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Most academic jobs involve some amount of teaching. Post-docs generally do not, but they are only short-term positions.

Question: in which countries can one obtain a research-only permanent position in mathematics? Please provide a link to a relevant website if possible.

Please mention only one country per answer, and since there is obviously no best answer, this is a community-wiki question.

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    $\begingroup$ Postdocs in math "generally do not" involve teaching? That depends on the country. The percentage of permanent positions in academia with zero teaching -- even when averaged only among institutions with good resources -- is so tiny as to be negligible. Can you clarify the reason for your interest in this question? $\endgroup$ – nfdc23 Jun 24 '17 at 18:34
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    $\begingroup$ The idea in your parenthetical comment would be encounter many difficulties in practice. A primary reason that the research+teaching paradigm is ubiquitous in many places is because the need to teach math to students in other fields is the only way most universities can justify having a non-tiny # of senior faculty positions and # of positions for math PhD students. The principle is conveyed nicely by what a wise math professor once said: "applied math is the only reason mathematicians are paid more than poets". Also check out how the funding of faculty worked even in Riemann's time. $\endgroup$ – nfdc23 Jun 25 '17 at 20:14
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    $\begingroup$ Wouldn't this question be better suited for ASE? $\endgroup$ – user 170039 Jun 26 '17 at 3:07
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    $\begingroup$ I pity the students of the next generation who will be deprived of the opportunity to learn from someone brilliant enough to deserve a permanent research-only position. $\endgroup$ – Zach Teitler Jun 26 '17 at 13:13
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    $\begingroup$ @user170039 No, as a big list community wiki type question, this would not be a good fit at academia.se. $\endgroup$ – StrongBad Jun 26 '17 at 18:51

17 Answers 17

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In the US, you could try to follow in the footsteps of Gödel and land a job at the Institute for Advanced Study.

But do keep in mind what Richard Feynman thought about such research positions without teaching duties:

When I was at Princeton in the 1940s I could see what happened to those great minds at the Institute for Advanced Study, who had been specially selected for their tremendous brains and were now given this opportunity to sit in this lovely house by the woods there, with no classes to teach, with no obligations whatsoever. These poor bastards could now sit and think clearly all by themselves, OK? So they don't get any ideas for a while: They have every opportunity to do something, and they are not getting any ideas. I believe that in a situation like this a kind of guilt or depression worms inside of you, and you begin to worry about not getting any ideas. And nothing happens. Still no ideas come.

Nothing happens because there's not enough real activity and challenge: You're not in contact with the experimental guys. You don't have to think how to answer questions from the students. Nothing!

From: "Surely You're Joking Mr. Feynman! – Adventures of a Curious Character"

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    $\begingroup$ These poor bastards didn't have MO back in the 1940s. $\endgroup$ – Uri Bader Jun 25 '17 at 7:04
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    $\begingroup$ The problem with this answer is, I can't tell how many of the upvotes are for the Institute and how many are for the Feynman quote. $\endgroup$ – Kimball Jun 25 '17 at 7:28
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    $\begingroup$ @Kimball to obtain a reasonable approximation of the number of upvotes for the quote only, just subtract the maximum number of upvotes for other answers (none of them have any quotes). Uncertainty comes from the unknown amount remaining to be subtracted to reflect advantage of IAS over any other similar institution across the world. $\endgroup$ – მამუკა ჯიბლაძე Jun 25 '17 at 9:28
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    $\begingroup$ I'll bet Feynman was thinking of physicists more than mathematicians, e.g., when he says "not in contact with the experimental guys". $\endgroup$ – Todd Trimble Jun 25 '17 at 17:26
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More modestly, the CNRS in France. There are about 12 positions each year, roughly at the level of 3 years after Ph.D. But be aware that the competition is fierce.

