On academic publishing today

A few years ago I was desperately seeking a book contract, Writes Rachel Toor in the Chronicle of Higher Education“Things weren’t going well on the project I’d spent years working on, and I wanted a quick fix. In a frenzy I put together a crappy proposal for an advice book for graduate students and professors on writing and publishing and sent it to an editor I didn’t know at Harvard University Press.

“Five days later, Elizabeth Knoll responded by telling me she was already publishing a how-to-write-better book for academics, Stylish Academic Writing by Helen Sword (it’s excellent). Then she conveyed in the kindest way something I already knew: What I had proposed wasn’t a book. I had merely submitted a bunch of prose framing a table of contents for a collection of my Chronicle columns. She suggested we brainstorm an idea for a real book.

images“We had a warm and frequently funny correspondence about scholarly publishing, academic writing, issues and problems in higher education, growing up as children of academics, college admissions, mutual friends, and many other things. I went back to my original book project but still hoped that someday I would be able to publish a book with Elizabeth. Recently I found I had lost my chance. She’d left the press to become assistant provost for faculty appointments at Harvard. So I jumped on the opportunity to ask Elizabeth to reflect about her time in publishing, and to offer some advice on book publishing to Chronicle readers.

“Elizabeth went into the family business. Her father was a professor of English at the University of Nebraska; her mother had been one of her father’s most talented students. “I got my Ph.D. in the history of science,” she said. “Basically I was—and am—always curious about what counts as knowledge in different times and places.” After working at the Journal of the American Medical Association, Elizabeth got a job as an editor at the University of California Press in 1988, then at W.H. Freeman in 1994. She moved to Harvard Press in 1997. Continue reading “On academic publishing today”

On paying for book publication

At almost any gathering of academic publishers or librarians, you’ll hear someone float the idea—sometimes phrased as a question—that the model for publishing scholarly monographs is broken.

imgres-3As InsideHigherEd reports: “Two sets of ideas aired at the Association of American University Presses’ annual meeting, held here this week, don’t say the model is damaged beyond repair. But the proposals, both from groups outside the university-press community, suggest that it needs to be retrofitted, at the least.

“One possible approach came from the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation, and the other from a task force on scholarly communications run jointly by the Association of American Universities and the Association of Research Libraries. Both raised the question of how to better subsidize the digital publication of scholarly monographs, and both included the notion that faculty authors’ home institutions might do more to help pay for those books to be published. Such support would help deal with what university-press people often call the “free-rider problem,” in which institutions without presses—most of them, in other words—leave it to those with presses to support the system that gives faculty authors publication credentials.

“The AAU/ARL task force describes its plan as a “prospectus for an institutionally funded first-book subvention” that would shift the burden of payment to authors’ home institutions. That would “address the principal causes and effects of the market failure for monographs,” the prospectus says. It envisions that colleges and universities would agree to pay for an openly available “basic digital edition” of some faculty members’ first books; scholarly publishers could offer those titles for sale in other formats too.

“The plan also envisions that universities with a high level of research activity would offer subventions for three or four books a year, with an “annual subvention exposure” of roughly $68,000 to $73,000. Small colleges would pay for one or two books a year, and offer more modest subventions.  Continue reading “On paying for book publication”

Academic freedom vs disclosure

Just last month, Virginia’s high court upheld the University of Virginia’s right not to disclose a professor’s emails about his work on climate change to a conservative organization that requested their release under the Freedom of Information Act.images-1
InsideHigher Ed reports that “Now the university is again being asked to disclose a faculty member’s email correspondence and other personal records — this time by a gay rights advocacy group that says it’s concerned that the work of renowned Constitutional law professor Douglas Laycock is being used to support anti-gay and pro-life legislation.
“Although the two Virginia requests came from different sides of the political aisle, experts say they raise similar issues. Namely, experts say, FOIA requests regarding professors’ preliminary scholarship and personal correspondence walk a fine line between ensuring transparency in public institutions and infringing on academic freedom. The newest case is particularly notable due to Laycock’s eminence in the field and the fact that he is married to U.Va. President Teresa A. Sullivan.
“Earlier this month, the university received a FOIA request from two students, in consultation with GetEQUAL, a lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender rights advocacy group based in Berkeley, Calif. The request seeks access to emails to and from Laycock’s university account to three conservative political organizations, along with phone records from the professor’s work cell phone from January 2012 to May of this year and expense reports for travel during the same period. The request also seeks access to relevant emails sent to and from the professor’s assistant, and the professor’s employment contract. The request says: “At the heart of this [FOIA] request is a general concern University of Virginia resources may have been used to help finance causes that are perpetuating harm to [LGBT] individuals and the reproductive rights of women across the country, including here on UVA’s campus.” Continue reading “Academic freedom vs disclosure”

The Hunger Games of academic employment

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If you’re on the faculty job market, or will be soon, you may find yourself explaining the real possibility of failure to well-meaning family and friends.

