A train to Tenure April 7, 2008Posted by dorigo in personal, physics, travel.
I am sitting on an EuroStar train to Rome right now, and I am thinking at all the time it took me to get here.
Rome is not my final destination: it is rather Frascati, a bit further South, where the headquarters of INFN are located. INFN (for Istituto Nazionale di Fisica Nucleare, the italian national institute for nuclear physics) is the organization which hired me in 2005 with a 5-year contract. In November that year I passed a national selection (a tough one at that) for 16 positions as HEP researcher which had been made available in a dozen different sections throughout Italy: for the first time INFN had radically changed the selection rules of their scientific personnel, centralizing the admission tests in order to avoid the usual misdemeanors that so frequently happened every time a position was to be filled at one site.
I got first place at the exam, and that was a satisfaction for me -there were about 200 candidates-, but the result of winning it was not, as in past INFN selections, a permanent position as a researcher, but a mere 5-years contract. INFN swore back then that they had already decided these temporary positions would be changed into tenured ones as the first chance arose; but guess what?, it turned out that they could not keep their word to the full.
I am now given a chance to obtain tenure, but that may only happen by passing one further selection exam -formally, not different from other selections: I had to send in a copy of all my publications (a bit less than 300 papers), a detailed resume, certifications of all sorts. In truth, it should be just a formality: a colloquium where I explain what I have done during these last three years as a contract researcher. Nevertheless, it really amounts to one further exam. Somebody will have to judge me and decide whether I am fit for tenure or not.
Of course, I am quite relaxed and I have not even read back the summary of these three years (which I sent with my application three months ago) to prepare for the colloquium. The trip to Frascati will not be unpleasant: just a bit boring, maybe.
This whole affair is obviously a matter of some embarassment for INFN, and since INFN is my employer, I should probably refrain from commenting further. And so I will, but I will only add that my first day as a post-doc, with Harvard University, was October 1st, 1998. It took me about 3500 days to catch this train.