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    $\begingroup$ Inria has a similar system (Inria does research in computer science, but employs some mathematicians). $\endgroup$ – Fredrik Johansson Jun 24 '17 at 19:17
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There are such positions at several pure research institutes in Russia and most of the other countries of the former Eastern Block. As far as I know, nowadays salarywise these positions are generally considered inferior to those at the universities (whereas in the Soviet era it was the opposite).

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    $\begingroup$ I am not sure whether this applies to the Polish Academy of Sciences in Warsaw. (impan.pl) $\endgroup$ – Tomek Kania Jun 24 '17 at 19:10
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    $\begingroup$ These positions were never considered "inferior" at least in Poland and Ukraine, of which I have the first hand knowledge. Moreover, they never object if one wants to teach at the university while keeping this research position. One can also have graduate students if one wishes. Same situation prevails in Weizmann institute. $\endgroup$ – Alexandre Eremenko Jun 25 '17 at 19:33
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    $\begingroup$ @AlexandreEremenko As for me, I have some information from Czech republic, Hungary, Baltic states and Russia. As for Georgia, - in addition to lower salaries, there is certain tension between faculty staff and research institutes; the problem is that the state pays for students to the universities and any additional people who want to teach or have grad students are viewed as competitors. $\endgroup$ – მამუკა ჯიბლაძე Jun 25 '17 at 21:28
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In Israel, there is the Weizmann institute of science.

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    $\begingroup$ The Weizmann institute has a grad school and professors can have grad students. They can teach, if they choose to do so. Professors' salaries are standardized in Israeli universities, including the Weizmann inst. $\endgroup$ – Uri Bader Jun 25 '17 at 20:32
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In France again, IHES (Institut des Hautes Etudes Scientifiques), maybe a kind of Princeton's IAS "à la française".

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The Netherlands has CWI - Centrum voor Wiskunde en Informatica (Centre for Maths and CS), Germany has a number of institutes within Max Planck system; they do employ mathematicians in research-only permanent positions, albeit is small numbers.

https://www.cwi.nl

https://www.mpim-bonn.mpg.de

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In Spain there is the CSIC (Consejo Superior de Investigaciones Científicas). Specifically the ICMAT employs mathematicians. The permanent staff at the CSIC are public employees with category equivalent to that of professors in public universities, although they are slightly better paid.

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    $\begingroup$ I was also going to comment on CSIC but all mathematicians I've met at ICMAT have a permanent position in an University thus some teaching assignment. $\endgroup$ – Miguel Jun 26 '17 at 14:05
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    $\begingroup$ @Miguel Atencia: The CSIC has its own permanent faculty who have no teaching duties. The ICMAT in particular is a joint research institute with several universities, so some of its members are professors at these universities, but some of its members are employees of the CSIC itself. $\endgroup$ – Dan Fox Jun 26 '17 at 17:07
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In India, there are three such institutes

  1. Institute of Mathematical Sciences(Chennai) https://www.imsc.res.in
  2. Tata Instute(Mumbai) https://www.math.tifr.res.in/
  3. Harish Chandra Institute(Allahbad) https://www.hri.res.in

At all these places there is a graduate program; but teaching is voluntary, and there are some people who don't teach at all, however from what I have seen the very best people like MS Raghunathan, Mahan Mj or VS Sunder generally teach in both semesters.

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  • $\begingroup$ I think Indian Statistical Institute, Delhi centre is also such an Institute. $\endgroup$ – Akshay Hegde Jun 30 '17 at 8:55
  • $\begingroup$ ^They have MStat program $\endgroup$ – user105374 Jun 30 '17 at 8:57
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In Seoul, there is the Korea Institute for Advanced Study.

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Industry has some such opportunities, e.g. I know of Microsoft Research.

