Our books

Become a Fan

« What is evidence of teaching effectiveness? | Main | Unconventional teaching ideas that work: Feeling it first (Brendan Larvor) »



Feed You can follow this conversation by subscribing to the comment feed for this post.


Good post! Here is a stupid question. If your professor leaves and goes to a research oriented university, why don't you just hire a new professor? (Maybe someone who was shortlisted previously).

Marcus Arvan

Jr: Thanks for chiming in. Three points in reply:

(1) Hiring someone takes a ton of time from a lot of different people.

Search committee members have to spend weeks or months reading applications, then spend days or weeks interviewing people. Then they have to have people to campus. Then there is time and energy involved in start up (teaching a new hire all of the ins and outs of the university). Then there are the Deans, Provosts, and others who have to interview candidates, make them offers, negotiate, etc. Due to the time involved, no one wants to spend multiple years hiring and rehiring for the same position.

(2) Hiring someone takes a lot of money and resources that smaller colleges (and community colleges) may not be able to just throw around willy-nilly. Every fly-out costs several thousand dollars. This is a second reason why people don't want to hire multiple times for the same position if someone leaves. Many universities are in bad financial shape as it is.

(3) When someone gets hired away, the administration can take the TT position *away* from the department and either eliminate it entirely or hand it over to another department. This happens--I've had friends at other schools tell me it happened to their department. Given that many departments fight for years or even decades just to get a new TT line, this is an absolute disaster.

In sum, there are many very good reasons to avoid ship-jumpers. Its simply not as easy as "just hiring a new professor."

Peter Furlong

Hi Sam,

First, I wanted to thank you for a very thoughtful post. I think that much of what you say is both correct and and a welcome corrective to a common attitude in our field. I wanted to say that first, just so that my next remarks could be placed within the overall context of cheering your comments on.

So now for those other comments. I have not been one to complain (whether publicly or privately) about people getting jobs who don't deserve them. I think that I have been lucky, first in a two-year visiting gig, now in a TT position. Perhaps others have objections to make against the fact that I was hired, when they deserved it, but I have no objections to make in cases where I didn't get a job.

However, I have seen others, including others on this blog, who complain about certain hiring practices, who are read uncharitably, or so it seems to me. Some people, it is true, think that publications (or at least the right ones) are all that should matter in hiring. This seems false for all the reasons that you and Marcus have brought out, and maybe others besides. But I have seen some complain that publications themselves should never count against someone. I think this is far more reasonable (even if there is still some possibility of pushing back against it).

So, for example, I have seen some defend the idea that a publication record is evidence that one is not dedicated to teaching. I have also seen others push back forcefully against this, arguing that the presence or absence of publications tells us nothing at all about the dedication to teaching, and so they should not be counted against applicants. I think it is important to notice that this reply does not suggest that we should value research over teaching. It is entirely possible to highly value teaching and research, just as it is highly possible to value teaching and having philosophical thoughts. (It would be ludicrous to say "that person sure thinks about philosophy a lot (or talks about philosophy a lot)--they must not value teaching.")

For some us, the way we think or talk about philosophy is to write about it. Although an active research agenda may, possibly, be a super defeasible sign that the person will not be happy in a given institution, I don't think we should take it as any evidence that the person does not value teaching. Nor is saying that this is not evidence, evidence that I do not value teaching (or so say I).

Just to put my cards on the table, I think that I highly value both teaching and research. I have a TT position, but one with a very high teaching load (5-5, plus 2 mandatory in the summer). I regularly revamp my courses, by a quick count I have attended 33 different workshops, seminars, or online courses to develop my pedagogy in the past three and a half years (many of these were required for my TT process, but many were not), and I read and utilize various strategies that are shared in blogs and the journal Teaching Philosophy to improve my teaching. I am not saying that this is evidence that I am a good teacher, but it is evidence that I value teaching.

Nevertheless, I also value research. I am not the most prolific writer, but I have nine articles or book chapters published (only one in a top 20 journal) and a monograph from Cambridge coming out next year. This is not evidence that I am a good researcher, but again I think it is some evidence that I value research.

I take it that taken together this is evidence that I value research and teaching, which is evidence that one can value both at the same time. Moreover, in my own experience, philosophers often do value both. In fact, among my generation of philosophers (I am 34, and I am thinking about people in their late 20s, 30s, and early 40s), I am inclined to think that valuing one (teaching or research) is positively correlated with valuing the other. To be sure, there are amazing young researchers who lack any interest in teaching, and amazing teachers who lack interest in research. Still, in my experience passion for one often overflows into passion for another. (I don't know Marcus personally, but the way he shares his passions for both teaching and research fits well with my experiences with others who value both aspects of the profession.)

For this reason, I think it is inappropriate to think that evidence of interest in research is evidence that the person does not value teaching or that the person is uninterested in teaching and so will want to move immediately.

Now, it may be that it is easier to jump ship if you publish, and so an interest in publishing may not be evidence of increased desire to jump ship but it may be evidence of an increased ability to do so. This might be right, but maybe not. Given Marcus's plausible thesis about there being multiple job markets, many people who have an interest in publishing (assuming they are not from Leiterific programs) may have a decreased ability to jump ship, because they will have made themselves a poor fit for many teaching and research jobs.

