4 abr. 2008

Before tenure, avoid too many "bird dropping" publications.

Bird dropping publicatons are short encyclopedia articles, book reviews, non-referreed journal articles; papers in non-prestigious conference proceedings. Articles on teaching. Articles published in Graduate Student journals or internet only journals. Non-substantial translations. Journalism. Blogging. In short, anything but solid referreed article and chapters in University Press books. Suppose someone comes up for tenure with 10 publications and a book ms. in search of a publisher. Seven referreed articles and 3 book reveiws would be marginal at a top university, adequate Mediocre State School. Eight bird droppings and two more legit publications would look like a padded c.v. From the point of view of a tenure evaluator (which I am every summer) I recommend a ratio of at least 4 to 1. In fact, it wouldn't hurt you to have no bird droppings at all. A lot of people don't know this and are never told, or are told but don't listen. Academia is brutally competitive. To get tenure at a research job you should be a researcher, so you should help your tenure evaluators make a case for you by basing your c.v. on solid publications.

Unfortunately, "creative writing" is also a bird dropping from the academic point of view, if you don't have a creative writing gig. If you publish a short story in a journal edited by your friend, but aren't really a serious writer, nobody will care.

I probably have too many bird droppings on my c.v. too. I have enough solid publications to make the bird droppings irrelevant. That's the point, though: they are still largely irrelevant. These publications can hurt you by making you look like a dilletante but they can't really help you very much.

7 comentarios:

K. Silem Mohammad dijo...

What if I write "violate me in every orifice with your big hard tenure review" in big block letters with indelible magic marker on the restroom wall? Does that count as a solid pub?

Jonathan dijo...

That would count as a publication likely to bring about that exact result.

Steven Fama dijo...

Your advice, while probably wise, reveals the snobby phoniness of high level academia.

To think that publishing on the internet only, or to spread one's ideas via a book review would be seen somehow as a sign of weakness, or that poems and stories aren't valued at all: well, no wonder so many in the colleges (whose primary job ought to be teaching 18-22 year people) are such, to be cheap about it, dweebs.

Jonathan dijo...

There are research universities for a reason and it has nothing to do with snobbishness. Spots in those universities are highly coveted, competition for them is fierce. Obviously that system is going to value solid articles referreed by other researchers in that same system. To not do so would be the height of dishonesty.

There are plenty of colleges where teaching is the primary mission. In those, "professional activity," going to to a few conferences, a few book reviews, in short a few flickering signs of intellectual life, are enough for tenure. There are other colleges where publication is actively discouraged, or simply crowded out by other responsibilities. Imagine being told, as a student of my wife's was (recent PhD): "We don't mind if you publish." So you develop your mind up to a certain point, until you are deemed qualified to be a college teacher and (poof), you stop at the point, devoting yourself for the next 40 years to teaching what you've already learned. That's not snobbishness. It's the very reverse of snobbishness, but it isn't good.

Steven Fama dijo...

I sort of see your point about snobbishness, and so long as we agree that whatever it is, it isn't good, we needn't split the hair too fine.

But snob among other things = One who affects an offensive air of self-satisfied superiority in matters of taste or intellect.

This to me seems to fit as an apt description of academics who slobber all over refereed journal articles et al. as opposed to something that may be of equal or gretaer merit or importance that is (for example) self-published on an internet blog.

Jonathan dijo...

It's easy to publish a blog post. I could have as many good ideas in my 3000 posts to Bemsha Swing than in my 30 refereed articles. Is it snobbish of me to value the articles more?

I had to convince referees that my articles were worthy of publication. Some (not too many) were rejected. As a referee, I reject a lot of articles too, many of which contain some valuable ideas. Or I might force the author to re-write it before being published.

Obviously I value the blog too, or I wouldn't do it. What I don't do is expect my colleauges to sort through it to decide what's valuable and what's fluff when time comes for promotion. In my own mind I might be promotable just on the basis of my good looks. My sheer inherent brilliance should be enough, without any publications at all.

Steven Fama dijo...

Your writing, on the blog or otherwise, is different than your good looks.

I must answer yes to your question, "Is it snobbish of me to value the articles more?"

That a panel of peers blessed an article for publication doesn't impress me at all, by which I mean, signify that the article has value (is well-written and/or has original, exciting ideas). I'd look to the article itself. Just as I'd look to the Bemsha Swing posts themselves -- not whether professors or others of a certain type "liked" them -- to determine your capabilities.

P.S. From what I've read, I'd grant you tenure. Tenure in the school of forever learning and lets have some fun with it!