Thursday, February 12, 2015

In Which I Despair for the Underemployed Philosophers

Like many of you, I received the PFO from the Georgia Tech School of Public Policy. Like many of you, I was shocked to read that the Georgia Tech School of Public Policy received over six hundred applications. 600. Six-zero-zero. I sent out just over 40 applications this year. How is a person supposed to find a job in this environment?

--Mr. Zero

Wednesday, January 28, 2015

The Game Plan?

Anonymous posted these queries to the permanent job search thread. I'm reposting here for discussion:
Could someone knowledgeable address, perhaps here or in a new thread, what the game plan should be here on out for those of us who did not land a TT job? 
I'm a research type and get little placement help. What should I be looking to do over the next couple of months in order to secure a TT job next year or the one following? 
Postdocs are an obvious choice, but what about VAPs? How do people feel about those? Would it be much better to do a VAP at a pedigreed institution, or just a place that will leave time for research? Etc. 
In general I think it might be helpful to have some thoughts about these matters put down, since it appears that many, many of us are in this boat. 
The answer may simply be that there are no answers, since the process is not a rational one.
A general answer is difficult without knowing specifics about your CV, and how you're doing on the market right now. Are you getting first-round interviews? Fly-outs?  

Have you published? If not, one obvious place to start is to get some papers published or at least in the pipeline. An accepted paper is as good as a published one, but given the time it takes to even get a paper accepted for publication, you need to basically get it to a journal now. Or sooner. Postdocs are a great way to secure time for research and publishing. Mine helped me tremendously on the job market.

Not every place is going to care that you are published in a top journal, although obviously, avoid the really crap pay-to-publish journals.  

Do you have teaching experience? A VAP is a good place to get significant teaching experience. You might be a "research type," but most of the jobs are not "research" jobs, so having some good teaching experience will help you. 

Finding time for both research and teaching is always a problem. Get used to working your ass off. 

And yeah, the market is lousy. So, it might not be you. 


Saturday, January 3, 2015

The annual killin' it on the campus visit prep post

If you're prepping for fly-outs, previous posts containing logistical advice can be found here and hereSpiros has some good advice about job talks over at PhilAnon.

