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Trevor Hedberg
Columbus, OH
Postdoctoral Scholar at The Ohio State University
Interests: Philosophy, Reading, Writing, Editing, Teaching, Website Design, Tennis, NBA, Anime, Video Games
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Honestly, based on a mere 5 evaluations from one semester, I'd advise doing absolutely nothing. There's no reason to believe that this small sample reflects anything meaningful about your teaching unless they occur again in later semesters. If it persists, then maybe you try to add a reading or two that present more conservative stances on whatever issues you're discussing if you think your choice of course content should be politically balanced.
@Mike -- Just to follow up briefly, the distinction I'm pointing out might seem obvious to us, but the target audience for Brennan's book is prospective graduate students. (It's also not aimed exclusively at philosophy grad students.) And I think it's clear that many first-year graduate students begin their graduate studies without a clear picture of what they really need to do to be competitive for academic jobs. This can vary among programs, but at mine, more than half of those who obtained a PhD in the last 10 years had 0 publications, even though faculty members were generally rather transparent about what's needed to be competitive on the market. Most of the students in your program may have been different, but that might just indicate that they mostly aren't part of Brennan's target audience.
I actually ordered this book and read it all a couple weeks ago. I'm not sure these short snippets in the interview entirely capture the distinction he's really after. At a quick glance through, I couldn't find a quote that mirrored exactly what he said in the interview, although there is an explanation of the Olympics analogy early in chapter 2. I interpreted him as saying that graduate students generally either prioritize professional development throughout their graduate career or they don't. If they don't, then their chances of landing a permanent job are very close to zero; if they do, then they have a legitimate chance of landing a good job (but of course there is no guarantee). The heart of the book is an explanation of what it means to prioritize your professional development during graduate school. (A lot of that revolves around creating and publishing work.) Maybe that broad distinction still doesn't work, but at least in my experience, I thought it was easy to identify graduate students who were serious about building their CVs, going to conferences, developing an online presence in the field, and publishing their work compared to those who pursued these things either halfheartedly or not at all.
Citing yourself in the third person is definitely the way to go. Speaking in part as a reviewer, it's definitely the best way to maintain blind review because your work appears the same as any other citation. In this manner, your self-citation is effectively concealed in plain sight. Redacted references, as others have mentioned, only serve to draw undue attention to what's being omitted and can inadvertently give away one's career status (or at least create assumptions about it).
To echo what others have said, it varies depending on the HR system. At the University of South Florida, I didn't get my first check until mid-September because my August 6th official start date was after the deadline to receive paychecks in August. At Ohio State (which pays monthly rather than every 2 weeks), I officially started on July 1st and received my paycheck on July 31st. So Amanda's estimate of 2-6 weeks past the start date seems right.
I don't have a solution to this quandary, but I do want to clarify one thing about my prior post: I don't think any of the reasons for rejection that I mentioned are incompatible with adopting the "Does this add to the discussion?" standard. I think that all of the concerns I raise point toward ways in which a paper would fail to meaningfully add to the discussion around the issue. Most of my concerns involve presenting one's argument clearly, taking proper account of other people's research on the subject, and not misrepresenting your own conclusions or the views of the authors you're engaging with. Those seem like prerequisites to making a worthwhile contribution to the ongoing discussion (although I can imagine that not everyone will agree with my assessment on that point). It's also possible for a paper to avoid all those problems and still leave me quite unconvinced that its conclusion is true. But in that case, the judgment should be "This is a good paper that I disagree with" -- not "I disagree with this paper so I'm going to reject it." I wouldn't advise rejecting a paper merely for the reason that you disagree with the paper's central conclusions.
YCTMN -- As I mentioned in my response to Amanda, I wouldn't generally take any of these particular items to be grounds for rejection in isolation unless they were severe mistakes. If the problem is easily corrected like in your example, that wouldn't be a big deal. But I have seen cases where authors are misrepresenting the significance of their paper and its conclusions so severely that it isn't that simple of a fix. In some instances, their views are very similar to someone else's, and they present their position like it's new or revolutionary when it's more akin to reinventing the wheel: when you strip away their rhetorical fluff, they aren't actually making a meaningful contribution to the discussion. In this respect, misstating the significance of their argument often dovetails into the concerns about papers being uninteresting that others have raised in prior comments.
