Posted in Teaching Tricks, The Ivory Tower, The Publication Gauntlet, tagged Adjuncts are Better Teachers, David N. Figlio, Inside Higher Ed, Kevin B. Soter, Memoirs of a SLACer, Morton O. Schapiro, National Bureau of Economic Research, Northwestern University, Orgtheory, Tenured Radical, The Atlantic on September 10, 2013 |
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Over the past few days a new study of Northwestern University by David N. Figlio, Morton O. Shapiro, and Kevin B. Soter and published by the National Bureau of Economic Research has been making the rounds. The study, discussed at The Atlantic, Inside Higher Ed, Orgtheory, and Tenured Radical, among others, finds that students learn more in classes taught by adjuncts than in those taught by tenured or tenure-track faculty. A lot of the people reporting on this study talk about the fact that adjuncts are being paid solely to teach so it may not be surprising that they do a better job of it than those who are also supposed to publish, serve on committees, publish, and publish.
What I have not seen anybody address for certain (and what I have not been willing to pay $5 to access the article to find out myself) is whether the “adjuncts” in the study included graduate students. Beyond the other potential problems with the study (such as using student grades to indicate greater learning), the answer to this question is crucial to interpreting the findings, since graduate students, like tenured and tenure-track faculty (and, as some point out, many adjuncts), also have many other competing expectations and are not just “paid to teach.”
If anybody has access to the full version of the paper I would love to know the answer to this.
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Posted in R1, Rank and File, SLAC, The Ivory Tower, The Publication Gauntlet, tagged Academic Phase Transition, Academic Publishing, Fabio Rojas, Memoirs of a SLACer, Orgtheory, The Publication Gauntlet on August 1, 2013 |
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Fabio’s post at Orgtheory today about academic phase transition, in which academics go from being in low demand to being in high demand very quickly, made me think about the experiences of one of my acquaintances from grad school in the publication gauntlet and, to a lesser extent, my own recent experiences.
Quite a few years ago at ASA I was talking to an acquaintance who had graduated and started working at a liberal arts school where he was about to go up for tenure. He was somewhat concerned because the school did not clearly define what the publication expectation was for junior faculty. At the time, he had published one peer reviewed article since starting his job and the official word of the administration was that junior faculty did not need at least two publications but that they did need more than one.
A few years later I was wondering if he had been able to get the necessary (but not required) second publication and checked his profile on the school’s web page. He had published two papers in the year he went up for tenure and two more in the year after receiving tenure. Checking his profile today he has published at least one paper in every year since.
As much as we like to think that we come out of graduate school as fully-formed academics, I suspect that for most people this process is not complete when they receive their Ph.D.s. Personally, it took years before I was able to settle into my current position where I am able to balance teaching and service with getting a bit of research done. Although my publication productivity has been relatively low up to this point, I hope that I am on the cusp of an academic phase transition of my own.
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Posted in Teaching Tricks, The Publication Gauntlet, tagged Banned Journals, Impact Factor List, ISI Journal Impact Factors, Journal Impact Factor, Memoirs of a SLACer, Orgtheory, Teaching Sociology, Teppo Felin, Thomson Reuters on July 11, 2013 |
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The ISI journal impact factors for 2012 were recently released, as I found out the other day via Orgtheory, since I don’t pay any attention to things like journal impact factors. I continued not paying attention to them until I saw a post on Facebook pointing out that Teaching Sociology is one of a record 66 journals banned from the list. (In case you’re counting, this post is the third out of the past four that have been inspired by Facebook. I am clearly spending my summer productively.) How does a journal get banned from the list? The previous link states that this occurs “because of excessive self-citation or because of ‘citation stacking’ (in which journals cite each other to excessive amounts).” Last year 51 journals were banned and only 34 journals were banned two years ago, so this seems to be an increasing concern.
Some of the posts about this, including Teppo’s at Orgtheory, state that these journals were banned for trying to manipulate their impact factors, but I’m not sure how much intent can be implied by the banning. Unlike US News rankings, which colleges can attempt to manipulate, editors themselves are not responsible for the citations of the papers in their journals. The very brief document that explains the reason for the bans (called “title suppression” by Thomson Reuters, who is in charge of the impact factors) states on the first page that “Thomson Reuters does not assume motive on behalf of any party,” so it appears that too much self-citation is bad regardless of the reasons.
Teaching Sociology provides an interesting counterpoint to the practice of banning journals from the list. If I write a sociological paper about an issue related to small group processes and publish it in Social Psychology Quarterly, I am likely to cite sources from a wide variety of journals because a wide variety of journals include papers about small group processes. If I write a sociological paper about an issue related to teaching and publish it in Teaching Sociology, however, I am likely to cite sources primarily from Teaching Sociology, since it is one of the only places to publish papers about this topic and, as a result, serves as a sort of unofficial archive of teaching-related publications in the discipline. I am not familiar with any of the other banned journals, but it would be interesting to see how many of them are, like Teaching Sociology, specialty journals that are the primary outlet for publications in their area.
