23 nov. 2009

I've been thinking a bit about academic work and the question of efficiency. There are two views that are somewhat misguided, in my view. The general public thinks that university professors hardly work at all. A few hours of teaching a week, summers off... You get the idea. The average faculty member, in defense against this kind of thinking, will emphasize how many hours s/h/e works--60, 70 a week? The mistake on both parts is to think of academic work in terms of hours rather than in terms of work accomplished. Think of it this way: we are evaluated by teaching evaluations and by scholarly productivity, not by the number of hours worked. If I publish more than you do, and in better journals and presses, then I don't really care that you are working 50 to my 30 hours.

I had a colleague at a previous institution who was always harried and over-worked. I'm sure this person did a lot, but what exactly was the result? How come her book was never actually completed?

The real problem is that the most time-consuming things are also the least compensated, falling outside of the teaching / research paradigm. Editing a journal, for example, is extremely time-consuming, yet won't get you promoted.