Okay, time to bring this ever-growing comment to a conclusion. To sum up, I think Sam is right that teaching is way more important than is often thought and rightly trumps considerations about research at teaching institutions (including both his and my own). However, I think that this does not justify rejecting all complaints that are made by some applicants about counting publications against a candidate. I think that some of these complaints have more merit than is sometimes recognized.


I read this a lot: hiring takes a tremendous amount of time, energy, and money, and so it is in a department's best interest to make sure that whoever they hire, they'll be around for a long time. You do not want to risk hiring a ship-jumper.

But: what are the data on ship-jumping, anyway? How often does it happen, and from what kind of institution? What are the main motivations? Location? Lousy colleagues or a toxic department? Better opportunities elsewhere?

This question comes from a place of legitimate curiosity, but I also want to underscore something that I've heard from many fellow job-seekers: the market is so bad, and we have been struggling to find a permanent position for so long, that ship-jumping is the absolute furthest thing from our minds. So I think that hiring committees need to ask themselves: what is the basis for your judgement that so-and-so will potentially jump ship? And what can *you do* to make sure that your department is one that new hires will want to stay at?

Job Market Nightmare

"They have served on committees even though was no expectation to in their position, taught classes they didn’t want to teach after a colleague got ill (and for less pay than that tenured colleague), and served as a faculty advisor to several student clubs with no expectation of any kind of remuneration or other reward.”

Would those seem odd reasons to prefer my fictional candidate with no publications over someone with say a publication in the Philosophical Review?"

Yes, absolutely. You are basically evaluating a candidate on the basis of how much free labor they are willing to give your department. Also: that they'd be willing to take on work "for less pay than a tenured colleague"? That is horrifying! And how are you supposed to evaluate whether a candidate is teaching something they don't want to teach? In my teaching portfolio should I indicate that while I taught this course, I really didn't want to? That seems like a bad strategy.


Sam thanks I think this is a great post. It bothers me how little philosophers are willing to questions current social norms and values within the discipline. In my experience most philosophers are followers - unwilling to say things that go against the party line.

Peter I think you are right that valuing research does not necessitate not valuing teaching. And you seem a great example of this. However those hiring are playing a probability game. The fact that valuing research does not *necessitate* not valuing teaching is a weak claim. It might still be true that the more common situation is that when someone puts lots of effort into research, their teaching efforts take a hit. I suspect this is true of most people. It is true of me. It is not that I think teaching is less important - but there is only so many hours in a day. One of the reasons I am glad to be at an R1 is that the teaching load is low enough that I can still put a lot of effort into teaching. TBH - I don't have it in me, or I don't think I do, to manage both teaching and research the way that you do. And my guess is most people don't. So I think it is perfectly reasonable for teaching schools to surmise that a very active research agenda is evidence that less effort will be put into teaching. Now it is possible that if a CV shows tons of teaching experience, awards, attendance at teaching workshops, etc that this general assumption should be overcome. But again I bet in most cases there won't be evidence of *both* lots of effort in teaching and lots in research.

Re jumping ship - people keep asking for evidence, in what I think is an unreasonable way. The evidence is knowing people who have jumped shipped in the past, talking to people about these matters, etc. No, there is not stats on this that I know of. But neither is their stats I know of that correlate leiter rank with better researching, past publications with future ones, good syllabi with better teaching, lots of teaching experience with better teaching. None of these have stats but instead are made of the basis of good judgement and experience. If that isn't evidence, well, then few things in life have evidence.


Amanda - this is precisely the problem! Your anecdotal experience about people you've heard from is not solid data! So yes, many more things in life have much better evidence for them, i.e. things that people have actually gone out and studied.

Look: if departments are going to be making hiring decisions on the basis of evaluations that so-and-so is or isn't likely to jump ship, then I think it is worth asking whether this is a good practice. My suspicion is that it is not, and that worries about jumping ship in this market are overblown. I am, of course, willing to be proven wrong, but anecdotes aren't going to cut it.

Asst Prof

To take the edge off Sam's observations somewhat, it might be worth noting that (in my opinion) job applicants who love teaching can "redeem themselves" after top tier publications, so to speak, by seeking out temporary positions at teaching institutions and following Marcus's advice in other blog posts on innovative teaching practices.

If someone published a lot in top journals in grad school, and then did amazing teaching as an adjunct or fixed term faculty member at a teaching school for several years while publishing less, I imagine that this would count quite a bit in subsequent applications for TT positions at teaching-focused schools.

Zooming out, it would also be great to have some grad programs specifically tailored to the types of jobs Sam describes. My own training struck a decent balance between research and teaching, but we could imagine a PhD program centered all around developing the skills Sam mentions--lots of really serious teacher training and practice, maybe even incorporated as some part of the dissertation along more traditional research.

Marcus Arvan

Asst Prof: I totally agree - but a brief addendum.

You write: "Zooming out, it would also be great to have some grad programs specifically tailored to the types of jobs Sam describes."

There already are some grad programs like this! I have a friend who came out of one. They place nearly all of their graduates in TT jobs (all at teaching institutions, i.e. non-elite SLACs and CCs).

Asst Prof

Thanks, Marcus. I would be interesting to hear more about what such PhD programs are doing.

I graduated from a Leiter-unranked program generally thought to be teaching-focused. Most PhD students (including myself) were hoping to get jobs at teaching schools, and the program has done better than many in placement.