Although I highly doubt that anybody at Teaching Sociology has a malicious intent to game the impact factor system, the high number of self-citations does point to a potential problem with insularity among sociologists who publish about teaching. Even if we cannot find discipline-specific exercises, I am sure that sociologists could find useful information about more abstract practices in the teaching-related journals of other disciplines. Maybe it is time for an interdisciplinary outlet for teaching-related publications. Or maybe there is an interdisciplinary outlet for teaching-related publications and I’m just not aware of it because I’m a sociologist who reads, cites, and publishes in Teaching Sociology.
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As I said last week, what we need is not an ASA bingo, but rather an ASA scavenger hunt. In a scavenger hunt, everybody is free to seek the items on the list in any location and order they choose, making this format perfect for a large conference like ASA. A scavenger hunt also allows for there to be a winner! Thank you to everybody who submitted suggestions. In keeping with previous ASA Bingo cards and their detractors I have tried to create a list that balances cynicism with (hopefully) positive experiences.
Click here to download the 2012 ASA Scavenger Hunt and don’t forget to read the complete rules below.
The 2012 ASA Scavenger Hunt Rules:
- The 2012 ASA Scavenger Hunt is open to anybody who is attending this year’s ASA conference in Denver. Your status as an undergraduate, grad student, assistant professor, or “famous” sociologist will not affect your chances of winning.
- Record the dates, times, locations, and/or session numbers for the items on the list between Friday, August 17 and Monday, August 20.
- Items may be double-counted. This means that if, for example, you attend an 8 am session that includes a paper titled “Farm Sociology: Bringing Cattle Back In” in which every presentation is interesting to you, an audience member asks a question that is actually a statement, the person next to you is sleeping, and the third presenter cannot get his flash drive to work you will have covered items 1-6 on the list.
- The person who submits a form accounting for the most items will receive $50. The date and time of submission will be used as a tiebreaker.
- All entries must be submitted to email@example.com by midnight Eastern time on Tuesday, August 21. Submissions can be scanned, photographed, or typed (except #18).
- The winner’s name, along with his or her winning entry, will be posted here in order to demonstrate that there was actually a winner and to discourage falsified entries.
- I will be playing along and will keep you posted on my own progress throughout the weekend. Although this blog is pseudonymous, I promise that I will not declare myself the winner!
- If you would like to discuss your own progress on Twitter, use hashtag #ASAHunt.
- Have fun!
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For the past three years, Kieran at Orgtheory has posted ASA bingo cards in advance of the annual meeting. For the past three years, however, there has been a problem. No, I don’t mean the complaints of some that the bingo cards could be too cynical. I can be fairly cynical about conferences myself. The problem with an ASA bingo card is that the ASA experience is inherently unlike the game of bingo.
Bingo is played in a room full of [smoke and] other people, each with randomized cards listening to eliminate enough numbers to win. Without doing something radical like emailing Kieran to ask, I assume that John Siracusa’s bingo cards for Apple keynote presentations provided the inspiration for the original ASA bingo card. The first of these, in 2006, included a standard card in addition to twenty randomized versions allowing different chances to win. (Incidentally, none of them were winners.) The beauty of Siracusa’s keynote bingo was that individuals in the audience could conceivably follow along, checking off events until somebody won and shouted “bingo!” in the middle of Steve Jobs’ introduction of some new product. (As far as I know, this has never actually happened, which is unfortunate.)
Which brings me to the solution. What we need is not an ASA bingo, but rather an ASA scavenger hunt. In a scavenger hunt, everybody is free to seek the items on the list in any location and order they choose, making this format perfect for a large conference like ASA. I will post the scavenger hunt form in advance of ASA next week, but if you have suggestions for inclusions in the meantime (especially if those inclusions go beyond the things included in the previous bingo cards that I linked to in the first paragraph) please send them to firstname.lastname@example.org.
The other problem with the ASA bingo cards is that there has never, to my knowledge, been a winner. I hope that the scavenger hunt format will make winning more likely, but I will also encourage submissions with a prize. The winner of the first-annual ASA scavenger hunt will receive $50 in cash. Official rules will be posted with my scavenger hunt form next week. Tell your friends.
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Posted in Major Procrastination Disorder, Procrastination, The Ivory Tower, The Publication Gauntlet, Tracking the Transition, tagged Farhad Manjoo, Increasing Productivity, Katherine Chen, Major Procrastination Disorder, Memoirs of a SLACer, Orgtheory, Slate, WorkFlowy on August 2, 2012 |
If you, like me, suffer from Major Procrastination Disorder, you will likely try anything to increase your productivity. Recent posts at Orgtheory and Slate aim to help with this goal. At Orgtheory, Katherine Chen talks about the challenges of handling both structured and unstructured time, focusing primarily on the use of deadlines (both external and self-imposed). Two of these suggestions, understanding prioritization and breaking large projects into small tasks, might be aided by the topic of Farhad Manjoo’s article at Slate. Manjoo reviews an app called WorkFlowy, which is essentially an electronic way to make lists. If your lists look anything like mine (and, apparently, Manjoo’s), you end up with a piece of paper covered with writing in all directions, some of which is crossed out, circled, or highlighted. Manjoo recognizes that most note-taking applications don’t deal well with this sort of approach, but argues that WorkFlowy is different:
[T]his app is the easiest, best-designed, and most-flexible note-taker I’ve ever come across, and it solves many of the problems I’ve had with other software. In the weeks I’ve been using it, this new program has become my go-to place for storing and keeping track of everything—not just to-dos and grocery lists, but my ideas for articles, all the notes I gather while reporting, all the tasks I need to do for those articles, and even all of the stuff I’m gathering for a book I’m working on.
