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I am a professor of mechanical engineering in Russia. I have an excellent record of publications and some visiting experiences in the US. Now I want to apply for a faculty position in the US.

One criterion is a strong record of previous funds obtained. In Russia, the funding system is completely different. If I list my funded projects, the values look ridiculous in comparison with the US funded projects (where an assistant professor secures millions of dollar). This does not mean that my research projects have not been funded as well as the US rivals.

How can I convince the search committee that I have capability to secure research funds from the US funding agencies?

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    Why don't you just list the grants that you have received, optionally with some measure of how competitive the funding scheme is (e.g., acceptance rates etc.)? I would assume a selection committee to understand that acquiring external funding is different from country to country, and that you were previously able to acquire funding will be a positive even if the amount sounds small in US$ terms. – xLeitix Apr 10 '17 at 11:38
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    Also, do assistant professors really usually acquire millions of dollars in the US? – xLeitix Apr 10 '17 at 11:40
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    Unfortunately, the funding systems in Russia and the US are so different, that successful record of securing research funding in Russia is not really an evidence of someone's capability to secure funds in the US. You could try applying for joint grants with US partners first. – Dmitry Savostyanov Apr 10 '17 at 12:39
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    @xLeitix -- I have friends in Mechanical Engineering who were told that to get tenure, $1M in grants is a decent guideline. – Wolfgang Bangerth Apr 10 '17 at 13:18
  • $1M+ in grants, plural, though, yes? – The Nate Apr 10 '17 at 16:05
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Selection committees know that there are different standards in different countries. What is important is that you give them a list of the grants you have obtained, along with a perspective on what that means in your country. In other words, document things such as the typical size of grants, the success rate of proposals, or maybe the typical amount of grant funding a professor at one of the better universities in your country has. All of this puts your achievements in context, and allows the selection committee to already get an idea how competitive you have been in securing grant funding and how that might translate to your competitiveness in the US.

If you make that hurdle, and the selection committee is still interested in your case, then there are sufficiently many international faculty in the United States that a committee can always call up someone who knows the system in your country and ask them what they thought of your track record regard research funding.

  • I wonder what the grants cover in Russia? e.g. if the researchers' salaries, overheads, and any students are funded independently of a grant, of course it will be lower -- and you may even be able to state that it was a grant for equipment only (or equipment + consumables or whatever). The challenge may be in coming up with precise, concise wording. – Chris H Apr 10 '17 at 14:42
  • Correct. In much of the world, faculty are paid 12 months a year, and consequently grants don't include faculty salary -- and are thus significantly smaller. These are all things that should be mentioned in the application. – Wolfgang Bangerth Apr 10 '17 at 16:36
  • I'm in a part of the world where faculty are fully employed by the institution but are expected to bring in funding to cover the costs of running a research group including at least some of their salary. – Chris H Apr 10 '17 at 18:05
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I am not in your discipline, but have served on and chaired search faculty search committees. In my opinion, if you list the grants that you have obtained, you can established a track record of grant funding. To strengthen it, I would do research about where in the U.S. you would apply for grants (specific funding announcements, federal agencies, etc). Also, if you can identify potential collaborators in the U.S. who are funded, that may strengthen your proposal.

I have interviewed international candidates who have been successful in their home countries, but fall flat when trying to articulate a strong plan for securing research and starting up their projects in the U.S. Hence, I feel that if you coupled your past successes with a strong plan for the future, it may still be viewed as favorably. Also, if you have information about how competitive the grants were that you have previously secured (i.e. rejection rate), that may also help your argument.

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An apples to oranges comparison would not make sense here, and a reasonable hiring committee will recognize that. In other words, forget about the dollar figures and focus on demonstrating that you are strong in the skills needed: writing a strong proposal, planning a budget, carrying out the program, keeping good records, sticking to your budget, writing progress reports (if I left anything out, please chime in with a comment or an edit).

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