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Due to funding issues, I was dropped as a postdoctoral researcher with a 2 week notice. Due to seniority (6+ years) and funding climate it has been exceedingly hard to find a position within academia in the US. I was good at research. I have publications. I have skills. But I am "old" and where it was easy to get a postdoc, now it is difficult to find anything at all. I do not have an institution, so that makes garnering funding in the US very difficult, and I am not competitive with the other candidates for Assistant Prof positions. Most "training" programs will not take anyone more than 5+ years out of PhD. I just want to continue my research, now nowhere to do it. I have seen "Research Assistant Prof positions" and other non-tenure track opportunities but these are few and far between, I wonder if that means the competition is as fierce or worse than for TT positions. I have been looking for positions for almost a year now...and that cannot look good. Is this just a pipe dream to continue in academia and research? Any recommendations as to how to get back in?

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    You haven't said what your field is. That might be important in answering this question. – Brian Borchers Dec 31 '14 at 5:47
  • Life Sciences- Neuroscience. As I understand there is an overabundance of us already for positions. – RNAgirl Dec 31 '14 at 6:50
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I think that you need to decide whether what you really want is to be in research or to be in academia.

It sounds to me like you right now you are considering only positions at major research universities. With respect to that, you are indeed in a very bad position: competition is fierce, funding is getting tighter, and if you don't already have a network of people interested in you at this stage in your career, you are likely to find it difficult to secure a position of this sort.

There is, however, a much larger universe of possibilities if you really want academia or you really want research.

  • If you really want to stay in research, there are often a much larger number of positions in various flavors of government, non-profit, and industrial research, including many that are very similar to academia. In some fields, the amount of cutting-edge research being done outside of academia is actually much larger than the amount being done inside of academia, if one was to count up the whole bizarre ecosystem of startups, foundations, consultancies, pilot projects, little-known sub-departments in large companies, etc. Life is typically somewhat less stable in this world than with tenure, but likely no worse than you have known as a postdoc and in many cases much better. By your user ID and 6-year postdoc (ouch!), I'm guessing you're in a biomedical field, and this is definitely the case for much of biomedical research.

  • If, on the other hand, you really want to stay in academia, there are a much larger number of positions at institutions whose mission is primarily educational. A key challenge there will be if you have not been doing any teaching at all as a postdoc, but you'll likely be quite competitive in terms of your intellectual credentials.

So yes, your dream of going directly from postdoc to tenure track is likely not going to happen, just based on the numbers and how you describe your current status. If you step into the demi-monde world at the borders of academia, however, you can likely find a path to continue your research and, if it is fruitful, may even find yourself coming back into traditional academia through a side door.

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