May 31, 2006

What Ph.D. Students Really Have to Fear

Here is an article from Slate on the fluctuating job market for academics in economics. I think the statistics would probably look the same for any field, though. It's called "What Ph.D. Students Really Have to Fear," and it's written by Joel Waldfogel. The gist is that if you are unlucky enough to graduate in a down cycle of the job market for your field, and you are not hired by a university of the same prestige level that you could have been hired by during an upswing in the market, you can expect to stay at a lower level throughout your career.

One interesting fact, though, is that the ones who were hired by more prestigious universities published more during their career. The author suggests that the better journals are more likely to publish articles from authors at prestigious universities. I'd be interested in the details of that statistic -- what I wonder is whether the more prestigious schools apply more pressure to publish in order to achieve tenure.

In researching this further by following the link in the article to the working paper by Paul Oyer, I can only access the abstract. However, he does state in that abstract that "better initial placement increases research productivity."

Two conclusions are possible (probably more, but this is all I can think of right now.) Either the universities that are more prestigious push more to have their professors publish, or there is some kind of negative effect that accrues to the people who are given the lower prestige job. They could be upset and bitter that the negative job cycle landed them in a less prestigious place, or it could be that these institutions demand more time teaching, being involved in committee and community work and the like.

It seems that a final piece of research would be to compare the two groups but control for their research productivity to see if the result is the same.

May 24, 2006

Academic Distraction Disorder (Google Subtype)


May 19, 2006

In Praise of Simple Language

Here is part of a post from Daphne Gray-Grant.

Do you think using long words makes you look smart? Daniel Oppenheimer knows it doesn't. A professor of psychology at Princeton University, he is the author of a new study to be published in a recent edition of Applied Cognitive Psychology. The study goes by the amusing title: Consequences of Erudite Vernacular Utilized Irrespective of Necessity: Problems with Using Long Words Needlessly.

But the study's findings are anything but funny for wordy writers. In a series of five experiments, Oppenheimer found that readers tend to rate the intelligence of people who wrote essays in simpler language, as higher than those who used more complex words. Yes, higher. Interestingly, the same "halo" effect applied to people who used simple fonts. The simpler the fonts, the more intelligent the writers were thought to be.

"One thing seems certain," says Oppenheimer. "Write as simply and plainly as possible and it's more likely you'll be thought of as intelligent."

I wonder if the same is true of writing in academic journals, when academics judge each other? I know that I value clear writing and tend to be annoyed by writing that demonstrates the apparent purpose of intentionally obfuscating the obvious.

The exhausting job of teaching (Inside Higher Ed)

Wondering why you feel like collapsing? See "The Exhausting Job of Teaching" by Shari Wilson, from Inside Higher Ed. Even without the teaching, being a professor can be an exhausting job. I often wonder how you people do it...

May 18, 2006

Academia and free time: The tyranny of freedom

I’ve been thinking a lot lately about the challenges facing professors in the summer. They have what I call the “tyranny of freedom.” Unlike most people who work 9 to 5 and have 2 weeks off in August, professors can pick and choose (to some extent) what they want to accomplish in the summer. Of course, for some, that means, as one of my professor clients pointed out, trying to fit what they should have done during the whole academic year into the summer months. And others commit themselves to chapters, papers, and conference presentations that loom large as the summer progresses.

So there’s this luxury of being able to spend your time doing what you want to do. But, as another client so beautifully stated, “this open space is crushing me.”

Because of this luxury of time, the academic has to take responsibility for how to shape his or her life. That can mean imposing a schedule or timeline on oneself, or the opposite – spending your vacation piddling your time away with guilt hanging over your head. You also run the risk, if your family life doesn’t help you with this, of isolating yourself. It’s easy to think that you had better turn down all those social commitments because you really should be working on that paper. So there’s this kind of bimodal distribution of behaviors that can result when there is so much choice as to how to spend one’s time: on the one hand avoiding working but not enjoying the free time enough because of guilt, or working too much and not allowing yourself enough fun and play time to have a real feeling of vacation.

I think the answer is to work a little every morning and give yourself the gift of the rest of the day being a guilt-free vacation day. How do you work best when you have a lot of discretionary time?

May 13, 2006

Countries I've visited

Can you tell I like to travel?

create your own visited countries map

Just filling in the countries that I've visited makes me want to get on a plane. My favorite place to visit, by far? Italy, of course!

May 10, 2006

Advisor Teleclass

Jayne and I have scheduled a teleclass/interview on how to manage your relationship with your advisor. It will be on May 15, Monday, at 1:00 Eastern. I personally have seen how many of my clients get themselves into hot water because they don't have the knowledge or skills to communicate well with their advisor. Don't make the same mistake!

Oh, and we'll be recording the teleclass so don't worry if you can't make the class -- you can download the recording later or listen to it online. Here is the link: