As a grad student trying to publish before I get my PhD, I've noticed something strange that happens every time I submit a paper to a journal. Every time I submit, I get a hit on academia.edu that day. My academia.edu profile is pretty sparse and seldom gets hits, so this could be a coincidence, but that seems unlikely. I also tend to get hits shortly after my paper changes from "Submission Approved" to "Editor Assigned." It's possible that this is mere paranoia on my part, but it also seems possible that some of the journals I'm submitting to (about six or so) aren't as blind as they claim to be.
This isn't something that an established philosopher would necessarily notice, as I'm sure you guys get hits all the time. But I'm wondering if other grad students and junior philosophers have noticed this phenomenon. It would be interesting to see if my guess has any merit.
Readers? Have others have had similar experiences?
I wonder if I could persuade you to write a blog post that would help European letter writers do well by their students? (Please don't identify me though - not least because I don't want my student to be able to identify herself.)
I recently wrote my first round of letters for the US PhD applications market, for a student whom I rate very highly. Since I am working at a major European university, the standard of students that I teach is outstanding; and among this cohort the student for whom I wrote is one of the best. I thought that I had represented this fact accurately when, in the sections of the reference letters asking me to rank students relative to their cohort, I rated her in the top 10%-25% for most of the areas asked (and in top 1% for one or two others). Given that our graduate students are likely as good as those at most major US universities, I thought this was high praise indeed. However, an American colleague has recently told me that any ranking outside the top 5% is generally likely to kill the application of a student.
This strikes me as both crazy and unfair, but since I want to do the best by my students, I'll reluctantly play whatever games it takes to see that they get the chances they deserve. For the benefit of non-US letter writers, though, perhaps it would be good to canvas opinions here. How highly must students be ranked to be considered by strong programs? And what percentages of competitive applications are described as being in the top 1% of even very strong MA or undergraduate programs?
Some guidance here would be very much appreciated!
What do readers think? If you post anonymously, at least indicate something about your experience in these matters (e.g., faculty member at a PhD program, recommender, etc.).
...can be posted at the PhilJobs site, so I won't be collecting them here. If there's interest from placement chairs, I can run a thread in late March or early April for departments to post the results for their candidates.
Various blogs have been remarking on this study about faculty hiring networks and hierarchies: the short version is that very few graduates of PhD programs place at higher ranked programs, and most research-oriented tenure-track jobs are secured by graduates of a small number of elite PhD programs. The same, of course, is true in philosophy, though that was not the focus of this study. Particularly striking is the data reported here to the effect that in 2013-14, 88% of all reported tenure-track hires were graduates of PGR-ranked programs, and that a whopping 37% of all reported tenure-track hires that year took their PhD from one of the PGR top five programs. Fortunately, the PGR makes the relevant information about the hierarchy available to everyone, not just a select group of undergraduates.
Much of the discussion pertains to whether there is any correlation between these patterns and "merit." The original study (the first lilnk, above) looks at this in terms of publications, which isn't a very useful measure in philosophy. Based on my own experience, I'm inclined to say that, on average, graduates of the top programs (or the top programs in some specialties) are stronger candidates on the merits than others, but there are substantial minorities who are mainly riding the prestige effect out of the top programs, as well as substantial minorities handicapped by not have the halo effect of a top program.
ADDENDUM: Mason Westfall, a graduate student at the University of Toronto, writes:
While the correlation between graduates of top programs and tenure-track placement is robust, there are at least two causal hypotheses consistent with that fact. One explanation is the one that you highlight---a halo effect students enjoy by being from top programs. Another explanation is that the best undergraduates get into the best programs and choose them over less prestigious programs. That would mean the best students entering graduate school would be disproportionately at the most prestigious departments. It may be that the best students entering graduate school tend to be the best students leaving graduate school and then the best students leaving graduate school get the jobs. In order to test the contribution made by the department in particular, it seems like it would be necessary to locate a population of students who got into both higher and lower pedigree programs, but chose to go to lower pedigree programs. Even this would conflate the teaching/training contribution of the school with the halo effect, but it would give us substantially more information than the correlation highlighted.
I agree with all this. To be clear, I think there are some relatively weak candidates from top programs who nonetheless do well because of the "halo" effect or, in some cases, the loyalty of alums in teaching to graduates of the program.
ANOTHER: David Wallace (Oxford) writes:
Let me add to Mason Westfall’s two causal hypotheses a third: the training you get from top programs (undergraduate or graduate) makes you a stronger philosopher. I wouldn’t find it at all surprising, given two basically equally strong undergraduate philosophers who went to very different-strength grad programs, if one turned out much stronger than the other at the end. Indeed, I’d be depressed if that wasn’t so, at least on average and other things being equal: it would suggest that all the effort people put into providing a good education and good educational environment for students is pretty much epiphenomenal.
While advisors and committees are important, it can be incredibly helpful to discuss one’s work with peers in a lower-stakes environment, and it can be particularly enlightening to do so with those who take a different approach or have a different focus. Not only that, but there is evidence from psychological research that thinking about problems in relation to persons who are geographically distant can increase creativity. With students in programs from 8 countries and 20 different U.S. states, Virtual Dissertation Groups are a great (free!) way to capture some of these benefits.
