Monday, March 29, 2010

One Nice Thing About Graduate School

One nice thing about graduate school was that that there were a bunch of people who were either obligated by contract or who had a strong professional/departmental interest in reading my papers. Nowadays I must rely on the kindness of friends and acquaintances, almost all of whom have various contractual or professional/departmental obligations to a lot of people other than me. The results are unsurprising and not awesome. Usually if I send a paper to a bunch of friends one or two might get around to it in a month or so. Possibly this is in part because almost all of these people live a thousand miles away from me, and so never see me in the hall, and are consequently never made to feel guilty by the sight of me. I've also tried sending papers to well-known people from the paper's bibliography, but I've never had any luck.

No point. Just griping. Carry on.

--Mr. Zero

21 comments:

Anonymous said...

I've been wondering about something similar this past week. I'm finishing up a paper that largely involves a response to arguments by one other philosopher. I've never met this person. Would it acceptable to solicit this person's feedback?

Anonymous said...

One nice thing about going out on the market is that (ideally) numerous intelligent people will be reading and commenting on your work. This is especially true if you are lucky enough to get some campus visits. It doesn't outweigh the vast suffering that accompanies going out. But it is something I wasn't prepared for and I was pleasantly surprised.

Ben said...

I agree. My department was actually particularly good at having numerous graduate seminars where people could present thesis chapters/papers in progress. As a new member of faculty, however, it's much harder to solicit feedback on such drafts (though last year I did manage to run my own graduate seminar!)

Anon 12:46 (comment #2) makes a good point about going on the market though. I've had more useful questions about writing samples/presentations from interviews than from most conferences. The problem, of course, is that I tend to use stuff I think is already pretty polished for job hunting, rather than the rough first drafts that I really want feedback on.

Anonymous said...

Wait until you get a job in a small department (4 to 6 of you) and they still don't read it. That feels great. or even worse, they read it, and provide terrible comments. I gave them a paper I knew I was presenting at a major conference. Asked for comments. One of six responded and was confused. Luckily the person who commented on it was thorough and gracious with their time and comments.

Success will come to those who are brave enough to send shit out and rely on your own internal sense of what is good. It takes time.

Anonymous said...

I find it helps to comment vigorously on other people's drafts. It helps build karma. And, it allows you to really lay on the guilt when you ask them for comments on your own work.

Alternatively, there's always schlogging...

zombie said...

I consider it a major perk of my fellowship that my fellow fellows read my papers, and I read theirs. The PI is also extremely generous with time and help. But it basically takes several hours for me to carefully read and comment on someone else's paper, so I can understand how it would be something others would not have time to do, but for the luxury of getting paid to do it.

Anonymous said...

I'm a VAP in a PhD granting department. Only one person in my department has ever bothered to comment on anything I've written. I've been there for a few years, and I still haven't met a few people. I'm not sure how unusual this is. If you find a collegial department, stay there. Most of my colleagues are disaffected. Several live far away. . . . It's depressing. . . .

Anonymous said...

11:49am: Most philosophers like to be sent responses to their work. Arguably, that's the polite thing to do. It's also a smart thing to do as they may end up reviewing it for a journal, and it's better to get the worst problems fixed first. They may or may not have time to send detailed feedback, but it can't hurt to ask.

Anonymous said...

I was worried about this when I got my first job. I work in a department of 9 faculty (including myself). While I am the only person in my area of specialty, it is unlike my program in graduate school (where there were often more than one in each area). So I cannot ask anyone for specific comments about details of the literature in my particular area (which is somewhat specialized). But for general comments and help reviewing manuscripts overall, there are two or three people. I don't use them all at once, but now and they ask one or the other. This is more helpful than not, but it is not the same as having comments from specialists in your area. For that one has to confer with people at other places in your area and at conferences and stuff.

Anonymous said...

Anon 3:09

I find it a bit strange you would depend on your small (4 to 6 person) department for useful feedback on a professional paper. Small departments are usually (and ought to be, in my view) extremely diverse with respect to the areas of specialization represented. I wouldn't expect my colleagues to have much to say about a paper of mine on reliabilism, and I wouldn't have much to say about a paper of theirs on Heidegger, or Aquinas, or Environmental Ethics.

Anonymous said...

@8:36 (3:09 here). Who else should I turn to if not the people in my department? All of us are core analytic people. No one is doing Nietzsche or Kristiva or anything on the fringe. Our department and major is too small to have people who do stuff on the margins.

My point is that they didn't read it at all. Probably b/c they don't publish or think about philosophy much (other than what they are teaching) anymore.

If you are stuck in a small department which is geographically isolated, then you will soon find yourself behind your grad school peers in terms of research. The momentum goes fast. And funding for conferences is always limited.

If any of you are lucky to get multiple offers, do NOT underestimate the importance of a philosophical community. It is huge. It will impact your chances to get the next job if you are so lucky.

Anonymous said...

Did any of you guys make friends in grad school? Not trying to be snarky - I'm actually asking. I've got a colleague who isn't in my department but who would nonetheless happily read my papers, and vice versa. We were in grad school together, worked with the same advisor, etc.

Verification: "dodeth"

Asstro said...

