I have been an full time appointed research professor most of my career (until 2017) in UK and Australia. I still work in a small business as CEO working exclusively with academic clients. I also have one 'staff' university based appointment but at senior Lecturer level to do a particular part time role. I have also been appointed Visiting Professor at 3 UK universities and adjunct professor at one Australian university. All 4 of these are current and official. Can I use the term professor across all of my roles? Is there anywhere that verifies or precedents? Be glad of all and any advice.
The traditional etiquette is that Professor is a Rank or title, not a job. Once you have that rank, it stays with you for life, the same way military titles or royal honors stay with you for life.
The difficulty is that in recent years, universities have muddied the water by giving people job titles with the word professor in them, when the person themself is not a full professor in rank, in order to more closely mirror the situation in the US.
Prof is also a title that is entirely based on etiquette - it is not legally protected in any way, so in theory, any one is free to use it.
I would look at it it this way:
- You can still be a professor, even if you currently hold a contract as a Senior Lecturer at a university. This is not relevant.
- While you might call yourself a professor on the basis of a visiting professorship (and I know people who do), I think many people would look down on this.
- So really it comes down to the status of your "research professorship". I'm not really sure that I know what the status of a research professorship is, it's not really a title I've come across before. If you think this was a "full" professorship, then I would feel free to use the title. Things you might think about is whether you were entitled sit on the academic senate of your university? did you have an inauguration? Would you have been entitled to emeritus status if you had stayed? If it is something that you feel was equivalent, then I'd feel free to continue to use the title. If not I wouldn't. I'd note that there is no real right or wrong answer here, and it will be a judgement call.
If in doubt, its probably worth considering @MaartenBuis's advice that its better to undersell than oversell.
Many Universities appoint Assistant Professors (~Lecturer in the UK) and Associate Professors (~Senior Lecturer in the UK), but if you hold such posts you normally do not put Prof Surname on your card, as this title is reserved for (full) Professors.
Similarly, a role of a Visiting Professor normally does not compare with actually being a Professor.
There are surely people working in industry who try to impress their peers with a fancy title, but it is quite easy to verify whether it is deserved or self-proclaimed.
I would look at it from the point of view of what happens if you get it wrong.
- If you choose not to use the professor title and someone finds out that you are entitled to use it, then pretty much nothing happens.
- If you choose to use the professor title and someone finds out that you are not entitled to use it, then that is embarrassing.
I was in a situation where it was unclear whether or not I could use a professor title. I chose not to, and a colleague in the same situation chose to use the title. A couple of years later, the situation was clarified and the colleague had to remove all mentions of her/him as a professor. Consensus among colleagues is that (s)he acted in good faith; the law was just unclear. Still it is embarrassing and I am very happy about my choice not to use the professor title.
It's not a protected title... Ronnie Pickering could call himself Prof Pickering if he wanted to.
Tradition would dictate that once you've held a full profressorship in any role, you keep the title for life regardless of what role you currently hold.
However, in my experience, using this title in a non-academic context would be a bit of a faux pas and just come off as pretentious. Most people with doctorates don't insist on being called Dr Jones in a professional context anymore, they just use their name and that is an actual, protected, title.
We are all forgetting the obvious solution to OP's "problem".
In UK/IRL you have two kinds of professor.
(1) A departmental chair - meaning an appointment to certain positions, e.g. Head of Department or any other endowed professorship within the department, which automatically carry an academic rank and salary of Professor and will entitle one to have Professor A.N. Other printed on his/her door and stationary.
(2) A special chair - meaning an attainment of distinction (usually for research and/or teaching) over a period of 10 - 20 years within a field of their department and which entitle an attainee to use the title Professor before their name but which does not automatically give them any increase in academic rank or salary.
As OP has attained some distinction in his career, I am surprised that he/she did not "negotiate" a special chair for themselves when being appointed to Senior Lecturer rank in the UK university. As the SL job is the main one, use of Professor with their name would then be free of problems, I think.
So, OP, please have a word with your HoD at the main job.