Archive for the ‘academia’ Category
In a past installment of grad skool rulz, I offered advice for choosing a dissertation adviser. The idea is simple. Nobody is perfect, but you want someone who has at least a few good traits and no horrible traits. As I was thinking about this post, I wondered – how do graduate students actually choose their advisers? Do people actually methodically try to find a match or do they just “fall” into it? Why do people get stuck with horrible (or good) advisers?
In my own case, I just fell into it and it worked out. I worked with to faculty based on similar research interests (education) and style (both normal science types). But what about people who choose poorly? Part of the issue is that there simply isn’t enough information. Unless you are in a large program, most faculty won’t have more than one or two students in their career. In other cases, students don’t have much choice. For example, if you want to study sociology of science at Indiana, there’s really only one choice. Yet, I still see some students choose advisers who have well developed reputations for being difficult, or advisers who have really slim track records in placing students. My guess is that students believe that they’ll be the exception to the rule.
Consider this post an open thread on how to effectively find an adviser in graduate school. What are you considering as you choose an adviser?
Last Fri., I attended a talk by Sarah Babb of Boston College. In her talk, titled “Beyond the Horror Stories: Non-Experimental Social Researchers’ Encounters with Institutional Review Boards (IRB),” Babb revealed findings that included misconceptions about federal guidelines for human subjects. Contrary to what some IRB review boards demand from principal investigators (PIs) undertaking qualitative research, the federal guidelines do not require:
- signed consent from a low risk population
- an institutional research permission slip
To repeat, the above two are “not in federal regulations at all.”
Babb noted that at larger institutions, IRB boards often involve nonprofessionals – that is, those who don’t have appropriate professional expertise – in the decision-making processes about proposals. Moreover, qualitative research don’t fit well into the one-size-fits-all medical template often used to vet research proposals. Compounding these challenges is the lack of accountability in terms of IRB review boards’ responsibilities to PIs. Only 20% of IRBs that Babb examined had an appeals procedure that would allow PIs to contest decisions.
Not surprisingly, this talk evoked spirited discussion of the myriad problems encountered by researchers going through the IRB process at their institutions, as well as the unintended consequences of a review process ostensibly intended to protect human subjects. The audience noted the following unintended and undesired consequences: (1) normalized deviance,* (2) chilling effect upon the types of research undertaken, and (3) mission creep in which IRB review boards critique the suitability or worth of the research design, rather than evaluating risk to human subjects. In particular, senior researchers worried that tenure-track faculty and graduate students face great uncertainty about whether their project proposals will successfully navigate the IRB process in a timely fashion.
Audience members asked whether the sociologists’ professional association, the American Sociological Association (ASA), had taken an official position on IRB guidelines. None present were aware of any such activities (if you know of anything brewing from this or other associations, do write them in the comments). Attendees noted that because a tenured faculty member may be more able to surmount IRB issues on his/her own (or not need to go through the IRB process because of the type of research conducted), fashioning IRB standards that are more appropriate for a wider variety of research methods is a collective action problem.
I opined that these identified problems need to be considered a commons issue. Those with more power should consider it a professional responsibility to help budding researchers – undergraduate students, graduate students, junior faculty – go through an IRB process that is appropriate to their research methods and questions, especially if researchers hope to have future generations of audiences and colleagues. Unfortunately, dark humor may not be sufficient to get the point across – when a psychology colleague sent his IRB board a proposal to reproduce the Stanley Milgram experiment on April Fool’s Day, an IRB staffer called to inquire if the proposal was serious.
* One of my past posts discussing the IRB draws a steady stream of traffic from those searching for the answer to one of the quiz questions on the online Collaborative Institutional Training Initiative (CITI), a certification program mandatory for researchers and students at some institiutions.
I am one of those people who thinks that we should not encourage people to enter the academic profession unless they are extremely committed to scholarship and they show exceptional promise. This advice often triggers a reaction that is summarized as: “You are evil! You want to exclude poor people/minorities/women/others from academia!”
My response: encouraging an expansion of graduate education does not address most aspects of inequality and might make it worse in many cases. For example, there is a large scale gap between whites and blacks in terms of education, income, and wealth. Sending people to graduate school will not address this gap. There are many reasons: lots of people don’t finish the degree; huge opportunity costs; low paid adjunct work after graduation; accumulation of burdensome of debt; and the tenure track pays modestly compared to other professionals with similar qualifications. These trends suppress mobility.
In contrast, there lots of other professions that are much more likely to lead to good income and mobility. If we want to genuinely shrink the income gap between people of color and whites, for example, we are much wiser to encourage engineering and health science careers. You’ll get the degree in a few years and almost immediately jump higher in the income distribution. Way, way, way easier than going for that anthropology PhD and hoping for a tenure track job 12 years later.
If we want to address inequality within academia (ie., increasing representation on the faculty), we should reserve our efforts for getting people through the PhD pipeline and into jobs. We shouldn’t cram more graduate students into the pipeline. We should actually ask the logical question: What can we do to ensure that students acquire the right skills in academia? How can we make sure that they develop the right networks, that lead to publication in the “right” journals, and thus lead to the “right” jobs?
Sadly, very little effort goes into this side of things. It’s easier to count minorities and women and yell, “not fair! we need more!” It’s much harder to confront tenured faculty (like myself), and say: “Why haven’t you co-authored with women (or minorities) so that they may have a shot at a good tenure track job?” Let’s put the brakes on enrolling more students into doctoral programs and take up the less glamorous, but more important task, of making sure that the ones in the system will actually have the best careers possible.
