Thursday, September 17, 2009

The Frederick C. Bumfizzle Society

I had a question from a fellow Smoker, Three Sickles Short, that was e-mailed to me a blue moon ago and I've been meaning to throw my two cents in on, but I was sick as a dog (maybe a pig?) as of late. In any case, here's the question:
Is there any point to joining professional organizations? I see the point to the APA in that they're the source of job postings, but what about things like the International [Plato/Kant/Wittgenstein/Whoever] Society? Does anybody care whether you're a member of such things, or are they just so much C.V. filler? If your dissertation is on Frederick C. Bumfizzle, had you better shell out the 20 bucks a year to join the Frederick C. Bumfizzle Society and prove your devotion to the profession, or is that 20 bucks better spent on alcohol to dull the pain of a crappy job market? Thoughts?
I can think of a few reasons that you'd want to join a professional society. Perhaps your dues pay for a journal that puts out good research and you get a subscription by being a member. Or, you need to join the society in order to present at their conference, which is a good one where every one who is anyone in your field will be in attendance. Or (as Three Sickles Short notes) it's the only way to get a poorly organized listing of jobs every once in a while that is sometimes published after the conferences at which interviews could be, and once were, but not anymore, conducted.

But, besides that, I think your money might be better spent on alcohol. I presume being a member of a professional organization that you pay to be a member of (think Who's Who?) doesn't pad your CV in anyway or make you anymore of an attractive candidate, even if the practical reasons noted above make it advisable to join the organization.

Of course, I could be wrong. And people should tell me if I am. After all, I do harbor some deep-seated resentment for one organization in particular (figure it out!). I mean, if you pay dues for a whole year, you should get a whole year of membership in return from the date you paid and you shouldn't have to renew mid-year and pay for a whole 'nother year just so you can submit a paper to a conference you probably won't get in to, but you worked your ass off for regardless. Right?

-- Jaded Dissertator


Mr. Zero said...

I guess I can see why it's possible that you would want to join the Bumfizzle society if there were some perks or something. But I have no idea why any search committee would care. And I suspect it would be a Pretty Bad Idea to put it on your CV, as though it were an accomplishment.

Anonymous said...

There are a number of very active Societies of X in my area of research that have proven well worth the membership fees over the years. It seems it depends on a few things, though. The Societies I have stayed with are well-organized and offer a number of conference opportunities through the year including an annual conference and/or a very large international conference periodically. Their email announcements to members provide information about relevant CFPs, job openings, provide abstracts for their own conferences, etc. In my own case, "everyone" in my area belongs, and the annual conference has permitted me to meet people I would not have much opportunity to have met otherwise. The annual nature of such meetings has allowed me regular contact with some colleagues. I do not have a long list of Societies that I find worthwhile, yet I'm not resentful of paying dues to those I so find. (And these dues tend to be very reasonable.)

There may something to bear in mind about what being members in Societies and active in them means in the short term in contrast to the long term. Very early in my career, especially in the job-seeking stage, I don't think there was much impact and significance to listing these memberships on my CV. Maybe it indicates to hiring committees that you are aware of networking in your discipline. I'm unsure. Once one lands a position and years accumulate, I've found that I've weeded out any extraneous Society memberships. Those now listed at the end of my CV are actually relevant to my scholarly activities. For example, eventually I joined a Society's planning committee and began assisting its organization and reviewing papers. Such work is indicated earlier in my CV under Professional Activities. This sort of stuff means something--"Service to one's Discipline" is what it's listed as in my tenure standards. Becoming a member of a Society early on may not have much weight, while over the long-haul participation increases it. The point, I think, is not to collect Society memberships like "friends" on myspace.

Member of the Society of Anonymous Commenters said...

Mr. Zero, I don't think it's a "pretty bad idea" to list such affiliations on one's CV for the reasons you mention. It's true it's not an accomplishment, but I don't think one should only list something on one's CV if it's an accomplishment. After all, refereeing isn't much of an accomplishment, but we list that.

