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minority grad student-majority faculty collaboration: what is your experience?

Two weeks ago, I suggested that some racial disparity in the professorial ranks might be due to low rates of co-authorship between the m faculty of PhD programs and minority graduate students. The theory is that these collaborations provide a stream of publications that sustain people through the job market, mid term review and tenure review while their own research takes time to get started. Thus, if faculty aren’t offering co-authorship opportunities, it would create systemic differences in academic labor market outcomes.

The discussion focused on this theory. Now, I’d like to solicit personal experiences to help me assess the extent (or lack of extent) of this problem. I am encouraging PhD faculty and minority graduate students to discuss their co-authoring experiences. In my own case, I was made two faculty co-authorship offers in graduate school. One professor became quite ill. However, recently we’ve reconnected and I think we can restart the project. The other partner was highly contentious so that didn’t work out. Thus, at the end of graduate school I had zero co-authored articles with faculty.

During my ten years at Indiana, I can remember making four co-authorship offers to minority students. One was successful. You can read a short article at the Journal of Social Structure about our work on data visualization and there is a longer piece in the works. A second offer was followed up on, but it required methods expertise that I couldn’t offer and the student reverted to normal survey based research. So that’s my bad. A third was worked on a little before the student went into post-doc land and was never seen again, while a fourth offer was simply never responded to.

It is unclear to me if my experience is typical or atypical. That is why I think it is important to have people provide their own experiences.

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

Written by fabiorojas

May 16, 2014 at 12:03 am

Posted in academia, fabio, inequality

23 Responses

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  1. If you want to get data on a disparity, you have to ask about all experiences, not just minority. This did lead me to reflect. There are three quite different types of coauthorship offers I’ve made: (1) the student has a paper (typically a thesis I’ve advised) and I say, this interests me, if you’d like me as a second author to help get it published, I’d be interested in getting involved. Otherwise, I’ll make comments, but that is a different level of involvement than a coauthor. Student’s choice, no pressure. Most don’t take me up on this, a few do, several have resulted in coauthored publications.One minority student did, then kicked me off the paper again and went on to publish it alone, after deciding they didn’t like what I wanted to do with the paper. No hard feelings. (2) There’s a funded research project, the students are RAs (in some cases, were full participants in writing the proposal), they get included on the papers and have played a big role in them. No minority students in this model. No one available in the program at that time. (3) I think up a research idea that interests me, suggests a student work on it with me. I’ve gotten as far as conversations in a few cases, but few have taken me up on it.A couple of times, students worked for a while on the project and decided they did not like it, and abandoned it.

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    olderwoman

    May 16, 2014 at 2:43 am

  2. I wonder about coauthorship patterns and predoctoral fellowships and other awards that support students without requiring positions as a graduate assistant. Most of the coauthorship that happened in my grad program would fall under olderwoman’s second category. However, that requires being on a faculty member’s project. When I think of students who were funded on predoctoral fellowships, like the Ford and NSF, but also university fellowships, in grad school, I think of students of color. I don’t have systematic data on those patterns, it’s just my perception. However, if it is correct, that could be an important factor. I strongly believe that for all the benefits a fellowship can offer students, a drawback is that a student with such funding is often not as integrated in department life, in part because of the importance of graduate assistantships and apprenticeship models in academia.

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    jessica

    May 16, 2014 at 12:56 pm

  3. PS A couple of my group 3 examples were minority students including cases where the student did some work but didn’t like the the project.

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    olderwoman

    May 16, 2014 at 1:42 pm

  4. In my department (and Jessica’s) we have some advantages that make a big difference in this regard. Almost all of our graduate students earn their stipends as research assistants rather than teaching assistants, and faculty are rewarded for coauthoring with graduate students. So rather than just putting my research assistants to work on basic stuff, I try to include them as coauthors from the beginning. I have had many good experiences with graduate student coauthors over the years (including several students from under-represented minority groups). They have made important contributions to my papers while also, I think, gaining valuable experience…learning how to develop a paper while being in on the early stages, and running it through the review process.

