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« Some good advice, but how well does it work? | Main | On responding to professional frustrations: a short story »

11/30/2015

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Neil

I recently supervised a very good Oxford B. Phil (approximately MA) student, and this issue came up. His work was so good I raised the possibility. He decided he would rather wait until he is well into his D. Phil, on the grounds that his work would be even better than. That seems a reasonable view, though I think trying his luck at good places (only) would also be reasonable. The literature will move on, and it is unlikely that he will be able to publish a refined version of the papers I saw.

Helen De Cruz

I did not put this in the main post, but here are some unsystematic observations:
1. Publishing is neither necessary nor sufficient to get a job as an ABD or newly minted PhD, but it seems to help you
2. Perceived quality of venue is the determining factor, especially in the US - less so in grant-centered cultures like Belgium and the Netherlands. One paper in Phil Review or J Phil is worth more, to a search committee, than say, 2 or 3 papers in less prestigious journals.
3. I know people who have papers in top-5 journals and who did not get a job offer in spite of applying widely. That being said, it seems (and I've heard this from many people, that having something in Phil Review is a guarantee to a job.
4. Unfortunately, the acceptance rate in Phil Review is tiny and there are long referee times, which makes placing one's bets there a very risky strategy.
5. Graduates from unranked or lower-ranked schools have a higher need for publishing than people from top schools who just come out of grad school
6. If you have a PhD in hand it's getting increasingly the norm to have at least one paper on your CV.
7. Contrary to what I sometimes hear, I've seen plenty of people land TTs with papers in mid-tier general journals or in specialist journals. Schools are looking for people who are tenurable, and such papers do signal that one has what it takes to get a publication record together.

postdoc

I am a recent PhD graduate. I have 6 papers, 3 top 15ish. I have two R&R's I'm currently working on from good journals. My advisors say my publishing record is very good for someone who so recently completed their PhD. However, I have been advised that although quantity matters, it would good if I could get 1 paper in a top five journal. Easier said than done!

I have applied for 50 jobs by now I think. I'll see if I get any interviews. At the end of the day a lot of things matter for getting a job, many of which are impossible for you to do anything about: Pedigree of PhD program, who your recommenders are, whether you're a women or a man, and so on.

I would hope that there are a decent number of departments out there though which are not sexist or elitist and which will look at my publishing record and be impressed enough to give me an interview. But who knows!

There is nothing else I am qualified or interested in doing. So, I'm not sure what my backup plan would be... alcoholism?

Seasoned

For many graduate students, I think publishing a paper would be very rewarding, whether it leads to a job or not. One would get the sense that one is making the transition from graduate student to professional philosopher/academic. I certainly felt that. It would also be a great learning experience, seeing a paper through the refereeing process, with revisions, checking proofs, etc.
But it is a mistake to publish in a journal few have ever heard of. The assumption on many hiring committees is that the journal in which the paper is published is the best venue one could get the paper in. Here is a good rule to follow: If one does not read articles in a particular journal, one should not send their work there either.
The bibliography for one's papers for courses in graduate school is a good indication for where one should send one's papers.

recent grad

What about publishing arcs or narratives? Does that matter? Or is one's CV just the sum of its parts?

Jonathan

The idea that publishing in the best "specialist" journals of one's discipline rather than in places like Phil Review is bad avice.

Someone who works in Ancient Philosophy, and who aims at a research career, should try to publish in Phronesis, Oxford Studies, JHP, Archiv or BJHP by all means (and should be wary of having her first set of publications in lower-tiered places). She shouldn't fret about getting her work into Phil Review or Nous.

The same point applies (mutatis mutandis) to other specialties.

Anon Faculty at Ph.D. Program

As someone who was on the job market in the past 5 years and secured a job, I'm not sure that there will be advice that works across the board. I went to a top-5 program in the US where it was the norm that students have at least 1 publication before going on the market.

Here are a few thoughts:

1. Venue: I think that there might be some variability about *where* one should publish depending on one's AOS. For example, with a philosophy of science AOS, it would usually be necessary to have a publication in Philosophy of Science or BJPS. But it would be rare for someone in with a philosophy of science AOS to have a top 1 or 2 journal publication (say, JPhil or Phil Review). So perhaps the best strategy as someone with a philosophy of science AOS is to submit one's first papers for publication to these (maybe others? SHPS? Biology and Philosophy?) highly regarded specialty journals? If one's AOS is metaphysics or epistemology, though, it would seem that one should begin at the "top", or at least somewhere in the top-10 journals, since those venues are best regarded by specialists in those areas and seen as "general". History of Philosophy seems more like Phil of Science than M&E in that one should likely publish in the best specialist venues if one does "scholarly" history of philosophy (see discussion here: http://leiterreports.typepad.com/blog/2010/11/best-quality-journals-in-the-history-of-philosophy-the-results.html ). Some history papers end up in a few of the top-10 journals, but many history papers simply aren't the right sort of paper for those journals (and thus submitting to some of them would seem to be a waste of time).

