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I am a new lecturer in a sciences department, this is my first academic position. There is no one telling me what to do which is great, but I am not sure how to maximise my chances of doing well here. What would you think is the most important actions to do and not to do in your first 6-12 months of a position like this? Some people suggest to apply to all grants possible, but I am tempted to get my backlog of papers submitted instead. I was given a lab which is currently empty, and I have limited internal research funding but I can hire one PhD student. Any tips from more seasoned academics?

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    I think this is a useful question but you may need to make it a bit less subjective. E.g. what do you mean by "most important"/"doing well"? – user2390246 Mar 6 '17 at 14:19
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    Find out which actions are viewed as most important in your department; general advice isn't probably helpful here. You need to find a mentor locally. – Nate Eldredge Mar 6 '17 at 15:32
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    I second Nate Eldredge's recommendation that you need to find a local mentor. This is important. If one is not assigned to you, you could ask your department chair to assign you one or find someone on your own. – hpc Mar 6 '17 at 16:33
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    Thanks for the suggestions. By doing well I meant both integrating well in the department with the teaching and admin duties, whilst managing to do funded research. What I worry is that if I don't get funding in the first year or so I will be so full of admin/teaching commitments that I will lose the window for establishing funded research. This is something that I have heard about, and I wonder if it other people here had a similar doubt when they started off in an academic position and how they dealt with it. – Alexandre de Menezes Mar 8 '17 at 23:31
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As commenters already point out, ultimately this is a question that only people within your department can answer. However:

Some people suggest to apply to all grants possible, but I am tempted to get my backlog of papers submitted instead.

In general, and assuming you are in the sciences, the people that say that you should be focusing on grants are probably right. I kind of understand the temptation to write up all the things that you did not yet have time for due to needing to wrap up your dissertation, but this seems like short-term thinking to me. Sure, you will appear fabulously productive for some time, but then your backlog is empty and you have not acquired funding for new students nor started any other longer-running new initiatives.

As a faculty member, you will now need to start focusing more on the longer term, and sadly this often means that grants are more important than individual papers.

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Step 1 should be to network within your department. Go to as many formal and informal events as you can (seminars, discussion groups, coffee break chats...) and get to know the other staff in your area. This will enable you to:

  • Gather local advice that is tailored to your situation
  • Look at what other lecturers, particularly those early in their career, spend their time on
  • Gauge the culture of your department (are they primarily interested in big grants? Very teaching-focused?)
  • Find opportunities to develop collaborations, get involved in current initiatives, etc.

I don't know what Steps 2+ should look like, as they will depend on your particular situation (as discussed in the comments). But hopefully when you get started on Step 1, you can get the local advice you need.

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In many Eurogames, and in the stock market, the key to success is often to diversify. If you find that you achieve optimal productivity by working on one or two papers while also working on a grant application, then diversification could be a good strategy for you. Also, there may be some chaining possible by diversifying.

Request a mentor. Look around for one on your own as well.

And ask the department whether you should emphasize grant applications, completion and submission of papers already in the works, or a balance of the two. Keep the question succinct with low emotional tone. I understand that this is an exciting and rather anxiety-provoking time for you, but by projecting a cool image, you will get better results, and also the cool tone will help you keep calm. Amazing but true.

Consider that in some departments, grant applications are done as a group effort.

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