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My university (in France) is having a debate about the relevance of taking rules for preventing too many of its PhDs to be recruited here, or asking them to have some postdoc outside the region before. The same rules are also debated about the promotion to full professor (from what is called maître de conférence and is a tenured associate professorship).

Many people have strong opinion on these issues (me included), and I would like to gather a comprehensive list of arguments (in both directions) on this matter, if only to clear my ideas.

Some arguments may apply only under particular circumstances or in specific fields, please say so when it applies.

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    I think the whole point of having academia stack exchange is to ask "community wiki" questions. – user4511 Apr 4 '13 at 18:16
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    Are you only interested in answers about the policy or are you interested in the pros/cons of hiring your own? – StrongBad Apr 4 '13 at 18:33
  • @Daniel E. Shub: I am interested in both, but for that matter I would have spontaneously taken the phrasing "pros and cons of not hiring your own", given that the policy under discussion is about limiting the inner hiring. – Benoît Kloeckner Apr 4 '13 at 18:56
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    Related (if not a duplicate) academia.stackexchange.com/questions/8618/… – Suresh Apr 4 '13 at 20:11
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In addition to the other answers, there is a perverse effect to local hiring: a professor can promise to her PhD students/postdocs a permanent position later on, which in turn tends to "tie" the student/postdoc to her professor, perhaps preventing her to develop her own research agenda, and doing more administrative/teaching/supervision tasks than normally required (to basically look good in the eyes of the advisor). This then builds a stack of postdocs, waiting for the next permanent position, which would be awarded not to the best candidate, but to the one who has waited long enough.

Of course, I'm on purpose exaggerating the description, and this is no way can be generalised: many, if not most professors will actually recruit the best possible candidate, local or not. But I have observed this behaviour several times, in different countries, and although forbidding local recruitment wouldn't solve every problem, it would perhaps solve that one.

  • Don't professors already have a strong incentive to recruit the best candidate? Professors are evaluated by the quality of their work and their group's work, so they have an incentive to take the best candidate: taking a weak candidate over a strong candidate will only hurt the professor's group's productivity. Is this argument only persuasive if we assume that the institution has a hard time evaluating the quality and impact of their professors' research? – D.W. Dec 23 '13 at 9:18
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    The evaluation mechanism of professors varies from one place to another. – user102 Dec 23 '13 at 11:43
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I have not come far in my career but I have a family of academics, this question certainly came up a number of times over the years.

I guess the main point of having a formal requirement of foreign exchange/post-doc period is two-folds:

  1. to avoid the drawbacks of academic inbreeding. Academia is partially built on a strong tutor-pupil, or rather mentor-protégé, relationship. While this is a great way to pass on the experience and good skills, it can also be the cause of conservatism in the form of sticking to what you know only. Likewise it's truly important for young academics to experience different cultures, and I don't mean it like a charter trip to a warm place, only to hang out with friends/family. To learn, adapt and eventually appreciate a foreign culture is beneficial for any person, let alone for those who are supposed to keep an open mind to the unknown.

  2. going to a new lab somewhere else is also a fantastic way to improve on your professional skills. It's another reason why young academics are often expected to go somewhere else, learn something new and overall improve intellectually. In the corporate world this is encouraged in terms of changing jobs, those prodigies who are groomed for high level executive positions usually end up switching jobs every 3-5 years, often taking on a new but not completely unfamiliar role.

I should also note that our department has a similar issue, in the form of internal recruiting. A significant portion of the PhDs are recruited from those who have taken the course our department gives for undergrads in a particular program. What that leads to then is that the department becomes more or less an alumni hangout. While it may be nice for those new recruits to feel more "at home", for anyone else who does not have the same background it creates a BIG barrier to overcome in order to get familiar with the people in the department.

That was my two cents, I hope it helps.

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    It is the same rationale for encouraging students not to get their graduate degree from the same institution they earned their bachelor's from. – John B Apr 5 '13 at 16:05
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One con that hasn't been mentioned yet is confirmation bias. Ideally, departments want to hire the best people and provide the best opportunities for their graduates. Hiring from within skews the calibration of both of these goals.

How do we know we're doing a good job hiring? Well, just look at all these great people we hired! How do we know they're good? They came from a great department! And if they weren't good, we wouldn't have given them PhDs. And how do we know our PhD standards are high? Just look at how many of our PhD students get jobs in good departments! Well, sure, none of them get jobs in other good departments, but so what?

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In my mind:

Pros:

  • A policy of hiring your own graduates is probably a good indication that you "take care of your own", making sure your graduates get jobs, etc.
  • PhDs from a university likely already have mentorship and support networks set up, there will be less time adjusting to a new place, etc.
  • Assuming they found an advisor to work with to get their PhD, their own research goals likely align with those of the institution - there are likely grants they could be made Co-PIs on, etc.

Cons:

  • You lose the opportunity to hire outside talent.
  • Hiring exclusively from your own PhD pool creates an echo chamber - it's hard to get novel, outside perspectives, or take things in interesting new directions if everyone does what's already there.
  • It may lock junior faculty into something kind of like a "postdoc+" status - sure they're faculty, but there's no big transition to make them take the leap into doing their own research, establishing an independent lab, etc. Instead, they kind of soldier along as some status above student but decidedly below the other faculty in the department, at least for awhile.
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    I do not know any place that has a formal policy of hiring its own, do you? Of course, there are some department that do it a lot, but a policy in this direction seems quite offensive to the equity of hiring. – Benoît Kloeckner Apr 4 '13 at 18:57
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    @BenoîtKloeckner UK labor laws result in post docs often being eventually hired as tenure-track lecturers when their contract end. Right now our PhD students are not employees, so don't get the same redundancy protection. – StrongBad Apr 4 '13 at 19:16
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    @BenoîtKloeckner I don't know of any "formal" policies, but I do know of places that have an informal reputation of doing so. – Fomite Apr 4 '13 at 19:21
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    A policy of hiring your own graduates is probably a good indication that you "take care of your own" — I find that argument deeply questionable. A department that truly "takes care of their own" helps them land jobs wherever they want. – JeffE Apr 5 '13 at 12:00
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    I agree with Jeff: making sure your graduates get jobs by hiring them would be liking organising a conference reserved to the academics of your university: sure they would get publications, but that wouldn't mean the publications would be good. I guess the argument of funding comes into play: I wouldn't be so happy that my taxes are used by a university to hire people who couldn't get a job somewhere else ... – user102 Apr 5 '13 at 15:07

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