Tuesday, December 3, 2013

How productive is productive enough?

Per the discussion here, how much does scholarly productivity (number of publications, prestige of journals, etc.) matter when it comes to landing a TT job? The answer is not obvious. Or at least, there is not obviously a simple answer.
Carolyn Dicey Jennings' research here is helpful (this is for 2011-2012 data):
Although some hirees have as many as 14 total publications and 7 top-15 publications, the median number of publications is 1 for both tenure-track and postdocs (0 for top-15 publications)
The data for 2012-2013 is here.
2012-2013 tenure-track hirees had a mean 2.22 peer-reviewed publications and 0.49 peer-reviewed publications in a top-15 journal (according to the same top-15 journal list used in 2011-2012: http://the-brooks-blog.blogspot.be/2011/01/top-philosophy-journals-initial-results.html). Postdoctoral hirees had a mean 1.48 peer-reviewed publications and 0.3 peer-reviewed publications in a top-15 journal. The medians for both tenure-track and postdoctoral hirees were 1 peer-reviewed publication and 0 peer-reviewed publications in a top-15 journal. (here)
The data shows the unsurprising fact that the top departments place a lot of their grads. What it shows in terms of publications is that the numbers are all over the place. People were hired with 0 pubs and  with 14 pubs. Pubs in top journals were rare.

Putting on my speculator's hat: the further out you are from your PhD, the worse it will look if you are not publishing. One explanation for this is that you might look like a bad bet for earning tenure if you've been fallow, research-wise, for a few years--worse than a fresh PhD with no pubs. Bottom line: you should be publishing. (Anecdotally, I know of two resignations this year in a single department at my university--both people were in year 5, coming up for tenure, with 0 publications. No books, no papers. You can't get tenure with no publications, unless you're at a school where they absolutely don't care about publishing. [If there are such places.]) This gets me wondering about the issue of PhD "staleness." Is staleness really just a function of your years post-degree, or your level of post-degree productivity, or both? That is, do you still go stale if you publish regularly?

Philosophy departments have their own standards for how much/often you have to be publishing to earn tenure. But you don't have to already be qualified for tenure to get a tenure track job. If there are standards for getting a TT job, the Jennings data shows that the number of publications is not a deciding factor (thus people with 0 pubs get hired, all things considered). The Chronicle has this interesting story (here and here) on two hires (in English), and what it takes to stand out in a crowded field. (Spoiler alert: there are lots of applicants with lots of pubs.)

So, how much will it help you in the job search if you are publishing a lot? And how much is enough?


Anonymous said...

Regarding staleness of the PhD, I have been told by a relatively reliable source (i.e. a dissertation director with a good record of placement for his students) that your PhD starts going stale immediately unless you are publishing at least one article per year on average.

Anonymous said...

I am coming from an unranked program, still an ABD, and I have only 1 solo publication in an elite (top 10) general journal. This is purely anecdotal, but I have about 40 applications out, and not a single interview offer. So I would say publication has done absolutely nothing to make me stand out in the field. I think pedigree and rec letters from the right people are still far more important.

Anonymous said...

10:38, it's still very early. I wouldn't draw any conclusions about your marketability for this year's TT jobs for another 2.5 weeks, at the earliest. And your appeal will change significantly as soon as your dissertation is complete -- in the eyes of some folks, for the better; in the eyes of others, for the worse; but significantly either way.

Anonymous said...

I think it is difficult to generalize about this given the differences among institutions and their needs. There are some very good people coming out of leading programs that have very few publications, or in some cases none. But the people without pubs have excellent letters from top people and the letters serve to verify their work is good. This is probably not typical for the average candidate, though. When I went on the market several years ago I had one regular publication and a shorter one, both in excellent journals (close to top ten) and I landed a TT job. I would say to people going on the market that it is important to have at least one publication in a journal because it demonstrates seriousness and an ability to publish. The stronger the school you're applying to the stronger the journal needs to be. To me quality is more important than quantity. It is better to publish one article in a quality journal than two in a mediocre one. I don't serve on the hiring committee at my school so this is just my view.

Anonymous said...

What if someone has zero publications the first two years, and three publications the third year? Would that count as one article per year on avaerage? Or once you have a gap in you CV, people perceive you as stale for ever?

Anonymous said...

Re 1038: Not to be churlish, but I don't think one can read much from your situation. One publication in a top 10 journal is huge, but I'm guessing hiring committees might look at it as equivalent to a batter who hits a home run in his first major league at bat. It's suggestive but it doesn't necessarily prove anything about longterm performance.

Also, even in a non-crowded field one interview per 10-15 applications is considered a pretty good rate. For philosophy it's more like 1 for every 20-30 I think. I'd never disagree with you that pedigree and connections are more important than they should be, but your case certainly doesn't prove publications don't matter.

RJL said...

To anonymous 10:38:

I think it's early yet to conclude anything from the fact that you haven't been contacted. Wait another 1-2 weeks before drawing any conclusions about how your applications have fared. That's my sense of the timing of these things at any rate (others please clue me in if I'm wrong).

zombie said...