I think I disagree (to some extent). I'm at a large, Leiter-ranked R1 with plenty of grad students. Our community is fantastic, to be sure, but most of my feedback on my own work doesn't come from my local community. While we do have a series of "Work In Progress" talks, I've only gotten feedback through the WIP talks once. Ultimately, if I want someone to read my work, I have to farm it out to people in my AOS at other Universities. As a favor to them, I'm happy to read and comment on their work too. When I'm at conferences, I actively identify people who are interested in research sharing... for just this reason. By many accounts, I have a reasonably good publication record.

My suggestion, fwiw, is to go to conferences, make friends with people in your AOS, and to pay particular attention to the young guns and to the folks who might be aspirationally driven to publish even if geographically isolated. In the end, _this_ is your philosophical community. Everyone else is just a beer pal.

Sure, the people with whom you hang are also your community, and that matters, but I'm not sure it matters much from a research perspective.

Having said this, I'll be the first to admit that my local colleagues contribute invaluably to my education and re-education in areas that are otherwise unfamiliar or confusing to me. I enjoy their talks and I enjoy talking to grad students about current research. I learn immensely from almost everyone in my department. That's very, very exciting about being at a large, research-oriented department. But when I want to explore themes in my own work, I invariably need to reach out to people at other universities.

Anonymous said...

Off topic, but I just was over at at the Phil Studies site to see if there had been any progress on a paper I submitted some time ago. On the site they claim that their editorial procedure is to follow double-blind review. That simply isn't true. I've spoken to a few people who have had the editor referee their papers and the editor was not blind. What I've heard is that some people get referees straight away and their papers are processed quickly. Sometimes (and I don't know the cause) papers stagnate and the editor serves as a fully sighted referee. I think this is really unfortunate. I'd take my work elsewhere, but you can't really boycott Phil Studies can you if you're a lemming.

Anonymous said...

Anon 3:09/9:08 writes:

"...they don't publish or think about philosophy much (other than what they are teaching) anymore."

"...stuck in a small department which is geographically isolated...

"...your chances to get the next job..."


the "next" job? you mean after the one you have right now? boy. it sucks to be you.

Anonymous said...

Anon 5:18,
I've had a similar experience at Phil Studies -- long (9mo) wait, sighted review by editor, ultimately rejected. On the other hand, the editor did engage in an email exchange that led to some helpful improvements. Not exactly the best way to get feedback on a paper, but i'll take what i can get...

Anonymous said...

Yes, the ONE nice thing about grad school and the only thing I miss. I certainly don't miss the mind-numbingly dull seminars, endless term paper writing on mostly unfamilar topics to fulfil coursework distribution requirements, impossible-to-study-enough-for MA and PhD exams, the agony of defending the PhD proposal in front of the entire faculty, the torture of writing the dissertation, and of course, the pressure of not looking like a complete fool in front of many famous philosophers.

Anonymous said...

To anon 7:00. (3:09/9:08 here)

I am just trying to give all of you some information on what it might be like. In some sense it does suck to be me.

For example: There aren't enough doctors in the town I live in. (It took me over two years to get a MD and I have the best health insurance in the state!) My wife's MD left town and now she doesn't have one--going on six months. This is stressful, and a function of geographic isolation. She is going to get one 75 miles away. That will be a great winter drive.

My wife cannot get a job making more than 20k a year b/c there are no jobs. She is contemplating moving back to her hometown. I now have tenure, but the fact that my colleagues aren't particularly interesting or helpful along with the fact that most of my students are neither adequate to the tasks assigned nor motivated to get better, makes the job difficult and unrewarding.

I know most of you believe you would kill for a job, but it's not all a bed of roses out here. On a weekly basis we talk about options outside the academy. In some sense I think it is completely reasonable for me to give up this job for my wife's happiness. Not to mention my stepchild's issues. Just reread some of the comments written about why Rusty might not have taken the Harvard job.

I am not being ungrateful. I feel lucky in most senses, but this isn't the end all be all of a life. In many ways it is a real let down. I am just trying to give you the other side of the take any TT job you get view.

If you are fortunate enough to get a job offer in a geographically isolated area, you need to ask some very important questions about MDs in the area, jobs for spouses, and about the university/department culture relative to publishing. If your future colleagues have published very little, then either they aren't interested in doing that or they don't know how. Either way, it is bad for those of you who want to continue to work in your area.

I hope that clears things up a bit. Some things you just cannot know to think about until you have the job. So, make sure to listen to those who are on the other side.

Good luck.

zombie said...

Anon 8:40, I hear you. All of those issues are absolutely relevant and important. Some of us on the market have families -- spouses and/or kids -- who also have needs and desires. Having a TT job does not and cannot satisfy every need or desire that any person and their significant others might have. While it MAY be true that any job is better than no job, it does not follow that any TT job is unqualifiedly good. It may be good only because it is better than no job at all, which a reasonable person ought to agree, is setting the bar pretty low.

Anonymous said...

Anon 3:09/9:08/8:40:

7:00 here. I just read your latest remarks (@8:40). They were thoughtful, made a lot of sense, and gently put, especially given my snarkiness above. Thank you for taking the time to share and I regret the tone of my earlier remark.

All the best to you.

Anonymous said...

Main problem - some people are just jerks.

I have repeatedly given one of my colleagues from grad school detailed and helpful comments on his work. A year later, I've given up hope of ever seeing the comments he promised me on the only paper of mine I've ever sent him to read. Even if you are a generous and vigorous commenter, it doesn't always, or even often, mean people reciprocate. I make it a policy always to give comments to my friends and colleagues who ask, but only have success getting comments on my own stuff about a half of the time.