I have a bleg. What do you think are the best organizational theory papers published in a sociology or management journal in 2012? I’m on a nominations committee and I don’t want to miss anything. Let me know what you think in the comments.
While looking up some literature on organizations, I found an American Sociologist 2003 article “The business of becoming a professional sociologist: Unpacking the informal training of graduate school” which might be of interest to fans of Fabio’s grad skool rulz. Similar to Fabio, David Shulman and Ira Silver discuss lessons they wish they had know while in grad school.
A few choice excerpts that might resonate with our readers and thread commenters regarding graduate training and professionalization:
On training for teaching-oriented vs. research-oriented institutions:
“To be sure, opportunities still exist for graduate students to become good teachers and to land faculty jobs that focus primarily on undergraduate teaching. Yet a highly ranked sociology department geared toward producing successful academic researchers is not the kind of place where graduate students are likely to acquire informal knowledge about how to tap these opportunities. One such piece of crucial knowledge is that regional networks seem to matter in landing teaching-oriented jobs in a manner that is not comparably true for research jobs.”
On work/life balance:
“While the academic world of graduate school can be an oasis of ideas and intellectual excitement, that oasis also can be a dark place. Graduate school can seem like a treadmill in which no matter how fast you run, you will not get where you are desperate to go. Graduate school cannot consume your life. Life goes on even here — you are an adult even while you are an apprentice. People get married, have kids, and take on outside projects and interests. Do not lose sight of your own life — these are the young years for many of us. Bitter Graduate Student Syndrome is to be avoided if possible. There is an outside world beyond your studies. But don’t spend too much of your time away, either. When graduate school voluntarily becomes purely a distant second fiddle to outside world pursuits, you can expect to add more years to your Ph.D. timetable, potentially unhappy ones.”
On “The Institutional Reluctance to See Sociology as a Business”:
“…some faculty may believe that informal socialization into the profession is to be earned only by virtue of a graduate student’s high talent level. There are at least two tiers of distributing informal professional knowledge: one in which students go through the program oblivious to the subterranean world of tips, and another where some students, anointed by their perceived ability, motivation, and a professor’s discretion, advance forward armed with crucial insights and connections. Thus, failing to openly distribute professional socialization can be an invisible and unstated form of hierarchical gatekeeping, meritocratic-based inequality in the midst of the appearance of egalitarian training.”
When I posted the Sociology Department Rankings for 2013 I joked that Indiana made it to the Top 10 “due solely to Fabio mobilizing a team of role-playing enthusiasts to relentlessly vote in the survey. (This is speculation on my part.)” Well, some further work with the dataset on the bus this morning suggests that the Fabio Effect is something to be reckoned with after all.
The dataset we collected has—as best we can tell—635 respondents. More precisely it has 635 unique anonymized IP addresses, so probably slightly fewer actual people, if we assume some people voted at work, then maybe again via their phone or from home. Our 635 respondents made 46,317 pairwise comparisons of departments. Now, in any reputational survey of this sort there is a temptation to enhance the score of one’s own institution, perhaps directly by voting for them whenever you can (if you are allowed) or more indirectly by voting down potential peers whenever you can. For this reason some reputational surveys (like the Philosophical Gourmet Report) prohibit respondents from voting for their employer or Ph.D-granting school. The All our Ideas framework has no such safeguards, but it does have a natural buffer when the number of paired comparisons is large. One has the opportunity to vote for one’s own department, but the number of possible pairs is large enough that it’s quite hard to influence the outcome.
It’s not impossible, however.
Update: I updated these analyses (fixing the double-counting problem). The results changed a little, so reload to see the new figures.
Last week we launched the OrgTheory/AAI 2013 Sociology Department Ranking Survey, taking advantage of Matt Salganik’s excellent All Our Ideas service to generate sociology rankings based on respondents making multiple pairwise comparisons between department. That is, questions of the form “In your judgment, which of the following is the better Sociology department?” followed by a choice between two departments. Amongst other advantages, this method tends to get you a lot of data quickly. People find it easier to make a pairwise choice between two alternatives than to assign a rating score or produce a complete ranking amongst many alternatives. They also get addicted to the process and keep making choices. In our survey, over 600 respondents made just over 46,000 pairwise comparisons. In the original version of this post I used the Session IDs supplied in the data, forgetting that the data file also provides non-identifying (hashed) IP addresses. I re-ran the analysis using voter-aggregated rather than session-aggregated data, so now there is no double-counting. The results are a little cleaner. Although the All Our Ideas site gives you the results itself, I was interested in getting some other information out of the data, particularly confidence intervals for departments. Here is a figure showing the rankings for the Top 50 departments, based on ability scores derived from a direct-comparison Bradley-Terry model.
The model doesn’t take account of any rater effects, but given the general state of the U.S. News ranking methodology I am not really bothered. As you can see, the gradation looks pretty smooth. The first real “hinge” in the rankings (in the sense of a pretty clean separation between a department and the one above it) comes between Toronto and Emory. You could make a case, if you squint a bit, that UT Austin and Duke are at a similar hinge-point with respect to the departments ranked above and below them. Indiana’s high ranking is due solely to Fabio mobilizing a team of role-playing enthusiasts to relentlessly vote in the survey. (This is speculation on my part.)