The setup is simple: Students participate in three-membered groups, with one student each month sending a short-ish piece of writing to the other two for comments.
I wrote an original research paper for an edited volume which was published this autumn by a leading academic publisher. Colleagues already downloaded chapters from this volume several weeks ago. Amazon lists it as having been published on 05 Nov. 2014.
The publisher assigned the copyright year 2015 to the book. This is the year that is featured in the front matter and on the first page of every chapter. An experienced philosopher tells me it is standard practice for books published roughly from October onwards to be put into the next year for copyright purposes.
Like myself, the editor was unacquainted with this late-dating practice and very unhappy with it. When he inquired about it with the publisher, they wrote: "Usually, when books are published this close to the end of the year, our production department likes to put the following year for the copyright date", and they claimed: "In fact, most people like their books to have a newer copyright year". In a subsequent email, they quoted a passage from the book contract with the editor which stated that they get to decide what year is assigned to a book publication, period.
For reasons I needn't go into here, it mattered greatly to me that the book and my contribution would be published within 2014. This happened, but you can't tell from the copyright year. And I have never seen or heard anyone in academia make a distinction between copyright years and publication years. In particular, no such distinction is ever made in publication lists on CVs, or in bibliographies.
It seems patently absurd to me that anyauthor should be glad to have a work of theirs cited with a later rather than an earlier year of publication. Academic fields move. (And regarding the topic I published on, I believe things are moving quite rapidly right now.) Given that fields move, and given that the perceived originality of insights and arguments can only shift towards the worse with every year that passes, never towards the better, it is obvious that one will always prefer an earlier year to be associated with one's publication than a later one. Indeed, this seems so obvious to me that the above-quoted remark about people "liking their books to have a newer copyright year" almost sounds sarcastic.
Perhaps other readers could comment on the following questions:
1 As an author or editor, barring highly specific scenarios, would you really prefer a later year to be associated with a publication of yours?
2. Have other authors reading this ever been irritated about this practice, and have they ever complained to publishers implementing it?
3. Suppose an author affected by late-dating simply sticks to the actual publication year (rather than copyright year) in all their publication lists (bibliographies, CV): Does this clearly violate disciplinary conventions? And if so, would it violate conventions in a way that is ethically problematic?
My spouse and I are on the market together this year, and I have heard quite a bit about "line-sharing" (spouses sharing a position) without any details about how common the practice is. I was wondering if readers could weigh in on whether their department would be open to this, if so, when might be a good time to bring it up, if it is even possible given institutional constraints, how this works with tenure decisions, etc
My spouse and I work in different areas and so it might be beneficial for a department, a small department especially, as they would get two philosophers (with non-overlapping areas of expertise) for the price of one, so to speak. But we aren't applying to the same jobs, unless they are open/open.
Faculty or job seekers with pertinent experience or knowledge, please weigh in.
If you've studied philosophy at the undergraduate or graduate level, and are thinking about law school, I would like to urge you to consider the University of Chicago Law School. The Law School trails only Yale in per capita placement in law teaching, and graduates are also hugely successful in the private firm market, and in clerkships. Although we have a relatively small faculty (35 full-time academic faculty), we have two philosophers full-time in the Law School (myself and Martha Nussbaum), and a large number of colleagues with philosophical interests. This year, we have three philosophically-minded visiting professors in the Law School as well, Corey Brettschneider from Brown University, Alon Harel from the Hebrew University and Robert Simpson from Monash University, as well as our Law and Philosophy Fellow for this year, Amanda Greene; we expect to have other philosophical visitors in coming years, including Derrick Darby from Michigan.
There is an annual Law & Philosophy Workshop that meets throughout the year, and which students may take for credit: last year's theme (when Martha Nusssbaum ran it with our Law & Philosophy Fellow Sarah Conly ) was "Life and Death," with speakers including Dan Brock, Jeff McMahan, Julian Savulescu, Daniel Wikler, and others and others; the year before (when I ran it with our Law & Philosophy Fellow Justin Coates) the theme was "Freedom and Responsibility," and speakers included Derk Pereboom, Gary Watson, Pamela Hieryonmi, Hanna Pickard, and others. This year's topic is "Free Speech and Its Critics," and speakers will include Joshua Cohen, Seana Shiffrin, Susan Brison, Jason Stanley, and Mary Kate McGowan, among others. We also have regular offerings in the Law School in jurisprudence, feminist philosophy, political philosophy and other areas. Each year we have both a Law & Philosophy Fellow in residence, and a week-long Visiting Political Philosopher in residence (last year it was T.M. Scanlon, the year before David Estlund). The annual Dewey Lecture in Law & Philosophy has recently brought Barbara Herman, Philip Pettit and Elizabeth Anderson to the Law School; Axel Honneth is this year's Dewey Lecturer. In addition, there are usually one or more conferences each year in the Law School related to philosophical topics; last Spring, for example, I organized a conference on "Skepticism about Freedom and Responsibility," with main papers by Conly, Jesse Prinz, Paul Russell, Saul Smilansky, and Gideon Yaffe, with JD and PhD students serving as commentators. There is now a large and lively group of philosophically-minded students here. (More than 10% of the first-year class last year came to us with a philosophy major or advanced degree--that's the highest since I've been here, and probably one of the highest percentage of philosophy students at any law school in the U.S. That doesn't count one JD/PhD in philosophy student, who started in philosophy last year.) Of all the law schools in the U.S., the Chicago experience is also probably most like that of a graduate program in a PhD field, in terms of the intellectual engagement of both faculty and students.
