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I am currently a staff researcher at a public research university in the US. While a tenure-track position may be in my future, I would like some of the opportunities and responsibilities now. In particular, I want to be able to write grants as a PI and advise students and postdocs. I believe that I can do this as an adjunct faculty, but I have a few questions about where to start:

  • What are common steps required to become an adjunct faculty?
  • Where can I find additional information (e.g. would a university-wide policy be given at the university website?)
  • Assuming I speak with the department chair, what should I say? Are my justifications sufficient.
  • How could I sell my case, other than my (demonstrated) ability to obtain funding and (undemonstrated) ability to be an advisor?
  • related but distinct: What are the roles and responsibilities of an adjunct faculty? – Abe Oct 23 '12 at 22:49
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    This isn't really an answer to your question as written, but a first thing to consider is who (if anyone) currently has a position of the sort you'd like in your department. If someone else does, then that sets a precedent you can look into. If nobody does, then that's more complicated. It could be that nobody else wants this, or that the department cannot or will not do it. – Anonymous Mathematician Oct 24 '12 at 12:46
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Be aware, too, that the administrative and departmental conceptions of both the privileges and responsibilities of adjuncts vary hugely from place to place. In many places, adjunct faculty do not serve on any committees, and it would be nearly universal that, in particular, they'd not be on the hiring and tenure committees, and not vote on hiring and tenure.

The question of being "allowed" to be an official advisor (as opposed to the obvious possibilities of informal mentoring) also surely has different answers different places. In some institutions, it is quite anomalous for "non-tenure-track/tenured faculty" to be allowed to "advise". You'd need to ask.

At worst, adjunct faculty are marginalized in terms of job security, voice in departmental matters, and are given the least desirable teaching responsibilities, etc. Hopefully this is not the situation at your institution, but, for example, a move from "research associate" to "adjunct faculty" might be, and might be perceived as, a step down, with unanticipated negative consequences for you. Hard to know without "being on the ground" there in your particular situation.

Also, beware that various administrative "official" statements on such things do not match practice, so unofficial, off-the-record information may be essential.

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  • I wasn't looking for any move to a different position - just an unpaid title with privileges. – Abe Oct 24 '12 at 4:09
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    Formally, a "title with privileges" is a new position, paid or not. – JeffE Oct 24 '12 at 12:10
  • @JeffE, my point was that the potential for it to be perceived as a "step down" shouldn't be as great if I retain my primary full time position and gain a title - (although admittedly I can't speak for the entire population of people perceiving my status). – Abe Oct 25 '12 at 3:50
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    You really really really need to talk to your department chair. Even having the title of "adjunct professor" on your CV may rob you of status. At my own university, for example, "adjunct professor" almost always means either "underpaid teaching slave" or "someone who's left but retains a courtesy title so their grad students don't have to jump extra hurdles to finish their degrees". For us, the job you're describing is called "research faculty". – JeffE Oct 25 '12 at 22:51
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    I'd strongly concur with @JeffE's appraisal of how such a position would look on your CV, now that I think about it. "Adjunct", in sciences, is far, far more often a stigmatizing status than an improvement. – paul garrett Oct 25 '12 at 22:59
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  • What are common steps required to become an adjunct faculty?

Ask your department chair.

  • Where can I find additional information (e.g. would a university-wide policy be given at the university website?)

Ask your department chair.

  • Assuming I speak with the department chair, what should I say?

"I'm interested in becoming adjunct faculty. What's the hiring process? Why yes, I do happen to have my CV with me."

  • How could I sell my case, other than my (demonstrated) ability to obtain funding and (undemonstrated) ability to be an advisor?

Ask your department chair.

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    Yeah, this varies tremendously between schools. For one thing, it depends on whether they view it as an easily granted formality ("Sure, we think you'd be a fine advisor, and if you bring in any grants we'd love to take the overhead") or as nearly equivalent to a tenure-track hire in difficulty. – Anonymous Mathematician Oct 23 '12 at 23:15
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    It can vary between departments in the same school even (at least at mine). Also, the status may bring a name on a web page, or an actual office (overhead can vary). – Fuhrmanator Oct 24 '12 at 3:54
  • -1 your answer is accurate, but not particularly informative. – Abe Oct 24 '12 at 4:06
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    @Abe The point that JeffE and Anonymous Mathematician are making is that "some guy on the internet" can't give you advice that will be accurate for your situation, because situations vary dramatically from department to department. You need to ask someone from your school (and preferably, your department) to know how they view adjunct faculty status. And there's no one better to ask than your chair. – Dan C Oct 24 '12 at 4:28
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    @Abe I think "Ask your chair" is a great answer. It used to be that knowing the answer was a really important skill. In the information age, it's often more valuable to know where to find the answer. – Dan C Oct 25 '12 at 4:24

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