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  • $\begingroup$ Can you expand on this? While there may not be a requirement to teach students, are there other obligations? And perhaps worth mentioning this is implemented to varying degrees, e.g., google's "20% project" vs google's "x lab" (now moonshot). $\endgroup$ – Ben Burns Jun 26 '17 at 13:32
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    $\begingroup$ This is false. Any position in industry cannot be considered "permanent". In fact, MSR closed one location (silicon valley lab) and effectively fired majority of the staff at that location. $\endgroup$ – mystupid_acct Jun 26 '17 at 14:01
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    $\begingroup$ @mystupid_acct, obviously you are correct that industry positions tend to be less stable than academia.On the other hand a positions in academia are not automatically stable (indeed tenure-track positions could be considered very unstable depending on the likelihood of achieving tenure). $\endgroup$ – usul Jun 27 '17 at 1:15
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    $\begingroup$ @BurnsBA, I don't have enough special knowledge to speak very specifically, but I believe there are industry jobs across the spectrum from almost totally research-oriented, with publications emphasized, to very applied or focused with little of the research being revealed outside the company. I mentioned Microsoft because I know they have some positions close to the pure-research end of the scale. $\endgroup$ – usul Jun 27 '17 at 1:17
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    $\begingroup$ @mystupid_acct And a university could get rid of its mathematics department or decide to make someone redundant or close down altogether. That doesn't mean the positions aren't permanent. 'Permanent full time' doesn't mean 'guaranteed to have a job for the rest of eternity'. $\endgroup$ – Miles Rout Jun 27 '17 at 22:15
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In Iran, there is the IPM(School of Mathematics).

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Collège de France. There is an interview with Alain Connes, in which he mentions how it works. I think it is this one:

http://www.freewebs.com/cvdegosson/connes-interview.pdf

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    $\begingroup$ I changed "https" to "http" and it works now. $\endgroup$ – EFinat-S Jun 26 '17 at 14:36
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    $\begingroup$ Actually in the interview he says there are teaching duties in the Collège de France, just that they're only 18 hours per year. $\endgroup$ – godelian Jun 26 '17 at 14:48
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    $\begingroup$ Yes, but I think this "teaching duties" are more like colloquia to expose his recent work. $\endgroup$ – EFinat-S Jun 26 '17 at 15:12
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    $\begingroup$ As Godelian mentions, a Professor at the CdF has a teaching duty. As EFinat-S says, (s)he usually exposes own research, but not always. It can be someone else's research that (s)he founds valuable enough. And there are no exam, no diploma. Nevertheless, J.-P. Serre retired early (at 68 !) from CdF because he wanted to be freed from this duty. $\endgroup$ – Denis Serre Jun 30 '17 at 13:45
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Very similar to the Weizman Institute in Israel, there is the newly founded Institute of Science and Technology in Austria.

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  • $\begingroup$ Quoting from ist.ac.at/about-ist-austria/open-positions/faculty : "Every Professor and Assistant Professor of IST Austria is expected to participate in the Graduate School." - The IST only admints Ph.D. students, and one could argue that teaching Ph.D. students is much closer to research than traditional teaching. $\endgroup$ – Goldstern Jul 4 '18 at 13:10
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In Argentina, researchers almost always get a career at CONICET, which guarantees them a salary not dependent on their university position.

Historically, though, it's been possible to earn a bit more by concurrently having a position at a university, so most researchers have teaching dutiues. I'm also guessing that without a professor position it might be difficult to have a solid enough CV to get promoted to the higher ranks of the research-only positions.

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In the US, one can find research-only positions in government (I'll direct the interested reader to usajobs.gov) . Moreover, one can compete for grants in independent research; however, be prepared to "sell" the subject matter to a different audience (some, if not most, of whom are non-technical).

After the probationary period, one can view this position as relatively secure. However, if you are unable to find someone to fund your efforts, they'll find something for you to do.

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In China, there are now a few institutes that have research-only positions. Some of these have been aggressively recruiting new tenure-track and tenured professors recently.

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Italy: CNR. Calls for positions are published online here (in Italian only and difficult to search for discipline). :(

Also, Scuola Normale Superiore di Pisa, Scuola Internazionale Superiore di Studi Avanzati, and the Gran Sasso Science Institute are not research-only, but they have only honors and PhD courses with a very small number of students.

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