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From DailyNous:

The Publication Emergency (guest post by J. David Velleman)

The following is a guest post* by J. David Velleman, professor of philosophy at New York University. It discusses the problems that arise from graduate students publishing more and more, and presents a pair of suggestions for how to improve matters. (Some of these ideas were discussed before at...

Comments

Comments in green on the left are from DailyNous, comments on the right are from the philosophymetaforum.

lessmoneymoreproblems

83 day(s) ago

This proposal would be a fine solution if this particular problem of pressure to publish were the only problem philosophy were facing. But as it stands, I think it clashes with another perennial problem that philosophy has always faced which is that 75% of jobs are taken by graduates of the top 15-20 universities. The only way that many graduate students below the top-20 get any notice beyond the halo effect of other people is by publishing more than them. As a graduate student not going to NYU, without a single publication, how do I distinguish myself? What should Post-doc and Job committees rely on? Letters? Other than publications almost all other indications point purely at the reputation of the school you came from. Publications are supposed to be the great leveller. (In real life I am not naive enough to think that publications really are the great leveller, but the point is that taking publications away makes things even worse, if that’s possible) Not to make this completely critical, I would like to push forward a MUCH better solution that for some reason hasn’t been mentioned at the top of the page and that is Jennifer Whiting’s “Slow philosophy” idea. That tenure committees should only evaluate the best 4 pieces of work of a philosopher and promote based on that. This would disincentivize graduate students and frankly other faculty from submitted garbage and would incentivize more adventurous work. Here is the link to this, I think, better proposal: http://dailynous.com/2015/12/31/a-modest-proposal-slow-philosophy-jennifer-whiting/ 183 Report

Not Until I have Tenure

83 day(s) ago

1. I don’t see why this proposal would be any different from one that in which editors simply refused to publish submissions from people without PhDs or not at Leiter top-20 schools etc. In all of these cases an arbitrary line is being created that vastly benefits those already in the profession (and already at good schools) over those who are not. 2. As someone not at NYU, Princeton, or Rutgers, Dr. Velleman’s suggestion seems to amount to an attack on programs outside of those that can place students on the basis of name recognition alone. I am in complete agreement that it would be much better if grad students had less pressure to publish, but I think that judging graduate students on publications is substantially better than judging them on the basis of who wrote their letters or where they got their PhD. 3. These impressions are furthered by the fact that Dr. Velleman is at NYU (which is mildly but not totally unfair—I suspect he doesn’t appreciate how important publications are for job candidates outside of the top schools) and by the fact that he doesn’t seem to recognize the serious problems with prestige bias that his solution would only exacerbate (which isn’t unfair at all). If we’re going to suggest sweeping changes to the profession, why not suggest that hiring and tenure committees insist that the materials submitted for a job or tenure case make no mention of where the candidate received their PhD and that letters of recommendation be sent in without a name attached? These suggestions are equally radical (and probably equally difficult to implement) but have the bonus of not screwing over everyone not at a big name school. 4. I see the harms merely being shifted here: graduate students want to publish and hiring committees hopefully want ways to sort candidates that actually indicate the quality of their work (as opposed to the fame of their teachers). Even if Dr. Velleman’s suggestions were adopted, the result would simply be that journals that allow graduate student submissions would take the place of those that don’t, both as a venue and as an (unofficial) marker of quality. 5. Let me be blunt: this suggestion is one that would benefit (a) established professors qua journal editors; (b) graduate students who are at the best institutions. At the same time, it represents a genuinely existential threat for graduate students at institutions where placement is more difficult. The rich get richer the poor get poorer. 93 Report

Current Grad Student

83 day(s) ago

Requiring that applicants make no mention of where they received their PhD is a swing way too far in the other direction — an overcompensation, no doubt motivated in part by good intentions, but also motivated at least in part by projection of one’s own relatively less prestigious school. It absolutely matters whether, say, an applicant has worked with Gideon Rosen on grounding at Princeton, or with expressivism with Gibbard at Michigan. We want to make the process as fair as possible, but trying to eliminate these features is not productive or wise. It’s an overcompensation. 10 Report

Worried grad

83 day(s) ago

I’m not sure I agree: the question is whether the price of the extra information outweighs its benefits. Regardless, I don’t think “Not Until” was making *that* suggestion seriously, given that they said it was “equally radical” to a position they rejected. 5 Report

Patrick Stokes

83 day(s) ago

“It absolutely matters whether, say, an applicant has worked with Gideon Rosen on grounding at Princeton, or with expressivism with Gibbard at Michigan” – does it, though? If a student is being evaluated on the merits of their dissertation, does it particularly matter who their advisor was? (Disclosure: I’m outside the US, and in the systems I’ve worked in things like letters and ‘pedigree’ don’t seem to count much in hiring decisions, whereas publications are nearly always decisive). 12 Report