Still, I would say that my teacher education was only satisfactory. We had one semester-long teaching seminar (largely oriented toward Socratic teaching), and then taught courses in the school's core curriculum multiple times as instructor of record.

This was good, and I am sure it helped on the job market.

But, I still feel I have learned much more about teaching after starting work at a non-selective teaching-oriented school. For example, I have had to learn a lot from my colleagues about group work, innovative teaching practices, learning outcomes and assessment, online teaching, and supporting students from non-traditional backgrounds or with special academic challenges.

So, my experience is that even PhD programs that are comparatively teaching-oriented could do more to prepare graduates for teaching life "in the trenches" at less-selective schools.

Recent PhD

Sam, I completely agree with you. Early on in graduate school I had several conversations with tenured professors that went roughly like this. I would say, "I'm more interested in teaching than in research. I'd like to find a job at a teaching focused university or a community college." And they'd reply, "Don't sell yourself short! You're an excellent researcher and you've got a shot at a research position." It blew my mind that when I would literally use phrases such as "I prefer teaching over research" and "I want to focus on teaching" that they would interpret it as something like "I'd settle for a teaching job." It revealed their values.

On the topic of whether this kind of profiling (i.e. thinking that lots of good pubs = flight risk or disinterest in teaching): I agree that it is not based on rigorous empirical work and probably not a *great* heuristic. But we all know that committees get TONS of qualified applicants for every position. So they don't need good reason to think you're a bad fit. They simply need any plausible reason for cutting you from the pile. So even if it counts as very little evidence, they're looking for any amount of evidence to help narrow their search.

Sam Duncan


I don't think that a good publication or even several of them sinks one by any means and it might even help at teaching focused jobs. But I would think that a lot of publications generally raises questions and lots of publications of a certain sort might hurt one. I've a decent number of publications and many well respected history journals and the guy they hired the same year as me has a publication in "Ethics." I do know though that I had some questions from the dean about why I wanted to teach at a community college thought I had a background that could also suggest research and I sensed that answering that question was absolutely crucial. So I think the most usual case isn't publications hurt one full stop, but rather that they're double edged: They might catch the search committee's eye, but they also raise questions and doubts one needs to be aware of and to deal with. Now what I'm guessing might unqualifiedly hurt one though are too many in one very narrowly focused area. I'd be interested to hear what people say, but if someone had like a dozen publications on say mereology and nothing else that seems to me that it would raise some serious questions (it would for me at least): Would this person be happy if he both has to focus on teaching and never gets to teach a class focused on the subject he seems so focused on? Would he try to hijack his general classes like "Intro" and try to make them about mereology? Given how much time he's spent on this subject how much does he even know about other areas? But that's just my sense. I'd love to hear what other people think. I would add though that the idea that being "overqualified" or "not fitting" shouldn't seem odd. It's just taken as a given in other fields. I've known people outside academia who were in management jobs and did them very well, but then left because they hated the stress. The fact that they had been in management and were “moving down” has been an obstacle to them that they had to overcome when looking for new. Why is it so weird that something similar might happen in academia?

At the school where I was a lecturer before I came here two of their last three tenure track hires jumped ship. I’m not even sure either one even came up for tenure before doing so. One of the members of the hiring committee that hired me here left here for a job at a 4 year institution (she’s not a philosopher but is in the humanities. At two of the jobs I interviewed for while I was on the market, both of which were teaching focused schools, the candidates they hired jumped ship within two years (I won’t pretend I didn’t feel some schadenfreude over that). So yes it does happen. I don’t guess we have the sort of hard data you want, but as Amanda notes we don’t have that for most of the things more research focused schools look for as marks of success in the people they like to hire.

Job Market Nightmare,
I’m of two minds about your response. On the one hand it’s common sense that if someone can get more for their money they should do so. If there are two gas stations next to one another and one sells it for 3.00 a gallon and the other 2.00 then unless you think the 2 dollar gas is somehow off you’d be crazy not to buy it. In the same way if one of two candidates will simply do more work for the same money then the department would be crazy not to hire that person if all else is equal. On the other hand, I’ll admit that it is outrageous that adjuncts, lecturers, and postdocs should have to do service work just to make themselves attractive candidates. I remember some of Marcus's advice to me before I landed this job was that I would be a more attractive candidate if I had a lot more service on my CV. I was angry at the idea I should have to volunteer to do the sort of work at my old institution that the TT faculty thought they were too good for when I was already earning less than they were and doing more work. That’s not fair and it’s another way that people without permanent jobs are liable to exploitation. But fair or not it makes perfect sense for hiring departments to look for that kind of thing.

Asst Prof,
I agree completely. Marcus is right that some programs do this, but really more ought to. They’d serve their students better. Also, a lot of programs that do this really well don’t get credit for it. In fact, some of them face enormous pressure to try to play the prestige game and try to climb the Leiter rankings at all costs. It’s my hope that by having a conversation about the values of the profession more departments might do this and that the ones who do will be appreciated for what they are doing right.


jumping ship - we clearly disagree about the need to have data to make solid, epistemically sound judgements. Fair enough - but I wouldn't boil everything down to antidotes. It is antidotes AND reasoning - theoretical thinking (which philosophers, are well trained to do) about what certain persons in certain situations are likely to do. Philosophy is in big trouble if this type of thinking isn't epistemically sound - as are most of the great works of antiquities that didn't have modern "data." If you want to live your life making all your decisions like a fortune 500 company - perhaps you will do well. Then again, the data people were sure wrong about who was going to win the past presidential election. (By the way, I think data is great in lots of circumstances - I also think it is only part of the picture, and that we don't need it for everything. I would be happy though, to have data on jumping ship and other matters to complement theoretical reasoning.)


just want to register that I love the al-Ghazali reference :)


I kind of feel as if this post sets up a straw man.

