Given the intricacies of our job and the cushy lifestyle most academics live in, it disconcerting when academics use improper and incorrect analogies to describe the intricacies of their job. The latest is the idea that drug cartels and academia are similar enterprises. While I understand the spirit of the idea, the basic assumptions are insensitive and damaging. They represent the the pondering of a privileged academic stuck in the ivory tower.
What does any faculty member REALLY want for the holidays? It’s not a Lexus, it’s not jewelry, it’s a brand new revise-and-resubmit (R&R) manuscript. It’s really all that is on my list every year. That and, of course, world peace.
How can one get an R&R manuscript? So far, I think R&R decisions are the result of the following four conditions:
[Note: This is a guest post from Mira Sucharov and Brent E. Sasley. Mira Sucharov is Associate Professor of Political Science at Carleton University in Ottawa, Canada. She blogs at Haaretz.com and at Open Zion. Follow her on Twitter. Brent Sasley is Associate Professor in the Department of Political Science at the University of Texas at Arlington. He blogs at Mideast Matrix. Follow him on Twitter.]
Changes to our technology and to our scholarly norms present new challenges to scholars who engage in the public sphere. More and more academics in Political Science, and especially International Relations, are blogging, tweeting, and writing for online magazines like Foreign Policy, Foreign Affairs, and The National Interest, while many with specialization in a specific region or issue-area contribute to region- or issue-specific media.
There is a small but expanding literature on how these changes do and should affect the scholarly enterprise. Often hidden beneath such discussions is how all this affects the scholar herself. There is an inherent assumption that scholars are just that—dispassionate analysts who can look at a set of evidence and draw objective conclusions from it.
Policies and practices set up to avoid discrimination in the past have a tendency to expire. Remember, 'Don't Ask Don't Tell' was originally set up to protect gay service-members within the US forces. Similarly, the often unofficial rule of having one woman on hiring committees has reached its expiry date. Primarily as a result of effective equality and diversity campaigns in the 1980s and early 1990s, many departments instituted either an explicit or informal policy to include 'at least' one woman on each hiring committee- usually after finding that most hiring committees included no women, and most hires were men. The result- in many cases- has been that there has been one woman on hiring committees in academia for nearly 3 decades. The problem is that while the number of female PhD graduates increases, and the number of female applicants increases, the lonely- token- woman on the hiring committee remains standard practice at many institutions. Sure, there is evidence that women can be just as sexist as men when it comes to hiring practices; however, there is also evidence that women offer a different perspective than men (particularly in terms of 'what constitutes-good/real- political science'). Changing the makeup of hiring committees could be an opportunity to change a hiring culture in academia in which men are not only more likely to be hired, but will also be paid more and promoted faster than their female counterparts.
Let's focus on tokenism. The one-woman policy constitutes tokenism for at least three reasons:
There have been a spate of posts about why folks have quit academia.... so much so that Dan Drezner issued this challenge:
Has anyone written a "Why I Haven't Quit the Academy" post yet?
— Daniel Drezner (@dandrezner) October 27, 2013
In the Monkey Cage’s recent symposium on gender and political science, David Lake writes how important it is that our scholarly networks become less gendered, how male scholars must make an effort to mentor women in the field. In my view, the importance of mentorship cannot be understated. Without the support of several scholars in security studies, not all but many of them men, I may have indeed decided that this field was not for someone like me.
In my first year of graduate school, I was beginning to see myself as more of an “IR theory” than a “security studies” student (yes, whatever that means). But in May of 1997, our department administrator called me into her office to talk teaching assistant assignments. “We’d like you to be a T.A. for Warner Schilling’s class,” she said. I was thrilled, but terrified. The course was “Weapons, Strategy, and War,” and if there was one thing I was absolutely certain about, it was that I did not know enough about weapons, or strategy, or war to be teaching anyone anything about those topics. And, having taken this course with Schilling, I knew that this was not for the faint of heart. I would have to guide undergraduates through the basics of shot and pike, of column and line, of counterforce and McNamara curves. I very simply was not qualified.
