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affirmative action and the academic pipeline

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When people discuss affirmative action, they often have a mistaken view that higher education is filled with legions of under-qualified minorities. From the inside, we have the opposite view. The higher up you go, the less likely you will find folks from under-represented groups. So, what gives?

In addition to plain ideological differences, I think people are selectively looking at the academic pipeline. Basically, at some points in the career, affirmative action is indeed at work and some folks, including myself no doubt, will receive extra consideration. But most of the time, privilege is the rule. People will disproportionately focus on the parts of the pipeline where affirmative action is a modest benefit for some people.

To grasp the argument, it helps to break down what needs to happen in order for anyone to become a tenured professor:

  1. Getting a high college GPA.
  2. Applying to the “right” grad schools.
  3. Admission to the “right” grad schools.
  4. Passing courses.
  5. Passing exams.
  6. Getting the “right” adviser.
  7. Getting published in the “right” places.
  8. Writing the dissertation.
  9. Applying to tenure track positions
  10. Getting an offer from a school.
  11. Strong teaching skills.
  12. Continuing to publish in the “right” places.
  13. Getting elites in the profession to vouch for you.
  14. Getting the department and college to sign off on your tenure case.

As you can see, academia is this insanely long career track with a long list of interdependent parts.

Now let’s get back to affirmative action. Where does that policy work? In my scheme, it shows up mainly in step #3. Most schools will look askance at graduate school cohorts that lack ethnic or gender diversity. Some may even provide funds for recruitment and fellowships. But that’s it. After step #3, affirmative is rare. Perhaps the exception is when deans or departments at the junior level look to diversity the faculty and they may approve a hire.

This helps explain the perceptions of the policy. Admissions is high profile and people are openly competing for spots.  Faculty hiring is also high visibility. In contrast, say, getting published in a journal, or joining the “right” research groups is highly invisible to most observers until after the fact. And these are structured as homophilic networks, which might work against diversifying the faculty.

So, when it come to diversity in academia, you can’t look at one link in the chain. You have to look at the whole thing.

50+ chapters of grad skool advice goodness: Grad Skool Rulz/From Black Power 

Written by fabiorojas

September 22, 2014 at 12:01 am

um, about that edited volume…

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In the world of academia, the edited volume chapter doesn’t get a lot of love. For good reason, a blog post by Dorothy Bishop, a professor of neuropsychology at Oxford, shows that edited volume chapters almost never get cited. She scraped Google scholar and ranked all her dozens of pubs (she’s a full prof in a biomedical science). The result:

citeplot

Yup, edited volumes might as well not exist. And, yes, there are caveats. In *some* humanities areas, they are cited. And yes, even in other areas, edited volumes occasionally have an impact. Organizational theory has been profoundly shaped by the 1991 Powell & DiMaggio anthology and the 1965 Handbook of Org Studies. But still, the lion’s share of scholarly reward goes to other publication formats. In addition to their reputation, they are not indexed, they are not accessible, and often prohibitively expensive.

When I advise graduate students and younger colleagues, I recommend against the edited volume but I never say never. I myself will do the occasional chapter – but only for a very specific reason. For example, if I think the volume has a serious chance of being high impact, I’ll give it a shot. I will also do it as an outlet for an idea that simply doesn’t fit in a journal or part of a book. But, the presumption, the default view, is that effort is best spent on other forms of publication. As Professor Bishop wrote, publishing in an edited volume is like taking your best work and burying it in the garden.

50+ chapters of grad skool advice goodness: Grad Skool Rulz/From Black Power 

Written by fabiorojas

September 17, 2014 at 12:01 am

Posted in academia, blogs, fabio

high status policy research is often not the best policy research

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At Overcoming Bias, Robin Hanson observes that his fellow economists don’t always focus on the policies that have broad consensus, are easy to understand, and easy to implement. He uses the example of road pricing:

Heavy traffic is a problem every economist in the world knows how to solve: price road access, and charge high prices during rush hour. With technologies like E-ZPass and mobile apps, it’s easier than ever. That we don’t pick this low-hanging fruit is a pretty serious indictment of public policy. If we can’t address what is literally a principles-level textbook example of a negative spillover with a fairly easy fix, what hope do we have for effective public policy on other margins?

 

I agree. Think about status in economics – what sorts of work gets you the rewards? For a while, it was really, really hard math. Also, macro-economics, which is a notoriously hard field. Recently, insanely clever identification work. What do these have in common? They are hard. In contrast, how many Bates or Nobel prizes have been awarded for simple, high impact work, like road pricing? Nearly zero is my guess.

The same is true in sociology. Sociologists often imagine themselves coming up with marvelous approaches to solving deeply rooted social inequalities. For example, a few months ago, we discussed research on gender inequality and how it might be explained, partially, by the relative over- or under-confidence of men and women. In other words, it might be that women are overly cautious in terms of promotions.