Chicago currently has substantial merit aid to offer to very strong students (the best-known are the Rubenstein Scholarships, but there are other sources of aid, including for students interested in a JD/PhD). Philosophy students, both those with undergraduate majors and those with advanced degrees, have been very successful in getting this aid, and have performed very well at the Law School; as a result philosophy students receive favorable consideration here. Excellent numerical credentials are very important, of course, but even within that pool, applicants with philosophy backgrounds stand out. Students with philosophy backgrounds have recently turned down Yale, Harvard, and other peer law schools to come to Chicago. If you have questions about law study at Chicago, feel free to e-mail me at bleiter-at-uchicago-dot-edu.
Joshua Smart, a PhD student at the University of Missouri, invited me to share with readers this interesting new service he created:
While advisors and committees are important, it can be incredibly helpful to discuss one’s work with peers in a lower-stakes environment, and it can be particularly enlightening to do so with those who take a different approach or have a different focus. Not only that, but there is evidence from psychological research that thinking about problems in relation to persons who are geographically distant can increase creativity. Virtual Dissertation Groups are a way to capture some of these benefits.
Here’s the basic setup. Interested students can fill out the contact form below, and at the beginning of each semester participants will receive the information for their three-membered group. Each full month of the semester, one member of the group will submit some of their in-progress dissertation work to the others. Those other members will then email comments in response, hopefully generating some fun exchanges in the process. I’ll send out email reminders when it’s time to circulate work and return comments.
I'm applying to doctorate programs this year and before all its controversy Boulder had a lot of appeal given its areas of strength and location. I've read anything I could find and have reached out to people there to try and create as informed an opinion as possible on what it would be like to study there amidst so much drama, but what concerns me now is that even if I am able to find upstanding people to study with there (something I'm sure I can do), I will be associated with its bad reputation afterwards. More than one adviser cringed after seeing Boulder on my list of potential schools, and I worry that one might wonder why I (a male) chose to go there given its reputation. I'm curious if your readers feel it's worth the risk and if they would be suspicious of someone who would go there given its current climate.
I should note, to start, that it's not clear yet whether Colorado will be accepting new PhD students this fall. But assuming the Department is, any new students will be finishing five to seven years hence. All indications are that the University and the Department are moving aggressively to rectify whatever problems there were--the fact that the female PhD student who recently settled a retaliation claim with the university will continue her PhD studies at Colorado is one indication of that. So my inclination is to think that prospective students should consider Colorado on the merits; and that if they are admitted, they should visit with current students and faculty about the current mood of the program and their feelings about the future.
Two sobering charts. Assuming philosophy isn't an outlier among humanities fields (in either direction), this would suggest that a program placing about 65% of its graduates in tenure-track jobs is about average (recall the earlier chart).
(Thanks to John Doris for the pointer.)
UPDATE: An alert reader points out that the employed figure (roughly 65%) is not necessarily all tenure-stream employment, so the data is sobering indeed.
Interesting e-mail from a senior philosopher who earned a PhD at a top 50 department:
One thing that bothers me about the analysis that CDJ [Carolyn Dicey Jennings] presents, and I agree with you that it doesn't make a lot of sense, is that unlike the PGR which is just about faculty quality as it guides placement, placement itself is about candidate quality. Sometimes well trained candidates are just bad interviews. Sometimes people decide they don't want to do philosophy after graduate school. Sometimes people get married and don't want to live in another region of the country. Some people don't want to risk a wandering life on the job market. Lots of things happen that are beyond the control of the program. And after doing an adjunct search this year, those are not unreasonable things to think as a candidate (from a marginal program at least). The pool of candidates for our shitty 4/4 low paying job in the middle of nowhere was amazing.
When I was a graduate student at [school name omitted], we hired a Ph.D. [from a top five department] and she told me once there that you aren't allowed to drop out of the program. She said that they will give you every opportunity to get your life together and to get the degree done. I'll never forget what she said: "Quitting and not completing the program reflects poorly on their judgment, and for that reason they want everyone to stay and finish."
CDJ is well meaning, but her analysis leaves a lot to be desired. People from great programs have great training and get jobs. People from less great programs have adequate training and often get jobs, but often they don't. And for good reasons. Programs at the bottom of the PGR have poor placement for lots of reasons (the lower you go, the more likely other things will push you out of the profession). But the kind of correlation CDJ is trying to force really isn't useful in any way. Ultimately it doesn't take into account candidate factors when trying to correlate with PGR quality rankings. And that's one thing that no one in this business wants to tell people. Sometimes it's the candidate and not the program.