How should you pick a graduate school? Well, start by purchasing my book – The Grad Skool Rulz, the best grad school advice book you can get. But if $3 is too much, or you’re just lazy, here’s the way you pick graduate school. If you want a decent academic career, follow these steps in order:
- Rank – Don’t fuss over minor differences (#6 vs. #12), but a lot of your early academic career depends on your PhD institution. There are roughly 2.5 zones: the top five (“elite”); the top twenty; and some discipline give credit for the top 4o or so. If you don’t want an academic career, skip this step. In most private industry, PhD program rank doesn’t matter much.
- Toxicity – A lot of PhD programs burn out students. This is extremely important to know. I have successfully recruited to Indiana from higher ranked schools with a speech that starts: “What good is a Chicago PhD if you never get it?”*
- Intellectual fit – If you get into a decent ranked school and students actually graduate with decent jobs, then you can ask about fit.
- Financial support – You aren’t in this business to make money, but be sure you will leave without debt.
Remember, follow these in order!
* I pick on Chicago because it is my beloved alma mater. I love you guys, but you are known as the “PhD graveyard” in some parts – and for good reason!
While we’re running our Crowdsourced Sociology Rankings, people have been looking a little more closely at the U.S. News and World Report rankings. Over at Scatterplot, Neal Caren points out that U.S. News’s methods page has some details on the survey sample size and response rates. They’re bad:
Surveys were conducted in fall 2012 by Ipsos Public Affairs … Questionnaires were sent to department heads and directors of graduate studies (or, alternatively, a senior faculty member who teaches graduate students) at schools that had granted a total of five or more doctorates in each discipline during the five-year period from 2005 through 2009, as indicated by the 2010 "Survey of Earned Doctorates." … The surveys asked about Ph.D. programs in criminology (response rate: 90 percent), economics (25 percent), English (21 percent), history (19 percent), political science (30 percent), psychology (16 percent), and sociology (31 percent). … The number of schools surveyed in fall 2012 were: economics—132, English—156, history—151, political science—119, psychology—246, and sociology—117. In fall 2008, 36 schools were surveyed for criminology.
So, following Neal, this tells us the Sociology rankings are based on a survey of 117 Heads and Directors with a response rate of 31 percent, which is thirty six people in total. For Economics you have 33 people, for History 29 people, for Political Science 36 people, for Psychology 40 people, and for English 33 people. The methods page also notes that they calculate the scores using a trimmed mean, so they throw out two observations each time (the highest and the lowest). The upshot is that the average score of a department is likely to have rather wide confidence intervals.
But, don’t let all that get in the way of contemplating the magic numbers. The press releases from strongly-ranked departments are already coming thick and fast.
Update: These numbers are too low. Read on.
I guess it’s possible that U.S. News *might* mean that the *effective* N of, e.g., the Sociology survey is 117, and that’s the result of a larger initial survey which yielded a 31 percent response rate. On that interpretation they they initially contacted 378 departments (or thereabouts). That would be a non-standard way of describing what you did. Normally, if you give a raw number for the sample size and tell us the response rate, the raw number is the N you began with, not the N you ended up with. A quick check of the Survey of Earned Doctorates suggests that there were 167 Ph.D granting Sociology programs in the United States in 2010, which suggests that 117 is about right for the number who had awarded five or more in the past five years. Same goes for Economics, which has 179 Ph.D programs in the 2010 SED. Then again, the wording in the methods can also be read as saying every department might have received two surveys (“Questionnaires were sent to department heads and directors of graduate studies … at schools that had granted a total of five or more doctorates … during the five-year period from 2005 through 2009″). Looking again at the available SED data for 2006 to 2010 (one year off the USNWR dates, unfortunately), I found that 115 Sociology Departments met the stated criteria of having awarded five our more doctorates in the previous five years. If both the Dept Head and DGS in all those departmetns got a survey, this makes for an initial maximum N of 230, which is still quite far from the 378 or so needed, if 117 is supposed to mean the 31 percent who responded rather than the total number initially surveyed.
It seems like the most plausible interpretation is that for Sociology the number of schools surveyed is in fact 117, that every school received two copies of the questionnaire (one to the Head, one to the DGS or equivalent), but that the 31 percent response rate means “schools from which at least one response was received”, and so the total N surveys for Sociology is somewhere between 36 and 72 people, with a similar range of between 30 and 80 for the other departments.
Update: While I was offline dealing with other things, then looking at the SED data I’d downloaded, then writing the last few paragraphs above, I see others have come to the same conclusion as I do here by more direct and informed means.
As many of you are by now aware, U.S. News and World Report released the 2013 Edition of its Sociology Rankings this week. I find rankings fascinating, not least because of what you might call the “legitimacy ratchet” they implement. Winners insist rankings are absurd but point to their high placing on the list. Here’s a nice example of that from the University of Michigan. The message here is, “We’re not really playing, but of course if we were we’d be winning.” Losers, meanwhile, either remain silent (thus implicitly accepting their fate) or complain about the methods used, and leave themselves open to accusations of sour grapes or bad faith. They are constantly tempted to reject the enterprise and insist they should’ve been ranked higher, and so end up sounding like the apocryphal Borscht Belt couple complaining that the food here is terrible and the portions are tiny as well.
The best thing to do is to implement your own system, and do it better, if only to introduce confusion by way of additional measures. Omar Lizardo and Jessica Collett have already pointed out that U.S. News decided to cook the rankings by averaging the results from this year’s survey with the previous two rounds. They provide an estimate of what the de-averaged results probably looked like. Back in 20011, Steve Vaisey and I ran a poll using Matt Salganik’s excellent All Our Ideas website, which creates rankings from multiple pairwise comparisons. It’s easy to run and generates rankings with high face validity in a way that’s quicker, more fun, and much, much cheaper than the alternatives. So, we’re doing it again this year. Here is OrgTheory/AOI 2013 Sociology Department Ranking Survey. Go and vote! Chicago people will be happy to hear can vote as often as you like. So, participate in your own quantitative domination and get voting.