Most reasonable people can probably understand that a community college, for example, has specific needs regarding teaching, and that it wouldn't fill their needs to hire a Harvard graduate with 12 top papers, a long cover letter about research, and maybe 1 or 2 classes taught at Harvard to 3rd year students on metaphysics.

I think the criticism is regarding departments throwing out an application just because the person is a good researcher (if they in fact do this). Let's say you have a graduate from a lower Leiter program, like Virginia. They struggle to get a research job because of prestige bias. But they have a strong teaching portfolio and a dozen classes taught at let's say a few different institutions and strong student evaluations.

However, they also happen to be a good researcher. They have lots of interesting and novel ideas and enjoy writing. So, they have managed to produce also a strong publication list with many papers in top 20 journals. They might have done this at one point because they were told they had to do it to get a job, but now they do it just because they have ideas and want to share them with the community.

What people complain about, or what I would have a problem with, would be a teaching school looking at this candidate and effectively punishing them for having written philosophy. If that is indeed happening, it's an assault on the discipline.

Not only does it unjustly punish someone who has worked hard and is entirely capable of doing the job, but it also punishes them for being a good, well rounded philosopher.


Amanda - I have to admit I'm astonished at your response. This is the last I'll say about it, since I don't think this is productive, and you are being extremely uncharitable in your presentation of my position. I am saying that, when it comes to help determine best practices in hiring, the discipline ought to be looking at data collected in a systematic way, and not just at the experience of those in a small circle of friends on a single blog. There have been many attempts at collecting data about the market before, as I'm sure you've seen reported on this blog many times. I don't see why data about ship-jumping can't also be collected in the same way. That you are so utterly resistant to the idea is surprising and disheartening.

Marcus Arvan

anon: Amanda was pretty clear that she thinks hard data on ship-jumping would be helpful--and I don't see what is so uncharitable about her response. Her claim is that search committees have every right and reason to use the information currently at their disposal, which includes (1) their own personal experience of people jumping ship from their institution (Sam just gave a number of examples he has direct experience with), (2) anecdotes they have heard from others (which Sam also gave), and (3) theoretical reasoning about reasons that certain types of people may be likely to jump ship. Although her remark about you perhaps wanting to make all life decisions like a Fortune 500 company might have been a bit pointed, I really don't see what is uncharitable in the rest of her comment.

Sam Duncan

Asst Prof,

I think you're raising some interesting points that get at the heart of what I'm trying to do here. Unlike a good many R1 universities UVA actually had a culture that valued teaching, and I'm fortunate to have gotten my graduate education in that environment. What even UVA didn't have was any real structured and explicit training for graduate students on how to teach philosophy. This seems to me to be the norm in pretty much all of graduate education and not just philosophy, and it's kind of indefensible. Ideally I think there would be at least one class devoted to how to teach the subject. And I think all schools ought to have that much since even people who get research focused jobs will have to do some teaching.

I'll grant that I may have exaggerated to make my point clear and I understand frustration with the job market, but I can't help but think you're begging the question against me. I don't see why it's at all unfair for an institution to hire the candidate that best fits their needs. Precisely what I'm denying is that any of them owe a candidate a job based on philosophical merit. And if they don't then where's the unfairness here exactly? If you think they do have some sort of obligation to reward philosophical merit then why is that? Even describing it as punishment is inaccurate since hiring institutions aren't, or at least shouldn't be, in the interest of rewarding or punishing anyone. And I'm not sure why you describe this as an "assault" on the discipline. You don't use such strong language to massive role that prestige bias plays in who gets hired at R1s. Do you think that raw prestige bias is not as bad? Is it not as damaging to the discipline? I would think it's worse since it effectively means that Oxbridge/NYU/Rutgers folk can pretty much get away with only talking to one another. It also means that ideas in the discipline live and die by pedigree and not by quality. Not to mention that it lets those folk treat public jobs as their own little rewards to give to one another's grad students rather than the public goods they are. That seems incredibly unhealthy for the discipline and unfair to the public. If prestige bias is as bad or worse than "punishing" people for research then why reserve such strong language for the very specific case of teaching focused schools *possibly* counting publications against candidates in to *some* degree in *some* cases? Why doesn't the proven fact that many schools do count mere pedigree massively for or against all candidates in all cases spark similar outrage?


If you've decided that your best course of action is to reason from the anecdotes you have on hand, then it's probably best you use all of them. I too know ship-jumpers. I also know non-ship-jumpers -- people who are exceptional scholars who have loved and remained in their teaching-focused positions. Yes, the former stick out; that's what tends to happen when Big Scary Things happen -- you remember them. But just because you remember more of the Big Scary Things doesn't mean they're more common. So before you reason from your anecdotes to the conclusion that, e.g. pubs in phil review lead to ship jumping, examine your whole collection of anecdotes to see if even the limited evidence you have on hand supports the conclusion you've drawn. And be sure to balance it against all the cases you know of people who *fail* to get tenure as a result of not producing any research at all.