One simple solution would be to require all eligible people to apply for promotions (e.g., require that all associate profs apply for full professorship after a few years). It is a simple rule and would almost certainly help. The response in the comments? The solution doesn’t remedy gender prejudice. Well, of course not, but that wasn’t the point. The point was to fix a specific issue – under representation of women in applicant pools. I have no idea how to eliminate the bias against women, but I can make sure they get promoted at work often – and it’s easy!

Bottom line: Social scientists have their priorities reversed. They get rewarded for trying to solve insanely hard problems, while leaving a lot of simple problems alone. That’s leaving cash on the table.

50+ chapters of grad skool advice goodness: Grad Skool Rulz/From Black Power

Written by fabiorojas

September 16, 2014 at 12:01 am

sabbatical advice?

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Orgheads:

I am going to take a sabbatical in the 2015-16 academic year. On the Facebook group, I asked for input and got one good suggestion. Here, I widen the query. What advice would you give to someone planning a sabbatical? Good places to go?  Do’s and don’ts? Other ideas?

50+ chapters of grad skool advice goodness: Grad Skool Rulz/From Black Power

Written by fabiorojas

September 12, 2014 at 12:01 am

Posted in academia, fabio

does organizational sociology have a future? the final part

with 3 comments

This is the third and final installment of the “Does Organizational Sociology Have a Future?” panel from ASA, featuring Ezra Zuckerman’s presentation and the Q&A. Here’s part 1 and part 2.

Ezra Zuckerman closed on an up note with “some reasons to be bullish.” Rather than reviewing the past or summarizing trends, Zuckerman highlighted three pieces of work he’s excited about by younger scholars.

Read the rest of this entry »

Written by epopp

September 4, 2014 at 1:24 pm

Posted in academia, education

does organizational sociology have a future? the answer, part 2

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[This is a continuation of the summary of the "Does Organizational Sociology Have a Future?" ASA panel. Part 1 featured Howard Aldrich and Lis Clemens; tomorrow I'll wrap up with a recap of Ezra Zuckerman's presentation and the Q&A that followed the panel.]

Harland Prechel spoke third. He described himself as being located outside organizational sociology early in his career but was drawn to its useful analytical tools and incorporated organizational sociology into his research over time. Organizational sociology has a lot to offer. So why is it in decline?

A central problem is there is no integrated theory of organizations. Instead, there are numerous competing perspectives that rise and decline over time.  This occurs, in part, because each perspective has a narrow scope that constrains what can be examined, explained, and predicted. For example, given that the behaviors that contributed to the 2007-2008 financial crisis occurred inside organizations, why did organizational researchers failed to predict or anticipate it? One viable answer is the prevailing theories did not direct researchers’ attention toward the underlying structures that permitted the risk-taking behaviors associated with the crisis.

Another part of the explanation for the decline in organizational sociology is that business schools have begun to produce their own PhDs in organizational studies and have become less dependent on sociology departments. Also, organizational sociology is perceived to be less relevant to managing organizations. Given these conditions, it is likely that the job market for organizational sociology in business schools will decline in the future.

Given all this, should we do more of the same? Or, should we be doing something different?

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Written by epopp

September 3, 2014 at 4:06 pm

Posted in academia, education

does organizational sociology have a future? the answer, part 1

By popular request (really—several!), I’ve written up a summary of the “Does Organizational Sociology Have a Future?” panel, held Monday, August 18th, at ASA in San Francisco. Organized by Elizabeth Gorman, the discussion featured Howard Aldrich, Elisabeth Clemens, Harland Prechel, Martin Ruef, and Ezra Zuckerman. The audience was sizable—perhaps 80 folks, including many established people in the field.

The summary is long, so I’m going to break it into a couple of parts. What follows is part one, sans commentary, from notes I took during the session. The rest will be posted over the next day or two. The panelists have all had a chance to review the summary and make edits. Also, there has been some suggestion that slides may be posted at the Work in Progress blog — I’ll post a link if that happens.

I’m not going to be able to capture the humor and asides, alas, but hopefully this will give a flavor of the main themes. If you don’t have the time or inclination to read, the quick version: does organizational sociology have a future?

  • Prechel: Yes.
  • Zuckerman: Yes.
  • Clemens: Yes, if there’s space for thinking outside the box of professionalization and top journals.
  • Aldrich: I’m going to answer a different question.
  • Ruef: Only if Howard Aldrich doesn’t go fly fishing.

Okay, that’s a bit flip. More below.

Read the rest of this entry »

Written by epopp

September 2, 2014 at 1:23 pm

Posted in academia, sociology

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