I’ve recently finished Joel Mokyr’s The Englightened Economy, an economic history of Britain during the industrial revolution. The book is an exhaustive argument about the role of Enlightenment ideas on economic development. I won’t go into detail here, but I’ll summarize it by merely saying that the book is a thorough review of the literature on Britain through the eyes of economists and historians.
Today, I want to make a comment on an observation of Mokyr. In his review of research in higher education during British industrialization, he notes the following:
- Higher education was very rare
- Innovators and industrial leaders were mostly uneducated
- Individuals with elite education (e.g., Oxbridge) were fairly rare among the ranks of the industrial leadership
Mokyr raises this point in service of the argument that Britain’s economic expansion can’t be attributed to rising quality of education since most people were not well educated until well after the industrial revolution. My point: This is somewhat analogous to economic expansion today. Leading Silicon Valley firms aren’t always, or even usually built, from people who have advanced degrees. I can think of only one such major firm (Google). Microsoft, Facebook, and Apple were founded by college drop outs, albeit elite drop outs. Groupon was founded by a policy school grad school drop out (not computer science). Twitter’s founder was a computer geek in high school but went to un-glamorous Missouri Tech, then later went to NYU, not known as a computer science hub.
The conclusion: You need an educated work force to carry out ideas, but the leadership doesn’t need a lot of education. Rapid economic expansion seems to hinge on having a mix of smart people who get their “training” from a wide variety of sources, not just college. Colleges are more about educating the masses who compose the rest of the organization.
Becoming Right: How Campuses Shape Young Conservatives, by Amy Binder and Kate Wood, is the latest entry into the growing scholarship on conservative politics in America. They ask a simple question: how do campus environments shape conservative political styles? This is an important question for two reasons. First, there is relatively little research on conservative students. Second, culture depends on organizational environment. How ideas are expressed is affected by where ideas are expressed. Definitely a worthy question for a sociologists.
So what do Binder and Wood discover? They focus on two campuses for their case study – big public West Coast and fancy private East Coast. They choose these campuses because thay have similar high achieving student bodies but the environments are way, way different. West Coast is a huge “multiversity” to use Clark Kerr’s terminology. East Coast is smaller and more intimate. The same type of students tend to be attracted to campus conservative politics (mainly white, fairly comfortable folks) but the environments encourage different expressions.
You might say that there are two habituses at work – the provocateur and the intellectual. In a big impersonal campus, it is very, very hard to project your voice except in a confrontational manner. Thus, West Coast conservative students rely on sensational tactics, like the affirmative action bake sale. Also, West Coast students feel little attachment to the community. Little is lost by being aggressive. In contrast, East Coast encourages all students to feel as if they have a place, even if they admit that most professors are fairly liberal. They don’t feel alienated or embattled, so they feel little hostility toward the campus. Thus, they resort to more intellectual forms of expression that don’t rely on shocking people. The book also has a nice discussion of the larger field of conservative politics and how that affects campus protest.
Overall, a solid book and one that’s essential to studies of campus politics. If I were to criticize the book, I think I’d think a little more about the differences between conservative students and the broader field of conservative intellectuals. This does get mentioned in a few passages that allude to Steve Teles’ book on conservarive legal academia, which we discussed in detail on this blog. The issue is that the world of conservative intellectuals that have influence is more defined by the East Coast intellectual types than the affirmative action shock jocks at West Coast. The consequences are important as we’ve seen with the Tea Party mobilization. Conservative grass roots politics is now dominated by shock jocks, not the well coiffed policy wonks of the Heritage Foundation. More needs to be said about the boundary and links between campus conservatives and this broader network of think thanks, interest groups, and electoral organizations.
The last comment I’ll make is about the inherent irony of much of this stuff. It can be argued that conservative politics at its best is incremental, stodgy, and resistant to radicalism – that it is essentially bourgeois. It retains the hard won lessons of tradition and skepticism of utopia. Then there is some irony that the cultural style of contemporary conservatives is at odds with this ideal. It is loud and obnoxious. It mocks one of society’s most ancient and enduring institutions, the university system, which has nurtured Western culture since the end of the Middle ages. It is skeptical and hostile toward those who are cultured and knowledge. It can’t disentangle potentially insightful criticisms of specific intellectual currents from a loathing of the academic system itself. Perhaps the ultimat lesson is that beneath the talk of tradition and values, there is a rank populism that leaves one ultimately disappointed.
On June 3, 2011, I said that I was ending the grad skool rulz. Totally wrong. People keep asking me about things I hadn’t thought of before, so I kept on writing! This week’s question: What should I get from the campus visit after I have been accepted to a PhD program?
Usually, the campus visit is a brief one or two day trip where you show up to campus and with current graduate students and faculty. The visits vary a great deal in quality. For example, when I visited Chicago, I had to pay my own way and it was very hard to make appointments to meet people. During one appointment, I asked about graduation rates and this senior professor simply said that such statistics weren’t important. Now you understand the genesis of the Rulz. In contrast, Indiana has one of the most highly organized graduate programs around. Students who visit meet with professors, grad students, and they go to seminars. And of course, we have a great record of placement and publication with students that we freely talk about.