I guess the point is this: you should really get the data and, absent the data, treat yourself as ignorant. If you're unwilling or unable to do that, and have decided to rely on anecdotes, then you should use all of them. This requires thinking through what you know both positive and negative about ship-jumping and its correlation to `prestigious' pubs *and* thinking through what you know both positive and negative about getting tenure and its correlation with `prestigious' pubs. There's probably more besides that also needs to be taken into account, but I think this is enough to make my point.

If you don't do this -- if you simply stop when you get to the end of your list of negative associations with prestigious pubs, then you're being straightforwardly irresponsible.

Job Market Nightmare

I think pendaran could accept everything you're saying about prestige bias and their point would still stand. There is more than one way to assault the discipline: one involves creating a Leiterific R1 club, another involves dismissing candidates because they like to research in addition to teach. There are no doubt others, as well.


Anon: As Marcus pointed out, I am not resistant to using data. I favor it, and think it would be helpful. I just think it is okay to make decisions without it, since it is not currently available.


I find it interesting that people seem to think it is implausible that the fact that someone has a lot of prestigious publications is *some* evidence that this person favors research. All time is an opportunity cost: time I spend working on publications will not be spent working on teaching. That said, *if* a candidate had lots of prestigious publications *and* lots of evidence of teaching experience and teacher training, then I do think it would be a mistake to hold the publications against them.

I have no idea how often this holds, perhaps someone who has served on teaching search committees can enlighten me: is it common (or at least not uncommon) for someone with a good number of prestigious publications to also have lots of teaching experience and teacher training? I would think not, but maybe I'm just wrong and many people out there have far more energy than me.

Another issue, whether or not this is fair, I think this is true. Take two candidates. One is from a high ranked PhD program, the other from a low-ranked one. They are both 2 years out of grad school and both have 2 similar publications - 1 in a top 10 journal and 1 in an edited volume. The person from the low-ranked school has been adjuncting the past two years. The person from the high ranked program has had a research post-doc. Now, in my experience, the person from the low-ranked program has almost no shot at an R1 job, while the other candidate has a decent shot. Indeed, I have seen many people with similar profiles hired by r1s. I think this is really bad, by the way. But I just wanted to give an example of the way bias works at different types of schools. Because although people do complain about prestige bias, I think Sam is at least on the right track that they don't complain in quite the same way to the same degree of outrage.

Sam Duncan

I'll leave this be after this as I've a lot of grading to do, but I can't resist responding to a couple of points:

1. If one's only sources of information for making an important decision are flawed, but not wholly unreliable, then I would take it that it is epistemically and morally irresponsible to act as though one were completely ignorant. Here's an example from some friends of my family who've worked as medical missionaries abroad (it's slightly exaggerated): Suppose you're a doctor and you find yourself in a rural area in an underdeveloped country and your only diagnostic tools are a stethoscope, thermometer, and blood pressure cuff. The information you could get is far inferior than what you could get with modern medical technology, but does that mean you ought to throw them all the equipment you do have in the trash or just refuse to diagnose or treat anyone at all? Or suppose you're lost in a forest without a map, GPS, or compass. You know that the nearest population center and roads are north. Should you just sit down and freeze because going on the position of the sun and which side of the tree moss grows on are far from perfect guides to navigation? Should you just spin around and then walk in whatever direction you find yourself pointing? Or should you use the tools you have as imperfect as they may be? I admit that it would be nice if we had a lot more hard data on flight risks-- though given how complex the reasons people have for leaving I would imagine that data would take some judgment to apply and we couldn't just say "let us (or rather the computer) calculate" as Leibniz dreamed-- but we don't have that data. So people use what they have. When people try to figure out flight risk I take it that they are using all the sources of information they have. But given how utterly disastrous someone jumping ship is departments are being quite rational to skip over candidates they take to be substantial flight risks even if substantial is well below 50-50.
2. Besides the Leiterrific crowd that it benefits I wager that most people don't approve of prestige bias. But my point remains that I've yet to see anyone react against it with anything near vehemence that people react to the thought that research could even possibly be a negative. When I raised this possibility before in another thread here someone said that it was possibly "the most upsetting comment [they'd] read on this blog" after reading it for several years. And I've never seen anyone describe prestige bias as an "assault on the discipline," "actively and intentionally sabotaging your own department," or anything similar. Though I think there's far more justification to condemn it in those terms than there is to condemn teaching schools for possibly getting spooked by what the perceive as a candidate being too focused on research. There's at least some justification for the former and none for the latter and the bad effects of the former on the discipline are far greater as well. "Grumble" is exactly the right word when it comes to the reaction to prestige bias, but when it comes to the idea that research could in any possible way hurt one I can only describe the response as howls of outrage. It's quite possible I'm not being as charitable as I should be (it's hard to do generally and even harder to do on the internet) but that does seem revealing to me.

Sam Duncan

Sorry I think I meant to say more justification for the latter than the former. As they used to say of the elder Mayor Daley you should print what I mean not what I say, especially after 12 hours of grading.