Some tips:
  • The campus visit is a gauntlet of job interviews and social calls, with some potentially harrowing, high pressure philosophy thrown in. You'll meet with various deans, and lots of faculty, and students. You'll be continuously shuttled from one thing to the next, with very little down time in between. You'll be dined (sometimes wined, but many university policies don't permit putting alcohol on the tab) more often than you can bear. If you're not a morning person, or not at your peak before you've had some caffeine, use your hotel room coffee maker to fortify yourself before the breakfast meeting. 
  • Take portable snacks, especially if you have dietary restrictions. The days are really long, and being hungry results in brain fails. 
  •  The campus visit is also an opportunity to learn about the school. You can get a sense of the campus culture, and of the department. Don't think like someone who is desperate to get just any job, but rather like someone who might be sold on this particular job. Ask questions about the students, about campus life, about what it's like to live there. You will need to exhibit at least minimal chit-chat skills, because you'll be doing lots of it while people are walking you around campus, driving you to the airport or restaurants, etc. You'll sometimes get a tour of the area (especially in small towns where they might think you need to be sold on the location). It's reasonable to ask about things like the housing market. 
  • Ask in advance for a detailed schedule of what you'll be doing, when, and with whom. You might give a job talk, you might be asked to do a teaching demo. Or both. Get as much info as you can about the teaching demo (will it be an actual class [with how many students], or an audience, will it be in a classroom, will there be tech available), and about the job talk (how much time will you have, who might be there), etc. 
  • Before you go, look up the people you'll be meeting in the department (all of them), but also the deans and administrators. You never know when some little bit of trivial knowledge (hey, we both went to Peoria U! I also love the poetry of Robert Service! How about those Packers?) might be fodder for a good convo, or at least make you memorable (in a good way)
  • Be very, very nice to the department secretary/admin assistants. They don't work for you, so don't act like they do. S/he is also often the person who is going to handle your travel reimbursements.
  • Have at least two pairs of good pants, especially if you're going to a wintry clime where the odds of getting mud/snow/salt on your pants are high. Take a carry-on so nothing gets lost in transit. 
  • If you require accommodation for particular needs (a lactating mom might need time to pump, or you might have dietary restrictions, or need time for religious observance, or whatever), you're better off saying something in advance than trying to sneak off to TCB. You don't really want to do anything during your visit that will give someone a reason to think you're up to something suspicious (drugs! booze! Satanic rituals!). Better to have the awkward conversation ahead of time than to find yourself trying to compensate for unexplained behavior. Obviously, some departments will be more friendly/understanding about special needs than others, but it's worth remembering that if you're hired, you'll be working with these people for a while, so maybe it's better to know in advance if they don't play well with others.
  • You'll sometimes meet with someone from HR to talk about benefits, so you might think about questions for them. (This might be where you want to inquire about maternity/paternity leave, childcare subsidies, etc.)
  • I went to a meeting with a job candidate a while back and observed that he sometimes deflected questions about "how would you teach X?" by asking questions about whether doing Y would be of interest to the department or the students. He also asked specific questions of faculty, like "How do you integrate Z into courses?" or "Is there support for doing A?" It made him sound thoughtful and interested, rather than like someone just answering standard questions with memorized answers and trying to please. (He was offered the job, too.) On the other hand, if you're interviewing at a place where they really need you to teach specific service courses, offering them a list of exciting new courses you'd like to develop instead of teaching Intro may not go over well. So, you wanna have a good feel for what will be expected of you.
  • Take copies of your dossier, including course syllabi, just in case. They might tell you in advance what courses you'd be expected to teach if hired, and you can think about those and work up spec syllabi if you have time. 
  • Anything critical like your job talk or teaching demo slides should be copied onto a flash drive, copied to the Cloud, copied to Google Drive, tattooed on your hand, emailed to yourself, etc. If you're using a Mac, convert stuff to a PC friendly format. I'm  super paranoid about that kind of thing, but I've had TSA drop my laptop on the floor. Print your lecture notes, etc. I had a teaching demo once where all the tech failed except the document camera, but I had printed out all my Powerpoint slides. Success!
  • Be ready to improvise should technology fail during a talk or teaching demo. (Hence, have printed notes.)
  • If you want to have a handout or some such, ask in advance if that's OK, and ask in advance if you can email it to them to print (or print them yourself and bring with).
Potentional pitfalls:
  • When talking to deans and administrators, keep in mind that many of them are really academics, or ex-academics, and they would like you to know that. I found they often wanted to "talk shop" with me about philosophy, in addition to talking about the nuts and bolts of the school. So speak to them as you would speak to potential colleagues. This is also where you might get questions that are attempts to covertly feel you out about your commitment to the place, to teaching, whether you're a flight risk, etc. So too many questions from you about research support, travel support, etc. might not fly in a teaching-oriented place. Keep in mind that no department makes a hire without approval from higher-ups like deans, so these are interviews you really do need to prep for.
  • Since I'm already in a TT position, I asked last year about policies regarding credit towards tenure for work done (if you've been in a postdoc, some places will let you use that work in your tenure file too), and whether they'd require me to start the tenure clock all over again (which I don't want to do at this point). I got the distinct sense that these questions were not at all favorably received, although I don't really know why they were not favorably received (someone enlighten me, if you know). So, if you're in a similar position, that's probably a discussion to save for when you have an offer.
  • I think the general consensus about spousal accommodation is that talking about it should wait until you have an offer. I suppose that might include not inquiring about policies until then as well, although some schools will volunteer that kind of info as part of their "sales pitch." In my experience, if you want a spousal accommodation, you need to negotiate that with the initial contract. Once you're hired, they don't have much (any) incentive to help you out with that, regardless of how many times they tell you during interviews that they totally support spousal accommodations. (This is something to think about for non-academic spouses too, especially if you're moving to rural or isolated college towns where there are few jobs off-campus. Many, many faculty spouses get hired into administrative positions on my campus -- this is not only a substantial income benefit, but also means you're potentially not paying for health insurance for a spouse.)
  • I guess the conventional wisdom about marriage and/or children is that it is viewed as a liability for women, and a positive for men. Departments are going to vary a lot on this kind of thing, and some will be more family-friendly than others. The people interviewing you are discouraged by HR from asking about marital status or children, but if you want to ask about things like schools or childcare, or maternity/paternity leave, you might want to proceed with caution.
  • Some departments ask their candidates to pay for their flights and accommodations and seek reimbursement after the campus visit. It's a really shitty practice, but it happens. I had two fly-outs last year where I had to buy my own tickets. One reimbursed me within a week of my campus visit. One took three months, and numerous, increasingly irate emails from me to the department chair (they didn't offer me the job, so at that point I had nothing to lose, except my thousand bucks). Some places require that you submit paper tickets for reimbursement, so you might want to get those instead of using your smartphone.
You're one of a very select few, so try to enjoy your moment, without being a pompous jerk. Really, nobody likes a pompous jerk. You'll have many people who are intensely paying attention to you, which is a rare thing. The job talks can be fun and lively, and a chance to have your work taken seriously and discussed at length. Savor it. 