These are interesting points, and, of course, given the small numbers, a couple of people who fall into some of these categories could make a significant difference. As longtime readers know, I have occasionally linked to other efforts to aggregate placement data that were more sensible than CDJ's, though in one case the underlying data turned out to be sufficiently unsound that I withdrew that link. I think the model I provided yesterday is a good one to follow for anyone who wants to pursue this. But I also think it is very important to emphasize that, as with mutual funds, past performance is no guarantee of future success, and prospective students should scrutinize with care not just the on-line placement data at each program, but also the results for individual faculty. Unfortunately, there is no substitute for doing this as part of the search process for a graduate program (assuming your goal is academic employment); even rankings of placement that aren't nonsensical are no substitute for doing this.
UPDATE: [The misrepresentations to which I had responded have been removed, so I am removing the original update.]
Following up on the data from the other day, I've expanded it a bit, and also noted the 2002 PGR rank and the 2011 PGR rank. Total number of graduates during the period follows the school name.
2002 PGR Rank
2011 PGR Rank
% in TT jobs
% in TT jobs at ranked PhD programs
% in TT jobs at top 20 programs
% in TT jobs at research universities and SLACs
New York University (23)
Rutgers University, New Brunswick (36)
University of Michigan, Ann Arbor (31)
UC Los Angeles (21)
Yale University (16)
University of Notre Dame (36)
University of Chicago (30)
UC Riverside (23)
Northwestern University (21)
Boston University (35)
I knew from the past (though I had not posted about this) that there would be a very strong correlation between overall PGR rank and placement in ranked programs, research universities, and SLACs (this is true in every academic field, not just philosophy); what surprised me in this little exercise was how much correlation there was between PGR rank and overall tenure-track placement. Of course, the numbers are small, and if two or three people made different decisions (to accept the tenure-track job rather than the post-doc; not to be the trailing spouse for the other's academic career; etc.) the results would be different; so, too, if I had used a different window. (Just after this window, one UC Riverside graduate got a permanent post in a ranked PhD program, while another got a tenure-track position in a research oriented MA-granting program. I treated the ranked terminal MA programs as research university appointments, and I used U.S. News rankings of liberal arts colleges as a rough cut-off for SLACs.)
At the end of the day, bear in mind that even within department, placement success often tracks which faculty you work with. That's why it pays for students to scrutinize placement records carefully. Years ago, as longtime readers will know, I "bullied" departments into posting detailed placement records (by threatening to call them out in the PGR if they didn't). (I put "bullied' in quotes for the obvious reasons: it's now a meaningless term, but it was hurled about then, and at least it was true that I did threaten a real consequence if departments did not produce information.)
One other takeaway, that I expect will be confirmed by a more extensive study along these lines: all else being more or less equal, "brand name" universities still enjoy a slight advantage in job placement. But more on that once we have more information.
UPDATE: U.S. Research universities, for purposes here, were AAU universities, universities with PhD programs (ranked or not), and ranked terminal MA programs; outside the US, it gets a bit trickier, but in general any places more or less analagous to these was so counted.
I picked three departments which provide good information on-line and which had fairly stable PGR ranks over the last dozen years or so. One, NYU, I singled out, recently and correctly, for having an excellent placement record; NYU has also been ranked #1 in the PGR for over a decade now. The second, at my university, has been solidly top 20, though not top 15, during this period. The third, Boston University, has had a PhD program for a long time and has been in the top 50 of the PGR (but not the top 40) for over a decade as well. Let's look at graduates from 2005-2010: this will get out of the mix those who haven't yet been on the academic market, or who have only been on once or twice and so might still be in temporary positions and may yet secure TT positions. In short, this will give us an idea of how many graduates of these programs are getting tenure-track jobs and what kind of tenure-track jobs. (In a few cases, the information on-line turned out to be out-of-date, so I updated it for purposes of the below.)
Let's start with NYU. During this time period we have 23 graduates. 20 of 23 have tenure-track jobs: 87%. 14 have tenure-track jobs at ranked PhD-granting programs (61%). 11 of 23 have tenure-track job at top 20 PhD programs (48%). 19 have tenure-track jobs at research universities (some in fields outside philosophy), and one is at a selective liberal arts college (83%). Of the three graduates not currently in tenure-track jobs, one went back to medical school (so may yet end up in academia), one took a non-academic job in the region where her spouse (also an NYU philosophy PhD) had a tenure-track job, and one graduate clearly had other events going on in her life, about which she has written. 83% placement at research universities and selective liberal arts colleges is remarkable.
Now let's look at the University of Chicago, another strong program but not as strong as NYU. Here we have 30 graduates, of which 23 have tenure-track jobs (77%). 5 of 30 have tenure-track jobs at ranked PhD-granting programs (17%). 2 of 30 have jobs at top 20 PhD programs (7%). 13 of 30 have jobs at research universities or selective liberal arts colleges (43%). Of the graduates not currently in tenure-track jobs, some have taken jobs outside academia, some are in adjunct positions or post-docs, and some are unaccounted for altogether.
