I am putting together my sabbatical year plan where I hope to get a visiting (research) position in a research university in USA that will provide at least half of my salary. My field is applied mathematics.

However, in the age of COVID, there may be various issues with travel restriction, family life, or my own health. Staying in a university far away from home may be much more difficult in the next year or two.

What are the options for arranging a productive sabbatical leave in USA? E.g., are there virtual visiting positions in USA now?

  • 2
    For a paid position, I think this would be unlikely. Outside funding might be a better bet.
    – Buffy
    Jul 27, 2021 at 15:33
  • My answer here academia.stackexchange.com/a/170268/63475 was about remote PhD positions but I'd say it applies equally to other remote academic positions. I could imagine a non-remote position becoming remote due to public health emergencies, but not the existence of an intentionally virtual position like this.
    – Bryan Krause
    Jul 27, 2021 at 16:11
  • @Buffy, The field is applied mathematics. Edited, and also broadened the question a bit.
    – Bilbo
    Jul 27, 2021 at 18:29
  • Would "put it off until Covid is over" be a viable option?
    – nick012000
    Jul 27, 2021 at 21:06
  • @nick012000, Yes. In the worse case scenario, we could just delay by a year or two or just have a one semester sabbatical leave with full salary. But certainly I'd prefer to have a productive year, as I couldn't get much work done since Spring 2020.
    – Bilbo
    Jul 27, 2021 at 21:23

1 Answer 1


I'm going to take a stab here, but may come back if other ideas occur. I do think that a university funded virtual research position is unlikely unless you are a superstar in your field already. Lots of regulatory issues stand in the way.

First option. Find some funding to support yourself adequately. This might be in conjunction with someone at another university on a common project. Since this might take a while to arrange, it might be necessary to delay the sabbatical for a while until you secure the funding.

Second option. Find a collaborator who already has a fairly large grant and is doing something that interests you. I think that applied math might offer some opportunities here. If you already have a wide circle of contacts in your field of interest, start to ask around what they can suggest. Maybe send you along to someone else, even.

Sub option under #2. Perhaps you have a colleague elsewhere who is willing to "sell" your participation to their administration and make some guarantees as to the quality of your work. That is, you don't apply directly (at first), but arrange to get invited. This would require a pretty strong argument on your colleague's part, but it could, in principle, catapult their research to everyone's advantage.

Third option. Not a research university, but some research lab (governmental, commercial, non-profit...) that is very interested in what you do and needs help badly enough that they are willing to provide funding for a virtual team member. Probably rare, but not as rare as a university funded position.

As you know, the virtual doing of it isn't all that impossible nowadays, but the funding for a person who never shows up and introduces difficult tax and supervision issues is a hard sell.

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