Grad Student #3682

83 day(s) ago

Re #2: I don’t think Velleman would recommend judging job candidates merely “on the basis of who wrote their letters or where they got their PhD”. Any good hiring process would weigh these factors among others, such as research interests, departmental service, sociability, writing samples, and work at conferences. Velleman’s proposal, or lessmoneymoreproblem’s, might even incent people to do better work at conferences and to make conferences a better professional forum. I’d also like to chime in on a third rail in professional philosophy: professional philosophers work in an unlicensed profession that, like many professions, is impeded by bad work and bad workers. Philosophers who aren’t good at what they’re trying to do bog down journals, lure young academics into a profession where they won’t succeed, and spread bad ideas. These mediocre philosophers also draw on scarce academic resources that better philosophers could draw on instead. Philosophers have good reason to restructure academic processes to improve the profession’s integrity. The profession should more actively confront this fact and address whether making things harder for students at “low tier” is a suitable price to pay for a better profession. 8 Report

Philodemus

83 day(s) ago

I’m not sure exactly what you mean by students at “low tier,” but I can say with some confidence that I know some pretty mediocre philosophers from highly ranked schools who “draw on scarce academic resources that better philosophers could draw on instead.” I’m all for setting up some scheme to push out such philosophers, so long as it applies equally to everyone regardless of their school ranking. (Of course, I doubt the profession could ever actually agree on such a scheme.) 12 Report

Grad Student #3682

83 day(s) ago

I agree! I’d be glad to see a scheme that gave mediocre philosophers more incentive to leave, or to not join at all. I’m not confident, however, that that scheme wouldn’t also make things harder for philosophers at what I called “low tier” places (for lack of a better term). I meant “low tier” as a broad brush descriptor for places that produce little good work, train students who are unlikely to get academic jobs, and where those who do get jobs don’t do especially well. I think it’s worth confronting, too, that large scale shifts in professional policy are never perfectly fine-grained or equitable. Some good students will get shafted, some weak students unfairly amplified, and there’ll be rough periods as the profession adapts to new policy. 1 Report

K · July 31, 2017 at 8:28 pm

83 day(s) ago

Forgive the ad hominem, but these comments are fairly ‘grad student’ indeed. I didn’t realize the field was filled to the brim with hack mediocre philosophers from ‘low tier’ places gumming things up for us geniuses on top. The problem as Dr. Velleman describes it is not that the work being submitted is bad work by bad workers. I imagine 400 clearly bad papers aren’t what’s so challenging for journals to handle. Instead, it seemed like the problem was that there is a glut of reasonably acceptable but less ambitious/more formulaic work, and more generally that the pressures of publishing early on disincentive becoming philosophically well-rounded. That seems pretty fair, though I’d echo the first comment – disallowing grad student publications will lead to more emphasis on the program someone merely could get into and the fame of their advisors. What’s supposed to be so bad about having mediocre researchers in the field anyway? Most of the actual jobs are teaching jobs after all. These comments paint anyone who would rather focus on teaching as not being worthy of the field.This is all fairly academic though, because I’ve met very few if any bad philosophers, typically only arrogant ones. 20 Report

Daniel Kaufman

82 day(s) ago

Your judgments and characterizations of the worth of others and their work would be a bit more convincing if you weren’t a random, anonymous poster on the internet. 7 Report

Patrick Stokes

83 day(s) ago

It must be quite a burden being able to spot all these mediocre philosophers running around, somehow getting their work past peer-review in what we all seem to agree is a massively competitive and overcrowded marketplace. I have to admit I’ve never noticed them, which probably means I am one. 24 Report

Becca

83 day(s) ago

I (a grad student) love this idea, and would like to see more discussion of it. Why not have a (lowish) cap on how many articles a tenure committee may consider during tenure decisions, to encourage quality over quantity? (Does anyone already effectively do this in practice, or is it all about quantity, relying on journal prestige to determine quality?) 5 Report

real_email_fake_name

83 day(s) ago

For what it’s worth, this is already the case with T&P at *many* institutions. At my school, for example, I submitted only my “five best” articles in my application for T&P. 3 Report

Matt

83 day(s) ago

Why not have a (lowish) cap on how many articles a tenure committee may consider during tenure decisions, to encourage quality over quantity? At many schools, such things are set by the university, and individual departments have limited input to the decision. Other departments may not like the idea. So, there is certainly no way to make a general rule on this, even among PhD granting institutions, and certainly not beyond it, even assuming it’s a good idea. (It may be – I’m not certain.) 2 Report

