Wednesday, July 23, 2008

This was prompted by a (fairly typically mildly ranty) suggestion over at Young Female Scientist, where it was opined that faculty candidates were commonly not being shown the space included in their position offer.

None of this corresponds at all to my experience, frankly, during the search process last cycle (i.e. I just started my new job).

At each interview site, I was shown the space on offer very explicitly, asked whether it would be suitable, and - in the cases where the answer to that was 'no' or 'not optimal' we then got out building floor plans, discussed what space was possible and how it would work. The specifics of the five places where I got offers:

1. Space available was very poor: a coffee room and a couple of closets with promised renovations. The search chair clearly knew that this was a problem, noted that 'there might be alternatives available but there are some issues with current faculty.' In the end, poor space was the factor which made rejecting this position easiest.

2. Space available was new and pretty, but designed very explicitly for a somewhat different set of techniques and experiments from those I would wish to be doing. Space included a main lab, several adjacent smaller rooms, adjacent student/postdoc office space, and adjacent, new, animal facilities.

3. Space available was decent but not cohesive: several scattered rooms (in a traditionally-built, long-corridor academic building). Very clear sense that much effort would be put into optimising this, and a new wing was under construction for occupancy in <1 year (which is the closest I came to an offer of 'temporary' space); but a total of four or five decent-sized rooms within maybe 100 ft of each other.

4. Space was cramped but very well designed, in a generally-cramped department. This would have limited work possible and size of lab; those effects were agreed by the search chair but it was clearly 'this is what we have.'

5. [The one I took] One of several factors in favour of this place was the space offered: brand-new building, with large main lab, several large adjacent rooms - both next to my office space - and a suite of testing rooms *within* the animal facility immediately adjacent, together with a surgical suite and so on.

So in all cases the space was described, shown, and the end result was exactly as promised with exactly zero fuss.

Now, sure, I made sure that the space offered - like everything else - was in writing in my offer letter, but I assume that anyone would do that with each element of the offer that they cared about, right?

O'm not attempting to suggest that space may not be a concern - see options 1, 4 and maybe 3 above! - but the idea that someone would *not be shown* the space that they would be offered and expected to occupy for the next several years? Bizarre to the point of being close to unbelieveable.

Finally, shared space? As in, part of a large/multi-bench lab? Yeah, this is not uncommon, and I have never yet met a scientist that likes it (as opposed to amin folk who like being able to reassign incremental space!). It would have been a negative factor if I had ever encountered it, I guess - but it's the situation that I came *from*, and it's not _that_ bad.

OK, now that's off my chest :-).

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