But I get the idea: refereeing shows service to the discipline, but societies... not so much. But then again, many people now list the graduate courses they've taken and audited. The point of this is not supposed to make you look better to a search committee exactly. It's just to let them know what you've studied, who you've studied with, etc. It's not merely CV-padding or meant to be taken as an accomplishment. Similarly, I think the point of listing one's affiliations is simply to provide more academic information about oneself and to show one is active in various academic memberships. Knowing *which* ones can also be informative. For example, some people list the Society of Christian Philosophers. This can be helpful. Of course, committees probably shouldn't base their decision on one's religious affiliation, but it's perhaps less contentious that it's reasonable for an applicant to want to make such information known; perhaps she wants to make clear her religious affiliations so that a committee prejudiced against religious philosophers doesn't unwittingly hire someone they don't want (which could turn out to be a bad situation for the applicant even if they shouldn't have such aversions to religious folk)... or whatever.

But I'm not at all saying placing affiliations on one's CV is advisable. I imagine many on search committees would have your reaction as well. But, though it's certainly not mandatory, I think it at least should be permissible and not taken as a faux pas.

Platowe said...

One excellent reason to join a Society: getting to know people who share your interests. Going to society meetings at an APA can strike up relationships that are rich, rewarding, and last decades. One chance encounter in an elevator at a Central meeting some years ago has produced countless avenues of personal enrichment for me in friendship, scholarship, and even publishing collaboration. Forget the CV--just explore some joys of so-called networking.

Polacrilex said...

Professional societies are like anything else: they range from absolutely useless to completely worthwhile. Most regional societies are fairly useless unless you are REALLY into meeting and getting to know the people in your state/region (who, by the way, normally do completely different work than you do). These smaller societies are good for graduate students who want to get their feet wet presenting papers and doing a little bit of initial networking. Subject specific societies are good if they have journals. If not, they seem to be a waste of time... unless they have incredibly kick ass conferences (ISHPSSB is the exemplar of an awesome society that anyone who does philosophy of science should join; I have nothing but great things to say about their members and their conferences; they also do more for graduate students than any other society out there). In terms of including societies on the CV, I think it can be good for recent PhD's who want to show that they are somehow participating in an area even though they might not have a lot of publications or presentations in that area (let's face it, the majority of recent PhD's don't have a ton of either presentations or publications). I don't think it says a lot, but I suppose it might wink in the direction of something.

Second Year TT Guy said...

Joining societies connected to your research interests makes sense if: you want to support interest in the society's topics, it is necessary to attend conferences you are interested in, or you receive a subscription to a decent journal.

It does not improve your CV in any way. I cannot imagine a scenario where my view of someone would be improved or hurt by the societies they join or fail to join. Yet, it still might make sense to put it on your CV to help others get a sense of your interests.

Anonymous said...

It's not just about the CV, folks. Strategizing, positioning, jockeying, and instrumentalizing aside, you become a member of The Frederick C. Bumfizzle Society because Bumfizzle is fo' shizzle your nizzle! In other words, Bumfizzle is your kind of philosopher, and you want to belong with others that share your passion for that nizzle. That's it.

Ben said...

How about a general discussion of CV layout?

(I recently wrote about my current practice/thinking here: and there's also a related discussion at Phil Anon)

Do people prefer to put all publications (i.e. journal articles, book chapters, book reviews, conference proceedings, etc) in one bigger list, with peer-reviewed stuff somehow highlighted? Or is it better to have lots of separate lists - and, if so, how many?

The latter approach is clearer, and can draw attention to your more scholarly work without attempting to pass off sub-standard stuff as of the same level. OTOH, a friend told me he had more luck when he put everything into one long list - and in his case, it was very long...

m.a. program faculty member said...

Joining these organizations and listing them on your CV can also be an important form of signalling: e.g., "Society of Christian Philosophers" when applying to Wheaton and their iulk.