There is much gnashing about citations of late. This tweet inspired the ensuing spew below:
Formula predicts research papers' future citations http://t.co/4Hy8j3Glqj. I am afraid the citation game is getting out of hand.
— John Panaretos (@J_Panaretos) October 5, 2013
But also this series of posts at the Monkey Cage last week on gender bias in citations (the link points to the final piece in the series, so it has links to the rest of the posts) raises questions about using citations as a metric of success. If the numbers are problematic, what should we do?
The Monkey Cage has launched a symposium on the gender gap in academia. Jane Mansbridge, Barbara Walter, Sara Mitchell, Lisa Martin, Ryan Powers, Daniel Maliniak, Rick Wilson, Ashley Leeds, Beth Simmons, and David Lake will explore a range of issues over the course of this week.
I know that this symposium will lead to a productive discussion that will move us forward. My political psychologist side would like to see this as well as other conversations about diversity and equality also touch upon perceptions of inclusion. Social and organizational psychologists have long highlighted the importance perceived inclusion-exclusion. Institutional safeguards to prevent discrimination, for example, may not always help minorities “feel” included. “Women and minorities are especially welcome to apply” is a boilerplate we see in job ads in our discipline. Does this really make women feel included? And sometimes inclusion can feel like exclusion. A female scholar may feel like she is being included to fill a quota. Research indicates that female graduate students are more likely to drop out. What is the role of individual beliefs about exclusion in their decision-making? These are not easy questions, but I think confronting explicit and implicit exclusion requires taking perception seriously.
It was perhaps appropriate that yesterday's tale of a young pundit's career unraveling due to falsely claimed PhD coincided with the first meeting of the Doctoral Research Seminar I am teaching. Elizabeth O'Bagy had given the impression that she had finished her dissertation, but apparently not so much. After tweeting about it, I got some push back--how big of a sin is this? Do academics have a role in gate-keeping/outing those who lie about their credentials?
This is a guest post by Sara McLaughlin Mitchell, Professor and Department Chair of Political Science at the University of Iowa.
In my previous post, I discussed some problems women face when networking in political science. Here I focus on the progress we have made.
As a quantitative conflict scholar, I spend a great deal of time networking in several male-dominated research communities, including the Peace Science Society, the ISA SSIP section, the APSA Conflict Processes section, and the Society for Political Methodology. I first presented at a Peace Science meeting in 1996, being one female of 9 at the conference out of 66 participants. I attended my first Political Methodology summer conference in 1994 and was one of 9 women out of 50 participants. A healthy ego combined with enjoyment of traditionally male things such as drinking, gambling, and sports eased my own integration into these communities. Yet I attended many presentations by smart women in both organizations who soon afterwards made decisions to exit the groups or leave the profession. This included the female co-chair of my dissertation committee, two female students at Michigan State who graduated ahead of me and got jobs in top 25 ranked programs, and several women from other top institutions.
Editor's Note: This is a guest post from Professor Peter M. Haas of the University of Massachusetts at Amherst.
Finding myself on the grey haired side of the academic divide and having experienced both sides of the process, let me reiterate David Lake’s points about networking with senior faculty. While networking to make friends is a lovely idea, it doesn’t always work at a large professional event, nor with senior people who aren’t necessarily looking for junior friends. The point at major international conferences, like APSA or ISA, is that networking isn’t really a social activity. It is an instrumental activity aimed at establishing name recognition for later interaction. As they say, it is what it is. I have found more specialized workshops and conferences a better place to network and meet, such as the annual Earth Systems Governance conferences. They are more laid back and welcoming and they have far fewer distractions (fewer colleagues with whom to catch up, fewer publishers, fewer concurrent panels, and generally more time with less to do in more isolated venues).
Senior scholars do value the ideas of, and interactions with, junior scholars. Indeed the source of change in the discipline comes from new ideas. So the interaction is healthy and necessary. Yet, everyone tends to be too busy at the large conferences. The vast size and overbooking is actually a lamentable thing, and truly counterproductive for facilitating serendipitous contacts.
