions in general (at other schools) than a postdoc who is not a PI. A postdoc also has a time limit, whereas a Research Professorship can usually continue indefinitely provided that you are self-funding.

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