So what should you expect or demand from your visit?
- Ask for money. A lot of graduate programs will provide funds for air fare and the like.
- Accommodations – Don’t pay for hotels, most programs will have a current student host you.
- It is normal for faculty to meet with potential students. If no one is around to meet you, it is a bad sign.
- Meet with the graduate chair. At the very least, you can get some information on the mechanics of the program. Also, ask for placement and graduation rates.
- Meet with current graduate students. Often there is a lunch attended only by students. The idea is that students can candidly talk about their experiences.
- Attend a class or seminar.
- Meet with senior faculty, the folks who mentor most graduate students. Ask them about current research and current students.
Now, how should you evaluate your visit? A few rules of thumb:
- You can safely ignore about 90% of what people say. The faculty all say that their program is the best, even if students fail to get jobs. It’s rare that graduate students openly admit how much they hate life and how their friends in older cohorts are being weeded out and failing to get jobs.
- You should closely pay attention to what people actually do. Did the faculty take the time to meet with graduate students, many of whom will not matriculate? If so, it shows commitment. Can your graduate student host point to a master’s paper or dissertation chapter that was promptly read? Or a paper that the faculty helped him/her publish?
- Pay very close attention to the total number of people that the program places in an average year. My rule of thumb is that a program is effective if # of tenure track jobs = 50% of incoming cohort size. The reason is that 50% of people won’t graduate for a variety of reasons. The issue is what happens to the 50% who manage to finish.
- It is a bad sign if the faculty will only talk about the one guy who made it to an Ivy league position. It is a good sign if they can point to multiple students who made it to R1′s, Liberal arts, and good regional universities. Don’t look at a biased sample.
Consider this an open thread on grad school visits. And of course – buy the GRAD SKOOL RULZ!!!
Howard Aldrich, a man who needs no introduction, has written a new book about entrepreneurship and evolutionary theory. He’s also written a blog post at the publisher’s website discussing some of the book’s key insights and detailing his own intellectual journey as a sociologist who has embraced entrepreneurship as a topic of study. It’s really interesting. Everyone should go read his blog post.
In addition to providing a really fascinating look into the mind of Howard Aldrich, in his post he offers some sage advice to young organizational scholars. It’s such good advice I thought I’d cross-post it here:
- Think in terms of long-term projects, especially if you are studying dynamic processes that take some time to unfold. Cross-sectional studies provide snapshots of the way things are at a moment in time, but most contemporary theorizing concerns mechanisms and emergent processes that must be studied over time. Many of my projects involved data collection that extended over 4 to 6 years, with analysis and writing requiring several more years. Luckily, I had a portfolio of projects, some of which came to fruition earlier than others and thus I never lacked things to do!
- Think in terms of cumulative work that builds one paper on top of another, as a project matures over its planned life. In this age of “salami-publishing” – chopping bigger projects into smaller chunks and then publishing the smaller bits as independent papers – scholars often forget that such behavior cannot go undetected. Independent observers of someone’s career take notice of suboptimal publishing patterns and are likely to discount a project’s worth, if its contributions are diluted by being parceled out in dribs and drabs. Instead, focus on establishing theoretical and empirical continuity across your work.
- Pay attention to what others are doing and find ways to link your work to theirs. With tools such as Google Scholar, citation alerts, table of content alerts, and other technologically-enhanced ways of keeping track of work in your field, you can enhance the impact of your own contributions by showing how it relates to the emerging state of the art.
- Most research projects in organization and management studies are multi-disciplinary, especially in entrepreneurship. Keep up with key work in other disciplines working on the same or similar issues, attend conferences, read their journals, and seek other people with diverse competencies to work with you on your long-term projects.
I really like his second point about the cumulative contribution of your work. One of the travesties of contemporary scholarly contribution metrics is that we have substituted quantity of publications for cumulative contribution. We assume that somebody with 5-6 publications in “A” journals has made a contribution, irrespective of the content of that work or how it aggregates into larger themes. Personally, I’d like to see more younger scholars who are actively laying out a theoretical and empirical agenda that builds on itself over time and who think less about how they can get their next AMJ paper published. Of course, making that a winning strategy is best done in a context where tenure committees actually read the work and make thoughtful assessments of quality rather than just counting lines on a CV.
Last week, a group of Africana faculty at Penn wrote a column called “Guess Who’s (Not) Coming to Dinner?” The issue is that Penn’s administration has not appointed a person of color to an administrative position in a long time. They will no longer attend diversity events sponsored by Penn President Amy Gutmann:
With the term for the dean of the School of Arts and Sciences soon ending and the newly appointed provost on hand, President Gutmann was asked during a heated exchange why she has never appointed a person of color to the position of dean during her long tenure at Penn.
Her response was that she would not just bring in someone who is not qualified, a comment implying that none of the people in the room were qualified to serve in these positions, even though many of them serve in administrative capacities in departments and centers. In her closing remarks, President Gutmann reiterated her dedication to diversity within Penn’s administration, admitting that “a show beats a tell.”
A few comments: I think the Penn Africana faculty have a good point. Leadership is built on networks. If you know anything about academia, most folks reach positions of leadership because they have been helped by colleagues. The fact that either (a) people of color did not apply for deanships or (b) people of color do not have the track record speaks to the fact that people around Penn have simply not reached out to faculty of color. People need to know that will be seriously considered if they apply. Similarly, people need to be considered for “starter” administrative jobs, like center director positions or department chairs. These don’t just appear and they often aren’t announced. You need the networks to make it happen. The fact that Penn has let this slide for this long speaks for itself.
