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I need to work in a safer state or country, and would prefer to remain in academia. I run a healthy ~1mil/year research group, and I want to take the willing part of my team with me (not all will be willing to leave). My local colleagues will write letters of recommendation if asked. My academic network, in general, is strong.

I’m unsure signposting that I’m leaving to any of those groups is a good idea. Each group is linked to each other, and people talk. It’s a chaotic time, and if I destabilize the group, funding could be in question and people could lose their jobs.

I know how to search for a new job, academic or not, as an individual. It is tempting to shut this lab down, and do what I know, but I’d like to keep the band together.

How do people do this?"

NOTE: I am posting this on behalf of a tenured PI working in the US in a STEM research-focused field.

EDIT: Some additional details, although not all as the PI still wants to remain anon.

PI is an engineer. Equipment is a minor concern. The team that is most vital is staff and postdocs, who are presently co-located. Most key PhD students have apparently already left the program.

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  • 1
    STEM can mean a lot of things with different implications for this. You need to specify a field. In particular are physical labs requiring face time among researchers needed in your field?
    – Buffy
    Commented Jul 10, 2022 at 14:36
  • 1
  • 2
    And who is this "team"? Students, faculty, hired personnel, others? Are they co-located or dispersed presently? Lots is missing here.
    – Buffy
    Commented Jul 10, 2022 at 15:46
  • 2
    Tenured professors move around - it is a normal part of the academic landscape.
    – Jon Custer
    Commented Jul 11, 2022 at 12:58
  • 3
    @Industrademic If it were me, the conversations with the team would come first: they need to move or find a new job, and for a lot of academic jobs, their skills may be tailored quite narrowly. For any non-temporary employees, they've likely given up a lot financially already by working this job.
    – Bryan Krause
    Commented Jul 11, 2022 at 22:13

1 Answer 1

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  1. Have an excellent professional network.
  2. Ask people who know your plans not to talk about them.
  3. Identify the tiny portion of universities who are wealthy enough to "buy" your research group.
  4. Figure out who recruits post-tenure faculty at those universities. At one university, it was called the "Strategic hiring and retention program." Usually it is hard to find out who is involved.
  5. Convince them you really want to work there.
  6. Get an offer.
  7. Negotiate enough money to move your group.
  8. Convince your group to move.
  9. Convince your current university to let you take your equipment.
  10. Convince your funding agencies and current university to let you take your funding with you.
  11. Relocate all your equipment.

The whole thing is very likely to be quite unpleasant. Even if you have won a Nobel prize, you are likely to find steps 1, 7, and 10 very challenging.

A person who was involved in convincing post-tenure faculty to change to their university said the success rate at recruiting people was about 10%.

I would be quite understanding if you consider it worth the trouble to get out of Florida.

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    I guess if you won a Nobel, you could replace 8-10 with "just get new equipment/funding". But for any other scientist you will probably need to be far above average to even have a chance of getting to step 5/6.
    – mlk
    Commented Jul 10, 2022 at 18:48
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    @mlk Probably not. Some equipment cannot simply be bought. Commented Jul 10, 2022 at 22:52
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    Many universities are OK about letting gear follow the PI. These things average out in terms of incoming senior faculty. Commented Jul 11, 2022 at 2:26
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    I wonder if you could expand on steps 2 & 3, @AnonymousPhysicist. These are outside my own experience. Figuring out which institution is a good match is a really important part of the problem. Commented Jul 11, 2022 at 21:10
  • Re (9): Sometimes there's also the approach of keeping the funding at the current institution and using it there, e.g. for paying a postdoc to work with you (whether physically in the new location or remotely).
    – Anyon
    Commented Jul 12, 2022 at 1:35

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