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    Rory McVeigh

    May 16, 2014 at 1:42 pm

  5. An added advantage at Notre Dame is that grad students seldom teach their own courses (if they do, it’s for experience and not a paycheck). At Arizona, advanced students were teaching. This relates to my original point because the system at Arizona meant a student who finished with their predoctoral fellowship might end up right in the classroom, never really having worked with a faculty member.

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    jessica

    May 16, 2014 at 1:48 pm

  6. I think Jessica’s right. I had fellowship funding, and didn’t feel integrated into dept. life. While in grad school, I had zero offers for co-authorship. During a post-doc I had one offer – I wrote the first draft of the paper, the other person said he’d do work after we got reviewers’ comments; the journal accepted it without revision and the prof did NOT take his name off, even though he wrote not a single word. The first time I submitted an article on my own to a big journal, it was a paradigm-shifting piece that was slammed. I was scared off from the whole article writing experience, which made my career suffer, I know. I’m a full prof now, and publishing my third book this summer; I only now feel like I can delve back into the article waters. Bad experiences all around for me. My bad – I just remembered that last summer at the ASAs a mentor figure (from my days in my first job as asst. prof.) offered to co-author with me; but as I said, I’m a full prof now.

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    Vilna Bashi Treitler

    May 16, 2014 at 1:48 pm

  7. I had the opportunity to co-authors with faculty members in the same fashion olderwoman described. I took classes and wrote a good term paper that the professors felt that, with more work, it can be publishable. One is under review while one is still on my desk waiting revision. Another one is on its way. I think it is quite intimidating sometimes because the gap from a good term paper to publishable article is bigger than what me as a graduate student feels. At the same time, working with professors by turning a good term paper to a publishable article can have some problems. I seem to do the lion share of the work while professors mostly give critical feedback. That can turn some people off. I begin to understand that is how the game is to be played but it can be really exhausting because I sometimes feel solely responsible for the article, even though it is a co-authored piece.

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    minority_grad_stu

    May 16, 2014 at 3:32 pm

  8. First, I want to thank all commenters for providing their experiences. I also want to encourage more graduate students and faculty to comment. More data is better.

    Second, a few observations are worth noting. One is the importance of the team project. It would seem that a very easy way to increase graduate student authoring (minority and otherwise) would be to make sure that people get into large funded projects.

    An issue would be that some students may not think it is in their interest, and it would be up to the graduate director or faculty to insist that the experience would be valuable, even if it’s not your area.

    Another observation: there seems to confusion about co-authoring expectations. Vilna’s comments suggest that faculty opportunism might be at issue as well. Another relatively easy way to help students would be to lay out ground rules. For example, the physical science model is that the adviser gets to be on the pub no matter what. In other cases, they only get credit if they do a lot of writing.

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    fabiorojas

    May 16, 2014 at 4:02 pm

  9. I do hope we get some more stories in this thread. The subtext so far seems to be that minority students aren’t interested in exploiting opportunities to co-author with faculty or, when they are, they are not effectively mentored on what is involved or expected. I find the former much harder to believe, but it would fit the self-selection possibility that came up the last time Fabio trolled these waters.

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    Pam

    May 16, 2014 at 5:02 pm

  10. This thoughtful thread caused me to check on my experiences over the past dozen years. I advised nine doctoral students: 3 women, 2 visible male minorities, and 4 others. I also funded all nine under Olderwoman’s model number 2. I never had the advantage of common property resources (department funds). One of the women did not publishing from the research, as she took a fast track to admin. All others had at least one refereed publication for a total of 11. The students were first author on all 11. They also produced 8 non-refereed publications (book chapters, published proceedings, research monographs). The students were first author on 7; I was first author on 1.

    Fabio’s last observation on opportunism provokes an observation in response. My most recent federal grant award requires all investigators – faculty, post-docs, and graduate students – to complete another training/certification. Responsible Conduct of Research (RCR) certification has been required by some agencies (NIH) for a couple of years, but now it is showing up on most university IRB sites as required going forward for most/all external grants. RCR is slightly more (!) tedious than the IRB on-line training, but the first few modules go directly to co-authorship issues and relationships between project directors and less-powerful team members, i.e. grad students. I hope the participants in this blog conversation do not see themselves as the grad students in the video vignettes in the training modules. Very disturbing.