And an attitude of Hunger Games triumphalism isn’t going to he helpful, as The Chronicle of Higher Education explains in an article entitled “The Odds Are Never in Your Favor.” by Atlas Odinshoot:

“Doctoral students are usually type-A overachievers, and so your loved ones have faith that you’ll come out OK because, well, you always have.

“But the academic job market is a process that necessitates failure. Your application materials will end up in the slush pile at dozens of departments, regardless of how well suited you are for the position or how carefully you tailor your materials. Outstanding candidates can easily fail to find a position. And that’s why, when I can’t quite convey that grim reality, I tell my family and friends that if they want to know what the job market is like for Ph.D.’s, they should read (or watch) The Hunger Games.

“Whether you see yourself on the job market as Katniss Everdeen (plucky heroine), Peeta Mellark (sensitive but somewhat clueless), or Cato (ruthless killing machine), only you can say.

The odds are never in your favor. I recently asked a successful job candidate—hired as an assistant professor at a very good college—what he viewed as a good application-response rate. That is, how many interviews should you get in relation to the number of applications you submit? He said, calmly, “Talking with other graduate students, I’d say somewhere in the neighborhood of one in 20 to one in 30.”

“Those are your odds of even getting to the interview stage. That’s not an official statistic, but official statistics don’t exist for this sort of thing. The odds of surviving the Hunger Games? One in 24. Continue reading “The Hunger Games of academic employment”

Psychedelic academics

You don’t have to spend much time at the six-day second international Psychedelic Science conference in downtown Oakland to learn that not all its 1,900 attendees are academic scientists, and that few are strangers to the power of mind-bending drugs. So reports today’s Chronicle of Higher Education:imgres-1

On my first day, boarding the conference’s sunset cruise of San Francisco Bay, I meet Chad, a middle-aged man dressed in jeans and a T-shirt, who says his trips with magic mushrooms have “reawakened him to the beauty of existence. “I am here out of curiosity,” he explains, adding that he has a desire to understand what he has experienced. “It is just really nice to know they are breaking through some of the barriers with formal research. God knows there is a lot of informal research.”

“As the sun sets behind the Golden Gate Bridge, I meet Seabrook. Wearing rings in both ears and a flower badge pinned to his cap, he says he has never had a bad trip in more than 20 LSD experiences. “The main thing I love about this is it is a reunion—I have so many old friends here it is like a family,” he says.

At least half the attendees on the cruise disembark early in San Francisco to join a celebration of Bicycle Day, commemorating the day in April 1943 that the Swiss chemist Albert Hofman sampled the lysergic acid diethylamide compound that he’d discovered and then rode his bike home.

“But dotted among the conference’s psychedelic aficionados, who along with healers, artists, and activists make up the bulk of attendees, are members of another tribe. Researchers in psychiatry and psychology are here presenting their latest findings on the use of psychedelics to help treat anxiety disorders and addictions for which conventional treatments don’t always work.

“Distinguished by their suits and business dress, the researchers are for the most part keeping to themselves any personal experiences with the drugs. They stress the drugs’ dangers as well as potential benefits. And I see none disembark for Bicycle Day. “We are a bunch of serious, sober academics,” Charles Grob, a professor of psychiatry and pediatrics at the University of California at Los Angeles medical school, told me on the phone before the conference. Grob is presenting the published results of his study using psilocybin, the active ingredient in magic mushrooms, to treat severe anxiety in advanced-stage cancer patients.

“I first get to know Grob—a personable man in a baggy suit with a beard and recently trimmed salt-and-pepper hair—the afternoon after the cruise, accompanying him to a nearby Starbucks to take a break from the conference’s colorful crowds and locate some hot water in which to dunk his echinacea tea bag. “People want to talk to you, they get really interested, and they kind of get in your space, and it’s like, ‘I gotta get my echinacea tea,'” he says.”

 

More at: http://chronicle.com/article/Psychedelic-Academe/139509/

Academic jobs going unfilled

Much has been written about the plight of new Ph.D.s in search of tenure-track positions that are becoming increasingly scarce.

