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03/10/2016

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Michel X.

Not a suggested solution, but I thought I'd add a small (and imperfect!) data point for philosophy in particular.

When I checked out the composition of ranked programs for this blog, I found that just ten departments together accounted for 45% of faculty positions at departments ranked in the international category of the PGR's T53 + all PhD- and MA-granting programs in Canada.

In other words, 10 departments generated nearly half of all faculty at 81 graduate programs. The numbers taper off a bit after that: 15 programs will give you 56%, and to get to 71% you have to expand to 28. A quarter (20) gives you about 64%.

Joshua Mugg

There are a few jobs I have applied for that ask for 'blind' CV. What I found odd was that 'blind' did not mean blocking out PhD granting institution. If a school is going to do blind CVs, it seems a good idea to redact the PhD granting school.

Jo

Don't forget about the doctoral student at Harvard who took 16 years to finish. He was hired by a middling Philosophy program at a university in the South. How is that possible? Prestige bias.

Kevin Timpe

Marcus, I appreciate what you say in the UPDATE. Thank you.

Pendaran Roberts

I read this the other day. From looking at hires and seeing so many people from top top schools with zero publications (or just one) end up with great permanent jobs, I suspected that something like this was true. My evidence was more anecdotal. Now there is a rigorous study to support my experience. I am not sure how I feel about that! I love being right, but gosh... to be right about this!

I guess I always knew that prestige mattered. I didn't know it mattered more than actual results. This is why it really worries me when senior philosophers discount the value of publications. What are they going to go on if not someone's record of producing work? They are going to go on their own stereotypes and biases, including a bias for Harvard et al. That's utterly immoral!

I saw a post the other day at dailynous on whether we're in a golden age of philosophy. I found the question totally deluded. Look at the job market. Look at the citation rates. Look at the corrupt hiring practices. Look at the pay. I'd say philosophy is a dying discipline. Almost by definition, in a booming golden age for a discipline, jobs are abundant. It's when a discipline is dying that jobs don't exist.


Elisa Freschi

Marcus, I appreciate your commitment to fairness, but I am not sure I have completely understood your proposal. You suggest to eliminate subjective factors and let numbers speak, right? But what numbers are we left with?

1. age/numbers of years from Phd/numbers of years needed for PhD? (you probably do not want to focus on them, do you? They are too much dependent on external elements, such as one's health, family, wealth, etc.).

2. number of pubblications (I agree that this is a very important predictor, but we have all sorts of evidences about the fact that papers get accepted because of one's pedigree, etc., so do we really want to focus on it? ---note that I speak as one who has many publications and knows that there are colleagues with less publications who are probably deeper thinkers than myself).

3. students' evaluations (but this is entirely subjective! Here things like one's outlook become too important. I am sure you do not want to include them ---again, I have positive students' evaluations, so I am not complaining because of my own case).

Which numbers am I forgetting?

Marcus Arvan

Hi Elisa: I am certainly sympathetic with your concerns. I don't pretend that algorithmic methods are perfect, as the things they track (e.g. publication numbers) can indeed (as you note) reflect unfair prestige biases as well. I also don't pretend that we might assign numbers to many things beyond the few you mention (publication numbers, student evaluation ratings, etc.).

Here, though, is what I would suggest: to the extent that a few of these things *can* be quantified (and, in the case of teaching evaluations, be statistically corrected for race/gender/etc. biases, which are possible to correct for!), they will tend to counteract bias better than not using them.

We can see this, I think, by considering the situatio of many candidates on the market right now. I personally know some candidates from lower-ranked/unranked programs who have pretty stellar publication records (multiple publications in top-20 & top-10 journals). Even though, as you note, publication rates *can* be influenced by prestige bias, these people I am speaking of have more publications (and in better places) that people they are missing out on jobs to. Accordingly, if hiring methods used algorithmic methods that prioritized publications (at least when it comes to research-focused schools), there would probably be *less* unfairness in hiring. People like those I am referring to would do better on the market than they are doing now, thanks to their publications counting for a lot more in the process, compared to program prestige.

This is why, following the empirical literature here, I think use of algorithmic methods--when *possible*--is advantageous. They do not erase or mitigate all forms of bias--but they significantly blunt some forms of bias, prioritizing comparatively less biased measures (i.e. actual accomplishments, such as publication success, rather than "a look of genius coming out of a great program" or whatever).

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