What you can hope for from networking at ISA or APSA is probably rather limited.
Editor’s Note: This is a guest post by David Lake, who is the Jerri-Ann and Gary E. Jacobs Professor of Social Sciences and Distinguished Professor of Political Science at the University of California, San Diego.
I want to weigh in on “networking at conferences” debate here on the Duck (and elsewhere), some of which has been lost in subsequent controversy.
I agree with the prior posts by Saideman, Nexon, Sjoberg, and others, available here, that networking is less important than good research, and that networking among peers is far more valuable than networking with senior scholars. The most valuable thing you, as a junior scholar, can do at a conference is cultivate a group of peers who share your intellectual interests, who come from sufficiently different intellectual backgrounds (e.g., graduate programs) that you can learn lots of new things from them, and with whom you are personally comfortable and compatible.
Some of my closest and most trusted colleagues are those I met at the first few APSAs I attended. We started off as competitors for “attention” on panels, and ended up as collaborators, commiserators, sometimes colleagues, and in the end, good personal friends. These are the people who will keep you sane in the profession. They will read and comment on your work, share your professional worries and fears, understand the frustrations of balancing career and family, applaud your successes and, yes, cry with you at your failures (I remember one devastatingly bad presentation at an NBER conference from which I would not have recovered were it not for a couple of these good friends also attending and even more bottles of wine). You can’t plan these relationships, nor randomly roam the halls of the hotel looking for them, but be open to possibilities and take risks: ask a fellow panelist to coffee at the conference, follow up on an interesting discussion, and most important collaborate in organizing a panel on your mutual interests for a future conference.
But let me offer a slightly different perspective on networking from the other posts on this topic. Yes, approaching senior scholars is hard. I have done my share of approaching over the years, and recognize the courage it takes to introduce yourself to someone you know only through their writings. Now, more often than not, I’m the senior scholar– at least by age, if not yet self-image – who is being approached. Having been on both sides of these interactions, I recognize they can often (always?) be awkward. You will sometimes get shot down, as I was on numerous occasions. Not every overture will be reciprocated. But some will -- and truly rewarding interactions and mutually beneficial intellectual relationships can follow.
But neither I nor most economists are going to make the effort of puzzling through difficult writings unless we’re given some sort of proof of concept — a motivating example, a simple and effective summary, something to indicate that the effort will be worthwhile. Sorry, but I won’t commit to sitting through your two-hour movie if you can’t show me an interesting three-minute trailer.
Krugman concludes with the admonition that "nobody has to read what you write." I wish this were more generally understood. I've read articles in Political Analysis about things I don't care about using methods I'll never master that were nevertheless riveting, and I've slogged through articles on topics I care passionately about in allegedly substantive journals that I never understood. There's one article, which my co-author on a long-term project and I have read a half-dozen times, that completely escapes our ability to summarize. Adopting a useful frame and engaging with readers is always good.
I get the sense that some folks believe that engaging with readers means dumbing down their argument. Far from it! Engaging with readers means presenting a complex argument smartly. That's much more challenging than making a complex argument obscure. Anyone can be recondite; only geniuses can be understood.
There's been a lot of discussion, here (1)(2) and elsewhere (3)(4) about the value of networking. Dan Drezner suggests that the best kind of networking is doing good research, and that there is a small professional benefit to networking, but not much. Eric Voten agrees, suggesting that networking is not going to lead to significant professional opportunities. Dan Nexon suggests that one not network at all, but talk to and meet people as an end in itself. While there are a lot of gems of advice in all of these posts (do good research, be professional, have fun, don't chase around "big names" all star-struck), I think that the punchline of these posts (individually and collectively) misses the mark pretty significantly in a couple of ways. One way, as Will Moore points out, is that both the need to network and the act of networking is very different for (even junior) people positioned differently in the field on a number of axes, including graduate school, mentors, race, gender, socioeconomic status, sexual identity, sexual preference, social skills, and competitiveness, to name a few. The need to network, the value of networking, the performance of networking, the reception of attempts to network, and the success of networking all differ across these and other axes. That is crucially important, and something where we should recognize the positions of privilege that we have ...