But according to InsideHigherEd, however, some schools can’t fill their job openings.

“Even as new academics across the country struggle to find permanent positions, often teaching at multiple campuses as adjuncts to pay their bills, tenure-track positions at some institutions are going unfilled. Faculty salaries at public universities in particular are failing to keep pace with those at private institutions and in other industries, making it hard for some campuses — especially regional universities in small-town America — to retain and attract talent.

“Experts say the trend could further erode the tenure-track system and educational quality.

“The University of Wisconsin at Stevens Point isn’t alone in facing faculty turnover due to low salaries, but it may be among the most severe cases. Some 81 faculty members, out of an average of 340, have left during the past three years, about half from retirement and half from resignations – many more than in the years prior. And departures this year alone outnumber departures spanning the past three years. The College of Natural Resources alone has experienced a 25 percent turnover this year, although it is one of the university’s flagship programs. Continue reading “Academic jobs going unfilled”

The question of collegiality

Collegiality can be a dirty word in higher education — particularly in regard to tenure or promotion, where it frequently becomes a catchall for likability and other subjective qualities that some faculty advocates say can be used to punish departmental dissenters. But two researchers are trying – through data-based definitions and metrics – to sanitize collegiality enough for it to be a viable, fourth criterion in personnel decisions, reports Inside Higher Education.imgres

“In academic departments, “what we want is productive dissent,” Robert Cipriano, professor emeritus and former chair of the department of recreation of leisure studies at Southern Connecticut State University, and author of Facilitating a Collegial Department in Higher Education: Strategies for Success, said during the American Association of University Professors’ annual meeting Thursday (where their push to formalize the role of collegiality in faculty employment decisions drew some skepticism from the assembled professors). “As passionate as the discussion is, it has to be respectful. You go to lunch and it’s over.” Cipriano and his colleague, Richard Riccardi, director of Southern Connecticut State’s Office of Management Information and Research, have conducted several studies and written numerous articles about how department chairs deal with their jobs, including difficult personalities. Some 83 percent of department chairs in their current, national study of 528 chairs reported having or having had an uncivil or non-collegial professor in their department; in another, earlier study of 451 chairs, 79 percent said they would be in favor of having collegiality as a criterion for tenure and promotion if there was an “objective, validated tool” for assessing collegial behavior.

“Clearly, Riccardi said, collegiality matters — an idea outside research supports. Belonging to a collegial department figured higher in faculty satisfaction than did work and family policies, clear tenure policies and compensation, according to one cited study. Having just one “slacker or jerk” in the group can bring down the team’s overall performance by up to 40 percent, according to another.

“Fostering a culture of productive dissent means first developing operational definitions of collegiality and civility – lest they be subject to the “I know it when I see it” test, coined by U.S. Supreme Court Justice Potter Stewart in reference to the hard-core pornography at issue in Jacobellis v. Ohio in 1964, Cipriano joked. As an adjective, “ ‘collegial’ indicates the way a group of colleagues take collective responsibility for their work together with minimal supervision from above.” Civility indicates politeness and courtesy, demonstrated by collaboration, speaking in a professional and respectful manner toward others and “stepping up” when needed, among other similar traits.

“Non-collegial faculty consistently fail to demonstrate these traits, Cipriano said. “It’s not a bad day. It’s consistent behavior, over and over again, when that person is labeled a ‘jerk.’ ” Riccardi said uncivil behavior is on the rise, due to economic uncertainty, the “classic” mandate to do more with less, and less motivated and prepared students.

“Developing definitions is only half the battle, however; they then have to be shared with faculty as expectations in faculty handbooks, collective bargaining agreements and contracts, Cirpriano said. Discussions of collegiality should be proactive, not just reactive or punitive. (Riccardi said that while department chairs is his current study largely reported proactive attempts to curve uncivil or non-collegial behavior, such as contacting the dean (80 percent of those dealing with or who have dealt with uncivil colleagues), provost or human resources, others attempted punitive measures, such as scrutinizing the use of personal or sick days (9 percent) and exclusion from social functions (3 percent).”

