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I am an assistant professor with three years of experience. I am planning to leave and I have two choices: one is a newly established department A (2 years) while one department B is slightly older (5 years). They are in the same university. The field is epidemiology, biostatistics and public health.

Department A is splitted from an existing department, only 2 are associated professor or above, and 8 assistant professor. Department B started from the beginning, with around 20 faculties, and 7 are associated professor or above.

Both departments are good fits for me, and my qualifications fit their job ads. Department B has both bachelor's and master's programs, while Department A only has a master's program. Both departments could recruit PhDs. What are the pros and cons of joining a newer department? and Can I apply for both, if they are in the same university?

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    I think most people would consider these both very new departments.
    – Bryan Krause
    Nov 11, 2023 at 14:40
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    What field? Which country?
    – Buffy
    Nov 11, 2023 at 14:46
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    Also, why are the departments new? Are they entirely de novo or from a split or rebranding of an existing department? Are they filled with all new hires or a mix of senior faculty?
    – Bryan Krause
    Nov 11, 2023 at 14:48
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    @BryanKrause and OP, I think that question is very important. I've seen new departments created from the dead-wood in other departments. Department heads were asked to "contribute" faculty to a new department. You can easily guess the result.
    – Buffy
    Nov 11, 2023 at 15:06
  • @Buffy Thank you for the comment, the field is epidemiology, biostatistics and public health. I am talking about China. Nov 12, 2023 at 8:48

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I don't know how things work in China, frankly, but a general response is:

The "pros" are that you might be able to shorten your time to tenure in such a situation, depending on your current qualifications and how you negotiate. Restarting the tenure clock would, on the other hand, be a "con". Another possible "pro" is if there are a few people there that are known to you that would be worth working with.

There are many possible "cons", however. You should try to get some idea, during any application process, of the long term commitment and funding for the new department.

But, I think the biggest issue, as I mentioned in a comment, is how the department was formed and who the current members are. In the case of a department split off from another or using faculty "contributed" from several departments, it is possible that the faculty in the new department were the "dead wood" from their original departments. I've seen this happen and it took years for the new department to gain much of a reputation, though it eventually did. The problem was caused by the method of creation, in which department heads were asked to "contribute" faculty. The ones contributed were either poor performers or headaches for the department head. Had it been done otherwise, more rationally, the outcome might have been quite different. But a search on the qualifications of existing members might give you an idea of the overall nature of a new department. This worries me more about your first example.

If a new department is created through a hiring "blitz" with a prominent academic selected as head, it might be different. Faculty from other departments might apply and be selected, but they aren't just "dumped" into the new organization.

I'd also think that a "new" department might be more reliable if it had been around a bit longer, letting things settle down, but also starting to establish a reputation. Again, a search on the qualifications of the faculty can tell you a bit about whether they work effectively and, perhaps, collaboratively. This suggests that your second example might be a bit "safer", though not necessarily.

As a grad student I was in a large department that had several factions. Overall they didn't get along very well, but within each "faction" they were very effective and productive.

As for applying to both departments, I see no reason not to do so, especially if you are well qualified for both.


Note that much of the above is just projection of "expected in general" tendencies. Little of it necessarily relates to your particular situation, so you need to take care and do some research.

But, explore early tenure and get a sense of how it would be to work within any department you might consider joining.

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