CanOasis is a virtual meeting place for Canadian expatriates to network and share information on the daily grind of living abroad. The Web site has also been expanded to share information on faculty positions. Some members living and working abroad have agreed to share their views on finding faculty positions in Canada with Next Wave. The following comments were posted on the CanOasis Web site in October 2001.
On Job Hunting in Canada
"I have sent several letters this summer to universities and research centres to come back to Canada as an independent researcher. The major difference is that universities take generally 6 months before giving you a notice for an interview whereas research centres usually treat your application very quickly.
In two cases, I had a concrete offer right after my seminar (which was 6 weeks after sending my letter). I think if universities want to recruit the best people, they should act fast when receiving applications, so young postdocs are not tempted to look elsewhere (such as the U.S.) while waiting for a response (as I did!)."
"I am delighted to have worked in Canada and sincerely would have loved to return. I am convinced I could have found an excellent position in Canada, it just takes longer for communication between all parties. ... The courting [period] for academia in Canada takes 6 months longer than in the U.S."
"It was during my postdoc at Harvard Medical School that I received a CanOasis job posting. At the time, I hadn't been thinking seriously about applying for faculty positions. The job description fit what I was doing, so it woke me up and I decided to start doing something about getting a job. As it turned out, I got the job (Department of Laboratory Medicine and Pathobiology, University of Toronto) and started at the beginning of October. My job search consisted of applying to this one job and getting it. I am very happy to be in Toronto; it's where I want to be."
"My job search strategy is to search Science and Nature online (with "Canada") once a week. Since there are usually only 11 to 14 jobs posted in all disciplines in Canada at any given time, it doesn't take more than a minute or two.
The best advice I could give anyone is to allow plenty of time. ... [From my last job application] it took 10 months from the time the position was advertised to the closing of competition and another 6 months until the position was offered. This is not at all uncommon. This is just the Canadian time line and one must accept it. One company last year took 10 months as well, from opening discussions to the final offer of a position. Of course all of these interviews require a major time commitment for travel as well as preparation ... if a postdoc has 3 years of funding and it requires a year to secure a position, then I guess one should start looking as soon as possible. This is what I did and I took a bit of criticism for being too naive/premature in my job talks, but it put me on the circuit ... once you are interviewed at a Canadian university, everyone in your field across the country seems to know it. Being considered at one place sort of implies credibility for other universities. ...
I think, though, that the biggest factor is fit. Your research program must fit with respect to existing programs. Although fit may get you a position, it won't get you a job."
On the Funding System and the CIHR
"Overall, I think the funding situation has improved, but it still needs to get better if we want to get to the level of science in Britain and the United States. I wish there would be more Canadian charities, such as the Imperial Cancer Research Fund. These charities raise money in part through shops where people give clothes and other things that can be sold again. All profits go to research and this raises considerably the amount of money available for research."
"I found a tenure-track position in an Ivy League University [Columbia], in the largest and most productive department of my field in the world. I have grants totalling $3,000,000 from NASA and the Health Resources and Services Administration for 2 years as a co-PI.
I have seen sincere efforts in the last year to improve the situation [in Canada] to lessen the brain drain to the United States, Europe, and Asia. It is obvious that Canada would have had difficulty to provide me [with] a similar environment. In Canada, empowerment comes after years of tedious work in an environment or returning home as a seasoned researcher. In comparison, in the U.S. they'll entrust you with enough rope to hang yourself or over-deliver if you have the stamina!"
"The Canadian Institutes of Health Research has had virtually no impact on my career. ... I love the Canadian Scientific community, but the funding levels are not competitive, not only with the U.S., but other countries as well."
Unfortunately, the rate-limiting step in Canada still appears to be the ability to secure external funding. I am confident that I will find a good position in Canada in the not too distant future, but I have no confidence whatsoever that I will be able to secure and/or maintain funding to continue my current research in Canada.