Fewer science hires delayed

At a time when many faculty searches have been delayed because of the recession, Yale is hiring more faculty members in the sciences than in the social sciences or the humanities, University administrators said.

Yale proceeds with faculty searches within the Faculty of Arts & Sciences on a department-by-department basis, Provost Peter Salovey said in a phone interview Tuesday. While there is no priority given to the sciences, Salovey said the sciences departments, taken together, have delayed fewer searches than the social sciences or the humanities this past year because many sciences faculty members have left, Salovey said.

Nonetheless, the growth of Yale science faculty coincides with the University’s mission to build its science programs, Salovey said.

“It has been a goal of the University for some time now to bring the sciences and engineering at Yale to the level of excellence we see in other parts of Yale,” Salovey said. “This is why we have ongoing plans to build better science facilities on Science Hill and at the medical school … and the West Campus.”

Assistant Provost for Science and Technology Robert Burger said one full professor and 17 junior professors have been hired in the sciences since Jan. 1. In addition, three senior faculty members and two junior faculty members will start Jan. 1, 2010, and three junior faculty members will start next July.

Steven Girvin, the deputy provost for science and technology, said last week that the chemistry and math departments have been most affected by faculty departures. Last year, several prominent science faculty members left the University, including former provost Andrew Hamilton, Girvin said.

The recession will slow the pace of science faculty searches in coming years, Girvin said. University administrators, he said, have denied requests from several departments to begin faculty searches. But there are advantages to continuing faculty searches during the recession, Girvin said.

“This is a time when there are good people on the market,” he said.

Deputy Provost for Faculty Development Frances Rosenbluth said grant money could allow for hiring in the sciences beyond filling vacancies. Otherwise, Rosenbluth added, science faculty searches are treated the same way as searches in the humanities or the social sciences.

“You can be sure that the University is not playing favorites across the divisions,” Rosenbluth said.

Two interviewed science department chairs said they do not expect to hire more faculty members in the near future. Computer Science Department chair Avi Silberschatz said his department is at full strength. It is unlikely that University administrators would approve a search to fill a new position, he said.

“The only way to test the waters is to ask to initiate a search, [but] we’re not asking,” Silberschatz said.

Between the 2007-’08 and 2008-’09 school years, the number of science faculty members grew from 243 to 250, an increase of 2.9 percent.


  • grad

    I don’t know about the humanities, but in the life sciences profs have to pay their salary out of their own grant, and they even have to pay rent for lab space.

  • a life sci prof

    #1’s statement is only partly correct… in the FAS the science faculty are paid for 9 months from “hard money”, i.e., Yale funds, just as are the rest of the FAS faculty. All such faculty can, if they are able, supplement their salaries by finding outside (grant) support for the summer months if they are doing work deemed supportable by the outside grantors. In the School of Medicine, the life science departments run on a much more tenuous system… only a small fraction of a faculty member’s salary is supported by Yale funds, and the rest is “expected” to be obtained from outside sources (grants, patient income, a rich uncle, etc.).

    In a way, however, the money invested in hiring a science faculty is “venture capital” which Yale hope to recover (with interest) when the faculty member obtains grant support which comes with “indirect cost support” which goes to the Yale coffers, supposedly to cover the indirect costs of the research enterprise, but in reality are needed to keep the place going in any event… e.g., space maintenance, administrative salaries, infrastructure support, etc… Unfortunately, humanities faculty usually do not have that potential for “return on investment” leading to a somewhat different calculus in terms departmental and university economics.

  • Another Grad

    My advisor actually pays money into the university to keep me as a grad student. That is to say, they pay my stipend, an overhead charge, tuition, and all of my other associated costs.

    Yale makes money off of me and my advisor, through our grants. There’s no economic incentive to not hire faculty in cash-positive departments. There’s an institutional one in not wanting to show favoritism to a particular program.