What Is Done Is Done

83 day(s) ago

I totally agree with your suggestion. It makes much more sense compared with what was proposed in this article. I see no reason why restricting graduate students from publishing papers could either (i) reduce journals’ pressure of reviewing submitted papers or (ii) reduce the difficulty for young scholars to get promoted. It does not help (i) because, as long as the procedure for submitting and reviewing papers maintain anonymity, there is no way to prevent graduate students from submitting their papers. Even they cannot publish their papers, they can at least know whether their papers reach the quality of being published. If their papers get rejected, they can working on it based on the review comments. If their papers reach that quality, they know they don’t need to keep working on the papers. So the next step for them is to turn to another project and to produce some new papers. The more publishable papers they produce during their graduate studies, the more paper they can publish once they graduate. Since merely getting one’s paper reviewed has its own benefits, there is no reason why forbidding graduate students from publishing papers could solve the pressure faced by journal editors. Moreover, since graduate students can prepare for their to-be-published papers during their graduate studies and get these papers published once after they get graduated, the number of publications they will have when they are evaluated for tenure will be similar whether they are restricted from publishing during their graduate studies or not. So Velleman’s proposal does not really help to reduce the challenge now young scholars are facing with. 1 Report

Stephen

83 day(s) ago

“If their papers get rejected, they can [keep] working on it based on the review comments.” Who says they would get comments? Journals could ask submitters to certify that they are not grad students. That alone would dissuade most grad students from submitting their work. Journals could also decline to supply any reports if it turned out that the author were a grad student (which could be checked fairly easily by the editorial staff). 2 Report

Abraham Graber

83 day(s) ago

Having (lots) of publications is the only way for graduate students from less prestigious institutions to be competitive on the job market. If you’re not from a highly ranked program, it’s already nearly impossible to find a job. Take away the opportunity for graduate students to publish and it will be effectively impossible. 98 Report

NJB

83 day(s) ago

This proposal would, in effect, make tenure-track jobs inaccessible to graduate students. The jobs would go to people who are a few years out of the PhD, who have had the chance to prove their publishing capability. (Of course, a trend towards this is already present in the current job market.) This seems to me like a bad result, but people could reasonably disagree about that. 40 Report

Daniel Kaufman

83 day(s) ago

They already pretty much are, at least in departments like mine, where teaching experience is key. Because of the terrible job market, they are competing with large numbers of people who have already been in the pipeline for years, racking up both teaching experience and pubs, Graduate students would do themselves much better going out and humping as many adjunct professor jobs in as many possible areas as they can get, rather than add crumbs on top of the enormous piles of largely worthless philosophy we already have, due to the perverse publishing culture we have now. 6 Report

Becca

83 day(s) ago

Personally I’m going to go with “hell no” to the “as many adjunct professor jobs in as many possible areas as they can get” option. Having known a couple of people who have done that, honestly that’s usually a pretty miserable life for very little money (really just appallingly little) and basically no prestige and very probably no payoff in the form of a permanent / TT position in the end, after years of, well, being exploited. If, when I’m on the job market, it turns out that that’s my only real option for remaining in the discipline (after a couple of years of trying), I’m jumping ship and finding a different career path. 12 Report

Daniel Kaufman

83 day(s) ago

I’m talking about while you are in graduate school. By the time I finished my graduate program, I had extensive teaching experience in a number of areas, due to adjunct positions that I obtained at community colleges in NYC. It’s one of the main reasons I got a job straight out of graduate school. I am *not* suggesting one do this *after* one has already finished the PhD. 0 Report

Becca

82 day(s) ago

I’d been considering trying to do something like this while finishing my PhD, but to be quite honest, the hours and pay for adjunct professors here seems to be actually worse than my home department’s TA positions. There are a whole lot of downsides (less money, less time, more stress –> less likelihood of even finishing the PhD?) for a pretty dubious upside (more experience teaching the sorts of classes that adjuncts get to teach). If anyone wants to pay me a respectable full time salary for a “lectureship” position or some such while I’m working on my dissertation, I’d be glad to do that, but the practical reality of adjuncting is a dealbreaking step down from TAing, I’m sorry to say. 4 Report

Daniel Kaufman

81 day(s) ago

That’s fine. I’m just telling you that it worked for me and was the reason why I got a tenure track position straight out of graduate school. I could go into interviews and say, “I’ve taught Introductory Ethics and Applied Ethics, Introduction to Philosophy, and Philosophy of Mind, for years already. My own free-standing classes, not someone elses.” By the time I got my Ph.D. I had been teaching my own classes for four years. 0 Report

