Monday, March 30, 2009

Advice for Undergraduates

It's that time.  A lot of the next crop of grad students are mulling over their offers to choose where to go.  Here are a couple thoughts:

1. Never pay for graduate school - the jobs you're spending years training for are scarce and don't pay boatloads of money.

2. Start with the PGR, but keep in mind that philosophers don't have a lexical ordering of departments in their mind when they hear about where you're going to grad school (taken with a grain of salt the PGR definitely helps with a sense of general reputation which is important).

2.5. Keep in mind that over the 6-7 years you are working on your PhD, your department's PGR ranking will probably jump around.

3. Building on 2/2.5, try to focus on getting a good advisor (this matters more for your job prospects than you initially think).

4. Look at the number of faculty in the area you're most interested in working in. You should try to avoid going somewhere that getting off on the wrong foot with one person means trouble.

5. You're picking somewhere to live for 6-7 years. That's a significant chunk of your LIFE. Try to make it somewhere you'd like to be.

6. Try to figure out how graduate students get along. A PhD takes a long time. Ideally you'll land somewhere with people that you like.

7. If you're thinking about a MA, know that you'll get another one on the way to your PhD and that programs don't usually count all your masters classes towards your PhD (you should ask).

8. Have I mentioned it's hard to get a job in philosophy? It was bad before the recession too. Have you thought about a job that allows you to choose where you live?

Ok, enough thoughts off the top of my head.  Anything else people should know?

-- Second Suitor

Update from STBJD: Asstro has this crucial and useful advice, which I don't think is all that contrary to what Second Suitor says, to add in the comments. Here is part of it, but read the whole thing:
Look closely at placement. Look closely at dissertations. Look closely at the graduates of that department over a five or six year span. Are they publishing? Are they languishing? What are they writing on? Are they rising stars? Are they just riding the coattails of their advisors? And so on.

Saturday, March 28, 2009

Some stuff about refereeing

There’s a nice discussion at Leiter about refereeing duties. Leiter has asked people to disclose the amount of refereeing they do, and to opine about how much refereeing one ought to do. A lot of people have contributed, and I think it’s a valuable discussion. I have a couple of thoughts, though.

1. Almost everyone who has responded claims to do what would have to be an above-average amount of refereeing. One person claims to referee 30 papers a year. Although I think that’s bullshit, a typical commenter claims to have refereed between 10 and 15 papers a year on average. I think that probably represents the high side. Nobody has said, “I never referee,” or, “I referee once a year because that’s the smallest amount that doesn’t leave me feeling like a total dick.”

2. Almost everyone who has responded claims to provide detailed feedback. I find that I almost never get feedback, and only very, very rarely is the feedback detailed. I have never gotten detailed feedback with a rejection—I’ve only received feedback with a rejection once, and while it was actually very helpful, it was not detailed. The detailed feedback accompanied a request to revise and resubmit (and was extremely, incredibly helpful—I’d like to know who the refs were so I could adequately thank them. Seriously.)

3. I have never been asked to referee a paper.

4. Franz Huber proposes a formal system of credits and debits that would guarantee smooth and efficient operation of the submission/refereeing system. I think the system would be disastrous—people who don’t get many requests to referee would be shut out, and this would much more likely to happen early on in one’s career, when you need to be free to send stuff out like crazy without being punished, but when no editor is going to think of you when thinking of potential refs. I think our current all-volunteer system, while flawed, is superior.

5. Matt S. asks a question I’d like to see answered: “how often does it happen that you get asked to referee a paper for one journal, reject it, then are asked by another journal to referee the same paper when it gets submitted there? Given how specialized most topics are, I would think this must happen with some regularity. If so, do you refuse to referee the paper, reject it automatically, reconsider depending on revisions or what the journal is...?”

--Mr. Zero

Wednesday, March 25, 2009

A "forthcoming" question

Ok. Possibly stupid, rookie question. Suppose you get some journal to agree to publish a paper, on the condition that you fix some typos. At what point are you entitled to put the publication on your CV? When you get the conditional acceptance (note: not a revise and resubmit; a clear acceptance, however conditional). Once you fix the typos, thereby satisfying the conditions of acceptance? Or do you have to wait for the editor to get back to you with a confirmation that the typos have been fixed to her satisfaction?