And now Boston University. During this time period, 2005-2010, we have 35 graduates. 22 secured tenure-track positions (63%). 1 of 35 has a tenure-track job at a ranked PhD program (3%). None of have tenure-track jobs at top 20 PhD programs. 7 of 35 have tenure-track jobs at research universities or selective liberal arts colleges (20%). Of the graduates not currently in tenure-track jobs, some are in adjunct or non-tenure-stream positions, and some are unaccounted for altogether.
Here's a table summarizing the findings for graduates 2005-2010 from programs whose PGR rank has been fairly stable over the last dozen years:
2011 PGR Rank
% in TT jobs
% in TT jobs at ranked PhD programs
% in TT jobs at top 20 programs
% in TT jobs at research universities and SLACs
New York University
University of Chicago
This little exercise took about one hour to compile. I have no doubt that anyone could replicate this data for more departments, if their intention was to provide helpful information to prospective students. I am sure someone will.
I've corresponded periodically with Carolyn Dicey Jennings (UC Merced) about her interest in data on the job market, and I have no doubt her intention is to provide constructive information. But the road to hell is often paved with good intentions, and an alleged "comparison" like this is confusing and misleading for fairly obvious reasons:
First, by her own admission, the data is incomplete (indeed, woefully incomplete in some cases I know about).
Second, no one would expect a department's reputation in 2011 to have any correlation with its placement prior to 2011 (unless there had been no changes in the interim), but almost all the placements recorded by Prof. Jennings are from students who would have started graduate school between 2000 and 2005. I would think philosophers are smart enough to understood that past placement success is a backward-looking measure, and that current faculty reputation, as it correlates with job placement, is a forward-looking measure.
Third, her measure of placement success takes no account of the kinds of jobs graduates secure. 2/2 is the same as 4/4, research university is the same as a liberal arts college, a PhD-granting department is the same as a community college. I know philosophers happy in all kinds of positions, but it's not information, it's misinformation, to equate them all in purporting to measure job placement.
Fourth, the placement rate is calculated nonsensically: comparing average placement, as incompletely reported on blogs, between 2011-2014 to average yearly graduates between 2009-2013 is equivalent, in most cases, to comparing two randomly chosen numbers, since many (maybe most) of those placed in 2011-2014 will have completed their degrees well before 2009 and well after 2013. This is so obvious that I'm mystified why anyone would think this is a relevant comparison.
NYU ranks 26th in placement according to Professor Jennings. Here is NYU's actual placement record. It really takes some perverse ingenuity to represent a department with one of the best placement records in the world as having a mediocre placement record. Prof. Jennings really ought to withdraw this nonsense from the web, and wait until she has complete data and can organize it sensibly.
UPDATE: Rather than withdraw the nonsense ranking, Prof. Jennings digs in her heels. Alas. She could share information about job placement without the nonsense ranking/comparison. (I note that just by adding two tenure-track placements from NYU that had been missed, NYU jumped from #26 to #14, which tells you the worth of this measure. In addition, of course, some of those treated as unemployed in this measure are JD/PhDs who have not yet gone on the academic market. Examples like this could be multiplied at all the top departments.)
AND ANOTHER: Another blog says "everyone in the profession should be appreciative and supportive" of Professor Jennings's work and objects to my criticizing her. But this blogger and I have a substantive disagreement: I do not think "everyone in the profession should be appreciative and supportive" since I think what she has produced in this instance (though not only this one, she has done this before) is confusing and highly misleading. I know many others think this as well, I've heard from them. These folks don't blog and, understandably, they don't want to get into disputes in the bowels of cyberspace. That falls to me, alas. This blogger also implies, falsely, that I am particularly critical of junior philosophers. I am not. My criticism of Prof. Jennings is, shall we say, rather more mild than my criticism of Prof. Nagel, among many, many others. I am an egalitarian: if people say and do things in public, I respond to what they say and do, not who they are. If what they say and do suggests poor judgment, dishonesty, carelessness, ulterior motives, etc., I also say so. (Prof. Jennings took issue with some aspects of the criticism, and as a courtesy to her, I removed one part of it.)
SUR-REPLY: The author of the other blog (to which I will not link, since he has created a forum for anonymous insults and obnoxious remarks aimed at me) repeats his objection to my criticizing her the way I did; but I criticized her the way I did because the nature of what she did (and its potentially pernicious consequences) warranted that response. The author can try to redescribe this any way he likes, but the point stands that we disagree about the substance. If I shared his view of the substance, my criticism would have been different. The author also denies, implausibly, that he implied that I harshly criticize junior philosophers; indeed on his Facebook page, he described his blog posting as "how the powerful talk to the less powerful." But any reader of the blog knows this statement is false: I criticize all fools the same way, and always have, without regard to status.
On the substance, some readers suggest that my real mistake was to assume that Prof. Jennings had "good intentions," and that may be right. She may simply be trying to discredit the PGR, which would explain why she circulated in public the nonsense ranking/comparison, knowing full well that it was nonsense. I'm agnostic on whether that is the correct interpretation.
