So obviously I’ve been a bit remiss about posting. You, guessed it, I’ve been busy! Counterintuitively, faculty life has become busier and more hectic post-tenure. The reasons for this are varied. For one we have a few folks in the lab that are getting ready to leave and there’s a rush to get papers published, projects wrapped-up, etc. There’s also a whole other crop of new folks which need to be trained and assigned projects. Teaching has remained about the same, with the difference that I’ve done it often enough that it can run in the background of other activities and yet still remain high-quality (yes, you get there, eventually). Also I’m being called up for all sorts of committees and meetings. Once you go through tenure it becomes difficult to fly under the radar of the dean and provost and other admin folks, since they will just have reviewed you cases. Also, one’s department becomes less invested in protecting your time and asks you to do all sorts of extra stuff. My lab is also a bit bigger, so there’s all sorts of folks to mentor, problems to solve and fires to put out. I’ve suddenly been asked to review a whole bunch more papers, and things like that. My grants are also turning over soon, so I’m on a grant-writing spree.
It is tempting to scale down my lab, take on another course and take the summers off (I already have my weird-professor chicken). But in truth, although I’m busier, this is not nearly as stressful as when you are trying to get tenure. So, it’s actually not bad. It’s just work. Plus now I can do some rabble-rousing without fear. And I get to collaborate again with my postdoc mentor, without worrying about making my work not seem “independent enough”.
I found it quite helpful pre-tenure to just basically fly under the radar and not participate in any university-level or division-level committees. I got asked a couple of times and I just said no. I did chip in with some departmental duties which I didn’t mind doing, plus you want folks in your department to like you, they will be your colleagues for years. Deans and admins, on the other hand, come and go. In my experience it didn’t really matter whether the dean knew who I was or not in terms of tenure. Ultimately your departmental colleagues and outside letter writers will speak in your behalf, as will your track record. I also never served on any grant review panels or study sections, though I think this would have been useful to do, if only once. I know some junior faculty that serve all the time, but I think in the end this would be detrimental, due to excessive time commitment. Also, doing something like becoming an associate editor in a journal as an assistant professor is crazy. It certainly won’t count towards your tenure, and it sounds like a bunch of frustrating gruntwork.
I’m not saying these activities are bad, in fact they’re part of being in the scientific community. Just don’t do them as junior faculty, you can pay your dues once you get tenure. And that, is seems, is what I’ve started to do.