Over a week ago, a colleague called to let me know that our advisor, Harvard Prof. J. Richard Hackman, had passed. For months, I knew that this news would eventually come, but it’s still painful to accept. I will miss hearing Richard’s booming voice, having my eyeglasses crushed to my face from a bear hug (Richard was well over 6 feet tall), or being gleefully gifted with a funny hand-written note imparting his sage advice on a matter.
Richard was a greatly respected work redesign and teams researcher. At Harvard, his classes included a highly regular and popular (despite its “early” morning time slot) course on teamwork. For those undergraduate and graduate students who have been lucky enough to take Richard’s course on teams, the course interweaves concept and practice as students must work in teams, something that most of us get very little practice with outside of organized sports or music.
In July 2012, Richard emailed several of his former teaching fellows asking us to join him in Cambridge and help him rework this course. On short notice, we assembled at the top floor of William James Hall and went over the materials, with Richard expertly leading us as a team, with clearly designated boundaries (those of us assembled for the task), a compelling direction (revising the material to attract students across disciplines), enabling structure (norms that valued contributions of team members, no matter their place in the academic hierarchy), and a supportive context (reward = tasty food, an incentive that always works on former graduate students, and good fellowship).
During this last meeting, Richard asked us about how we thought his course on teamwork could most impact individuals. I opined that his biggest impact wouldn’t be through just the students who took his course, but via those of us who would continue to teach teamwork and conduct research in other settings. This question may have been Richard’s gentle way of telling us that he was passing on the baton.
Here are several ways that I think Richard’s legacy lives on.
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For most of my years as an academic, I’ve been lucky in terms of time management. While I felt stress, it was not be because I was out of time, except for those times when I had a baby at home. Then, this semester it really, really hit – professor overload. Every month, I’d get four to five reviews for journals. Just in the last semester, I’d get about one book manuscript review a month. Then, book review requests, letters of recommendations, and oodles of other stuff. I haven’t even gotten to my regular committee work, teaching, research, or mentoring graduate students. Of course, this is a blessing. It means that people value my input on various issues. But it’s also imposing a cost.
I mentioned this to a colleague, who said it was a tragedy of the commons issue. Professors are a free resource. The university pays our salary, but we work for others for free. Journal reviews are free (in soc, at least). Book reviews (for presses and journals) are free or very low cost. We don’t charge for our time on committees. Students who ask for a paper regrade do so for free. The solution is obvious – charge by the hour! So the next time someone asks you to do committee work, be ready with your rate and the requests will be more considerate.
This post is about publication strategy. In general, the advice one gets is to shoot for the top but what happens if that doesn’t pan out? What should you do then? Well, as usual, a lot depends on your discipline, department, and specialty. A few strategies:
- In all except the top programs, you can compensate for journal prestige with quantity.
- In general, you get more credit for publishing in quality specialty journals than in regional journals.
- Sometimes, it is better to move “laterally” from one discipline to another. That is a strategy I have used. Rather than let an article “fall” to a journal within sociology that doesn’t get a lot of credit, I’d rather try a higher reputation journal in a related field.
- If you are in a discipline that values both books and articles, it may help to switch formats.
- There are sometimes “hip” journals. They aren’t the most cited, but they get respect. Recently in sociology, we’ve seen two hip journals pop up in areas that I follow – Mobilization and Poetics. Not the “top” journals in terms of impact scores, but sociologists really like them.
Also, don’t forget to work on your numbers. Even the most prestigious academics have their papers routinely rejected. Therefore, it is important for most people to have two or three papers under review, if you need one accepted. That also entails a schedule. For you to produce the volume, you have to be good at getting projects done in a timely fashion. Dithering = death. Wait too long, and you won’t have time for your plan b.
Most people are unaware of what professors do outside of a few Hollywood stereotypes, such as the whip-cracking Indiana Jones. At the beginning of the semester, I always briefly introduce students to the multiple work responsibilities that professors have – research, teaching, and service to the profession, institution, and public. Occasionally, I also mention the career stages of academics. Because students usually only encounter professors in the classroom, many students (and non-students) don’t realize that professors have various responsibilities in addition to teaching, and these beliefs can translate into under-informed recommendations and policies, such as this and this. Despite painstakingly written and documented rebuttals, some still persist in propagating erroneous beliefs about what professors do, as evidenced by a blogger who continues to earnestly recommend academia for its long breaks and “minimal” travel requirements.
Students can be introduced to otherwise opaque aspects of academia and the building of knowledge outside of the classroom. In particular, they can participate in national and regional academic conferences and events. While attending a regional conference, one of my former students commented that she had a newfound “respect” for academic work. For me, her comment underscored how such immersion can help others understand what is involved in particular types of work. So don’t forget to remind your students, ASA submissions for the 2013 conference closes 3pm EST this Wed., Jan. 9th! Hope to see our readers at this conference in NYC on Aug. 10-13 and ESS in Boston on March 21-23, 2013.
In winter quarter I’m teaching one of the core theory classes in our PhD program in management and organizations. Our students take a sequence of theory classes: two that are about individuals and organizations and which are heavily based in social psychology and organizational behavior and two others that look at organizations as units of analysis. The first of the latter two courses deals with organizations and their environments (e.g., institutional theory; resource dependence). The second deals with the internal life of organizations: how they work, how people and groups behave within them, why they change and why they sometimes do not change when they should, etc. This is the seminar I’m teaching.