Amanda, you raise a good concern. I should have clarified that I don't think most of these issues in isolation are automatically grounds for rejection unless they particularly egregious. I think it's normal for even worthwhile papers to have flaws, and nothing that's correctable at the proof stage (like grammatical errors) would even register with me unless it hindered by understanding of the content. That said, on the particular issue of engaging with existing scholarship, I think there's a tendency for people to cite too little and to overlook relevant publications in specialty journals. (Marcus wrote a post about this called "On Citation Practices in Philosophy" way back in 2014.) The result of not citing this material is that a lot of valuable scholarship remains unnoticed and is not engaged with. That's part of why so many papers in the humanities have 0 citations. This was more understandable in the era before online library databases and PhilPapers, but the time costs of doing this research is much lower now than they were 20 years ago. So I would be reluctant to change my standards on that particular metric.
LM -- Good question. No papers I have published were direct adaptations of dissertation material. I do have two published papers that intersected with my dissertation topic a bit -- both were connected to the issue of whether individuals have an obligation to reduce their individual carbon footprints. The ideas in these papers come up in one of the chapters in my book, but the papers themselves were not reused -- just cited and referenced like any other work in the manuscript. Had I wanted to reprint a paper as a chapter, I would have definitely needed to acquire permissions, and there was a formal process for doing that. I imagine every publisher has their own set of forms to complete for those requests, and if I had needed to pursue that, it would have needed to be initiated months before the final deadline for manuscript submission.
The CHE piece mainly consists of a bulleted list of things TT faculty could do to help adjuncts. I'm not going to copy/paste each paragraph-length explanation, but here is a short description of each item on the list -- mostly done using the exact language of the author. As a faculty body, (1) if you have graduate programs, track the year-by-year employment of every single graduate for the first 10 years, (2) if you work at an undergraduate- or master’s-focused school, don’t even consider hiring a tenure-track faculty member from an R1 university, (3) Don’t ask for new equipment that isn’t absolutely essential; instead, negotiate to have that money reallocated to adjunct pay, (4) reduce your institution’s travel budget and the number of its institutional memberships, and put that money toward adjunct resources, and (5) stand behind a simple principle: one faculty, one union. As a department, (1) allocate introductory courses to permanent faculty, and give adjuncts upper-division “special topics” courses with smaller course sizes and (2) hire from within -- conduct internally focused searches and bring your best adjuncts on board whenever you have an open tenure-track line, instead of searching for the distant star. As an individual faculty member, (1) stop bringing graduate students into your lab or research group if you know they’ll likely be doomed, (2) counsel your best undergraduates not to pursue graduate school if they imagine themselves in faculty life, (3) if you’re an interdisciplinary scholar, don’t advocate for starting an interdisciplinary degree (or worse yet, graduate) program, and (4) retire before you want to.
I actually just finished writing a book loosely based on my dissertation, but my remarks would be way too lengthy for a short comment. Instead, I'll plan to write up a post on the subject in January after the holidays have concluded. For now, I'll just say that I think the two points Marcus mentions in this post are accurate.
I mentioned some of my interview experiences in my recent post titled "118." But here are the two broad formulas for the 20 or so interviews I've had. Model 1 You'll be asked 4-6 scripted questions followed by 5 minutes for you to ask questions of your own. 1-2 questions will be about your research. 1-2 questions will focus on your teaching and often specifically about courses mentioned in the job ad. 1 question will ask about something department specific: the most common one I've been asked is what I'd do to help recruit majors in a small program, but a close second is what I do to promote diversity in the classroom and/or on campus. Finally, 1 question will be completely random -- probably something you've never been asked before and/or something that is not obviously relevant to the job. These interviews are usually 25-30 minutes and more common at teaching schools. Model 2 You'll be asked 3-4 scripted questions and a number of unscripted followups. Usually, a set portion of these interviews will be devoted to teaching, then a separate portion to research, and then a few minutes left for you to ask questions at the end. So a 45-minute interview might have 20 minutes devoted to teaching, 20 minutes devoted to research, and 5 minutes left for you to ask the committee questions. Followup questions will usually pertain to your particular research program or your teaching experience. Because of this dynamic, these interviews have much more variability in their structure and can feel a lot more like a real conversation. Interviews with this format are usually 40-45 minutes and seem more common at research-focused schools.