2. Timing: From my experience, the only near-universal principle in today's job "market" is that, for most jobs at most universities (excluding top-ish ranked Ph.D. depts), the difference between *one* publication in an excellent to very good journal is huge compared having zero pubs. After one, and certainly after 2-3 publications, the difference seems less significant. So one way to think about grad school (timing related to venue) is to attempt to begin publishing early and when early in one's Ph.D. program submitting to top-10 journals. One has the time early on and can afford to wait on reviews and also has time to send a paper to another top-10 journal upon rejection with less cost. As one gets closer to the job market, though, one should have at least one publication and perhaps 2 or 3 to be competitive. By 'competitive' I just mean something like 'get noticed in initial screening' or 'make the long list'. If you have defended your dissertation and do not have a single publication, then this is likely to be problematic.

3. Rank of Ph.D. and Publication: I'm not really sure if anything general can be said regarding one's ability to gain attention by publishing if one is from a "lower-ranked" Ph.D. program. In the past one could do this because fewer top-ranked Ph.D. programs encouraged publishing, but with the competitive nature of the job market a committee is often overwhelmed by applicants who have both pedigree and publications. My impression is that it is possible to publish and impress if one is from a lower-ranked program, but it may be more difficult to do so than it was 10 years ago (given both the job market and the increased rate of publishing).

Mark van Roojen

I think it worth noting that there are different stages in most searches and that publications in good places often can get a file to the next stage, as can other things. Other things equal a CV with a paper in a journal that the reader can recognize as a good journal will be more likely to get to the point where people are reading the writing sample. (Or so I hypothesize on the theory that most readers don't read the writing samples in all 200+ submitted applications.) Since most readers won't be working in the same sub-field as the applicant, I do think there is some advantage in publishing in the better of the non-specialized journals. But some readers may have special knowledge, and good reference writers are often in a position to fill in background, such as that such and such a journal is the best in this particular specialized area, or whatever.

Jeremy

I'm at a top ten-ish school, and fwiw I've been here long enough to see the general advice change. When I first started, the advice was to focus on writing a good dissertation,becoming a good philosopher; at least implicitly the rule was against trying to publish. Now the advice is to try to publish, and the dissertation itself is seeming less and less important (except as a means to having a few good papers ready by the time you finish). I don't feel particularly strongly either way at this point (and there seem to be faculty on both sides), but it hasn't really been pleasant having the transition happen while trying to finish...

postdoc

It is definitely my impression from everyone I've ever talked to that publications are a necessity for a job at a research institution. If you graduate without publications, your only job prospects are to adjunct at a community college. If you want to have a shot at tenure-track jobs at research institutions or postdocs then you should graduate with publications. You should aim as high as you can, but be realistic. The more in top 20 journals the better.

An anonymous philosopher

postdoc,

It is simply false that this is a 'necessity'. I personally know a number of people who over the past few years secured very good tenure-track jobs at research institutions without a single publication. And I'm sure there are more. Poke around the PhilJobs appointments page, and see for yourself.

postdoc

Anonymous, I guess I can buy that there are exceptions. But as a rule, you better have publications. I'd be interested to know whether the people you know who got good tenure-track jobs without publications had PhDs from top top top schools and perhaps got their jobs via connections.


anonymous grad student

FWIW... I'm a grad student at a Leiter top-10 program and if you look at our placement record over the past four years, there seems to be either no correlation, or a slight negative correlation, between having publications and getting jobs. It also does seem like non-top-tier journal publications might hurt people from departments like mine on the job market. But of course, this is a really small sample size and I've just very non-scientifically noted, over the years that I've been here, what someone's publication record is like when they get a job. So it's also super prone to human error, etc.

That being said, my department is a giant counterexample to postdoc's claims. Less than 50% of our grad students over those years have had publications, and many of those without publications have gotten jobs at research institutions.

recentphd

In the spirit of anonymous grad student's comment: from memory, here's some anecdata about my (top 10) program's recent TT placements.

By my count, of the last 11 people to be placed in TT positions at this institution, 6 had 0 publications, 3 had at least one publication in a top generalist journal (sometimes in addition to other publications), and 2 had many publications in specialist journals but no publications in generalist journals.

At this institution, at least one person has gotten a TT placement despite having 0 publications in each of the last three years. Several of those people have had multiple TT offers, including from R1 institutions.

Of course, tons of really awesome people from this institution with publications and without publications have failed to secure TT positions (at least so far).

anonymous grad student

Also, I know that there is probably a lot of bias towards people from Leiter-elite schools on the market. But I think it is really mean-spirited and also false to suggest that the only way we get jobs if we don't have publications is "via connections". There are tons of super qualified people on the market, and I think every person I know from my department who got a job got one because they worked their ass off and were a really good philosopher. There's no need to attack people who get jobs--the problem isn't that they aren't qualified, the problem is that there is a massive oversupply of very well qualified, good philosophers on the market. (And the problem with bias towards students from elite programs is, I really think, not one that is best described as being about connections.)

Derek Bowman

Maybe it's worth being clear about how "connections" most often work. Looking at the process from the outside, it seems fairly clear that "connections," like publications, are a way of getting your file noticed at the early sorting stage. Past that point, other features of the application pile can come to play a bigger role.