Thursday, December 25, 2014

APA attendees, report to HQ.

I'm not going, but those of you who are, report back. I'm curious to know what it's like now that it's no longer THE place for job interviews. Is it a ghost town? Is it the same as it ever was? Are there tumbleweeds rolling through the Smoker?


Thursday, December 18, 2014

A permanent thread for info or questions about specific jobs

A lot of people in the comments seem interested in having space to discuss or request information about specific jobs. If providing information and if possible, please provide the source of your information.

Here's a permanent thread for this. Perhaps we can use the other open threads for people to trade horror or success or weird stories, any hints that they might think are helpful, strategies for dealing with stress of the job market, etc.

In the future, after this isn't at the top of the page, you can find this thread in the sidebar. Here's a picture, with the place to find this thread in the future.

Wednesday, December 17, 2014

We turned 6 last week [+ New Job Market Thread]

This was our first post. Our stats are below.**

I cringe a little looking back at some past posts. I probably wasn't as funny/clever as I thought I was (Seriously, referencing The Shining in our first post? Real fresh, bro.) or as thoughtful as I should've been (I'll leave it to the reader to find those). And I probably got, like, too raw sometimes (again, for the reader to find). Such are the risks we run archiving our growth as bloggers, scholars, and people (?) on the internet.

Thanks to everyone who reads. I remain pleasantly surprised by our audience, our commenters (we've published over 22,000 comments and counting), and more generally by the little community that's popped up here.

Big-ups especially to our co-moderators, Mr. Zero and Zombie (once commenters, themselves) who kept the blog running through some of the lean years and still keep the blog running more than I do (I've been seduced by microblogging). So happy to have them!

Okay. Okay. Who cares about this, right? Use this as a new job market thread. My stats, excluding the 20 PFOs I got from Wooster, a job I didn't even apply to (not really; though someone in the comments below said they got 4 identical PFOs from Wooster and counting; oof):
Current Position: Yearly; sorta secure(?); they'll keep me around if they can/the budget permits/the need persists (so it seems; they just want to keep it casual still, you know?).
Publications: Not enough to make me competitive for most jobs; folks coming out the last few years are really crushing it; keep it up (or knock it off? I'm torn).
Teaching experience: Plenty.
Applications this year: A handful.
PFOs this year: None official; one silent.
Interviews this year: None (but see applications).
Plan B: None. But I could see doing other things, finally. Especially if those other things don't require me uprooting my life every few years chasing the dragon.
-- Jaded, Ph.D. 

**6 years in, here are our stats (first one from Google (only from 2010 forward); second from Statcounter; click to embiggen):

Thursday, December 11, 2014

By popular demand: new job market thread.

Today's stats, thanks to's new date search feature (thanks again, guys!):

196 TT jobs listed between Aug 1 and Dec 11, 2014.

I count 101 fixed term positions (postdocs, VAPs, fellowships), same dates. Of those, more than half -- 53 -- are postdocs.

For good measure, 46 tenured/senior positions advertised.

Seems to me there are more postdocs than there used to be, which is positive, if they actually serve to transition philosophers into TT jobs (as in the sciences). If philosophy can avoid the perennial-postdoc problem they have in the sciences.