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    Randy

    May 16, 2014 at 5:35 pm

  11. Thanks, Randy. More evidence that the team/funded project model is effective. I’d like to hear more from other students and faculty, especially if they come from areas (like ethnography) where funding is sparse.

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    fabiorojas

    May 16, 2014 at 6:58 pm

  12. I think we need to think why people are collaborating in the first place. Off the top of my head, I can think of four main reasons: a. They just like each other and want an excuse to work together. b. there’s simply too much data to be dealt with by one person (the big project model). c. there’s a clear division of labor and the collaborators have complimentary rather than overlapping skills, d. one person has a draft/idea and the other person thinks they can see it through.

    As a mostly qualitative grad student, the collaborations I’ve proposed or been proposed to be part of were i. combination of A and C, where I knew a case very well, found quantitative data on that case, and proposed to a good, quantitatively skilled friend I’ve seen less of since the end of course work that we do some thing with these data (testable hypotheses already in hand), ii. A and C where I had language skills someone else lacked (paper was already submitted and a reviewer pointed to a lack of material in this language), and iii. several theoretically interesting cases where there was a theory that could use developing. This last group has always gone nowhere. One proposed by my adviser I could have easily worked on but didn’t interest me. Others the division of labor just didn’t make sense–two papers I’d drafted that I didn’t need others on, or two were papers others had drafted that they didn’t need me on. All the others never passed the stage of idle conversation over drinks. I’m at a point where I think type C, namely complementary skill sets (mixed methods, etc) or data sources (i.e. comparative cases) are probably the most fruitful avenues for qualitative collabotation. I just think opportunities for that type of work is rarer in general for graduate students.

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    another grad student

    May 16, 2014 at 9:35 pm

  13. another – Collaboration between faculty/students is encouraged in many departments, which use an apprenticeship model to train grad students how to publish in journals. It’s certainly the model that Arizona used when I was there, although we weren’t encouraged to exclusively collaborate, and it’s how things work in my department at Northwestern. Some students know how to write a journal article instinctively but most do not. The apprenticeship model helps train students how to think like a scholar, how to see a project through from beginning to end, etc.

    I would also add some variation to A – collaborating can often be more fun and productive than working alone. It’s nice to have someone else, a coauthor, to whom you’re accountable and off whom you can bounce ideas.

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    brayden king

    May 16, 2014 at 9:44 pm

  14. I’m a black woman finishing my 3rd year in a top program, and no one has offered to co-author with me yet. I have been very productive on independent projects so far, and use both qualitative and quantitative methods. I’ve been funded through external fellowships.

    I’m curious: at what point in a student’s career do faculty tend to offer co-authorships? Maybe my experience will change in later years?

    This could also be a working hypothesis–what are faculty looking for in co-authorships? Do they set different standards for white students v. students of color when assessing the qualities or skills a student should have when selecting a co-author? Do the students of color who do get co-authorships get them later in their grad careers, after they have “proven themselves”?

    Also, I’m wondering if minority students are less likely to interact with faculty in ways that lead to deeper discussions and later co-authorships. I feel intimated by profs still, and in meetings I think I’m very in and out, like, “I have this question, what is your advice? Great, thank you. bye.” I have a white female colleague who works with the same white male professor that I do, and she tells me about her long, casual chats with the same professor. Perhaps these types of interactional differences put more white students on track to build relationships that result in co-authorships?

    I think this is an important topic and I’m happy that these discussions are happening.

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    black female grad student

    May 17, 2014 at 2:29 am

  15. This conversation gets more interesting as the thread grows in length. I am provoked by the question raised by the young black female scholar above; “At what point in a student’s career do faculty tend to offer co-authorships?” I make no claims that my experiences or my preferences are universal; I cannot speak for others.

    In my own case, I have never invited a graduate student to co-author. I have actively sought some of them as collaborators and actively shown others to the door. In the former category, co-authored publications are one of the outputs. But “we” never get there with you being a co-author on “my paper” or with me being a co-author on “your paper”. Boring.

    Our collaboration must have two things. (1) A shared interest in a problem or a method that can bring us together. We negotiate over what drives our mutual interest to the highest level. Usually, I commit because of your enthusiasm and your willingness to fit our individual ideas and goals into a joint project with a realizable plan of work. (2) You also have to offer to teach me something new (maybe not the norm among profs; I hope others will weigh in). My students have helped me learn the intricacies of NVivo, agent-based modeling, patent law, mechanism design, data visualization, and social ontology. If we both discover something new along the way, that is a big plus.

