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I am a tenured professor of mathematics (applied mathematics). This year, unfortunately, I do not have enough funding for my own summer salary. I can see there are plenty of visiting positions for early career researchers. But I haven't seen any summer positions for older (in academic age) professors.

How can I find other summer opportunities within academia with reasonable income?

Some clarifications:

  • At least in my corner of academia, salaries are relatively low; I do not think that parsing out my 9-month salary over 12 months would be reasonable. And tenured professors generally cannot get unemployment benefits in the US.
  • I am talking about academic positions; other options like waiting tables are not of interest.
  • Teaching summer classes at my institution may be an option, but I don't really want to as no course in my area of specialty will be offered in the summer.
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  • The discussion about whether this problem was sufficiently unique to academia seems to have been resolved in the affirmative; these and other comments have been moved to chat. The discussion can continue there, but before posting a comment below this one, please review the purposes of comments. Comments that do not request clarification or suggest improvements usually belong as an answer, on Academia Meta, or in Academia Chat. Comments continuing discussion may be removed.
    – cag51
    Apr 20, 2023 at 17:05

8 Answers 8

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Spend the time solving your direct problem: write more grant proposals.

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    I personally think this is a practical suggestion. Writing grant proposal will not solve the immediate problem, but it will help to solve the financial situation in the future.
    – Nobody
    Apr 18, 2023 at 4:06
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I don't think anybody here can answer this question, since we do not know what marketable skills you have. Teaching summer school is not so bad. However, if you have to starve because your nine-month salary is not sufficient, you might need to consider a career change. I hope for you that this is just hyperbole.

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You don't say what your area of specialization is, but consulting to industry or government is sometimes possible. But since this is last minute (relatively) you may not have time for that. You also don't mention what kind of institution you are at, which can make a difference. One option might be to teach at another institution, which could be interesting and a change of pace. Or teach a course in a new area, maybe even something like a freshman level, general education course which if you haven't done before can be an eye-opener.

You might want to look into what opportunities there are for at last some funding at your institution. Since you usually have grants you many not be aware of this, but many programs would be so happy to have a math faculty member engage (especially if your department tends to be people who are not engaged on campus).

I'm not in math, but some ways I have been paid in the summer over many years as a faculty member.

  • Stipends for mentoring student researchers.
  • Payment to create a new course.
  • Payment to develop a proposal for a new program.
  • Consulting for other people's research projects.
  • Payment for designing and running our summer bridge program.
  • Running a faculty development program.
  • Participating in a faculty development program.
  • Payment to create an open educational resource to replace a costly text book.
  • Writing a commercial book.
  • Summer advising and summer chair.

But at a certain point, you have to decide how much chasing you want or need to do. I also realized that family time, vacation and time to write at my own pace made it so that doing a ton of projects in the summer was not.

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I am in a similar position in an institution that does not pay a reasonable salary, even to tenured professors. For 10+ years I've solved the issue by (1) teaching night classes during the semester, (2) teaching half summers, and (3) doing non-academic work during the second half of the summer.

This might sound like a lot of work, but it's less work and more enjoyable than it seems.

Students taking night classes and summer classes tend to be more motivated, and come from a different population. Instead of 18-year-olds rolling their eyes and looking at their phones, I get 25-30 year-olds wanting to learn. It's super refreshing to teach people who want to learn. These classes make up almost half of my income, so yes, almost a 100% salary increase for something I love doing.

Before I came to academia many decades ago, I worked in the trades. I use those skills to do contract work for half of the summer. It pays really well and the physical work clears my mind.

With the combination of the income sources I'm able to travel to conferences despite meager support from the university, buy books, computer equipment, finance my own field research, etc., and enjoy financial stability at home.

I've tried writing grants and have received many (small/med size), but after counting the hours spent writing, administering, and reporting, they have never been worth it for me. Same thing for summer fellowships, visiting appointments, etc.

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Start an educational YouTube channel. Though it'll need time to take off. I knew a faculty member (incidentally a mathematician) who was bartending for extra income and another one who was bartending once per week.

On a more serious suggestion, I'd ask around for opportunities in tech companies (paid summer internships) or labs that may not pay well, but can nevertheless add to your CV. Find something you always liked to do and try it. Also, you may use your network, colleagues, and students alike.

Edit:

After the question was modified, I believe that the only options remaining would resemble the options a Faculty member on Sabbatical has. They usually look for institutions to host them, for a semester or year. They usually do research and/or teaching there, as far as I know, but I'm a little outside my depth here.