The problem with your analogies is that they miss three important details: (1) search committees *do* have loads of valuable information to go on, (2) search committees have a reliable way of gathering more information (asking candidates questions) and (3) the methods that you're choosing to us instead (relying on what your gut tells you after reflecting on a few instances of Big Scary Things happening) are known to be flawed. So it's more like being in a rural area in an underdeveloped country with a full suite of medical equipment, but also a voodoo doll and a bucket of leaches, and you're choosing to rely on the latter rather than the former.

And I can say concretely why this sort of behavior is genuinely worse for the discipline than prestige bias: a field that stops producing new knowledge, new ideas, and new techniques to address new problems is a dead field. Your hiring practices, aside from being based on a mere gut feeling that you have good reasons to be suspicious of, are also pushing philosophy in the direction of being a dead field.

Wesley Buckwalter

I agree that teaching is not valued enough in our field and seems not rewarded enough in hiring practices. What can be done to shift the culture? Perhaps if there were more concrete measures of teaching accomplishment, awards, or outcomes, comparable to prestigious journal placement in research it could help do that? One difficulty, of course, is that a lot of teaching metrics are currently not favored due to potential biases.

Sam Duncan


You and I both know that when search committees simply cannot interview all of the hundreds of applicants they get for every position. They are going to have to use some means to whittle down the numbers to a manageable level. But anyway it's not this particular debate that really concerns me. So let's drop the analogy before it goes to anywhere even more unsettling than where you've already taken it.

I'm more concerned about your claim that prestige bias is less of a threat to the field than is schools hiring to fill their own specific needs. We have public jobs our first responsibility is to the public and if we hire with that in mind we are acting responsibly. Keep that point in mind! Practically everyone in academic philosophy is paid by some combination of public funds and tuition. And the public and those who pay tuition do so primarily because they want us to teach. They don't care about research in philosophy except insofar as it supports good teaching. You are never going to sell the taxpayers or tuition paying parents on the line that arcane research that practically no one even reads is valuable enough that it deserves their support. When academics actively disvalue teaching and put so much value on research the public does not draw the conclusion they want-- which is that they should just pay people for their "valuable" research" and leave them alone-- instead the conclusion they draw is that if even academics think that teaching is easy and unimportant we might as well save money by replacing them with adjuncts. Moreover this air of angry entitlement alienates voters and plays directly into the hands of politicians who want to declare war on higher education for their own purposes. If every journal on Leiter's list of "best generalist journals" were shuttered tomorrow philosophy as a field in the U.S. would be diminished but it would not be dead. If on the other hand the taxpayers and tuition payers of the country were to decide en masse that they did not want to pay the salaries of philosophy professors then philosophy, or at least academic philosophy, would be well and truly dead in this country. The attitudes you seem to hold are a much bigger threat to our field than is the mere possibility that feats of research prowess might not get what you regard as their due reward that seems to exercise you much. Anyway, perhaps I'm a little too angry in all this, but without any exaggeration I do think these attitudes are a real threat to our discipline. I am not engaging in any hyperbole there! I often worry that many academic philosophers are digging the grave of our discipline without having the faintest idea what they're up to.


It is false and uncharitable to say that beliefs about flight risk are based on, "a mere gut feeling." Also, what are the "loads of valuable information to go on"?


Amanda: you're in just as good a position to "know" that prestigious pubs and flight risk are correlated as Glenn Beck et. al. are to "know" that Islam and terrorism are correlated. You're making the inference in the same way: a few big scary things from your past stick out to you; the rest don't; you decide the big scary thing is probably the norm.

There's nothing wrong with being in the position of having intuitions that are as likely to lead you astray as not. There's something deeply wrong with being in the position of *knowing* your intuitions are highly unreliable, yet sticking with them.

Sam: I'm making no claim that I should be a hot commodity at every job as a result of my publications. I'm making the claim that my publications should *never* count against me. I'm making the further claim that anyone on a search committee who counts my pubs as a strike against me is sabotaging their department and the field as a whole. I'll also say outright, since it seems it might matter, that I'm as non-Leiterific as they come. I did my PhD at a school in to 40-50 range on his list; have never been employed anywhere or affiliated with anywhere higher than that.

But I think we may have found the root cause of our disagreement. I think about "what the people want" in the same way I think about what my students want: something to be considered, but largely dismissed. All my students want easy A's, classes that are all fun and puppies, and days off. I take (the serious version of) these desires into account when I build a class. But I don't take them as guiding principles.

The taxpayer may well not want to pay for research in philosophy. The taxpayer also doesn't want to pay for research in damn near anything. We do need to acknowledge this, but it can't be our guiding principle. After all, your envisaged `en mass' decision to not pay us is exactly what *will* happen if we stop having anything valuable to say. And that's exactly what the consequence of killing philosophical research is.

I think folks like you seem in need of a cold shower in the empirical work on your work as an educator. The fact is, nobody is taking anything home from your classes. Six months on, it's all gone, forgotten, out the window, and your students are left basically the same humans they were before they took your class. That's the same for essentially every course in every subject across the academy. So *if* we're doing anything valuable at all, it can't be because we're educating people -- because we aren't.

Marcus Arvan

Tom: I’m with Amanda and Sam on this—and I am think the disagreements we have may be so fundamental that we are going around in circles at this point. You are coming at things from the perspective of a candidate. From your perspective we have no good evidence of who’s likely to be a flight risk—so much so that from your perspective we look like Glenn Beck conspiracy theorists. From my/our perspective, this is completely absurd. Sam gave a bunch of examples of new hires jumping ship at places he worked and at places he knows people. I have similar experiences. From our perspective, it is *obvious* that this is a serious issue and that it *is* possible to predict pretty well who is likely to be a flight risk. That’s about it. You think we’re nuts. I think if you ever serve on a search committee you’ll see things very differently.