Here is the seminar’s syllabus. Each week treats a different conceptual area, beginning with bureaucracy and ending with social movements. There is a heavy dose of Carnegie School in the middle. I spend a lot of time talking about identity, culture, and politics because that is what interests me and because I think the field is increasingly moving in that direction. The study of internal politics and culture links the study of organizations to the macro-environmental research that characterizes much institutional theory, in my view. There are some obvious holes in the syllabus. For example, I don’t spend much time talking about inequality of any type. One could spend an entire course on that topic. My approach was to focus more on the abstract theoretical concepts and mechanisms and then let the students figure out how they match their particular empirical interests.
Speaking of developing professional and intellectual ties with colleagues, here’s a great opportunity for doctoral students to meet and work alongside colleagues who are working on “nonprofit organizations, voluntary action, philanthropy and international civil society.”
This summer program is led by UPenn Prof. Peter Frumkin, whose publications include On Being Nonprofit (Harvard University Press, 2002), Serving Country and Community: Who Benefits from National Service (co-authored with JoAnn Jastrzab, Harvard, 2010), The Essence of Strategic Giving: A Practical Guide for Donors and Fundraisers (University of Chicago Press, 2010), and The Strategic Management of Charter Schools (co-authored with Bruno Manno and Nell Edgington, Harvard Education Press 2011).
“Apply now for the 2013 Penn Summer Fellows Program
The University of Pennsylvania’s Nonprofit Leadership (NPL) Program invites doctoral students everywhere to apply for the 2013 Penn Summer Fellowship Program.
Facilitated by Peter Frumkin, Professor of Social Policy and Director of Penn’s NPL Program, the seminar will explore emerging issues in the world of nonprofit organizations, voluntary action, philanthropy and international civil society. The program will be held June 3-28, 2013 at The University of Pennsylvania. Students are expected to submit a draft research paper that they would like to refine and prepare for publication during the program. Housing in Philadelphia near the Penn campus and $3,000 stipends are provided to all Summer Fellows.
Let’s thanks Tom Medvetz for an edifying and entertaining series of posts that include the genesis of his research question, cinema trivia, and his thoughts on blogging as part of the academic enterprise. Readers can enjoy his posts here, here, here, here, and here.
I was recently part of an online discussion about the issue of graduate students and networking. The topic is important and deserves a general discussion. The basic question is: “should graduate students network?” The answer is clearly yes. Most of us get through our professional lives with help from our friends and colleagues. I certainly have. That’s why most of us need to build a network of people who know us and can help us out. (And of course, you should buy the best grad school advice book – The Grad Skool Rulz).
Roughly speaking, you should buddy up to the following folks:
- your adviser
- your dissertation committee members
- grad school buddies
- people who hang out at the same conferences and panels as you
- scholars in your specialty
- other people in academia who seem to have their act together
- book and/or journal editors
- non-academics who are interesting
Now, by “buddy up” I don’t mean “slimy.” Rather, just “fly casual.” At conferences, ask people about their work. Ask profs at your program questions about their work, or even just daily life. Email questions to scholars about their research. If people reciprocate, send copies of your research. Heck, a lot of folks may appreciate it if you just sent them your work. Be cool and folks will be cool back at you.
A second issue is how much you should network. As usual, it’s relative to other things you could do. If you haven’t submitted a paper for publication, don’t be a social butterfly. Get back to work! But if you are doing well – your dissertation is coming along and articles are coming out – then by all means, hang out and meet people.
In giving this advice, I want to remind the reader about the relative importance of networking. Most of the time, networking isn’t that important. Over the long run of your career, your publication record will say much more about you than who your friends are. When faculty look at job applications, they go straight to the publication section and the prestige of the school. Even in the short term, you are better served by submitting a dissertation chapter than by schmoozing at a conference. Think of networking as providing occasional benefits that help you out.
Finally, a few words for faculty. Aside from telling graduate students about the importance of networking, you can also help students. Take the time to tell colleagues about students. Write papers with them. Set them up at conferences. Even a little bit of help might make a difference.
It is common for affirmative action critics to sue colleges over race based admissions policies. Here’s my question: How often do critics sue colleges over legacy admissions (i.e., giving preference to alumni children)? I think the answer is “not much.” The lack of concern over legacy admissions suggests that critics don’t really object to the absence of color blind standards. Spending so much money on court fights aimed at under privileged students while ignoring the student who slides by on family connections leaves a very bad taste in one’s mouth.
associate or full professor of sociology at the city college of new (ccny), city university of new york (cuny)
The following ad is currently available online at the Chronicle of Higher Education and the ASA jobbank under id# 8931. It will also appear in the Nov. 30th print edition of the CHE.
Associate or Full Professor of Sociology
The Department of Sociology at The City College of New York (CCNY), City University of New York (CUNY) invites interested persons to apply for a full-time, tenured position for people currently at either the advanced Associate or Full Professor level to start at the beginning of the Fall 2013 semester. Substantive areas of interest are open, but preference will be given to candidates who specialize in areas that build upon the strengths of the department (see http://www1.ccny.cuny.edu/prospective/socialsci/sociology/). The department has strong research and master’s and undergraduate programs. Successful candidates will be expected to exercise leadership in the department and programs, including a willingness to chair the department. Successful candidates, once hired, are also expected to fulfill the College’s requirements with regard to teaching, research, record of publications, and service to the institution.
Salaries are commensurate with experience.