Wednesday, December 10, 2014

The 2014 PGR: Confidence Intervals and Graphics

As you have probably heard, the 2014 edition of the PGR went live earlier this week. The results had been extensively previewed, so there wasn't anything terribly surprising that I could see. One thing that was a little surprising was that the confidence intervals we were promised are not going to fly after all, and that three types of graphical representations of the data appear instead. (Of course, this was announced a little ahead of time, too, so it wasn't exactly a surprise, either.)

Why no confidence intervals? A couple of reasons, according to Leiter. A) Given the design of the survey, in which not all evaluators evaluate all departments, there are several ways to calculate them, and they "did not want the precise method chosen to become a matter of pointless controversy." And B) properly informative confidence intervals should be rounded off to two decimal places, and this generates an accuracy-related mismatch with the PGR's long-standing practice of rounding to the tenths place, which is done in order to discourage "invidious comparisons."

I guess I kind of accept point (B), except that I don't see what the big deal would be to post the more-precisely rounded means along with the accompanying confidence intervals off to the side, or on a separate chart, while retaining the customary averages rounded to the tenths place for the main rankings. I don't see how this would encourage invidious comparisons. You'd have numbers rounded to the hundredths, but you'd also have the confidence intervals right there.

Point (A) seems to me to be a non-issue. If there's more than one reliable way to do the calculation, pick one of the reliable ways—whichever one you want, as long as it really is reliable enough—and tell whoever doesn't like it to go fuck themselves. If it's reliable then it's reliable, and it's not like we're measuring the critical mass for weapons-grade plutonium. One method is probably as good as the next, and I can imagine only that the bootstrapping procedure Healy used on the 2006 data would be totally fine. (Of course, maybe I'm wrong about all of this, and if I am I hope one of y'all Smokers who knows more than me about this will set me straight.)

Furthermore, I think the survey-design issue that Leiter says gives rise to point (A) serves to underscore the need for confidence intervals. It's just not possible to understand or properly interpret the Report without them. Not all evaluators evaluate all departments. Some evaluators evaluate all or almost all of them, but some evaluate only a few. And, as Healy points out, "higher-ranking departments do not just have higher scores on average, they are also rated more often. This is because respondents may choose to only vote for a few departments, and when they do this they usually choose to evaluate the higher-ranking departments." (His 2006 analysis found approximately the same thing.) That means that, generally speaking, more evaluators evaluated the top departments than the rest of the field, and explains why the confidence intervals for those top-rated departments tended to be narrower than the rest. That is, the size of the confidence intervals is not constant throughout the report, and so a difference of 0.1 might be meaningful when it involves a top-ten department like Yale and then non-meaningful when it involves a top-30 department like Virginia.

Now, I realize that I'm on record as being basically okay with looking to the confidence intervals for the 2006 Report and extrapolating/guessing about what they suggest about this year's edition. But i) I don't think doing that is close to ideal, and I was really looking forward to Healy's analysis of the 2014 data; ii) I think that it's okay to do that only if there's no more recent data available; iii) I realize that the 2006 intervals are only indirectly relevant to the 2014 edition, and don't have any direct implications in any specific case in 2014—just general trends, and then only suggestion, and definitely not anything close to proof; and iv) I'd really, really much rather just have confidence intervals calculated on this year's data—so then, you know, we'd know. (In retrospect, I think I could have been more clear about some of this in my post from last week, and I apologize for any confusion that might have caused.)

I do like that Brogaard, Healy, and Leiter have included these new graphical figures. I think that the histograms and kernel density plots are interesting. I do feel like they help me understand the ratings better. I do. But I don't agree with Leiter's claim that "these visualizations convey the necessary information in a detailed and accessible way." On the contrary. If you are trying to figure out what to make of the fact that (e.g.) UConn's score increased by a margin of 0.4 while MIT fell by 0.3 (which is a slightly smaller margin but takes place much higher up in the rankings), these visualizations are insufficient, and do not convey the necessary information. In order to understand what's going on there, you need confidence intervals calculated on 2014 survey data for each department, because sample sizes differ from department to department and tend to get smaller as you go down the rankings.

