I am a PhD student in genetic epidemiology. When I started my PhD, I was certain I wanted to be a professor - three years into my degree, I am seriously rethinking that choice.
There are parts of my work now as a grad student that I love -- reading articles, putting what I’ve learned together to design studies, doing the analysis, writing code... I am aware of job titles like "research scientist" and "staff scientist" that sound like they might get to spend more time on these things than professors do, but I have some questions about how this works.
(These questions refer to positions in academia or similar settings like NIH intramural - I know industry is very different so I won't try to cram that into the same question!)
When/why do people hire research scientists/staff scientists instead of postdocs, and how do the positions differ from being a postdoc?
How is job stability? By this I don’t mean job security, so much as “How often do people end up having to find a new job?” “How easy/hard is it to find a new job when that happens?” and “Can you usually find a new job at the same university/in the same city?”
How is geographic flexibility? Would I still have to be willing to move anywhere in the country like I would if I were looking for a tenure-track job, or would I be able to choose where I wanted to live and then look for jobs there?
Do people in these positions first-author papers?
You do get paid more than a postdoc... right?