Dan's post on his self-experiment in raising citations to female scholars has drawn a critical comment from someone who wonders about whether similar patterns exist with reference to minority scholars and scholars from outside North America. The issues of gender, race, and national (regional) origin are distinct, but if we're going to have a wide-ranging discussion about inclusion and exclusion in the field then we ought to address these issues squarely.
The question of networking tends to arise as conferences approach. With APSA less than two weeks away (which means discussants are going to be getting papers any day now--ok, in about a week if they are lucky), I thought I would post some thoughts about networking. There was a post earlier today that did address such stuff, but, well, stuff happened. A key point was lost in the course of events--that networking sideways and down is far easier and perhaps far more fruitful than trying to connect with the big names in the discipline.
The last two years saw some major stories in my corner of the blogsphere concerning sexual harassment. Colin McGinn's resignation from the University of Miami saw widespread discussion across the academic interwebs, even if we didn't say much about it. McGinn's case seems not terribly unique in philosophy, as the What's it Like to be a Woman in Philosophy blog has been chronicling for years. Sexual harassment at science-fiction conventions is also an ongoing problem. Genevieve Valentine's treatment at Readercon produced an online firestorm last year.
Some of the discomfort with Brian's recent post [which Brian has now pulled] derives from a generic rejection of its sexualization of conference dynamics. But some of it comes from the realities of sexual discrimination and harassment--not just in our field, but at conferences in particular.
I don't need to rely on hearsay to conclude that sexual discrimination is a major problem in international studies and political science. My partner now refers to "practicing political science with ovaries" as a shorthand for acknowledged and unacknowledged sexism in the field.
On the other hand, most of what I know about sexual harassment at conferences comes from oblique, semi-whispered, or 'you didn't hear this from me, but' style conversations. The problem seems both widespread and largely unacknowledged in the general community. Indeed, searching for "sexual harassment at APSA", "sexual harassment at the 'American Political Science Association'", and cognate searches for the ISA turns up little more than documents describing official policies, a long list of conference papers, and reports on the meetings of caucuses within the organizations. Either the problem is not widespread--which I doubt--or we haven't even reached the point where we have a safe environment for an open discussion of it.
M. David Forrest, a soon-to-be-assistant-professor of American politics, forwarded the following letter to the "interpretation and methods" listserv. He agreed to let me post it at the Duck. Given the methodological heterogeneity of our readership, I thought it would be of interest. It reads:
I’ve defended Mead before on this site. I think he is a bright conservative who stands out in a sea of Fox News ideological bleh, like NewsMax or Drudge. He has a far better sense of the importance of religion in many people’s lives than academics do, and he has a good feel for western classical history that adds historical depth to a lot of his blogging. I read him regularly, where I stumbled on this defense of the coming NSF cuts in political science. Money quote:
Political scientists should know better: university faculties ultimately depend on taxpayers and their representatives for many of the resources they need for their work. This fact of life is truer than ever when health care and other costs are forcing discretionary spending down. Funding for political science is just another budget line item that needs to be justified. Writing obscure articles for peer-reviewed journals that nobody, not even other people in your discipline, will read is not the best way to do that.
And here’s another thought: making departments in social sciences and other disciplines more welcoming to political conservatives and—horrors!—seriously religious people may help build that bipartisan support without which federal funds will be increasingly hard to get.
This is pretty lame. An academic like Mead should know better than to complain that no one reads our stuff. Of course no one reads a great deal of basic research. But Mead knows as well as anyone in this line of work that improvements in theoretical foundations eventually bubble up into more digestible ideas for laymen and in easier formats like Foreign Affairs. This is well-known and almost certainly describes Mead’s own academic experience too. Yes, maybe 19 of 20 articles are same lame recycling of warmed over old ideas or whatever. But I dare say that is quite a blithe generalization to make about the very best journals in political science like the APSR which are edited and reviewed by some of the very best scholars in the world.