"on the jyerb market" mentions departments that give you info about the questions they will ask in advance. I do think that makes things easier in some respects, but I will mention one case in which this worked against me: I was told by the search committee chair that the focus of the interview would be on my teaching and in particular how I could teach the courses specified in the job ad. So naturally I prepped for that. When the actual interview came, I was asked 6 questions. Only 1 of these questions was about teaching specifically, and none of the questions pertained to how I would teach the courses mentioned in the job ad. Needless to say, the interview did not go well. So, if committees are going to do this, be truthful about what you're actually going to ask the candidates. I'd also highlight the need for transparency with the process. Keep us in the loop regarding your search -- don't make us send you awkward followups 1-2 months after an interview or wait 4-6 months for a form letter email rejection. Also, don't just flake out and not notify candidates at all, which has happened to me with roughly 40% of my job applications. In the age of mass email, it's unacceptably lazy. It's also disrespectful to candidates (because of the time it takes them to apply), and it causes job candidates unnecessary stress since they often don't have a clear picture of their situation.
Anon -- First, many of the jobs I screened out were jobs exactly like you described: Open jobs at distinguished schools or jobs with a wide assortment of AOSs and little evidence that they were really looking for someone with my credentials. Second, I never applied to a single job that was nearly the stretch you are talking about -- that is, applying to a political philosophy job with an AOS in logic. I agree that would be a waste of time. My biggest stretch was applying for some philosophy of technology jobs, and two of my interviews were for positions like that, so it clearly wasn't a waste of time. I don't think you're disagreeing with me or Michel on these matters. Perhaps you're underestimating how many jobs there are in ethics and applied ethics compared to some other areas of philosophy, though I'm not really sure. Third, the marginal costs of applying to additional jobs dramatically decrease once you hit a certain threshold because you'll have drafted cover letters for so many different job types that making additional revisions takes very little time. You mention a job app taking an entire afternoon of work, but very few apps should take that long once you've got a dozen or so under your belt. (The cover letter is often the only thing that's different across applications, after all.) I agree that there are some psychological benefits to scaling down one's number of job market applications, but the odds are stacked against you so much that cutting your application total beyond a certain point just makes it that much more difficult.
Toggle Commented Oct 24, 2019 on 118 at The Philosophers' Cocoon
Anon -- My Google Spreadsheet actually contained 196 jobs that I had flagged. That means that I reviewed and screened out 77 jobs as being too far outside my research and teaching areas. (The Tulane job that I mentioned in the post was just a missed deadline.) I'm not sure how many of these jobs had an "Open" AOS, but most of them were ethics and applied ethics jobs and those are my specialty areas. (There tend to be more jobs in ethics, applied ethics, and political philosophy than elsewhere; I'm pretty confident you couldn't plausibly apply for 118 jobs with a metaphysics or epistemology AOS.) I should also add that it's hard to know whether you're a "good fit" for a position in the abstract because job ads are vague, and it's impossible to know a search committees particular desires. Here's something to think about: of the three positions that I was offered, two were focused on bioethics (Lawrence University and OSU) and one was focused on teaching a unique introduction to philosophy course to lots of undergrads (Stonehill). My core AOS is environmental ethics, and yet I only interviewed for 3 positions where that was an explicit focus (Hamilton, Minnesota-Duluth, and Colgate). So I'd say it was a very good thing that I cast a wide net: if I hadn't, I'm not sure I'd be in academia right now. Also, as a gut reaction, I think 30 applications would be way to low to have a reasonable chance of success. I do know some people who did well filling out "only" 60-80 applications, though.
Toggle Commented Oct 24, 2019 on 118 at The Philosophers' Cocoon
KF -- Yes, I recall one of my old grad student colleagues who hypothesized that I would have been more relaxed at the event than usual and thought that may have helped me. Regarding the hotel lobby, it would have been too noisy to conduct an interview there, and as you imagine, there would have been a million distractions in the background. My second choice (if I hadn't gotten decent internet in the room) would have been a downtown coffee shop.
Toggle Commented Oct 24, 2019 on 118 at The Philosophers' Cocoon
Philjobs is probably the best place to get data on this topic, but it's a sure bet that there are going to be limitations about what you can infer from the information that's on there. A lot of schools -- especially community colleges -- do not advertise on Philjobs, and those colleges do have tenure-track positions (or the equivalent). The trends of who they hire could be different than what's listed above. Also, I think this graphical representation is not as useful as strict percentages would be. It looks like about 1/3 of TT jobs in the data set are taken by people fresh out of graduate school, 1/6 by people who have been out of grad school for 1 year, and the rest by people who have been out of graduate school by two years or more. This graph also creates the impression that your circumstances become more hopeless the longer you are on the market, but I think that inference should be resisted. People often go off the market after a few years because they get tired of moving around the country, they want to start a family and need greater financial stability, they grow weary of academia, or some other idiosyncratic personal reason. In all such cases, they might eventually have success if they keep at it, but circumstances make it impractical or unwise for them to do so. My suspicion is that the distribution is caused in large part because there are so many fewer people on the market 3+ years post-PhD than those who are fresh out of graduate school.