    As a senior professor, I get 3 or 4 offers to collaborate on something really cool each month – from colleagues, administrators, students, funding agencies, complete strangers. I also get 2 or 3 requests/obligations each month to share my expertise or my time or my research funds. A co-authorship has to be way above average to warrant turning down all these other things to take it on. Don’t bring me your life goal, your 11-year ethnographic data gathering project, or the paper that will get you a job.

    I do not care about your age, gender, race, or ethnicity as an element of the collaboration. Is there a reason that I should care?

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    Randy

    May 17, 2014 at 5:37 am

  16. @bfgs: It varies a great deal. Personally, I now try to recruit people early in grad school. And for it to be effective (leads to pubs that help with jobs) it can happen no later that your 4 year or so.

    @Randy: The issue is that some faculty may unconsciously shift their attention to majority students.They might write off students, or students may not interact in ways that don’t reveal their strengths (not talking in class or being aggressive). For that reason, it might be important to seriously who we co-author with.

    You should care for a number of reasons. One is equity. Since co-authoring is part of our graduate training, if we are systematically not co-authoring with certain types of students, we are failing in our mission as graduate faculty. Another reason is scholarly. In some areas, personal experience and background might matter. For example, let’s say i was doing an urban ethnography. Then having all white ethnographers might bias the data. Finally, you talk about learning things. What a priori reason do you have for not believing that you can learn from a wide variety of people? IF it’s math, I can see what you are talking about. But sociology and management are social science.

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    fabiorojas

    May 17, 2014 at 5:53 am

  17. Brayden and others from the Arizona shop. I know most grads there are funded as TAs, so the coauthoring/apprentice model was not based on RA positions. How was it organized?

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    olderwoman

    May 17, 2014 at 12:45 pm

  18. olderwoman – at Arizona collaboration was always presented as an opportunity for research rather than as an assistantship. So there were often no financial ties in a collaboration, i.e., students were not paid extra to participate in a research project. It was based purely on shared interest in an idea. I actually think this was a great model for how to become a researcher. If you begin academic life as a grad student thinking that you need to get paid for everything you do, you’re not grasping the big picture pursuit of knowledge that is supposed to motivate you as a faculty member. Of course, this model puts a lot of responsibility on faculty. If a faculty member acts in a shady way and gets a grad student to collaborate without ever granting coauthorship, then the system fails.

    In my department at Northwestern we operate according to a different model. Every grad student gets funded and their funding isn’t tied to being a TA or an RA. (Being a TA gives you extra funding.) We hope that by funding them without constraints they will feel free to pursue research opportunities that interest them intellectually. We evaluate each student every year and if they are failing to progress and engage actively in research, they risk being asked to leave the program. Most students though use this freedom to pursue collaboration opportunities with professors. We tell them that they should be coming to us with ideas and that we will help them pursue those projects. Or we encourage them to collaborate with other students. Of course, professors often take a huge role in the projects, but they originate from the students’ own initiative. i have forthcoming paper with a student at AJS that started that way. Another project began as a conversation with a student during her 3rd week in the program and eventually resulted in an ASQ publication.

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    brayden king

    May 17, 2014 at 3:18 pm

  19. “Every grad student gets funded and their funding isn’t tied to being a TA or an RA.” Sigh. That isn’t going to happen at Wisconsin in my lifetime. Our people end up in three distinct groups: RA, TA, fellow, with some movement between the categories across years but very distinct boundaries within a year.

    But the AZ is relevant, as it says that even if students have to work as TAs, what matters is a culture and a normative understanding of how things should work in an apprenticeship model. It sounds like the social contract goes something like this: Junior authors do work on more senior people’s projects in exchange for learning the ropes about how research is done and how articles get written and revised for publication. Senior people share their bylines on “their” work with junior people in exchange for labor.

    Similarly, the NU model sounds like this: Junior person has a good research idea. In exchange for helping nurture good research idea to completion and publication, senior person gets a second authorship. Is that right? Or is the NU model that professors do their “own” work with no student assistance,and limit their help on students’ projects to making comments in an advisor role?