10:38 - (a) being ABD is a liability when you are competing against LOTS of PhDs, unless your letters can really, really strongly declare that you will successfully defend within a few months, and (b) it is still somewhat early in the process to despair of getting interviews. They are just starting to be scheduled for APA (and for non-APA interviews following more or less the same sched.).
Which is not to say that pedigree and letters don't matter at all.

Anonymous said...

Hang in, 10:38! You're doing really well to have a solo pub in a top 10 general journal. It could be that you're too ABD (did your letter writers say you were expected to be completely finished at some date in the next 6 months?), or even just that you're in one of those really difficult subfields (language and logic, or something like that). Or maybe just that not all schools have finished contacting people yet. From my experience on the hiring side, it's more important to have a really fantastic writing sample than a pedigree and fancy people recommending you - a well-placed pub should get your application to the stage where the writing sample is read. At least at my school, which is a really great SLAC. But we're not hiring, alas.

Other Side said...

A little perspective from the other side. I'm on a search committee for a job in ethics/political at a good research university. Here's something about how I look at files, and what the pool looks like. (I feel an ethical obligation to make this kind of information available, although I really hope not to increase anxiety for people.)

We have received 250 applications. I have been amazed by the sheer number of excellent candidates, candidates who excel along every dimension (publications, letters, teaching, interesting project).

We have at least 15 applicants who have published at least once in Ethics, Phil Review, Nous, Mind, Journal of Philosophy, or Philosophy and Public Affairs. We have another 20 who have published not in those but in Phil Studies, Phil Quarterly, AJP, PPR, or Phil Imprint.

So, that's 35 or so people who have at least one excellent 'ceiling' publication--establishing a really high level of what they can do in terms of publication.

Add to that another 10 to 15 people who haven't published yet, but who also are 2014 PhDs, and have incredibly strong letters, very interesting projects/writing samples, etc. (I should note, I pay little attention to 'pedigree' or letters. Advisors clearly differ in how good they are at selling their advisees. That's one reason I prefer to rely on peer-reviewed publications. But there are some people who really stand out although they are clearly young/ABD...)

That's around 50 people already. That's where I think it gets really hard for the candidates who have been out 1 or 2+ years, but who don't have a 'high ceiling' publication. It's just very hard to compete in the initial cut--certainly for a job like ours. But I imagine it makes it hard even at other places, since there are 50 or so really top looking people. I don't know how many ethics/political jobs there are this year.

So, I don't think people go 'stale' just in terms of years from degree (I certainly am aware of the bad market). But there are a surprising number of people who haven't published much or anything, despite being a few years out. For those people, I think the only thing that can make a difference would be landing something in a really top journal. (I know, easier said than done. I mention this although it's obvious because I think it should inform people's expectations/plans more than it does.)

Other Side said...


Here's a thing I would avoid: getting lots of things published at low level journals. There are many candidates who have 3+ publications, but at places that I've never heard of (despite working in the field), or at places with much higher acceptance rates and much greater variation in the quality of the published work. It's not clear to me what kind of job that will be a winning strategy for, given the reality of this market. Given the above reality, it certainly doesn't make sense to apply to research university positions, I wouldn't think. I would think it'd be much better to spend all one's time on making one thing as good as one can, and then going through the exhausting and slow process of submitting, revising, and resubmitting through the top journals, rather than aiming low.

Sadly, perhaps counter-intuitively, I think it would even be better to have nothing published than to have something in a really low level journal, just because then to feel like I'm giving your file a fair shake, I might actually have to read some of your writing sample, rather than (crudely, imperfectly) using where you send your work as a proxy for the quality of your work.

It's true, in an ideal world, everyone would read the actual work even at the first cut. But with 250 applications, for just one job, there's just no way that's going to happen. I can easily find 50 on-paper fantastic people, and even then I have to engage in the absurd task of getting that number to be much smaller, eventually all the way down to 1.

So it's rough on the diamonds in the rough.

Anonymous said...

Thank you 12:37/12:38! This insider-type information is very helpful.

If any other search committee members wanted to divulge their perspective in like manner, that would be welcome!

Anonymous said...

I'm also on a search committee, at a teaching university, and we definitely don't care about the "prestige" of the journals candidates publish in (the concept of "prestige" is mostly BS in my opinion anyway, but I won't get into that here).

Given the incredibly slow turnaround time of the "top" journals--which is only one of many, many problems with said journals--we can understand and appreciate why people who are interested in getting their research out would submit to less-than-top journals. So we certainly don't agree with 12:38, and I know for a fact that many of our peer departments/programs feel the same way.

What matters most, at least as far as we're concerned, is that you are doing good scholarly work--and the "prestige" of the journals you publish in is not a reliable indicator of this.

Anonymous said...

Hang in, 10:38! You're doing really well to have a solo pub in a top 10 general journal.

