Many schools have introduced flexible options specifically for research faculty including:
1) A pre-tenure probationary period.
2) Revision of “up-or-out” policies. In 2002, fewer than half of the medical schools with tenure systems had up-or-out policies for basic scientists, compared with more than 80% of schools in 1994.
3) The ability to transfer between tracks. As of 2002, 103 medical schools are able to hire junior researchers on nontraditional tracks and allow them to switch to tenure tracks later so they can first focus on developing successful research programs without the pressure of the tenure-track time constraints. Among the ninety schools that allowed tenure-eligible faculty members to transfer to non-tenure tracks, about half also permitted faculty to transfer back to a tenure track.
4) Tenure-clock-stopping policies.
5) Less-than-full-time appointments. This type of policy allows faculty members to devote the remainder of their time and effort to family responsibilities, with the expectation that they will return to full-time status at some point.
Finally, however daunting, work on developing a vision for your academic career. What do you want to be doing in ten years? What about in twenty years? Do you even know what the potential options are? What are the different paths to getting there? What are your partner’s career plans? How many children do you want? How old will your kids be at different stages of your career? These are not questions with right or wrong answers, but asking these big-picture questions may inform your short-term career planning.