--Mr. Zero

Monday, March 23, 2009

Quantity, not quality

A couple of weeks ago, there was a nice discussion over at Leiter on what makes some philosophers more productive than others. If you haven't read it, go read it, then come back. Ok. You're back. Awesome.

The thing of it is, is that I want to be productive. I know a bunch of people who aren't interested in producing new philosophical work-they're happy just to teach. I like teaching, but I see producing scholarship as a key component of my role as philosophy professor. It's something I really want to do, and something I like doing.

It's lucky I do, too, since I'll never get a job, even a "teaching" job, unless I can prove that I have the capacity to be a strong researcher. And as people have pointed out in comments, if you want to have something to show off by the time fall rolls around, you need to send stuff out right fucking now.

This is my key problem. I have several things I'm working on. Some of them are in OK shape. Some of them are really getting there. But none of them are really terrific-all of them could use at least some work. I'd like to take some more time to work on them, deepen them, make them better. But I feel like I'm not really being judged on my ability to produce deep, interesting, important work. I feel like I'm being judged on my ability to get a bunch of things into print.

(Of course I realize that there is a relationship between the quality of my work and my ability to get things into print; I also realize that I'm being judged on the quality of my writing sample, not whether it has been published. My point stands. That just means I should focus on producing an awesome WS and getting a bunch of mediocre shit into the journals.)

Wednesday, March 18, 2009

An Open Letter to Academic Publishing Houses

Dear academic publishing houses,

Why are your books so effing expensive? What's with paperbacks that cost 50 bucks? What's with hardcovers that cost 75 or a hundred bucks? What's with Kindle e-books that cost forty or fifty bucks? They're electrons, for crying out loud! What's with medium-important books by medium-important philosophers going out of print all the time? (Even On The Plurality of Worlds was out of print throughout the late 90s, and that’s an important book by an important philosopher.) What's with a lot of books costing over 200 bucks used?

I realize that there's not much demand for these books, and that there are a variety of costs associated with producing them, and stuff, but come on. You look at these prices and it's hard to think they're set by someone who wants to the books to sell. They're the prices you'd set if you didn't want a buyer. Maybe you like having them around the warehouse.

Yours most sincerely,

Mr. Zero

Monday, March 16, 2009

Money, it's a crime

I knew going into last semester I wasn't going to produce that much. The job market takes as much time, energy, and emotional fortitude as you have to offer. This spring's productivity is not faring much better. While I haven't applied for any fellowships/jobs that have been pulled, I'm spending all my time getting some 'proposal' ready for various forms of funding (fellowships/post-docs/jobs) rather than producing any philosophy...and next fall we're back to the job market. Sometimes it feels like I'm already stuck in the adjunct's dilemma (only thank god I'm not adjuncting while colleges make their budget cuts).

-- Second Suitor

Friday, March 13, 2009

Solve for n

This is the worst academic job market in n years.
I was discussing this problem with a colleague a little while ago. He was on the market in 1998 and '99, and he thinks that it was still worse back then. (However, this was before the Feb. JFP came out.) It's hard to tell, though, for a couple of reasons (at least). For one thing, it's hard to tell how many applicants there are from year to year. For another, the raw numbers in the JFPs don't reveal the number of searches that have been cancelled. For another, it's possible that the Spring VAP market will rebound once administrators realize that there are only so many classes they can cut without downsizing the student body (x students times 15 semester-hours divided by 50 students per class = y classes offered--you can only cut so much before you're offering an insufficient number of courses).

So, when was the last time it was this bad?

--Mr. Zero

Tuesday, March 10, 2009

Pre-Defense Fertility

Filosofer asks:
Would folks be willing to share some (relatively detailed) stories about how they used their time between finishing the dissertation and defending the dissertation?

I'm about there, and I know myself well enough to suspect that I will be tempted to just set the thing aside and not look at it until a couple of days before the defense. Is that insanely stupid? Or is it a normal and healthy approach?
I mentioned that I spent some time doing major revisions of a paper (that was based on a portion of the dissertation) and drafting a new paper (that was not, though it is on a closely related topic). I also watched The Wire; I'm working on Big Love now. (Also, the new digital transfers of The Godfather and The Godfather Part II are totally worth it.)