Am I? Actually, it sounds to me like I am doing nothing of consequence whatsoever, as 12:02 points out, a single publication in a top journal is not likely to impress anyone at all. Could be rookie luck. At any rate, it is no evidence of talent or ability. And as 12:37 points out there are likely 20 people applying for EVERY job I have applied for with better publications, and better CVs, and better letters, and better pedigrees. So yeah, It seems the publication is not likely to help me at all. And given the market norms nowadays with every passing year publications will matter less and less. I would say to the OP there is no such thing as "enough" publication. Publish in high quality journals all you can, you can bet everyone else out there will be as well.

Carolyn Dicey Jennings said...

I think Zombie is onto something. I looked at the 2011-2013 data and compared placed candidates (tenure-track and postdoc) with and without priors. Those without (reported) prior positions had an average of 1.24 publications/.33 publications in a top-15 journal and a median of 1 publication/0 publications in a top-15 journal. Those with prior positions had an average of 2.85 publications/.65 publications in a top-15 journal and a median of 2 publications/0 publications in a top-15 journal. It may well be more publications are expected for those with prior positions. Or it may just be that those who are hired with prior positions happen to publish while in those prior positions (on average, one and a half publications).

It may be worth noting that those placed into tenure-track jobs at PhD-granting institutions from 2011-2013 had a higher publication rate than average: 2.56/0.76 average publications, compared to 2.04/.50 for all tenure-track jobs.

Finally, following Anonymous 11:27 (b), I looked at the publication rates of placed candidates (tenure-track and postdoc) from top PhD programs. Those from top-20 PhD programs (according to the 2011 Gourmet Report Overall "English-Speaking World" Ranking) collectively make up about half of the total placements and have an average of 1.55 publications/0.50 top-15 publications, compared to 1.86/.45 for the full set of candidates. Thus, these candidates do have somewhat fewer publications overall, but about the same number in top-15 journals. The disproportionate representation of these candidates may reflect any number of theories, including those of 10:38 and 11:27 (b), since we don’t know about the publication rates of those who weren’t placed. But if the publication rates of those who weren’t placed are about the same as those who were, relative to PhD-granting institution, then I think this data would at least lean toward 10:38.

Anonymous said...

I know this is the time to start obsessing about this stuff, but PLEASE. STOP.

There is no threshold for anything. Sorry.

People get jobs with zero publications and people don't get jobs with tons (I know someone who had a book contact from Cambridge, 4 articles in mid-tier journals, and a second book under review, and didn't get a job last year...although he did get plenty of interviews).

Just do as much work as you can, do it well, send out your applications and wait. There is no point to these sorts of questions because there are no right answers. Everything is variable, and search committees are entirely unpredictable.

My 2 cents.

Anonymous said...

I know we all want to find some sort of logic behind search committees, but there is none to be found. None. Whatever is true for one ("publish in top-tier journals to get to the top of the pile") will not be true for another. Even in the same program, committees from year to year will differ, if only because they may be composed of different faculty members.

I know we all hate general advice, but that's the best we can do. How much is enough? Can't be answered. As the evidence shows, the answer to "how many pubs do you need?" is "Zero to N, where N is not defined." That's how many, and that's not helpful.

Every Damn Year, we sit around and try to figure out exactly how the market works. And every year, we come up short. There's a reason for this.

And every year, someone will be hired into a job where the other finalists published more, or in more prestigious journals, or had more teaching experience, or graduated from higher ranked programs. The logic of the market is that there is no logic.

It's a gamble. Plain and simple. You can look at Powerball rationally, study the odds, review past winning number combinations, etc. But when you go to pick your numbers, none of that will help. Because there is no way of accurately predicting what numbers will be drawn in the next drawing.

The only thing you can do is to focus on building the foundation you want for the career you hope to have. You write, revise, work on your teaching, etc. And then you send out your applications and hope to hit the lottery.

Also, one thing to keep in mind: all the time you spend on this blog (and others), checking the wiki, and worrying about things you can't control, could be spent on more productive ventures. Right now as I type this, I am positive that someone applying to the same jobs I have applied to is polishing up an article. I really should be more like her.

Anonymous said...

But of course it's not clear what those more productive ventures might be, since polishing that article might turn out to be worthless if you don't get an interview and have to move on to plan B or plan C. Or it could detract away from the time you could be spending on developing syllabi for courses you may or may not ever get the chance to teach.

Anonymous said...

Everything 5:18 PM wrote is spot on.

Print it out and tape it to your forehead. Re-read it every time you start trying to work out the winning formula. There isn't one. It's mostly dumb luck.

Anonymous said...

I can't read stuff that's taped to my forehead. Can I take it off to read it? Or should I look in a mirror and try to read it backward?

Anonymous said...

I have served on two search committees for a good research university.

12:37/12:38 is spot on.

UK lecturer said...

I realise that most of you are focussed on the US market, but a comment on publications and applying to jobs in the UK:

If you're applying here, you need exactly the number of excellent publications you'll require to be entered for the 'REF' which determines government research funding. This is 4 pubs within the last 5 years for people 4 or more years out of the PhD, less for those closer to it. Below this, you're not hireable. Beyond these numbers, it's all quality not quantity. There's some flex to this system if we're a ways away from the next REF (that's the case for current hires, as the REF happens this December, so you might be hired on the promise of publications), but generally, a candidate being 'REFable' is a minimal requirement to get a hire past the administrators.