ANOTHER: From a colleague elsewhere, who aptly sums up the nonsense that has accompanied the nonsense rankings:
I've not seen every twist of the CDJ issues. I saw her latest attempt at an "analysis" of placement issues and quickly saw it was a mess.
I then saw her being promoted as a victim of injustice (or mistreatment of some other kind) followed by her embracing that role.
I continue to be amazed that there is a segment of professional philosophers who think that junior faculty are children and highly vulnerable if criticized in any way...etc. And that these people think that inferences from "here is a good deal of bad work" to "this person is not the sharpest tool in the shed" are problematic. I *hope* this segment is relatively small and appears large only because of distortion caused by frequent blogging and loud claims of victimhood.
I was treated like a child exactly once as a junior faculty member and on that occasion I firmly but politely told the person treating me that way that I was a 24 year old professional with a phd and not a high school kid.
The whole display is clearly an artifact of the selection effect of those who turn to blogs and blog comments to air their grievances. Having talked to a number of adults about CDJ, I've yet to see any sympathy for her posture in this matter.
I host a few of my papers on a personal website, mainly as a convenient way to share them with friends and colleagues. Lately, a few people have found my papers through search engines and emailed me for permission to cite them. I'm not sure how I should respond to this. None of these papers are currently published, although they are all pieces I would consider preparing for publication. Are there significant risks involved in allowing unpublished work to be cited? Given that these papers are evidently being read already, I worry that refusing permission now would just lead to my work being used without credit. Do others have experience with this kind of situation? What is the best thing to do at this stage?
I would appreciate your advice or that of your readers.
Here. Mostly positive news. Note that the "top ten" lists for faculty salaries exclude medical school faculty, but include business school and law school faculty--very significant for a place like Chicago (and Rutgers-Newark and Maryland-Baltimore!), and makes the strong showing of Princeton, with neither, quite notable.
Young people on the job market spend a lot of time worrying about their own behavior, their own performance, their own competitiveness and so on. Having recently come off the job market myself, I feel that there are aspects of the behavior of search committees that also need to be addressed. I recently heard back from a search committee that interviewed me at the APA. This was the first I had heard from them since I walked out of the interview in December. From December until mid-March, I did not hear a word. A second search committee wrote to me in late January with an email that struck me as so close to dishonest that I wasn't sure how I was supposed to reply - a friend received the same email and felt the same way. This particular search committee wrote to me to tell me that, as it turned out, it was all going to be more difficult than they anticipated and that they would not have *any* further information for me until later in the year. What they neglected to mention in that email was that they had, in fact, scheduled campus interviews, but they had not decided to give me one. With websites such as this one - http://phylo.info/jobs - Facebook, and the increasingly international nature of the discipline, it is not hard to find information on who has scheduled interviews and who hasn't.
In my case, I had other possibilities in the pipeline which meant I could just watch this strange behavior and smile. Had I not had other things in the pipeline, however, I would surely have been climbing the walls. I had several friends who were also party to less than transparent emails, or complete silence, throughout this process as well. And those people were climbing the walls because, as is so often the case, their hopes for any kind of academic future were pinned on the tiny number of places that they made it to the interview stage at. I even had one friend who wrote to a department out of desperation for news on the scheduling of campus interviews only to receive a waffly reply about not yet having made any decisions. He found out later that day that not only had that search committee scheduled campus interviews, they had offered the job to someone else.
I understand that the hiring process is complex, and that departments might need to hold their cards close to their chests, as it were, but this process is difficult for *everyone* involved. I don't think it is alright to leave people hanging for months. Nor do I think it is alright to send out emails that, perhaps even subtly, misrepresent the stage of the process a search committee is at. With a timely email to the effect that 'whilst your application is still active, we regret to inform you that you have not been selected for a campus interview', everyone can get on with their lives.
Spiros recently touched on this, as did Philospohy Smoker, with a cautionary example (short version: candidate asked SLAC for a bunch of things, and the SLAC simply withdrew the offer). My own view is that if you have other offers, you can negotiate. Otherwise, all you can really do is get clear about policies, and ask about one or two things that might be especially important, in the spirit of "this would very nice, is it possible?" But "negotiation" and "bargaining" is only really a posture to adopt if one has another option in hand and one is prepared to walk away from the offer. Or so it seems to me. (If there's enough interest, I'll open a thread for comments on this next week when I have more regular computer access.)
With the proliferation of philosophy post-doc opportunities, I am curious how this is effecting tenure-track hiring negotiations from the side of the hiring department. Should departments grant/turn down requests for deferment to take up a tenure-track appointment in order to take up a post-doc?
A colleague elsewhere showed me the response to a rejection letter from a candidate who basically wrote back to say, sarcastically, "I can understand why you hired John Smith, even though he has far fewer publications than me in the same area." In fact, people are not hired by counting up their total publications; responsible hiring committees actually read the publications and writing samples of their finalists. Someone who sends a response like this assumes, falsely, that quantity of publication is what should matter and implies, probably unfairly and obviously self-servingly, that the hiring committee was unable to make a qualitative evaluation of the work. Since word of these kinds of replies do get around, the candidate is not doing himself any favors.
