In the comments section of Andrew Moon's post on getting a TT job after 8 years on the market, there was some interesting discussion of how people get (or don't get!) feedback on their work, situated in a broader context of how sharing unpublished work may undermine anonymyized review (something I have raised concerns about before).
'D' began the discussion as follows:
If you're not emailing papers to friends before sending them to journals, how are you getting feedback?...Derek Parfit was famous for circulating extensive drafts before publishing. Was he trying to contaminate the referee pool? Obviously not (Oxford was gonna publish whatever he gave them)--he was trying to make his work as good as possible by getting a lot of critical feedback before publishing.
I followed D's comment by noting that aside from the occasional conference presentation, I hardly ever receive feedback on my work prior to publication:
[A] quick answer to your question: "If you're not emailing papers to friends before sending them to journals, how are you getting feedback?" The answer, at least in my case, is I'm not. I mostly just write work, circulate it to no one, and send it out to journals. It would be nice to get feedback, but like many people who work in tiny departments I don't have an easy time getting people to read my unpublished work, so I don't bother.
Pendaran and Amanda then made similar remarks, noting how difficult they find it to get feedback, with Amanda noting, "LOL I don't think Parfit really had to worry about these sorts of things." This, finally, prompted Tim to write:
Marcus: it seems to me a thread on the subject of getting feedback on drafts (how to, worries, different approaches, etc.) might be good.
I agree with Tim. I think it would be good to hear about whether and how people in different types of jobs get feedback on their work prior to publication--in part just to find out what people do, but also to see whether there are systematic differences in opportunities for feedback across different types of jobs. Allow me to explain.
In my experience I have heard more than a few people in research jobs express views like the one implicit (I think) in D's question, "If you're not emailing papers to friends before sending them to journals, how are you getting feedback?" The implicit assumption here seems to be that of course everyone gets peer feedback prior to publication (viz. "you must be getting feedback somewhere!"). I've also heard the assumption uttered more explicitly, vis-a-vis some people saying it is "wrong" to send out work to journals without getting a bunch of feedback on it first (so as not to send "junk" to journals).
To be frank, I can't help but be a bit flustered--though not exactly surprised--by the idea that all of us have time and resources to do these kinds of things. I just don't think a lot of people understand very well what the reality of jobs at non-research institutions is like. This isn't exactly their fault: how could they know what it is like to work at a teaching school? Chances are they've never had a job at a teaching institution--and people don't often talk about just how dissimilar different types of jobs really are. Consequently, I get the impression that sometimes people think of different types of jobs, "How different can they really be? If I get feedback on my unpublished work, surely everyone must!". Well...let me tell you a story.
I worked for a year as a visiting Assistant Professor at the University of British Columbia, a large research institution. Honestly, was quite a lot like grad school. If I wanted feedback on unpublished drafts, I did not have to look very far. There were well over a dozen full-time faculty in the department, along with dozens of grad students and two visiting faculty like myself. If I wanted feedback, all I needed to do is ask someone or organize a draft-paper reading group--or heck, just walk down the hall and have a conversation on whatever problem I was working on. Feedback was everywhere and easy to get. How fun, right?
After one year at UBC, I took a job at a teaching-focused institution (the University of Tampa). Honestly, I love my job, and am blessed to have it. But here is the reality: in eight years at my institution, I could literally count the number of discussions I have had about my unpublished work on two hands (seriously: outside of the occasional conference or blog post, I have had maybe seven serious philosophical conversations with colleagues in the past eight years. This is why I can't shut up when I go to conferences!). I have also gotten written feedback on a paper draft exactly once in eight years. It's not for want of trying. It is for want of time and opportunities.
First, there are only three full-time faculty in my department, we all work on incredibly different stuff, and we frankly don't have time to exchange paper drafts. I hardly have enough time to get my lectures, grading, assessment work, work with student groups, and writing done, let alone have the time to chat about philosophy. And the same is true of my colleagues. Second, I've tried over the years to send drafts to people at other institutions via email--but alas, a handful of cases aside, the people I've contacted simply haven't been willing to provide feedback.
The end result is that I basically do all of my work alone. For about 95% of my papers, the only feedback I ever get is from a journal referee. And my book? I got a couple of people to read draft chapters very early on, and then a few pages of feedback from the publisher's reviewers when I submitted an initial draft. But after that? Nothing. The only people who read the final manuscript before I submitted it were me and my spouse. It would have been nice to circulate the manuscript for years like someone like Parfit--but alas, that's not the reality for people like me. Or at least it isn't my experience.
Is my experience atypical? I'm not sure--though Pendaran's and Amanda's experiences seem to be somewhat similar. Anyway, what is your experience? What type of institution do you work at? Do you get feedback on your unpublished work? If so, how? And how often? I'm really curious to find out if my experiences are atypical, or whether (if as I suspect) there are fairly large and systematic differences across different types of jobs.