(An aside: if you're not applying to the UK market, you should be! There's always a clutch of good jobs, although timing may be out of sync with US hiring - right now, I know Leeds and UCL have lectureships going. And while there are disadvantages to the UK system, you get something like tenure right out of the gate, and often a pretty attractive teaching load. I work at a well-Leiter-ranked institution in a very attractive city and we don't get anything like the number of applications that US jobs get.)

Anonymous said...

Please don't give up on solicitous speculations over job strategies and fomulas smokers! It provides this blog such readability. Although I've graduated from smoker-dom (tenured this year), it is why I remain a faithful reader of this blog.

On a less cynical note, obviously there are strategies one can employ to snag a job. The powerball analogy given above is not a very good one. Although there are differences among SC's, there are ways of increasing one's chances of getting a job no matter one's situation.

David Beard said...


Getting a job is about fit, not about some abstract measure of success -- there is no sufficient cause for getting an academic job. Threads like this encourage the belief that there is a sufficient cause, and only if the not-yet-hired know what that cause is, and can satisfy its conditions, all will be well.

Someone unemployable in 2012 might be employable in 2013 not because they finally landed a pub in the right place, but because the institution with the right fit finally opens a search in the right area.

Other Side said...

I sympathize with 5:18, having been on the other side of this not that long ago, and seeing lots of advice all over the place, which can make it feel random.

I think there is a sense in which it is a lottery. But I think it's really important for people to know whether or not they even have a ticket.

Based on my experience and what I know from friends at good SLACs, here's what I'd say about that. Look at the school's junior-ish faculty (if they have any), people who are within 10 years of their PhD. Where have those people published? If you've already published in the range of the *best* of those people's publications, then I think you definitely have a ticket for the lottery for that job. If not, probably not.

This is brutal, and ridiculous, but I think that's a much more realistic guide for managing expectations than the 'it's all a lottery' skepticism that 5:18 expresses.

The exceptions to that are ABD people from very top PhD programs, who have incredibly strong letters. (Even ABD people from top places with just 'eh' letters are in trouble without publications, although of course you don't know what your letters say.)

Anonymous said...

how do you rate this candidate?

i'd say, eh +.

Greg said...

As someone with a few years on both sides of the job market, David Beard's view most closely matches my own limited experiences.

I agree with others that the Powerball analogy is too strong as a blanket statement. However, I would say it is closer to being right when we consider any one particular job (given the information available to the average applicant), and less close to being right when our analytic grain is all jobs and all job seekers in a given year.

zombie said...

8:46: I don't think anyone here is suggesting that there is such a thing as "sufficient cause" for getting a job. In fact, I think the questions about publications are more about the necessary conditions -- is there a bar one must clear to be considered eligible at all? The answer is not obvious, because, on the evidence, hiring is an "all things considered" matter, where all things includes (in some but not all cases) having been published.

8:57's advice is good -- to get an idea of your potential with a specific department, look at the junior faculty already in that department. Are they all from Ivys or top 10 departments? Are you? Where are they published? Are you in the same league?

Anonymous said...

"8:57's advice is good -- to get an idea of your potential with a specific department, look at the junior faculty already in that department. Are they all from Ivys or top 10 departments? Are you? Where are they published? Are you in the same league?"

Also consider the work they do. If it's a small department, will you be overlapping too much? If a large department, will you be contributing to an established strength, or will you be improving a weakness?

You can't necessarily engineer "fit," but there are ways that you can sell yourself in order to suggest it.

Anonymous said...

!0:38 here, again.

I agree with Zombie, in fact I've long since adopted what I call the 50% rule: if more than 50% of a target department's junior faculty have Ivy or Leiter top 10 pedigree, or if more than 50% went to the same grad program, then I will not apply to the program. Also, if the department is PGR ranked I will not apply there, also if a department has a PhD program I will not apply there. I've been told this is too exclusive. But I would rather save money for viable applications than waste it foolishly.

Anonymous said...

Remember that excellent pedigree is not always a good predictor of future productivity. Sometimes scholars with Ivy pedigree fall flat on their faces. Some even have a difficult time finishing their grad programs because they are perfectionists (such as the Harvard student who took 18 years to finish his Ph.D.). Sometimes the less well pedigreed are hungrier to perform. They feel less entitled. And they have something to prove. Search committees should keep this in mind: hiring underdogs can be a good bet.

Anonymous said...

"Sometimes the less well pedigreed are hungrier to perform."

But if they haven't "performed" by the time they hit the market, they are no better a gamble than the better-credentialed applicants.

But hiring someone *because* he comes from a lesser program just seems foolish.

Anonymous said...


In this job market, I can assure you that even most grads of Ivies don't feel entitled and do feel that we have something to prove.

Anonymous said...

It's pointless to say that getting a job is about fit. Of course it is.

What is "fit"? It is suitability for a particular job.

