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08/17/2018

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Peter

Hi Helen,

Thanks for the post. I have been thinking about doing an edited volume. Although I have some experience with monographs (I am finishing up my first at the moment), I don't know much about how edited volumes tend to come together, nor of the challenges that uniquely confront those putting one together. Could you say more (perhaps in a future post) about your experiences with them?

Marcus Arvan

Great post, Helen - and I'm curious whether readers can think of other good examples.

Here's another familiar example of blanket advice (one I've criticized on a number of occasions): "Only publish in top-ranked journals, and stay the heck away from 'bad' journals."

This advice seems accurate viz. getting a job and tenure at R1's, but in my experience is otherwise deeply misguided.

Also, in terms of some of the examples you give (editing volumes, etc.), I think you are absolutely correct that they are wrong as blanket advice. However, I wonder whether it may be sometimes given as blanket advice as a kind of hyperbolic warning. For instance, I've known a few early-career people over the years who got way too involved in doing book reviews and editing collections--and not nearly enough time publishing articles in peer-reviewed journals.

These are serious career mistakes, and my sense is that they can be seductive ones, which may be why senior people give the blanket advice in question. Perhaps the lesson here is that instead of giving it as blanket advice, early-career people should be given clear warnings about the dangers of getting sidetracked from more central things (like publishing and teaching).

Helen De Cruz

Hi Peter, yes I will think and put together a post on how to edit stuff, what is involved, how to find a publisher. It’s not as transparent as monograph publishing and certainly not as article publishing and requires quite some networking and being savvy about the markets! I’ll write the post in the next week or so.

Helen De Cruz

Marcus, yes indeed, it is harmful for early career people to devote too much time and energy on things that don’t make one immediately marketable or aren’t value able lines on the cv. So the trick is to balance it all, I fear a lot of advice I hear is much too absolute and forces people into a kind of straight jacket. Cookie cutter philosophy job candidates, who all have the paper in the top journal, etc.

Valdi Ingthorsson

Helens advice is to the point. The advice never to edit a volume strikes me as strange. If you get a postdoc in a prestigious project you are typically required to co-edit a volume. I was a postdoc in The New Ontology of the Mental Causation Debate, led by Sophie Gibb and E. J. Lowe. We hosted an international conference with speakers like John Heil, Sydney Shoemaker, David Papineau, Tim Crane, Paul Nordhoof, Peter Simons, just to name a few. Should I have acted the diva and not co-edit that volume of papers published by Oxford University Press? Crazy! The volume is cited in multiple entries in the Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy. Same goes for a festschift in honour of Ingvar Johansson, on the occasion of his 70th birtday. We got 56 contributions from people all over the world including Herbert Hochberg, Peter Simons, Jonathan Lowe, Achille Varzi and more. It is also cited in multiple entries in the Stanford Encyclopedia. Edit volumes!

Al

I recently finished an edited volume (co-edite, but I’ll just speak for myself). It’s nice to have it done and it’s cool to have a book in hand and I would probably do it again, but a lot of it was a huge pain.

The good:
1. It created connections that have led to some conference invites and worthwhile relationships with contributors.
2. It did teach me a lot of the lessons Helen mentioned.
3. I feel it did make a difference on a job search and (more on this below) because it took so long, also on a promotion case. In the first instance, it was a nice list of contributors and a contract. In the second, it was a forthcoming volume with proofs.
4. It gave me a good excuse to write an introduction and provided a nice home for a paper of my own.
5. It lends legitimacy to my area which is niche - there isn’t another volume in the area and not much written on the topic.

The bad:
1. The project started 5.5 years ago and just wrapped up. That’s right. Over 5 years.
2. The amount of time spent on proofs and various editorial tasks was mostly low in the grand scheme, but jobs just kept popping up at inopportune times for years and here and there it was all consuming for a few days.
3. Indexing was such a drag I eventually hired it out and it wasn’t cheap.
4. It made me upset with a number of contributors who were so unresponsive that despite warnings from others I was shocked and remain baffled at the lack of professionalism in some cases. Emails to some people stopped being nice a long time ago and in one case I had a pester a friend of a contributor who was maybe going to see the person an an event to basically give them a wtf. I never thought it would it come to anything like that and looking back I should have just walked away form the contributor.

Overall, I think it has been good for me intellectually and professionally. I started the project at the very end of grad school and mostly was working on it while employed. I don’t think it would be wise at all to jump into this while trying to do serious PhD work or during the run up to tenure if things are a close call. I also think that if it were just another collection and the same old kind of stuff, it wouldn’t have been as helpful for job/promotion.

Amanda

Al - I have heard from many others that it is amazing how hard it can be to work with certain big shots, or even if not big shots, simply tenured people at good universities. And then editors are put in the position of either no longer having this person contribute (which almost always hurts the volume and editor much more than the contributer) or to simply put up with being treated like crap. Ugh.

I am curious if anyone has advice for getting writers to respond in a timely manner...

Recent grad

I wrote a (solicited) book review recently. I'm sure the CV line isn't worth much, but it did force me to do something of an update on a literature I've grown increasingly unfamiliar with since my dissertation. So I think it was worth doing.

Wait

There is a situation in which one should not take on editing a book or a special issue of a journal. If one is on the job market without a permanent position, AND one has no spouse or family who is going to support one financially if one is unemployed for a year as a philosopher, then one should not take this sort of task on. This is career suicide. The person in this situation should focus on projects that yield publications and keeps their c.v. growing. Waiting five years for a book to come out is a bad judgment call.

driftincowboy

What about translation work? I have some translations that could be polished up in about a week and published in an out-of-the-way journal. Curious whether people think that would be worth while career-wise.

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