And so, while I appreciate why they don't want to invite "invidious comparisons" by posting rounded mean scores that are too fine-grained, I think that ultimately this is a misguided reason against calculating confidence intervals or including them in the Report. It seems to me that you need the confidence intervals in order to know which comparisons are invidious. And if past analysis is any guide, there's reason to suspect that differences of one tenth of a point are sometimes at least potentially invidious, and that this margin is more likely to be invidious the further down in the rankings one goes.

In closing, I continue to think that confidence intervals are a vital tool whose absence greatly impairs the PGR's usefulness, and I don't see any good reason not to include them.

Ok. I'm sorry about this. People have been asking in comments for a new thread, and I realize that this was not what you wanted. Last post about the PGR for a while. Promise. Soon I'll put together one of the "interview questions" posts we do every year.

--Mr. Zero

Thursday, December 4, 2014

Did The "Big Movers" of the 2014 PGR Actually Move? (No)

After the most recent PGR survey closed, Leiter posted some data about which departments improved most in the rankings. That is, which departments increased their ordinal rank most, in comparison with the next-most-recent ranking, in 2011. But because the "data" is presented only in terms of ordinal rank, the size of these moves are highly misleading, and are almost all based on trivial differences in mean numerical scores.You can see this when you compare the mean scores for the 2014 survey (reported here for the top 20 and here for the rest of the top 50) with the mean scores as reported in the 2011 version of the Report.

According to Leiter, the biggest movers of 2014 are the following, along with their numerical scores from both the 2011 and 2014 versions of the Report (I omit Saint Louis University, which was not evaluated in 2011):

Yale University (from #7 to #5, occupying that spot by itself)
Yale 2011 mean score: 4.0
Yale 2014 mean score: 4.1 
University of Southern California (from #11 to #8, tied with Stanford)
USC 2011 mean score: 3.8
USC 2014 mean score: 3.9 
University of California at Berkeley (from #14 to #10, tied with others)
Berkeley 2011 mean score: 3.7
Berkeley 2014 mean score: 3.8 
University of California at Irvine (from #29 to #24, tied with others)
UCI 2011 mean score: 3.0
UCI 2014 mean score: 3.0 
Washington University in St. Louis (from #31 to #24, tied with others)
Wash U 2011 mean score: 2.9
Wash U 2014 mean score: 3.0 
University of Virginia (from #37 to #31, tied with others)
UVA 2011 mean score: 2.7
UVA 2014 mean score: 2.8 
University of Connecticut, Storrs (from #50 to #37, tied with others)
UConn 2011 mean score: 2.3
UConn 2014 mean score: 2.7 
Of the "big movers" that were included in the 2011 survey, only UConn's mean score has significantly improved. All of the others improved by a trivial margin of 0.1, except the University of California at Irvine, whose mean score stayed exactly the same.

The bulk of the rankings are densely packed and ties are common, which means that apparently substantial jumps in ordinal rank can be caused by disproportionately negligible changes in mean evaluator score, or, in the case of UC Irvine, by no change whatsoever. In the case of UCI, what actually happened was this: Indiana and Duke fell from 3.1 to 3.0, UMass and Ohio State fell from 3.1 to 2.9, and Colorado fell from 3.1 to 2.8. None of these departments changed by very much—two by 0.1, two by 0.2, and one by 0.3 (Leiter suggests that differences of 0.4 or less are unimportant)—but it was enough to cause UCI to jump five spots and create the illusion of a substantial improvement.

Kieran Healy's analysis of the 2006 PGR data showed that "in many cases" differences of 0.1 were "probably not all that meaningful." This is the only time I'm aware of that any attempt has been made to perform this kind of analysis on Leiter's data, and although Leiter says Healy will be calculating confidence intervals for the 2014 edition, those calculations are unfortunately not yet available. But on the assumption that the 2014 numbers are similar to their counterparts from 2006, there is reason to doubt whether these differences of 0.1 or less represent actual differences—which means that almost all of the departments Leiter has singled out as "big movers" haven't actually moved at all. In all but one of the cases Leiter singled out, the 2014 survey didn't measure movement.