What is the best evidence that one is suitable for a particular job? Probably, that one got the job.

No one rational should be thinking of sufficiency clauses. However, it is perfectly reasonable to think in terms of what will up your chances. And think in terms of factors that are not nebulous.

Anonymous said...

I've noticed that a lot of the UK lecturer positions seem to pay somewhat poorly (it seems, but I'm not confident about cost of living). Is this because the UK system pays less well than elite universities in the U.S.? Or is lecturer less prestigious than TT positions in the U.S.?

Anonymous said...

I can't read stuff that's taped to my forehead. Can I take it off to read it? Or should I look in a mirror and try to read it backward?

What actually drifted through my head was that you print it backwards so that it looks the right way around when you look in a mirror.

I didn't want to micromanage though.

[insert smiley emoticon here.]

Anonymous said...

I've noticed that a lot of the UK lecturer positions seem to pay somewhat poorly (it seems, but I'm not confident about cost of living)

Pay poorly? What are you talking about? The Leeds lecture position starts at 30 - 45, 000 BPS, at the current exchange that is between 55 - 73, 000 USD. That is fantastic pay for a lecturer in philosophy by U.S. standards. I would die happy to have that income for even a year. Get some perspective.

Anonymous said...

Look at the Iona position. Hire a NYU grad and lose him in a year. Well pedigreed candidates also tend to be flight risks. If you're on a search committee, do you really want to have to serve on a search for the same position again the year after next, trying to replace the last bloke who left for greener pastures? My institution avoids the well pedigreed like the plague for just this reason. For all I care, they can all end up as adjuncts at Princeton and Harvard.

UK lecturer said...

to 5.49pm:

As 7.28pm points out, Lecturers salaries are very much in line with the $ equivalent assistant professors salaries at good institutions. The cost of living is on average higher here than in the USA - housing costs are quite steep in the south in particular. And although one gets an extra £2000 for living in London, this doesn't go very far. But the same is true of New York jobs. There is a big pay difference at the very top of the scale - the UK sticks roughly to a national salary scale, and this tops out for professors at around £70,000. There's some extraordinary pay available if people are trying to poach you, but not as much as in the states. So pay here never reaches the heady heights that the Rutgers/NYU bidding wars have lead to in the states. But I take it most people on this blog are a very long way from such considerations!

On prestige, it's hard to say, but if anything a lectureship post is more prestigious than an assistant professorship - it's a permanent job, and you won't have to go through a tenure review. And UK posts usually go to people who have had some postdoctoral experience, although that isn't always the case.

Different people will be incentivised by different things, but I've worked in both systems, and one thing that's easy to forget is just how close together the UK academic community is. If you're in London, you're only a couple of hours on the train from Leeds, 45mins from Cambridge etc. So it's much easier to collaborate with colleagues at other institutions than in the US. That adds a lot to research environment...

Anonymous said...

>>The Leeds lecture position starts at 30 - 45, 000 BPS 30 , at the current exchange that is between 55 - 73, 000 USD

Yeah, but here's the thing. If you get a job in Leeds, you won't be exchanging your money. The things you spend money on (food, beer, esp housing) aren't the kind of thing the international exchange rate impacts. £30,000 might be worth a bit more than $30,000, but its no where near $55,000 in terms of living in Leeds.

atlantist said...

I'm on the west side of the Atlantic, but I've spent academic time on both sides.

British positions do tend to pay less than *comparable* US positions.

Lecturer there is basically Assistant Professor here, except of course you have (for all intents and purposes) tenure. I guess that might mean they can offer less money (since they're giving you valuable permanency up front). But on the whole British philosophers make less money.

That's part of the reason you see so many top British philosophers moving here, or at least taking a part time gig on this side.

Anonymous said...

I said I wasn't aware of the cost of living at all these places. Besides, check out the UCL wages and London cost of living. I imagine 55k doesn't go that far in London.

Anonymous said...

It might also be worth mentioning that the UK's immigration policies are not particularly friendly, at least in my own experience. You may find yourself heavily taxed yet denied social benefits.

Anonymous said...

I asked the original UK question. Thanks for all the helpful info. That's exactly what I wanted to know about.

Anonymous said...

I work at Leeds. The cost of living here is higher than in some places in the US, lower than in others. And it's certainly a lot lower than in London. Housing is fairly affordable, you don't need a car, and healthcare is FREE. The pay is perfectly good, and you can live very comfortably on it. You won't be rich, but if you went in to philosophy to get rich then you have bigger problems than the salaries at Leeds.

Also - and I realize I may be biased - Leeds is a fucking awesome department that's stupidly fun to work at, our relative poverty notwithstanding. So if you think that sounds like a good job and you're a fit for area, you should apply.

UK lecturer said...

As someone who lives in London on wages in the lower end of the UCL range (and has lived in London on much lower wages): it's plenty to live a very comfortable existence if you're only supporting yourself. And by comfortable, I mean sharing a nice flat, going out to dinner when I like, going on holiday, not thinking too hard about what I spend at the supermarket etc. If my partner didn't work, it would be manageable, but a stretch. If I had kids and my partner didn't work, I'd at the very least be commuting a very long way to work, and definitely struggling. So if you have children and a partner who's unlikely to be able to get a job here, I don't recommend it. But again, I think this would apply to some jobs in the states too!