Marcus Arvan

I will say, if it makes you feel any better, that I get the sense that concerns about flight risk generally play a pretty minor role, and that when it does it tends to be because it’s pretty clear—not just given the entirety of someone’s dossier, but also their behavior in interviews or on campus—that make it clear to the committee where the person’s real priorities are and whether they would be happy at the institution.


dope power move bro. “What the hell would you know? You’re just a candidate.”

Is that seriously the best you’ve got? That and pointing back to the same old anecdotes?

Oh no, I forgot. You also tossed in a claim that something is obvious.

Sick argument yo.

Marcus Arvan

Come on, Tom. No need to make it personal. My point was that we seem to be at an argumentative stalemate. You appeal to premises that I (and I think Amanda and Sam) reject, and we appeal to premises you reject. I think it is entirely legitimate at this point to just admit that we have very different perspectives—and what seems obvious from your perspective seems obviously false from the other side, and vice versa. I also think it is legitimate to point out that you’ve never been on a search committee, and that people who have may have different perspectives from yours precisely for that reason.

A Non-Mouse

Tom says, "I'm making the claim that my publications should *never* count against me."

Taken literally, Tom's claim is highly dubious. A committee is deciding who to invite for an interview or deciding who to offer the job or whatever. Applicants A and B are relevantly similar in all respects with one exception: something about A indicates that he might not be happy teaching 8-10 classes per year, whereas nothing about B indicates any such thing. This something counts against A, and it should. Further, it is reasonable to think that having many publications is such an indicator because teaching 8-10 classes per year does not allow much time for research (especially when you are having to prepare lectures for classes you've never taught before). Your publications (at least) slightly indicate that you won't be happy teaching 8-10 classes per year. So, sometimes your publications should count against you.

If Tom's claim isn't taken literally, is it dubious? Let's be charitable and assume the claim is to be understood as follows: For most actual committee decisions about a teaching-focused job, my publications should never count against me. At many teaching-focused schools, funding depends on butts in seats. For those departments, it is incredibly important not to hire a teacher that is interested enough in research that the quality of teaching, of grading, or of student interactions suffers--because if it does, it is likely that enrollment will decrease. For a committee at such a school, it is reasonable to associate a candidate's publications with a slight risk. In such a situation, your publications count against you (at least in a small way), and they should. So, unless most actual committee decisions about a teaching-focused job are *not* made at schools where funding depends on butts in seats, then Tom's claim (understood non-literally) is dubious.

Perhaps there is some non-literal interpretation of Tom's claim that might withstand careful scrutiny. But it is not clear to me what interpretation that is. Maybe Tom can clarify.


Tom, it is one thing to say that the evidence people have about flight risk is not sufficient, and decisions should only be made if you have data. I think this is false, of course, but at least it is within the realm of reasonableness. It is another thing to make false claims that our evidence is only gut feelings, and that it is equivalent to a conspiracy theory. (By the way, I myself have never said I have these beliefs about flight risks, all I have said is that I think it is reasonable that other people do. I have never been a main committee member on a search - but I have been one of the secondary people that looks at things once it is narrowed down)

Anyway - one LAST time, as clearly this isn'g going anywhere. The evidence for flight risk is not a "gut feeling" - it is based on the following:
1. Knowing people (like myself) who jumped ship.
2. Hearing testimony from other people, at other schools, where the same thing happened.
3. Thinking that people who are very into their research *might* not be as happy at a teaching school as someone who's primary focus is clearly teaching.
4.Thinking that the ability to jump ship (because one has the prestige and or publications) makes it more likely that they will jump ship.

Again, it is perfectly fair to argue the above reasons are insufficient - but it is just leaving the bounds of reasonable discussion to claim that the above reasons are equivalent to a gut feeling or a conspiracy theory. The overwhelming majority of decisions we make in life are made without data. They are made on other types of evidence like the above, i.e. experience, testimony, and reasoning.

All of that said, I have no problem saying there are plenty of injustices on the job market, and many ways we can do things better and improve. But that is another discussion.

As for students not learning anything. I don't expect my students to retain information about Aristotle or whatever. I want them to have had a valuable experience making arguments with their peers and thinking deeply about important issues. It would be very hard to test on whether students are more open-minded after taking a philosophy class - but that is an example of one of my aims. I could on about this, but it seems another discussion. I'll just say I think *both* a lot of research and a lot of teaching, in a sense, "goes to waste" It is not clear to me what is more valuable in the long run, but if anyone wanted to make a claim one way or the other, I would need a long argument.

Lastly, Sam is right that your attitude toward the public is the very reason why so many ordinary tax payers can't stand academics and other people they identity as elites. If they think none of our research is valuable - IT IS OUR JOB TO SHOW THEM IT IS. Everyone seems to keep forgetting this is their money (tuition, taxes), and regardless of how intrinsically valuable philosophical research might be, it just seems wrong it take it and use it for our ends while dismissing what they want. If we want to not take tuition payers/tax payers opinions into very serious consideration, then we should change how professional philosophy works. We should fund everything ourselves, like a private business or private non-profit. Anyway, I find the entitlement so, so, frustrating.