Now if I could just motivate myself to try it… Maybe I need to set a deadline.
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I recently purchased copies of Fabio’s Grad Skool Rulz for myself and some students who are planning to go to grad school next year (and yes, I paid for the “copies” that I gave to students). The question I always have about packaged collections of things that originated on the internet is whether it is worthwhile to purchase something that is essentially available for free. In this case, I think that the ability to send the entire package as a PDF that a student can save somewhere is probably a better way of delivering information than saying “there’s a series of blog posts about grad school – look them up!” Since none of the undergrads that I know regularly read sites like Scatterplot, OrgTheory, or Crooked Timber, this is also a way to introduce them to the world of academic blogging that they will surely become familiar with when they are procrastinating during grad school.
Overall, I think that Fabio does a nice job of discussing things that grad students should know. I went to grad school in a supportive environment where these issues could be openly discussed with advisors, but not everybody is so lucky. For prospective students, this makes choosing a graduate program incredibly important. For those who are already enrolled, the Rulz should help navigate potentially uncertain waters.
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Posted in Grad School, R1, SLAC, The Ivory Tower, The Publication Gauntlet, Tracking the Transition, tagged Blogging, Historiann, Intellectual Isolation, Orgtheory, Publication Currents, SLAC, Sociology of Lima Beans on March 14, 2011 |
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A while back I talked about the fact that there are very different publication currents at the school where I was a grad student and the school where I currently work. I stated:
When coming out of graduate school I had a strong desire to do important research but I wondered if the desire for high-profile publications would fade. What I’ve found is that the desire hasn’t faded but the expectations of my institution create a situation in which I appear to be swimming against the current, wondering how long I can last before I am swept downstream.
When writing this, I was thinking about my own experiences and those of others at liberal arts schools, but this feeling is not confined to the SLACers of the world. In response to these feelings, I talked about joining an old-fashioned (and long-running) reading group. Historiann, however, presents blogging as another alternative in her blog post summarizing her talk summarizing her feminist blogging (how meta!). She writes:
From the perspective of an intellectual metropole like Austin, I can certainly see why some might think of academic blogging as a waste of time that competes with the time available to meet concrete career benchmarks. But most of us don’t end up in major university towns or big cities with seminars and symposia in our fields and armies of Ph.D. students–most of us leave graduate school and spend our careers in places in which we may feel intellectually isolated. So blogs can be spaces that become virtual communities where we can combat isolation and have conversations about our common interests. If your goal in blogging is to alienate friends and allies, then blogs may be potentially dangerous to one’s career.
I suspect that not all blogs work equally well for this task. A pseudonymous blog in which the author never talks about his specific work (and doesn’t allow comments) is probably much less effective at building academic communities than a blog focused on a person’s particular research interests. Similarly, an individual’s blog may be less effective at building community than a topic-centered group blog such as Orgtheory. I suspect that if I had ended up in the middle of nowhere the purpose of this blog may have quickly changed from providing “sociological perspectives on life and the liberal arts” to providing “discussions on the sociology of lima beans for the intellectually isolated.”
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The combination of a recent paper submission and a post by Tina at Scatterplot have caused me to wonder about the age-old question of “blind” peer review. The question, of course, is whether peer reviews can truly be blind in the days of online conference information (sometimes including papers) and internet search engines. This question came up at Orgtheory a while back, with the definitive follow-up poll suggesting that most people do look up the authors of papers they are reviewing, either before or after the review. Obviously, older individuals may be less likely to respond to Orgtheory polls and similarly less likely to look up authors in this way, but it is still likely that a blind review will not be blind to all reviewers.
Given that blind peer review is blind for a reason, it seems that we have a problem. Sure, a few high-profile scholars might be recognizable by their writing style, theoretical perspectives, or citations, but the vast majority of sociologists do not have that problem. I wonder, for example, how being an unrecognized name from an unrecognized school will affect me when my reviewers attempt to take the blinders off of the peer review process.
Given these issues, it seems that we have a few options. One is to give up on the illusion of blind reviews and sign both submissions and reviews. Another option is to take the blinding process further by removing titles as well, since titles are likely the easiest way to search for a paper that has been presented at a conference. Other options include preventing our conference presentations from being archived online and throwing out the whole presentation and publication model and moving to communes organized by John Galt. I’m not sure which of these would be most effective.
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