So yes, if your primary motivator is money, and you're lucky enough to choose, the US is better. For me though, and surely for some of you, other things will matter; I've worked at an elite-rank US institution and loved it, but I like my current job better.

Anonymous said...

" You can't get tenure with no publications, unless you're at a school where they absolutely don't care about publishing. [If there are such places.]"

THERE ABSOLUTELY ARE SUCH PLACES. I have a TENURED position at one of them. We just hired 3 new philosophers at 3 campuses. Granted, I'm in a state with a psychotic tea party governor, so it is entirely plausible that he may shut down the institution somehow, but barring such drastic legislative changes, my job is relatively secure.

I work for a large, urban community college where publications are great and helpful if you have them, but not having them doesn't run you out of the pool for a job or for tenure. I've sat on hiring committees, and having been tenured now for 4 years, can safely say that despite the heavy teaching and service load, I am happier than I have ever been.

I've published a couple of articles in that time (mostly in these "low tier" etc type journals). I can write on basically whatever I want, whenever I want to. If I don't want to publish and feel like spending my free time going to the symphony or scoping out the nightlife scene or going to art galleries or watching reality TV, I can. If I decide there is a topic on which I want to work, I can. If I decide to collaborate, I don't have to worry about "who gets credit" or whatever -- we can just work. (I've just taken on a collaborative project with a *gasp* NON-PHILOSOPHER -- a well-known blogger & activist to write an applied ethics paper together.)

I understand that research institutions have "standards" to uphold. I also understand that, having broken free of the yoke, I will never put my neck back in it. I am in charge of my own life, academically and professionally, and I get treated with respect by my colleagues, even if I will probably never publish a paper in a top-tier journal, and even if I sometimes have to do committee work and even if I all ever teach is Intro.

Anonymous said...

"Well pedigreed candidates also tend to be flight risks."

Everyone is a potential flight risk. Whether it's for prestige, location, personal needs, etc.

Anonymous said...

The Leeds job has a salary range of £33562-£45053, which is $54762-$73518. You really think that’s bad for an entry level job? UK Profs are never going to make the kind of salary a Rutgers or NYU Prof makes, for sure - but then, most US Profs aren’t either. At the bottom and middle range, UK and US salaries are pretty similar. I wouldn’t want to be making that amount of money and trying to live in London, but Leeds is cheap - that salary can go a long way there!

Anonymous said...


I teach at a small state college which also does not much care about publications. They are great, but not required for tenure. One of my colleagues has tenure and has never once published.

Of course these places exist. However, from where I sit, it looks like that people want those places to exist *and* be well-respected institutions. Everyone knows that there are schools that don't require prestige publications for tenure. But these are places most philosophers don't want to work at.

It sounds like many grad students want jobs at elite schools, and want those elite schools to stop requiring publication for tenure.

The last time I attended the APA, one grad student on the market told me how envious he was that I didn't have to publish for tenure. Then he told me how unfortunate it was that I was stuck at such an unremarkable institution.

Anonymous said...


I'm at a similar institution and I think it's great despite being "unremarkable"--nice location, okay students, decent salary. Sure, I have to teach 3 courses every semester and serve on a lot of committees, but--as 7:35 said--I don't have to worry about publishing or perishing. Because, and not despite, of this, I am able to set my own research agenda, write what I want, when I want, where I want, without having to worry about impressing a bunch of professional gatekeepers. Seriously, unless one is preoccupied with being some kind of insider in the elite philosophers' club, why WOULDN'T one want a job at my school?

Fortunately, a large number (if not most) of the schools that are hiring are at least comparable to my own in terms of what they expect research-wise. So all of these people freaking out over how much to publish, where, and so forth are probably worrying about nothing.

zombie said...

9:05: "It sounds like many grad students want jobs at elite schools, and want those elite schools to stop requiring publication for tenure."

No one here is saying that. I doubt anyone actually thinks that an elite school will not have rigorous requirements for tenure, including publication requirements, nor is anyone quarreling with that. The concern is about the (sometimes ill-defined) need to be published before one can be hired for a TT job. Since many people reading this blog are not employed in TT jobs, they are specifically concerned about how their publication record (or lack thereof) affects their ability to get any TT job, not an elite TT job.

Anonymous said...

If a search committee requires a publication (or two, or at a certain kind of venue, or whatever), in order to make the first-cut, why doesn't the committee announce this requirement? Wouldn't this save everyone a lot of trouble?

Anonymous said...


10:37 here. Speaking for myself, although I'm 9:05 would agree, the problem is that people are making an unfounded judgment that most hiring institutions are only (or at least principally) interested in candidates who have published. As a previous poster mentioned, and as I can attest, that is not true of many schools, including my own, and including many that are hiring this year. I take this as further evidence of the disparity between the kind of institutions we study at as graduate students and most other colleges and universities in the U.S. Graduate students naively expect that R1 standards are the norm, when in fact they are the exception. And if I'm right about this, then all of the fretting about publishing is mostly much ado about nothing, especially as concerns this year's market.