Interested persons should send (mail) letters of application discussing their administrative experience, research and teaching interests, their Curriculum Vitae, names of three references with contact information, and two samples of written work to Prof. William Helmreich, Chair of the Search Committee, Dept. of Sociology, NAC 6/125, The City College of the City University of New York, New York, NY 10031. Inquiries should be sent to ccnysociologydept [at] gmail.com. The review of applications will begin Jan. 15, 2013 and continue until the position is filled.
Next summer, I will revise the best PhD advice book you can get: Grad Skool Rulz: Everything You Need to Know about Academia from Admissions to Tenure. One topic that will be revised is the section on liberal arts colleges. I’ll probably add something more on grants for faculty.
But I am still puzzled about one topic – advice for European academics. Consistently, I’ve been told that the Rulz aren’t very relevant to European academia. So I asked for advice. I got some good feedback on the differences between the US and Europe, but the comments didn’t provide concrete strategies of the type that make up the Rulz. If you are a successful European academic, I’d love to hear about your experiences.
A couple of times a year, a student walks into my office with the following story:
Thanks for meeting with me, Professor Rojas. I need some graduate school advice. I’m majoring in economics [or soc] with a minor in math [or computer science]. But I’ve also taken some sociology [economics] courses as well. My issue is that I’m drawn to sociology – and I love social theory class – but I feel more pressure to do economics graduate school. What do you think?
First, I give the “don’t go to graduate school speech.” I want to make sure that they understand that graduate school is a serious choice. I try to scare them away. I also insist that they buy my book, which is the best generic advice they can get on graduate school. Then, if they still want to do it, I say the following about the econ/soc choice:
Economics and sociology are wonderful fields but they are very different. Sociology is a rich, highly diverse field. It is very eclectic and inherently interdisciplinary. Economics is, currently, a field that has many applications but a relatively narrow toolbox. The field is now a sort of engineering, where success is measured by mathematical problem solving.
There are also very different professional rewards. Sociology is intellectually flexible, but adheres to the arts and sciences model of graduate education. It will take you about 7 years and you’ll make a modest income. The upside is that sociology isn’t as bad as other arts and sciences in that you can work in sociology, political science, anthropology, business, public health, social work or education, depending on your specialty.
Economics is more like a well functioning professional program. A short time to degree, with a number of highly paid options upon graduation. If you are worried about math, don’t be. They only admit folks with strong math skills and many economics programs have “math camp.” With a few exceptions, like Chicago, weeding is rare compared to most arts and science doctoral programs. Also, once you get past the first year, you can choose a low math specialty. The fancy math is for professors aiming for top 20 programs and who compete for top journal space.
Ultimately, I tell students to choose the field where they feel they can make the best impact. If you are magnetically drawn to social theory, don’t sign up for a lifetime of welfare theorems. On the other hand, if you are on the margin, the fast time to degree and the high pay-off are hard to argue with.
If you look at the list of department chairs here at Indiana, you’ll notice that the first few were chairs of “economics and sociology.” I thought the old combined economics and sociology department at Indiana was some historical accident. That is, until I read The Emergence of Sociology from Political Economy in the United States: 1890 to 1940 by Cristobal Young. The article, published in the Journal of the History of the Behavioral Sciences, makes a few simple points:
- Economics came first and sociology was added to existing programs. Solo sociology programs, like Chicago, were in the distinct minority.
- Most sociology programs were part of economics programs until the 1920s.
- There was still much collaboration between sociology and economics until the 1940s.
- Once economic institutionalism finally faded, ties between disciplines faded.
- The separation really started when sociologists started their separate meetings.
What to make of this history? A few thoughts: 1. Heterodox economists should just give up on mainstream economists and hang out with sociologists. 2. There was some sort of hybrid disciplinary action going on that got truncated in the 1940s. It probably happened on both sides. Mathematical formalism made strides in economics, while structuralism appeared in sociology at the same time. These formalizations probably created needless rifts between disciplines. It might be worth seeing if that multi-disciplinary history can be reconstructed.
Others continually on the short list include Yale University’s Robert Shiller. The father of behavioral finance — a celebrated 1981 paper by Mr. Shiller struck an early blow against efficient markets hypothesis — he also sounded warnings on both the dot-com bubble and the housing bubble.
Also mentioned in previous polls: University of Chicago Booth School of Business behaviorist Richard Thaler; Harvard macroeconomist Robert Barro; and University of Chicago econometrician Lars Hansen.
Thomson Reuters has another method of coming up with Nobel predictions, based on how often an economist’s papers are cited and how “high impact” those papers are. The Thomson Reuters picks are: MIT‘s Stephen A. Ross for his arbitrage pricing theory; Nuffield College‘s Sir Anthony B. Atkinson and Princeton University‘s Angus S. Deaton for research on incomes and outcomes; and Mr. Shiller of Yale.
But there are plenty of other economists who could get the nod. Among them: Jean Tirole, of France’s Industrial Economics Institute, who’s an expert on the workings of “two-sided markets,” where different parties participation is contingent on the participation of other parties (think Google advertisers and Google users). And Yale’s William Nordhaus, best known for his work on environmental economics.
High status economists are encouraged to comment.*
* But don’t write a dumb comment about how the economics prize isn’t a real Nobel, or how economics isn’t a science, or how people didn’t predict some economic crisis. That was really cool to say, like, ten years ago.
Are you a senior or almost senior level race/ethnicity researcher? If you are, you might be interested in our open position. We are looking for some who can be the chair of our new Center for Research on Race and Ethnicity in Society (CRRES). Check out the listing here. Deadline October 15. Drop me email if you have questions.