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I am nearing the end of my Ph.D. at a R1 University in the United States. My degree is geography, though the research I do focuses on public health, epidemiology, and ecology. I have 7 publications, including 3 first-author publications, with another first-author publication in review. This is not including any publications that are a direct result of my Ph.D. research, which may be 3-5 publications and should come over the next few years or so.

I am unclear about the priorities for job hunting. Ideally, I would like to find a tenure-track assistant professor position without having to do a postdoc, though that is becoming increasingly rare.

Presumably acquiring grant funding and having a successful history of grant funding makes an applicant more competitive. With this in mind, should a nearly complete Ph.D. Candidate spend time searching for grant funding in addition to job hunting, or should they focus on getting a good postdoc? Further, if a tenure-track position is gained, does the grant funding search generally begin after that point?

EDIT: Added context about my field of research and degree, as well as publication history.

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    Whether or not you can get an R1 TT faculty job without a postdoc very much depends on your field. Would you mind elaborating? Commented Jun 22, 2023 at 19:52
  • @WolfgangBangerth Thanks, I made an edit to make this more clear. Commented Jun 22, 2023 at 20:17
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    Have you asked your advisor and senior coauthors for advice?
    – Kimball
    Commented Jun 23, 2023 at 0:16
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    "This is not including any publications that are a direct result of my Ph.D. research, which may be 3-5 publications and should come over the next few years or so." Being blunt: no one cares about these future publications, as long as they are future they are inexistent (so you are inflating your cv) or even worse just an annoying burden, your future employer is expecting and maybe tolerating you will have some 1-2 additional paper to finish, not that you will spend the next 2 years in additional working on these 3-5 publications resulting from your PhD.
    – EarlGrey
    Commented Jun 23, 2023 at 8:24
  • @EarlGrey Fair, I guess I should expect at least 2 more publications before starting job applications. Commented Jun 23, 2023 at 12:57

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Your priorities for job hunting should include both exploring postdoctoral opportunities and searching for tenure-track assistant professor positions. While the preference is to secure a tenure-track position directly, it's important to be aware that such positions without a postdoc are becoming less common in academia.

Acquiring grant funding and demonstrating a successful track record in securing grants will indeed enhance your competitiveness as an applicant. This is not, however, expected for a tenure-track faculty position application as it is typically very hard, and thus rare. Yet, it is a plus. The search for grant funding typically begins after securing the faculty position.

It is worth noting that some faculty positions may require applicants to prioritize teaching and mentoring. Therefore, it's essential to carefully review the specific requirements and expectations of each position you apply for.

Ultimately, balancing your time and efforts between improving your publication and teaching/mentoring profile and pursuing grant funding should be based on your individual career goals, the competitiveness of the job market in your field, and the availability of funding opportunities aligned with your research interests. My expertise and experience are in the field of engineering.

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    One thing I can add is that I have designed a course that includes coding laboratory assignments. Presumably useful? Commented Jun 23, 2023 at 12:55
  • Absolutely. You should include it in your teaching statement and talk about it during interviews.
    – Bob
    Commented Jun 25, 2023 at 1:50
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Most funding you would receive needs an institutional "home." And it is generally rather cumbersome (some would say a giant pain in the neck) to move funding between institutions. I would recommend that if you are applying for any grants right now, you do so in partnership with someone who already has a stable position and who would be the primary PI.

On the job search, it is usually sufficient at this stage to have a very good idea of what you plan to apply for vs. having already applied for it. They want to see you have a research plan, and this includes having a funding plan.

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  • Thank you. This is something I did not know. I find the whole process difficult and confusing - my work is carried (in part) on a grant right now, so it seems that a new institution would want me to have grant funding to continue the work prior to hiring me. That's just my thought. Commented Jun 23, 2023 at 12:54
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With this in mind, should a nearly complete Ph.D. Candidate spend time searching for grant funding in addition to job hunting, or should they focus on getting a good postdoc?

If you want to stay in academia, chances are that you need to find your own money.

Research grants are a scarce resource. Available postdoc positions even scarcer.

Applying to postdoc positions come with a small time/financial overhead (preparing the CV, preparing the cover letter, a couple of interviews, often some component of the trip to the interview is paid) and a lot of frustration (few positions being open, far and apart).

Writing a research proposal come with a huge time overhead (preparing the CV, preparing the reference letters, preparing the research project, preparing all the formalities) but then it is your project, so the reward is immensely bigger. And the frustration is big but a bit smaller in comparison to applying to postdoc positions, every time you learn a little bit more about the relevant comunity your research may have an impact, as well as about your research and yourself.

Learning how to write a research grant can be an immensely useful skill that can be re-used in many aspects of your professional life. It is probably the only skill worthwhile of your unpaid time during your PhD and Postdoc. Since you already have at least one publication (i.e. you can prove "I can publish my research"), writing research proposals is way more valuable for you than doing research for free (with extra hours, working during holidays, etcetc the general "acceptable" science working conditions) to publish something with your professor/supervisor as a co-author (whatever your relation is with them, cna be marvellous or horrible, it does not matter).

--------------Disclaimer--------------

At the higher ideal and ethical level, I do not support the huge waste of human and brain time involved in 100 researchers writing 100 proposals to have only 10 of them accepted.

Unfortunately the R1 system OP is aiming at is a supporting column of this system, better be safe in knowing how it works rather than being sorry. I hope GPTChat-based proposal writing codes will hijack completely the system, letting bright CVs and bright ideas shine, without much wasting time in the cumbersome bureacuracies of applying for grants/research funds, often applying for not-for-profit foundations which are simply big boxes used to avoid paying taxes and giving back peanuts to society.

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  • Agree 100%. The amount of time I have spent on my DDRI is unbelievable, and seems like a huge waste of time given the small amount of money it garners. Commented Jun 23, 2023 at 12:56

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