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    olderwoman

    May 17, 2014 at 4:11 pm

  20. olderwoman – yes, your characterization of the AZ model sounds right to me. There is a lot of variation in this though. Some collaborations are more equal partnerships than others. For example, my first coauthored publication with Sarah Soule was the result of me coming up with the idea and her having the data we could use to test the idea. I don’t think I’d characterize that project as me providing labor for her project. It was really an equal partnership in which we found we had compatible ideas and working styles, as evidenced by the string of articles we’ve written together over the years. But the model that you describe of senior people offering their mentoring and data in exchange for chances to work with someone who has more time on their hands to do the work is more-or-less right. If a faculty member and student have worked together on more than one paper together, it’s probably because they have developed a relationship as equal coauthors.

    The NU model is very entrepreneurial and varies a lot according to faculty member, but it seems to fit your first characterization more than the latter. Students are expected to act on their own initiative and be proactive in coming up with ideas/projects. My own style is to give first author opportunities to students, simply because I believe that if I take first author the students won’t get the credit they deserve. I see it as a way to combat the Matthew effect problem. Of course, in return I expect them to write the first draft (with a lot of coaching). After the first draft, I get pretty intensely involved in the writing.

    There is a strong norm in the department that if a student is involved in the project that they should get a coauthorship. There are a fair number of social psychologists in my department and they use a lab model for doing research: 2-3 grad students for every project, plus a faculty member, which may result in a handful of papers. The norm of coauthoring and the lab model are two reasons you see so many coauthored papers coming out of my department. Faculty, of course, have their own projects and students are doing things on their own as well, but the majority of papers are done in this collaborative arrangement.

    One more thing: my department actually has a very good track record of successfully matriculating minority grad students. Our graduate director recently received an award from the graduate school for the department’s exemplary work with minority students. I think our pattern of coauthoring and mentoring contributes to this success. The key is to not let students get lost in the shuffle. If they’re not collaborating, find out why and figure out a way to get them involved in something.

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    brayden king

    May 17, 2014 at 5:03 pm

  21. I can imagine another possibility here as well. I do qualitative, historical work. I’ve published twice with grad students, and have two more papers in progress — two with white men, one with a white woman, and one with a South American woman. All were originally department-assigned RAs who expressed interest in a topic I was working on and followed through, so more of the “I’ll teach you how the process works in exchange for research help” model. I’ve had other RAs who didn’t do this, but none were underrepresented minorities.
    But. My department treats collaboration as a publication-plus, which is an incentive. Because to be honest, although I like working graduate students and teaching them how to publish is part of the job, with the type of research I do collaborating makes the process slower, if anything. I’m sure this must be the case in other subfields as well. How many collaborating ethnographers are there?
    So if underrepresented minorities are overrepresented in low-collaboration subfields, which seems conceivable, they may be disproportionately underprepared to succeed on the tenure track. Of course, that raises another possibility: these also tend to be the harder-to-get-a-job subfields.

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    epopp

    May 17, 2014 at 6:55 pm

  22. Ah, yes, epopp: “counting” collaborating with students as a thing that gets positive credit when faculty are evaluated. Good point. My department does not do that. I’m in a position to have some influence on changing that model.

    I think one concern people have about collaborations that do not involve paying the student is the worry about two extremes: exploitation of the student on the one hand, and having no hold on the student to get work out of them, on the other. (Well, for that matter, I’ve known of pretty unhappy situations along this axis that involved pay, as well.) This is where cultural context, explicit norms, or overt discussion and negotiation are critical.

    Of course a true egalitarian collaboration develops naturally, and I’ve had a number of those arise across the years. But I don’t think that is what Fabio was talking about. The phrase “offer to collaborate” does not sound egalitarian. It sounds like an asymmetric offer of mentoring.

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    olderwoman

    May 17, 2014 at 7:29 pm

  23. OW: Just for the record, it’s not formal or quantified credit for collaboration in this case. But it’s clearly considered a plus, and it is mentioned in promotion decisions. This definitely contributes to a culture that sees collaboration with grad students as an active contribution to the department.

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    epopp

    May 18, 2014 at 1:12 pm


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