art

83 day(s) ago

First, as an advocate for the primacy of teaching in philosophy, I deeply appreciate your department’s commitment to hiring primarily on the basis of a good teaching record. And, I agree most schools are schools like yours insofar as teaching is prized over research production or, if not prized, at least it’s recognizably the main thing being done. Furthermore, I love your points about (a) remembering that philosophy is a humanities discipline not a science and (b) the cessation of tenure faculty continuing to publish. Still, I’m concerned that your comments strongly suggest that publishing is a less promising route to a TT career than getting more (and varied) teaching credits are (1) based on too little evidence and (2) hard to square with my experience. Regarding (1), I’m probably overlooking something, but from a quick review of your comments you support your suggestion with two things. First, you point out that committees you’ve headed/been on at your institution focused primarily on teaching record. Second, you point out that there are more teaching-focused (or non-research-focused) institutions than research-focused institutions. From those two points alone it doesn’t follow that increasing ones teaching-expertise is more likely to put them on a path to TT (at non-research-focused institutions). Is there evidence that the vast majority of these non-research-focused schools’ search committees have a search method like the one at your institution? Regarding (2), I have an extensive teaching record, have won a teaching award, and facilitate workshops on how to teach philosophy thru my active participation in the American Association of Philosophy Teachers. Still, I have only had three interviews in my three years on the job market. (To be clear, I like thinking about and working out philosophical problems, but my heart is in the teaching. That’s the only reason I want a ‘philosophy career’. I apply mainly to non-research-focused schools (including two year institutions). My phd is from a non-L-rific program. And, fwiw, I have only two refereed pubs, only one in a ‘recognized quality journal’ and two published book reviews. I have a ton of presentations and lots of service added to my CV.) I realize this doesn’t mean that what you say is incorrect. Perhaps I’m just just thinking that your comments/suggestions should be qualified a bit. In any case, thanks to you and your department for prioritizing teaching over research. And, thank you for your insightful comments. 4 Report

Daniel Kaufman

82 day(s) ago

Is there evidence that the vast majority of these non-research-focused schools’ search committees have a search method like the one at your institution? = = = You are absolutely correct that the arguments I’m making here are based on my own experience and on anecdotal knowledge acquired by way of discussion with others I know in similar institutions. For what it’s worth, two other professors at institutions like mine have echoed my sentiments here, in this thread. 1 Report

Michel X.

83 day(s) ago

Isn’t (2) already largely in effect? I was under the impression that usually, unless one specifically negotiates otherwise, the work one produces prior to arriving on the TT at most institutions doesn’t count towards tenure. As for (1), it certainly goes some way towards solving one problem by cutting the number of submissions (or does it? Do we *know* that the increase is mostly due to graduate student submissions?). But I think it would do so by sinking the ability of graduate students to get their first jobs, especially if they’re not coming from NYU or Princeton to begin with. Not to mention that it would put young philosophers at an even greater disadvantage vis-à-vis obtaining postdocs, especially from interdisciplinary granting associations. You have to remember that (unfortunately) the first job you get sets the tone of your career trajectory, either by removing obstacles or adding them. And if you don’t have a first job, it’s pretty hard to continue in the discipline. Maybe that’s a desirable effect, but if so then it should be pointed out up front. A more palatable alternative, IMO, would be to tie one’s ability to submit new work to a journal (i.e., after the first submission) to one’s (timely!) service as a referee. That may or may not do much to cut the volume of submissions, but it also doesn’t punish the new generation of scholars for the actions of previous generations. The publication cat is out of the bag, and it’s not going back in. 18 Report

Eric

83 day(s) ago

Hiring committees use publication volume and venues as a way to judge the excellence of candidates. Take that away and committees are going to lean even more heavily on the prestige of the candidate’s grad department. New (old) problem: students from high-prestige universities get all the advantages on the market. This is, of course, already a problem. But this policy will make things worse. As things are now, the only way for low-prestige students to get an advantage over high-prestige students is to out-publish them. It’s their only way to show their excellence relative to high-prestige candidates. I’m sure all the high-prestige candidates would love this policy. Now they can coast on their department’s reputation. As a student from a low-prestige department, I hate it. I want a chance to put-hustle the supposed big dogs. 55 Report

Daniel Kaufman

83 day(s) ago

Hiring committees use publication volume and venues as a way to judge the excellence of candidates. Take that away and committees are going to lean even more heavily on the prestige of the candidate’s grad department. = = = This is just flat-out wrong. Our initial cuts have been made entirely on the basis of teaching experience in the areas we are looking. The overwhelming majority of philosophy teaching is done in non-Leiterrific schools. 4 Report

Philodemus

83 day(s) ago

I think you can charitably read Eric’s comments as being about hiring committees for TT positions at Leiterrific schools, or research-oriented schools more generally. It’s fair to say that those positions are the most coveted in the profession. 8 Report

Daniel Kaufman

83 day(s) ago

Yes, and I think that’s really unfortunate and we ought to push back against it as much as we can. There are all sorts of advantages to teaching at a school like mine over a Leiteriffic one. 2 Report


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