Mike Titelbaum said...

I'm on a search committee right now for a TT job at UW-Madison. I recently finished reading 80 files (which is only a fraction of all the applications we received). I realize my institution isn't representative of many of the schools folks are applying to, but I figure data is data. So here are some notes about my thought process while I was looking at files:

I don't think PhD's get "stale". However I want to make sure someone will be capable of getting tenure if we hire them. So if a candidate earned their PhD in 2007, say, I'm going to be looking at whether they've already published almost enough to get tenure here. On the other hand, if someone is on track to earn their PhD in spring 2014, I am not going to require them to have publications. Then I interpolate between those two points. For instance, if a candidate has a 2011 PhD and has neither any publications nor anything that's close to a publication, that's going to worry me. I realize it takes a while to get publications through the pipeline, but if you've been out 2 years and don't have at least a forthcoming or a revise & resubmit, I'm going to be seriously worried.

I think this matches much of what was said above. I also want to emphasize that we're talking about necessary but not sufficient conditions here. One further thing that hasn't been mentioned: When I'm looking at a file I'm looking for positive evidence that someone is a good philosopher. And honestly, I'm looking for that kind of thing before I spend multiple hours carefully reading a writing sample. So if you don't have any publications, that's going to put extra weight on the rest of your file to demonstrate good things about you. In a file with no publications, letters become much more important.

Anonymous said...

"No one here is saying that. I doubt anyone actually thinks that an elite school will not have rigorous requirements for tenure, including publication requirements, nor is anyone quarreling with that. The concern is about the (sometimes ill-defined) need to be published before one can be hired for a TT job."

I fail to see why it's a problem for some programs to want publications. In fact, it makes a great deal of sense to want to hire faculty whose work is in print.

Clearly, because many schools - even well-ranked schools - hire people who have not published, there is no need to be published to get a TT job. Perhaps one reason why this need seems so ill-defined is because it doesn't really exist. The "need" seems to be in showing potential for future publication, and already being published is one way of demonstrating that. A strong writing sample can also be used to demonstrate such potential. As can strong letters, particularly from advisors who themselves edit prominent journals.

Some schools (at least in other humanities fields) have started asking applicants to include samples of published scholarship as part of their application. So we are not yet at the point where one needs to publish to get a job, but we are not too far off from that point.

Anonymous said...

Another search committee member here, also from a research university. I found 12:37’s post very thoughtful and informative, so I thought I would try to offer some additional clarity.

We recently received 300+ applications for our junior position, and after reading this thread I spent a few hours looking back through the files and explicitly tallying the number and quality of publications per file. I got through 110 files before I had to move on, but from among those 110 files here is what I found. Note that sometimes it was not clear what to count as a publication (encyclopedia entries? non-philosophy pieces? things in other languages?), so I often had to make a judgment call.

From the 110 files:

0 publications: 23 files
1 publication: 14 files
2 publications: 13 files
3 publications: 14 files
4+ publications: 46 files

Number of files where best publication was in Phil Studies, AJP, or Phil Quarterly: 19
Number of files where best publication was in Nous, PPR, Mind, Philosophy of Science, or BJPS: 17 [no files had Phil Review or Journal of Philosophy that I could see]

Of course the notion of a “best publication” is a bit subjective, but the general idea is that if you had 1 publication in, say, Nous and 2 other publications in Phil Studies, I counted Nous as your “best” publication. If you want to dispense with the controversy of how to compare these journals, you could simply say that at least 36 of the 110 files had a publication in an “elite” or extremely selective journal. Phil Studies was by far the most common of these elite journals, moreover.

In terms of selection criteria, our committee was basically looking at three things: (1) quality of research, (2) quality of teaching, (3) ability to complement existing needs and strengths of the dept.

We just put together our shortlist of 11 people: 7 had publications, but 4 did not. One was also from a non-Leiter-ranked program. So, needless to say, we read through all the files carefully regardless of number of publications (or Leiter-ranking).

Anonymous said...

One was also from a non-Leiter-ranked program. So, needless to say, we read through all the files carefully regardless of number of publications (or Leiter-ranking).

How many publications had the candidate from the non-ranked school? How many of the unpublished candidates were from pedigreed programs? A little more information would be useful.

My suspicion is that those of us from non-ranked schools must publish before going on the market to even stand a chance. I wonder if your search bears this out.

Anonymous said...

"When I'm looking at a file I'm looking for positive evidence that someone is a good philosopher."

The more I talk to people in the field, the more it seems like it's primarily grad students who assume that publications are the only evidence of whether one is a good philosopher or not.

Anonymous said...

Does anyone have any thoughts on specialty journals? My best publication is in a top 5 history journal, but it barely scrapes in to Leiter's top 25 general journals. So I wonder how that looks? My guess is that it depends on who's on the committee, but as always feedback helps here. Especially from anyone who's actually been on a committee.