To clarify (since I realize now that recency bias also has a meaning in economics that is very different from what I said above), what I meant by "recency bias" is the tendency for people to recall things that happened more recently with greater clarity than those that happened further in the past. This is one of the two components of the "Serial-position Effect." The first of these is the primacy effect (which Marcus mentioned in his original post), and the second is the recency effect (which is what I was alluding to). People remember items that are first and last in a sequence the best.
This question came up at a postdoc meeting I had last year. While it was interdisciplinary across the humanities, I was struck that there was no consensus. Some thought it might be advantageous to apply early; some thought it wasn't advantageous at all; some even thought it was better to apply later in the process. Those in this last camp essentially appealed to recency bias (though they did not use that term): if you have a standout application that arrives to the committee rather late in the game, that will resonate more strongly with them than the standout files they may have looked out weeks (or months) ago. In most cases, these decisions are made over a long period of time, so there's definitely a chance that committee members will partially forget the strength of a file that they read weeks before the deadline. For what it's worth, my sense on this whole matter is that it's just a crapshoot and not something that applicants should worry about. The better reason to apply early is so that you don't get overwhelmed by, for instance, trying to submit 10 applications in a 2-day span to beat a cluster of deadlines.
Teaching-focused job applications will usually require sample syllabi, teaching evaluations, or a combination of both. Syllabi for courses you have actually taught are going to be more polished and valuable than merely hypothetical syllabi (for a course you might teach), and teaching evaluations for your own courses are vastly more valuable to search committees than assessments of how well you can lead a Friday discussion section. So, in general, the solo teaching experience would be more valuable. But if the person in question already has significant solo teaching experience and wants to use this GTA position as a chance to familiarize the professor mentioned with their teaching -- presumably so that this person can write the teaching-focused letter in their future job market dossier -- that might be the one scenario where it could be more beneficial to take the GTA position instead.
I'd recommend two of James Lang's books: _Small Teaching: Everyday Lessons from the Science of Learning_ and _Cheating Lessons: Learning from Academic Dishonesty_
I think the bigger concern with the "10 papers under review" standard is that most people will not be able to juggle 10 publishable ideas at the same time. I know plenty of people who publish a steady stream of work but very few who have that many works-in-progress at the same time. It takes a long time to nurture an idea into a paper that stands a real chance of being published, and I worry that aspiring to have 10 papers under review at all times will lead people to pursue a quantity-over-quality strategy that is counterproductive. Often, a more balanced approach -- one that involves consistently submitting material for review but also investing significant time in revising and polishing work -- will yield better results overall. Also, there has never been a point in my career thus far where I have simultaneously had 10 papers in my possession that were all worth publishing. Some ideas just don't pan out, and others wind up failing to advance the literature in a meaningful way. If you only have 4-6 publishable ideas on tap at one time, you're not likely to be throwing 10 papers at journals.
Thanks for your note, Suzanne. I hope your daughter is able to pull out of the spell in the same way that I did, but it takes time. Tough to climb out of that pit once you've fallen down so far.
Toggle Commented Jun 20, 2019 on The Shadow Self at The Philosophers' Cocoon
I think the student posing the question should be aware that the harsh realities of the job market and the isolating, difficult nature of graduate work could destroy their love of philosophy. Or it could send them on a collision course with mental illness. The sad truth is that a lot of people in academia are not very happy, and should this student find themselves in a position where they are no longer enamored with pursuing professorial life, they will need to guard against the sunk cost fallacy and other factors that could make it psychologically difficult for them to alter their career trajectory. For this reason, I think part of managing expectations is not getting too attached to pursuing an academic career and going to graduate school primarily for the experience of doing so rather than for the potential career that may (or may not) follow.
Whether or not one decides to share their recent work on social media, I think it's definitely worth your time to create multiple ways for people to find your work once it's published. Maintain an active PhilPapers profile and make sure your submissions are indexed properly (e.g., proper keywords, full abstract, accurate citation). Upload penultimate drafts to to academia.edu. Have links to your published papers on your personal website. Just increasing the accessibility of your work goes a long way toward getting others to engage with it. That being said, I also think notifying other interested scholars of a recent publication is perfectly fine. Doing it too often can certainly seem self-aggrandizing and desperate, but I think you'd have to be doing that an awful lot or doing it in a particularly narcissistic way to get under others' skin.