Read more: http://www.insidehighered.com/news/2013/06/14/collegiality-experts-advocate-its-role-personnel-decisions#ixzz2WMKPAO1U

Academic moms: “baby penalty”

images-2Do babies matter to academic careers? It’s a question three researchers have spent a decade answering, and their findings are now available in what may be the most comprehensive look at gender, family and academe ever published. (Spoiler alert: the answer is “yes.”) Inside Higher Ed reports the unfortunate story:

“The book, Do Babies Matter? Gender and Family in the Ivory Tower, out this month from Rutgers University Press, includes new studies and builds on existing data about the effects of childbearing and rearing on men’s and women’s careers in higher education, from graduate school to retirement. Written by long-term collaborators Mary Anne Mason, professor of law at the University of California at Berkeley; Nicholas Wolfinger, associate professor of sociology at the University of Utah; and Marc Goulden, director of data initiatives at Berkeley, the work also looks at the effects of successful careers in academe on professors’ personal lives. It makes the case for more family-friendly institutional policies, arguing that such initiatives ultimately could save money for colleges by reducing “brain drain,” and includes best practices from real institutions trying to even out the playing field both for mothers and fathers who want better work-life balance. Continue reading “Academic moms: “baby penalty””

The anti-tenure track

Tenure is getting more rare in the current academic world – and at some institutions much more difficult and inequitably awarded.

This recent article from USC’s Daily Trojan tells one horrific story, but also paints a broader picture of practices at that institution.images-1

“On April 3, Assistant Professor of International Relations Mai’a Keapuolani Davis Cross, who had traveled cross-country from her tenure track position at Colgate University to join USC in 2008, was told she would not be granted tenure.

“Her position at the university will be terminated following the current academic year. Continue reading “The anti-tenure track”

The myth of the tenured academic job

Who wouldn’t want a job where you only have to work five hours a week, you get summers off, your whole job is reading and talking about books, and you can never be fired? As Rebeca Schulman writes in this week’s Slate.com, “Such is the enviable life of the tenured college literature professor, and all you have to do to get it is earn a Ph.D. So perhaps you, literature lover, are considering pursuing this path.images

“Well, what if I told you that by “five hours” I mean “80 hours,” and by “summers off” I mean “two months of unpaid research sequestration and curriculum planning”? What if you’ll never have time to read books, and when you talk about them, you’ll mostly be using made-up words like “deterritorialization” and “Othering”—because, as Ron Rosenbaum pointed out recently, the “dusty seminar rooms” of academia have the chief aim of theorizing every great book to death? And I can’t even tell you what kind of ass you have to kiss these days to get tenure—largely because, like most professors, I’m not on the tenure track, so I don’t know. Continue reading “The myth of the tenured academic job”

The academic underclass

New York Times recently reported that 76 percent of American university faculty are adjunct professors – an all-time high. Unlike tenured faculty, whose annual salaries can top $160,000, adjunct professors make an average of $2,700 per course and receive no health care or other benefits, as the ever-insightful Sarah Kendzior writes in Al Jazeera this week.

“Most adjuncts teach at multiple universities while still not making enough to stay above the poverty line. images-1Some are on welfare or homeless.  “Others depend on charity drives held by their peers. Adjuncts are generally not allowed to have offices or participate in faculty meetings. When they ask for a living wage or benefits, they can be fired. Their contingent status allows them no recourse.

“No one forces a scholar to work as an adjunct. So why do some of America’s brightest PhDs – many of whom are authors of books and articles on labour, power, or injustice – accept such terrible conditions?

“Path dependence and sunk costs must be powerful forces,” speculates political scientist Steve Saidemen in a post titled “The Adjunct Mystery”. In other words, job candidates have invested so much time and money into their professional training that they cannot fathom abandoning their goal – even if this means living, as Saidemen says, like “second-class citizens”. (He later downgraded this to “third-class citizens”.)

With roughly 40 percent of academic positions eliminated since the 2008 crash, most adjuncts will not find a tenure-track job. Their path dependence and sunk costs will likely lead to greater path dependence and sunk costs – and the costs of the academic job market are prohibitive. Many job candidates must shell out thousands of dollars for a chance to interview at their discipline’s annual meeting, usually held in one of the most expensive cities in the world. In some fields, candidates must pay to even see the job listings. Continue reading “The academic underclass”

Why women are driven from academic research

“The number of women studying science and engineering at undergraduate and postgraduate levels has increased markedly in recent decades.” says the webiste Oikos. ” However females have lower retention rates than males in these fields, and perform worse on average than men in terms of promotion and common research metrics. Two key differences between men and women are the larger role that women play in childcare and house work in most families, and the narrower window for female fertility. Here we explore how these two factors affect research output by applying a common ecological model to research performance, incorporating part-time work and the duration of career prior to the onset of part-time work. The model parameterizes the positive feedback between historical research Continue reading “Why women are driven from academic research”