So in relation to this thread, the question is whether there are other ways of getting noticed at that early stage than having publications (especially in prestigious journals) or "connections."

postdoc

The comments from anonymous grad student and recentphd do not make me feel particularly good about the profession. If having a PhD from elite schools counts for more than actual demonstrated ability to contribute to the discipline of philosophy, that's pretty sad.

I'm sorry to say that being able to make good grades in undergrad and being able to get your teachers to help you write an amazing writing sample does not mean you can do philosophy well. Working hard and listening to your advisor is enough to get a PhD. So, that doesn't mean you can do philosophy well either, as an independent researcher. All that demonstrates this is publications in good journals.

People who have good publications demonstrate that they can produce philosophy and contribute to the field. Moreover, people who have done this have worked hard to contribute to the field unpaid (or paid very little) during graduate school. They have advanced human knowledge.

Anyway, I stand by what I said with one condition. If you are in top top programs, you may not have to publish to get a job. If you are not in one of these programs, you probably are going to require publications.

Matias Slavov

I'm fourth year PhD student in Finland about to submit my thesis. Here the article-based dissertation format in philosophy is quite popular.

When I started doing my PhD research, I attended lectures that were given by a person who has with his team empirically studied the process of PhD research. Their advice is this:

"It is recommended that a researcher, even at early stages, should start the learning process of writing for journals. Once experience is gained, one should raise his ambition level step-by-step and aim
towards publishing in increasingly better journals." Source: http://herkules.oulu.fi/isbn9789514293801/isbn9789514293801.pdf

Note that this is advice based on actual research results. It is also a recommendation aimed at making the research better, not for gaining academic merit. The discussion which implies that philosophy PhD students should not publish in low ranked journals because that may mar their CV is thus really against the knowledge we have on developing good researchers.

For my self, I got my first PhD paper published in a low ranked journal. The second and the third paper have been accepted to mediocre/good journals. The fourth paper is now, after R&R, in review in top ranked journal. Progress happens slowly. One needs to start from somewhere. And this might not be from the top.

On the other hand, I might see some use by submitting to top journals at the start of one's PhD project. Referees in prestigious journals can be very professional and give invaluable critical feedback. I work in history and HPS, and I have this experience with JHP, Hume Studies and SHPModernPhysics. Although my submissions were rejected in all of the previous journals, the quality and usefulness of the comments by the reviewers were superb.

anonymous grad student

Postdoc--while I am (genuinely) disgusted with the bias towards students from elite schools, I disagree that publications in good journals are the only markers of being able to do philosophy well. In fact, I think there are huge benefits to people's philosophical work that come with less pressure to publish. I think in some (but not all, at all) elite programs, there is less pressure to publish and simultaneously more emphasis put on the value of creativity and originality and having a big-picture project. I think these things are incredibly valuable and that the overprofessionalization of philosophy and the push towards constant publishing are harming them, because it is just a fact that it is much, much harder to publish stuff that is outside the box/innovative/creative/big picture. So while I (hopefully obviously) wish that there was more space for *everyone* to do this, I think it's really terrible to tie the entire value of someone's philosophical work to their publications and where they are. Lots of really really good philosophical work proves very hard to publish, and I've read some incredibly crappy papers (as, I think, we all have) in "top" journals. I think it's totally okay for search committees to use their own judgment about the quality of a candidate's written work, regardless of whether it has been published or not. As Derek Bowman points out, the problem is that people from non-elite schools are probably being weeded out at the first cut (at a lot of places) unless they have publications, and that is really unfair. I just don't think the solution is to push everyone to publish, because I think overall that is making philosophy a worse, more stagnant discipline.

Here's a beginning of a solution that one department I know of adopted for their search this year: ask candidates to submit writing samples for blind review; separate the writing sample from the rest of the application; have different faculty read the writing sample from the rest of the application and evaluate it purely on its own merits without knowing who wrote it. Of course, I have no idea if (a) they make a first cut before this somehow or (b) what happens at the next stage, but I think there are certainly ways to try to remove bias towards students from elite schools (or with famous letter writers) without relying wholly on publications as a measure of success. And I think it's worth pushing the conversation in that direction.

postdoc

I dislike the publishing pressure too. It does tend to promote less novel work, which is easier for reviewers to understand.

However, I stand by what I said. The peer review system is highly flawed, but it is the only system in place to determine whether an article is original and of sufficient quality to be a significant contribution to the field. No selection committee, unless they happen to be experts in the area of the applicant, can do this. An article can be highly polished but be derivative and unoriginal. Articles in good journals are the best evidence that an applicant can contribute to the field of philosophy. Having other philosophers respond and engage with your work is even better evidence. Having a fancy PhD should not outrank that.

paul

The traditional way to figure out which journals to publish in is to read the citations of books and articles like the one you’re working on. You can also use library sources like Web of Knowledge (especially for the sciences) or JSTOR to get a quick sense of what the major journals are. Browse the Journal Citation Reports (under Additional Resources) in Web of Knowledge, or Browse by Discipline in JSTOR, and you’ll get a rundown of the top journals in your area.

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