Anonymous said...

Apart from publications and conferences what counts as evidence of being a good philosopher, that one can control? You cannot really control letter writers. We can audit courses, ask questions in seminars, but I don't really know what is in my reference letters.

The writing sample is an obvious example, but it will not be read unless the SC has good reason to think that it will be good.

Do scholarships and the like really count for that much? Service to the profession and the department? Courses one took in grad school? None of these seem all that important, but I could be wrong.

(Yes, try to get into the best school possible so that you have pedigree, but that ship has sailed for most or all of us here).

Anonymous said...

12:22 PM and previous search committee members, thanks for the info! Very helpful.

It is interesting that given how many applications you received with pubs in such high-ranking journals that 33% of your short-list has no pubs at all. Would you be willing to elaborate on what, besides, pubs, made those candidates stand out? What made you tackle the writing sample in those cases? Letters? AOS/AOC? Project?

I received a PhD in spring. I'm from a mid-ranked Leiter with one pub in mid-tier journal and two co-authored invited book chapters, so I feel a little faint hearing so many people have first-tier pubs! I did get one Skype interview for a TT position so far. I hope it's a sign and and not a one-off!

10:38, it may not be minimum wage or bust. Last year I went on the market as an ABD. I only got an interview at a place where one prof was friends with my parents (seriously - my parents' one and only philosopher friend). It was clear from the start that they just weren't into me, and were throwing friend-of-mom-and-dad a bone. I was able to get adjuncting. At my adjunct school, their TT hires last year clearly outpaced me (elite pedigrees, journals, etc.), so I don't expect ever to be an inside hire. With ObamaCare, we have some leeway to adjunct for a couple of years at a place that doesn't offer benefits while we apply and try to publish.

Also, if I'm going outside philosophy, why go minimum wage? Try for a job at an NGO, or financial analysis, or a federal agency, or whatever.

Anonymous said...

From 12:22: Thanks, 8:33, and good luck with your interview. In terms of what would draw people to the writing sample in the absence of publications: as others have said, letters often play a big role in that, along with evidence of first-rate teaching.

Anonymous said...

I might be a bit late on this, but I wanted to add to the perspective of those at teaching-oriented, 2nd-tier state schools. At my school, the rule of thumb is that you have to have 5 significant pieces of writing to get tenure. This is interpreted loosely to include even papers presented at good conferences or invited lectures. The point seems to be that you are expected to be consistently writing and active in your field, but you don't necessarily have to strive to be hugely influential.

What that means for our searches is that we look primarily for people who have the (relatively rare) quality of being able to get students with marginal literacy and little intellectual curiosity at least somewhat interested in philosophy. The secondary consideration is whether the candidate is consistently writing something, without much focus on where this something is published.

Anonymous said...

"What that means for our searches is that we look primarily for people who have the (relatively rare) quality of being able to get students with marginal literacy and little intellectual curiosity at least somewhat interested in philosophy. The secondary consideration is whether the candidate is consistently writing something, without much focus on where this something is published."

This is *exactly* how we operate at my (small state college) department.

The vast majority of the teaching done in my department fulfills general education requirements for non-majors. If I'm lucky, every semester I get one class that is mostly department majors. What we look for in future colleagues is the ability to engage students, to teach non-majors. We *actively* look for applicants whose research agenda takes them out of the top-tier journals and into the venues that non-philosophers read. While some philosophers scoff at our having hired applicants who have published in the Pop Culture and Philosophy series, we consider ourselves lucky to have colleagues who are engaged in bringing philosophy to non-philosophers, who can excite and engage non-majors.

Anonymous said...

"Do scholarships and the like really count for that much? Service to the profession and the department? Courses one took in grad school?" From someone who's been on over a dozen search committees at research-intensive universities: no, no, and no. I don't even read those parts of a candidate's CV, and I think that's typical.

Anonymous said...

'"Do scholarships and the like really count for that much? Service to the profession and the department? Courses one took in grad school?" From someone who's been on over a dozen search committees at research-intensive universities: no, no, and no. I don't even read those parts of a candidate's CV, and I think that's typical.'

The only time I ever look at courses taken by an applicant is when his/her dissertation, list of publications, and conference papers do not demonstrate his/her AOC/AOS. It's astonishing how many applicants list fields on their AOC/AOS when they have no evidence suggesting that they should.

zombie said...

8:06: When I was in grad school, I was advised that I could list any area where I took an advanced seminar as an AOC. That would greatly expand my AOC beyond what I think I'm really competent to teach, so I generally list areas where I have taught a course. The fact that I teach a little Plato (and took a Plato seminar and an Aristotle seminar) in an intro course doesn't make me an Ancient scholar. I think there's some understandable confusion about what exactly counts as an AOC. This may be more confusing for those of us who graduate from a program that requires you to take comp exams outside your AOS, such that you might do a variety of advanced work.

(I was also advised to list my grad courses on my CV, to show the breadth of my education, specifically b/c I would be competing against people with less breadth outside their AOS.)