I am an assistant professor, approaching tenure. When I was hired, I received multiple assurances that the university would assist me with a spousal accommodation. When my spouse's work situation changed, I approached my dean and department chair, who were receptive to helping. A suitable position was found, but there was no funding to make the hire. I have no doubt that my department wants to keep me here. I am now on the job market, and have some prospects, including upcoming campus visits. My question concerns the best strategy for proceeding. Should I receive a desirable offer, I am willing to give my current institution a chance to make me a better offer (although I have doubts that they can offer much). My question is whether I should tell them now that I am actively seeking another position, or wait to see if a better offer materializes. My fear is that if I do not get an offer elsewhere, I will have nothing with which to negotiate. On the other hand, I worry about tipping my hand too soon. Thoughts and advice from readers who have experience with this (from either side) would be appreciated.
My view is that if you have previously communicated your interest in some kind of spousal accomodation, all you can do is reiterate it. It would be a mistake to say anything about "looking around," precisely because you might come up empty-handed, and your colleagues might well hold it against you. If you get an offer, then it is quite appropriate to raise the pertinent issues; absent an offer, there is nothing to say, beyond mentioning, when appropriate, the spousal accomodation issue.
A reader in his early 40s, who has retired, for health reasons, from another professional career (one in which some applied ethicists work), has been teaching some applied philosophy courses as an adjunct and "found that I absolutely love teaching amd mentoring students." He asks:
My undergraduate degree was in Philosophy which I obtained from a large state school notably not listed in the PGR where I was an average student in the subject. But, it has been awhile since I studied Philosophy, though I recently spent two years in graduate school for International Relations at a highly respected institution and did very well GPA-wise despite having to work...while attending school. So I applied to a PGR listed terminal MA program, and was accepted, looking to use the experience to build my academic credentials in philosophy in order to (hopefully) be accepted into a top PhD program. I love the subject and would love the opportunity to teach/conduct research it (I especially see myself at a SLAC as I would like the interaction with the students a SLAC offers). I also have no illusions regarding the nature of graduate school having spent two years in it already. Additionally, I have researched the job market and completely understand the risks I am taking.
Thus, my question is this: I will be in my early 50's when I hit the job market. Am I kidding myself that I could ever get a job, at such an old age, in the tight and competitive market that is academic Philosophy even if I am lucky enough to be accepted into a top program? And, would a top program even consider me? Let's face it, there is age discrimination out there no matter how much we might want it to not be. Financially, my MA is paid for.... I also have my pension coming in every month (which is substantially more than a PhD student stipend) as well as full medical and dental coverage for my family, so I do not see having to take out loans to supplement my income for living expenses, etc to attain my goal of a PhD (at least initially). Finally, being disabled, academia seems like am excellent place for me to build a second career as my mind is not injured/broken, only my body. Any thoughts/advice regarding the reality of my situation from your readers would be greatly appreciated, especially since I will be pursuing the MA no matter what they say.
Thoughts/advice from readers, including those in similar situations, faculty who have worked with older or non-traditional students, etc.?
I've been invited to contribute an article to the Internet Encyclopedia of Philosophy (IEP), and I am wondering whether it would be wise to accept the invitation. Several of my friends and colleagues have likewise been invited, and there has been a lot of disagreement on this question. More specifically, I would like to know:
1. Whether an IEP article is a good idea for tenure or job market purposes.
2. Independent of (1), whether contributing to IEP means doing a good thing for students or the general public.
3. How the IEP is regarded in the profession in general, on its own or compared to the SEP.
My own sense is that there is no comparison, in terms of both quality and visibility, between SEP and IEP. I never use IEP, whereas I use SEP a lot, and I expect I'm not atypical. What do philosophers think?
I get the sense that things may be changing such that the old time-frame is not valid any more. But what is your sense? Do people hear still about skype interviews or campus visits roughly as they did before, i.e., before say Dec 23 or so, or is it spread out more? My students haven't heard much so far, and I'm wondering. I would have thought that people would be hearing about skype interviews by now, but I am not on top of this this year.
Over the years dossiers for applicants for junior positions have gotten larger and larger. Some dossiers we have received for our current search number more than 80 pages, One thing that is particularly striking to me is the number of letters of recommendation that each dossier contains. Back in the dark ages, when I was in graduate school, dossiers included on average three letters. In this year's search not a single dossier that I have seen includes that few. Many include six, seven or even eight letters. I don't fully understand the reason why, though. I am tempted to attribute at least part of the ever increasing number of letters to understandable anxiety on the part of job seekers. There seems to be a view that the more people you can get to say good things about you, the better off you will be. I certainly understand and sympathize with the anxiety. On the other hand, I doubt that there is a single search committee that is eager to read an average of six or seven letters per file. Nor do I think that more letters means more information or a more honest assessment of the candidate. Just for comparison sake, a typical tenure file at my own university will generally include around eight outside letters. Do we really need the same number of letters for a junior appointment as for a tenure case? Personally, I don't think so. But I am sure reasonable people can disagree on this score and would like to know what others think.