And so, as I have said before, there is a general problem with this kind of ordinal scale in that it fails to accurately represent the differences between ranked departments. As another example, the most recent data has NYU as the best-ranked department with a mean score of 4.8, which is better than #6-ranked Harvard and Pittsburgh by a margin of 0.8. That same interval of 0.8 also separates the sixes from UC San Diego, which comes in at #23. I, for one, find it impossible to look at the PGR and see these differences accurately. To my eye, the way the information is presented significantly understates the difference between NYU and Harvard/Pitt, and dramatically overstates the difference between Harvard/Pitt and UCSD.

Finally, I should say that I was glad to read that Kieran Healy will be calculating confidence intervals this time around. I think that information would be helpful. However, I bristle a little bit at the attribution of this idea to a session at the 2013 Central Division APA meeting; I raised this idea in 2009.

 --Mr. Zero

Wednesday, December 3, 2014

[Guest Post] APA interviews are morally impermissible (Again)

The blockquoted material below was originally published August, 5th, 2014. Use the comments as an open thread!

We're full-swing into the job market. Thanks to everyone who has responded to my survey about first-round interviewing practices (which is still going on; now candidates might have information)! Of the approximately 40 schools who have responded to my survey, 35 or so are doing interviews via remote means or skipping first round interviews altogether.

With those results in mind, here, again, is Asst. Prof. at a Canadian School's take on the moral impermissibility of APA interviews:
It’s the middle of the summer, so no one wants to think about searches for new tenure track hires. But now’s the time to talk about something important -- before those searches start. 
APA interviews are really expensive for job candidates. This isn’t news, but it’s worth doing the math again. Flights can easily run to $500 for candidates on the West Coast. If people are coming from the UK or Canada, it’s closer to $800. I don’t even want to think about Australia or Asia. Then there’s hotel costs, which even if you bunk with a bunch of friends in one room, is probably going to run past $100. So we’re talking about $500, $600, or a lot more for candidates to go the APA. 
That price might have been one thing in the olden days, when everyone got ten interviews at their first APA, and then got a job, and never had to deal with the job market ever again. Back then, the APA was a one-time cost. But that’s not the world we live in now. Now people spend three, four, or five years on the market before they get permanent jobs. They go to APAs where they have one interview -- a one-in-12 shot at a job. And then they do it again the next year. And then again the year after that, and the year after that. At that point, they’ve spent $2000 or $3000 just trying to get a job.
That bears repeating: candidates can easily spend well over $2000 going to APAs for interviews. 
For a grad student? For an adjunct? For some postdocs and VAPs? That is way too much money. It’s two or three months’ rent. It’s health insurance. Grad students, adjuncts, and other part-timers are the most economically marginalized, most economically vulnerable members of our discipline. To impose those costs on them is to impose on them a considerable hardship. 
Now, you could argue that in the olden days, there was just no way to avoid APA interviews. Search committees had to get a first look at people before they made up their minds about who to bring out to campus. That would be a bad argument for at least two reasons I can think of, but it’s an argument you could make. 
But now there’s Skype. Really. It’s a real thing and it works. I know, I know, it can be glitchy, and even when it’s not, it’s not the same as an IRL meeting. 
But how much better than a Skype interview is an APA interview? So much better that it justifies forcing some adjunct to spend $500 she could have spent on her kids’ Christmas presents? Or her health insurance? Or her rent? 
To recap: APA interviews impose a considerable economic hardship on the most economically vulnerable members of our discipline. And since there’s Skype, they impose that hardship for no reason at all. But to impose a considerable hardship on the weakest and poorest among us -- for no reason at all -- is an injustice. It is morally impermissible. 
That point deserves to be put in the second person. If your department is hiring this year, and if you let your department do APA interviews, you are committing an injustice. You are forcing economically vulnerable people to spend way more money than they can afford, in order to have a one-in-12 shot at your job. And you’re doing it for no good reason at all. That is a despicable thing to do. 
So what should you do? Easy. Don’t do APA interviews. Just refuse. Don’t wring your hands this year and think maybe you’ll skip the APA next time around. Don’t wait for the APA to come up with some new policy. Don’t wait for a few other departments to start skipping the APA before you do. Just do it yourself. Do it this year.
-- Jaded, Ph.D.