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The phrase "potentially permanent position" is misleading. Is it intentional? I don't know.

The primary audience for a report on outcomes for Ph.D.'s in Physics one year after graduation, getting their Ph.D. degree, is students (and parents of students) evaluating whether to pursue a Ph.D.. Obviously, they should investigate longer term outcomes, but young people often don't, focusing the next step in their life/career.

Potentially permanent position sounds like a general version of "tenure track research job" as another commenter correctly noted below.

Students with little or no work experience often do not have an accurate impression of salaries, working conditions, and other aspects of the work world (or academia), specifically in the private sector computer industry where most Ph.D's in Physics currently end up.

News coverage of computer companies like Google emphasizes many far out research-like projects such as the Google self-driving car, the AlphaGo deep learning project, and so forth. These sounds like academic research, so why wouldn't these companies have comparable positions to tenure track research jobs? Indeed, in very rare cases, they may have such positions.

However, the vast majority of industry jobs are at will full time jobs without a specified end date. Especially in the computer industry, they are quite insecure and often short-lived, very different from what potentially permanent position implies. They are not analogous to tenure track jobs.

I don't think "potentially permanent position" is misleading. I can remove a permanent marker with rubbing alcohol, yet I don't say that "permanent marker" is misleading.

My job is described as permanent full time, because my contract is ongoing, and I work 40 hours a week; when I was a student, I had a permanent part time job.

This is in contrast to a casual job, which in New Zealand is similar to at-will (but with strong restrictions on what roles can be casual); or a fixed term contract.

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