To stir the pot just a little, let me add the following. In some number of cases -- though I'm not prepared to quantify whether it be many, most, or just a few -- the additional letters come from people not from the candidate's home institution. Sometimes this makes some sense and is helpful -- if, for example, the outside writer has taught, supervised, collaborated with, or been colleagues with the candidate. Outside PhD examiners are often asked to write, for example. And you would certainly expect people who have moved a bit from place to place to have letters reflecting that fact. Or, in another vein, if a candidate has worked in somebody's lab, say, as sort of the philosopher in residence. All that makes sense and I have no beef with it. On the other hand, many outside letters seem to be the result of proactive networking on the part of candidates. Perhaps the thought is that it is important to have letters from prominent people in other departments with whom one has had some degree of contact. The thought may be that this networking will help increase and demonstrate the reach and impact of one' s work. In a few rare cases, such letters may carry some tiny bit of weight. But that, I think, really is the exception rather than the rule. In my experience, most such letters are relatively bland and pointless. They are neither particularly helpful nor, thank goodness for the candidates, particular hurtful. I suspect that it's an issue of divided loyalties. Seldom have I seen a letter from prominent philosopher P from institution X writing for candidate C from institution Y that directly compares C to P's own students at P's own institution. Most of what such letters add is generic praise. But there's usually enough of that in the "core" letters to suffice.
I'm not sure anything can stop the momentum for more and more letters. And maybe I wrong to think the momentum needs to be stopped. Maybe I'm just tired from reading thousands of pages of files. But I thought this might make a good discussion point for your blog.
I generally recommend candidates have not more than five or six letters, on the assumption that the 5th and/or 6th letters really add something--e.g., a letter from someone outside the department who is expert in the candidate's area and can add something useful about the candidate's work. What do readers think? Signed comments preferred, though grad students and job seekers may post with a pseudonym (pick a distinctive one).
What do people think of grad students making their work available online early in their careers? It seems pretty common for students still doing coursework to post paper drafts on Academia.edu, even when the drafts are far from publishable, and I'm not sure if the potential advantages outweigh the potential costs. Having your name known is probably good, as are generating interest in your research, starting conversations with people working in the same area, and maybe showcasing your potential; on the other hand giving people a preview of your immature work might cut the other way if rather than recognizing in it scholarly potential they just see bad grad student papers. Having early drafts online also means that reviewers for a journal can google the title of your paper and see who wrote it, thereby removing anonymity. I recently had a paper of mine show up in a collection of links on a blog I'd never heard of and suddenly Academia.edu was informing me of dozens of views per day. For a moment I was excited, but then I remembered that people were reading a hastily-composed workshop draft. I think the ideas and prose represent me well but there are sections missing and the argument needs substantial work (as I learned when certain parts of it got shredded at the workshop). I thought about taking the paper down and leaving just an abstract, or removing it altogether, but I never made it past worrying. Did I err in leaving it up for public scrutiny?
We did touch on aspects of this topic briefly once before, but these questions are more specific. I'll note that this is a major issue in academic law because of the substantial use of SSRN. The question there is when junior faculty or job seekers should put their work on-line; my advice is not to put anything on-line until they think it's ready to be submitted for publication. The reason is simple: first impressions are sticky, and if you put a half-baked piece of work on-line, you're unlikely to get a second chance with that reader. I think the same advice applies to grad students--great to put work on-line that's at a stage where you and the faculty you work with think it's ready (or very close to ready) for submission to a journal, otherwise not.
What do readers think? Faculty, please use your name; students may use a distinctive pseudonym, but must include a valid e-mail address, which will not appear.
I hope that you can find the time in the coming days to blog about the current state of the academic job market vis-a-vis the exorbitant rates that interfolio charges for uploading letters vs emailing them. This problem would seem to have a rather easy solution though a consensus on the problem itself would be needed before it could be implemented.
The problem, in short, is this. Interfolio charges 4$ per letter to upload letters to application websites. This means that a typical student who has 5 committee members and one teaching letter is paying 24$ to send out a single application in most cases. Multiply this by the 50 or so applications a student will send out and the price of uploading letters alone costs 1200$. Given that you have written about the high costs of traveling to the APA this issue would appear to be on par with that one.
Obviously there are issues of justice here as well. Those with deep pockets can afford to send out more applications and upload a greater number of letters than those without who must be more judicious. The result is two tiered system that favors the already fortunate.
Frankly, I don't see how Interfolio justifies charging 24$ and up for pressing 'send' but this issue has ben cropping up again and again on my FB feed and in conversation. Further there seems an easy solution. Job posters could use interfolio for the application procedure thus minimizing costs or they should be encouraged to include an email in the ad where letters can be sent for far less than the upload fee.
Continental Philosophy Farhang Erfani, a philosopher at American University, provides a useful set of links to news, events, interviews, reviews, videos, etc. related to "Continental philosophy" (broadly construed)