Then, about three weeks before the defense, I printed out a copy of the dissertation and carefully read the entire thing. I wouldn't wait until just a couple of days ahead of time--I put a lot of thought into how I wanted the defense to go, with an eye toward being able to steer the conversation toward things I wanted to talk about and away from things I didn't. Of course there were plenty of things in there such that if they came up at all, I was going to get nailed, but there's only so much you can do. When those things came up, I got nailed.

What do other people do?

--Mr. Zero

Monday, March 9, 2009

The dilemma

This is a post from an anon commentor that warrants being bumped to the top:
Given the dearth of jobs this year, I've applied for some community college jobs that are TT or equivalent. I'm also applying for some VAPs. Now I realize that a dilemma could arise: suppose I get an offer from a community college and a VAP offer. So far, the people at my current institution (where I'm VAPing), have recommended staying away from community colleges if I have aspirations to work in four-year colleges in the future.

Some dilemma-relevant details: My PhD is from a non-Leiter school; I've scored enough interviews (and some things still in the works) to maintain some confidence despite the lack of pedigree. (At the same time, I don't have delusions of grandeur, and have adjuncted at a community college in the past, and found it reasonably satisfying.) I have a family. (And a car payment to make.) The economy sucks, and some people say the job market will probably be even worse next year. 

The first person I talked to (from another discipline) said: "think long-term, take the VAP if you get offered one. Your family may hate it, but it'll be better in the long run. (And if it doesn't work out, don't blame me!)" The second person just seemed worried that even though everyone everywhere knows that the economy sucks and that this means some people may go under-employed (or unemployed), when search committees look at a CV, teaching full-time at a community college will look like a liability at anywhere but similar institutions.

I'm curious what others have to say about all of this. Please have at it, and thanks!

-- Second Suitor

I'm still in hiding

Yea. I'm not ready to emerge from the Spring JFP just yet. The fact that there's not much doing this spring's alright, I'm just trying not to dwell on what it means for the market this fall...2 year fixed terms are looking pretty nice right about now.

Anyway, the NY Times feels my pain. The situation of recent Ph.D. grads is so bad we made the national news! Nothing too revelatory (except that someone needs to send out the memo that you need to apply to more than 2 dozen jobs...). Mostly I just want to avoid becoming the migrant farm worker of the academic industry.

-- Second Suitor

P.S. If you've been in the rat race long enough, you could always go help Iraq and look into positions at the University of Kurdistan.

Sunday, March 8, 2009

Sunday Comics

(Click the picture and enter into a world time forgot, where pictures are twice their size.)


A Premature, Unscientific Opinion

The big winners of this year's Job Market Contest: Rutgers

--Mr. Zero

Thursday, March 5, 2009

The Post-Defense Drought

I defended my dissertation a little while ago. This means that I finished writing it quite a while ago—months ago. During the months between finishing and defending, managed to I get a lot of work done; I made major revisions on a paper I'd been working on for a while and completely wrote another paper. But since the defense, I've been struggling. I'm having a lot of trouble deciding what I want to do next. One thing I don't want to do is to revise chapters into publishable papers. Oh my God. Maybe later, but I kind of hope not.

This strikes me as normal, I guess—at least, I’d be pretty surprised if I were the only person who reacted to finishing a major project this way. But the thing that’s weird about it is, I actually finished the project a long time ago, and I was fine for most of that time. It’s only now that I’ve defended that the lethargy has set in. I dunno.

I’ll say this, though. Writing the dissertation made me a lot better at philosophy. As I was studying for the defense, I (of course) reread chapters I wrote years ago for the first time since I finished them. It was a shocking experience. The change in quality of writing, argument, and general sophistication between the first chapter I wrote and the last was astonishing to me; I am a much better philosopher now than I was when I started writing. Dissertating, like science, works.

--Mr. Zero

Sunday, March 1, 2009

Sunday Comics

(Click on the picture and it will expand to reveal the secrets of the universe.)