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I'm currently a tenure-track Assistant Prof. at an R2 university. I will soon be interviewed on-campus at an R1 univ: a large state flagship school, but not one of the high-ranked ones (just trying to provide context). My field is computer science (AI focus), and I would estimate that their CS department is moderately stronger than ours, overall.

I've been at my R2 univ for 2.5 years, but I've only published sparsely in that time: a couple of workshop publications, and a journal publication under review. This is mainly because I've been transitioning to a different research sub-field, and of course there's a learning curve. It also took some time (1 year post my R2 hire) before I hired my first PhD student. I did publish more prolifically before (as a grad student in a large lab) & later a post-doc.

On the other hand, I received an NSF award recently (a couple hundred thousand $) as the only investigator.

How should I be internally weighting the pros and cons of my situation? That is, how much of a benefit is the recent funding likely to provide vs. the sparse recent publication history? How should I best deal with criticism of the latter? And overall, how much of a benefit would you expect my background (faculty experience at an R2, already NSF-funded as PI, past NIH funding as co-PI) to weigh in an R1 interview, vs. a candidate straight out of grad school or a post-doc? (This also means I'm 5-10 years older than those candidates.)

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    I'm not sure what you're asking for here. If you're trying to guess your chances of getting the position, it seems pointless - you've got the interview, and either you'll get the job or you won't. At the interview, you can simply say just what you said here. Sep 30, 2023 at 19:10
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    I'm not sure what you mean by "deal with criticism". The interviewers aren't going to criticize your publication record to your face - that's bad recruiting practice as well as just bad manners. If by some awful chance you have an unusually rude interviewer who does so, then you just repeat what you said here. They may of course have concerns about it in their internal discussions, but that isn't anything you can "deal with". Sep 30, 2023 at 19:12
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    Keep in mind - the search committee has already seen your CV. They know exactly what you have published and when, and having that information, they chose you as one of the finalists for the position. So obviously it's not something that's a deal-breaker or dramatically weakens your candidacy. Sep 30, 2023 at 19:15
  • Thanks, @NateEldredge. The point of the question is to get a sense of how an R1 search committee is likely to weigh publications vs. funding in my case, ideally from someone who has been on such a committee. This would help me adjust my tone at the interview. And yes, it can't hurt to be prepared for a rude/blunt interviewer. Sep 30, 2023 at 19:26
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    @VelvetGhost Not sure why you'd need (or want) to adjust your tone: present the best possible image of yourself in terms of both accomplishments and future potential whether you think you're a shoe-in or a long-shot. R1 TT jobs are rare and in high demand sufficiently that you're a long-shot no matter what you think, not because there's anything wrong with you, but because you're going to be competing with other people who are excellent.
    – Bryan Krause
    Sep 30, 2023 at 19:52

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What is there to do but be honest? If you have funding, I'll guess you also have a fair amount of "work in progress". That sort of thing is helpful in any application. Talk about ideas. Talk about the fact that you aren't "stuck" in one track.

If you have the information, talk about what gaps you might fill for them. Alternatively, talk about how you fit into their existing research groups. If your new track is interesting and still rich in problems to be solved, it is understandable that it takes time to transition. There is no need to be defensive about that. And, if you are bringing funding, all the better.

I think you have a lot going for you actually, especially if you are confident you will be offered tenure where you are eventually. If you are confident about your skills and project that confidence, it should go well. No guarantees.


Not in the interview, but at some point, if they stay interested, talk about the tenure clock. You (probably) don't want it to start over.

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  • Thanks! I plan to ask about tenure requirements. And yes, my understanding is that it's common to "negotiate" the tenure clock by a year or two in my kind of situation. Sep 30, 2023 at 19:45
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    Update: nobody directly criticized me during the interview, and I was offered the position. :) Oct 12, 2023 at 13:34
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    Good going. Congratulations.
    – Buffy
    Oct 12, 2023 at 13:38
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We cannot tell you what the hiring committee wants. They probably will not tell you either. Your own opinion of your research is also not of much use.

How should I best deal with criticism of (the sparse recent publication history)?

First, a job interview is not a place for criticism. In the unlikely event you are directly criticized or asked to justify your failings, that's a sign the other person would not be a good colleague.

Be prepared to state what is good about your past research and what will be good about your future research. An interview is a good time to address quality rather than quantity. They wouldn't be interviewing you if they hadn't already looked at your publication quantity on your CV.

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  • Update: nobody directly criticized me during the interview, and I was offered the position. :) Oct 12, 2023 at 13:34

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