If I were in your shoes, I would ask colleagues for research opportunities that might pay. Even if they don't pay well now, opportunities like that might help you expand your research agenda so that you may be able to find more grants in the future so that you won't run into these sorts of problems again (I would think of them as an investment). I'd also look for community colleges, liberal art colleges, and large state universities in my area (and nearby of course), and ask whether they offer summer teaching opportunities. Teaching a new class at your institution will expand your teaching arsenal so I would think about that too. In general, I would tap into my network of friends, colleagues, and acquaintances for help and ideas. I would also do some soul-searching to find out things I always wanted to do but didn't. Good luck!

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    I could be wrong, but paid summer internships tends to be designed for younger people. In my younger years, I have interned for tech companies. They hire fresh PhDs or even postdocs for Summer interns. I don't recall seeing a single tenured professor.
    – Timmy
    Apr 19, 2023 at 14:45
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    I agree, but I suggested that option because of my experience learning a new skill at an older age. In which case interning becomes a probable option again. Tech companies might even need your research expertise in applied mathematics in which case a research direction might open for you. Good luck in any case!
    – cconsta1
    Apr 19, 2023 at 17:22
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    Making money from YouTube involves a lot of luck and a lot of uncertainty, and also requires a lot of time, over a long ideally-continuous period of time. So it's not a great option for a reliable income during summer. Educational channels also tend to be less popular, so it's harder to make money from them (although there's also less competition, so maybe those balance out).
    – NotThatGuy
    Apr 20, 2023 at 8:20
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    I know it's a joke but just so people know, 99% of people who post videos on Youtube make almost no money from it. Certainly over the course of one summer you aren't going to make any money.
    – Tom
    Apr 20, 2023 at 17:00
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There are several programs aimed at fostering international collaborations through short-term visiting positions which accept senior academics such as tenured professors.

Two examples are the Humboldt Research Fellowship for Germany and the Invitational fellowships for Japan, but there are many similar programs. These programs can be offered through nation-wide calls, but many smaller ones are offered by specific universities or research institutions. There are also smaller grants with similar purposes.

However, note that many of these fellowships have the objective of supporting longer-term collaborations (i.e., extending beyond the visiting period) with researchers in the host institution. Moreover, some of them can be very competitive due to the limited amount of positions, and the applications often have to be made well in advance of the visits.

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In USA, college professor only get 9 month salary. So such temporary unemployment will be an annual occurrence.

Given that tenured connotes security, freedom, ought to connote 'top-notch' research, and those perks, one should

  • take the pain of infancy: temporal relative income at the early stage and
  • build up research
  • engage extensively
  • attract funding
  • obviously bringing all three into writing grants proposal

Would that put money into OP account this summer. Doesn't look like it.
Will it solve or assist with future occurrence, it would.

The freedom that comes with tenured grants the leeway for research and engagements that might bring lasting academic revenue for years to come.
Note that, some get visiting through their research visibility and collaboration/engagements.

Am I suggesting that it's a walk in the park? Nope. Some have it pretty tough.
PS: I'm also not suggesting the pathway of publish or perish.

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    "Given that tenured connotes 'top-notch' research" - not even close. Apr 20, 2023 at 15:58
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I use my math skills to earn money where it's easiest to earn money, and that's by trading on the stock market. This does require mastering some basic skills, it's quite easy to master for anyone with a decent math background. If you are creative with your math sills you can easily outperform most traders and get to decent profits. This has become a lot easier in recent years due to the large number of of retail traders who are just gambling with 0DTE options.

A big advantage for earning an income this way is that where I live, there is no capital gains tax. This mean that my income is officially zero. I only pay tax over my possessions the effective tax over every dollar earned from trading on the stock market is then extremely low. This has prompted many successful traders to move to countries where they don't have a capital gains tax. For example, Dubai is popular place for traders to emigrate to,

Earning money by trading the stock market leaves me with enough time and money to pursue my scientific interests. I publish my research results in peer reviewed journals just like I did when I was working in academia. However, I'm publishing less frequently because the projects I work on are longer term projects. There is now no pressure on me to do anything I don't want to do to get to more publications per year.

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    Comments have been moved to chat; please do not continue the discussion here. Before posting a comment below this one, please review the purposes of comments. Comments that do not request clarification or suggest improvements usually belong as an answer, on Academia Meta, or in Academia Chat. Comments continuing discussion may be removed.
    – Bryan Krause
    Apr 20, 2023 at 16:00

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