A Non-Mouse, from Tom's early comments, I am pretty sure he meant the claim literally, and that he is not convinced by your examples.

Another perspective

Tom and others,
I see things more as Tom does. It is pretty bad if well placed articles are counted against one. I worked at a teaching college for a while and the department did as well as it did, in part, because there were people who took their research seriously. We had one colleague who has a lousy researcher. They had no credibility on campus. They also were a worse teacher because of this. They really misled students about the nature of philosophy, as a profession. They were also the most ignorant of the literature. I felt I had to unteach what they had taught the students.
There is now too much emphasis on filing seats. It is shortsighted. If we hire to fill seats NOW, we will find we have popular flashy lecturers. But we will also probably compromise the carefulness that our discipline is famous for. Our department almost hired someone who gave an engaging lecture as their teaching demo, one that had the students excited and engaged. But when I asked the students after about what they learned, they had nothing to say. Nothing!


There is a big difference between (1) not having a lot of very prestige publications and, as others equivocated (2) being a lousy researcher, and (3) never producing any new ideas. As Marcus has noted many times before, most teaching schools care about research, and indeed having lots of interesting and accessible publications is very closely correlated with more interviews at teaching schools. And as Sam noted, he has plenty of well-respected publications and their CC college even hired someone with a publication in a tippy-top journal. So the claim is hardly that all research counts against one and that teaching schools don't care about research. It is that publications of a certain kind (narrowly focused, not accessible, lots in top places) can (in certain circumstances, taken as a whole as part of someone's application package) can be a type of yellow flag.

The above said, I am never convinced by those who argue being a better researcher means being a better teacher. I know a lot of great adjuncts who do very little research. They are, indeed, incredibly familiar with what they teach. It is easy to be well-versed in undergraduate topics without doing what is traditionally called research. Unless one is teaching a grad seminar, you typically do not need to be aware of the technical nuances in recent publications. But even if you did have to be so aware, you can be without publishing. From all accounts I've heard Edmund Gettier was/is an amazing teacher, in spite of having only published once.

anon search chair

I have served as chair of a search committee for a TT hire at a teaching-focused SLAC. For our search, I was the only one on the committee in philosophy and thus the only one who had any knowledge about journals in the field. I can say confidently that no one else on the committee knew or cared about journal rankings. Instead, the most important quality was the likelihood of someone thriving at our school. In our context, thriving means genuine enthusiasm for teaching and concern for the well-being of students, energetic participation on multiple committees, creativity in course/program design, some research where our school's name will appear in print, and a general willingness to do whatever odd task that comes your way on short notice (e.g., attend an admissions event, have a table representing our major at an advising fair, moderate a quiz bowl, mentor the chess club, attend midnight breakfast at the cafeteria in finals week, etc.). Given the demands of the position, there will be little recognition provided to faculty for publishing in top-tier journals. In fact, if it takes away from doing the above listed items, it will be discouraged. I do not think it is a stretch for the committee to worry that a person with certain kinds of publications will not thrive here. Of course, this is not a deductive proof, but given the volume of applicants, it seems a justifiable inference to me. Risk matters to a search committee where funding is limited, replacements are never guaranteed, and the department is small. If the person you hire wants to write and not do the above list, guess who will be doing it? The rest of us.

So, is it possible for publications to count against someone? While it may not be fair, I can say that at least in our search, it did. When there are so many qualified applicants, committees can be very picky about *fit*. If someone publishes in a way that does not align with the publications of the other faculty, I do not think it is unjustified to worry. Especially given the fact that some schools like ours will place constraints on you that will directly interfere with your ability to continue to publish in that same way and you will not be recognized for it, I would say that *fit* matters just as much in research as it does in teaching and service. If you publish in top-tier places all the time but none of your colleagues do, it seems a higher possibility that we will not effectively work together as we will not share the same goals and understanding of our job. If you are compensated and tenured more for advising and teaching overloads than you are for writing articles, then I believe it is reasonable to count both volume and quality as potential negatives.

If you publish in Nous, will you be enthusiastic about teaching 5 sections of Intro to students required to be there at a school few people have heard of in an undesirable part of the country? I personally think teaching Intro is important and noble work, but it seems less likely that a more research-focused candidate will.

Again, this is all just inference (of course, a well-published candidate could do wonderfully at all the things I listed), but when you have a stack of candidates, these are the choices you have to make.


Fair or not, I hope people in graduate school reading this blog take note of these discussions. The advice here seems (fair or not) much more in line with reality than what I have heard at many graduate programs, whose faculty members have never been anywhere but fancy places.

Rando Assistant

As someone who works in a teaching focused department but has a reasonably active research program I find a lot of the implicit premises of this discussion odd. There seems to be a false dichotomy where research output and teaching ability/interest are negatively correlated with one another. I know plenty of professors at R1s who care deeply about teaching, many SLAC professors with enviable research programs and award winning teaching, etc. Of course teaching oriented institutions want to see evidence of good teaching, and prioritization of teaching, but if you adopt a blanket “publications mean you don’t like teaching” policy there is a tradeoff between mitigating flight risk versus losing gifted teachers with active research programs. For someone to insist teaching institutions should hire the most leiterific published candidate is probably off, but that doesn’t mean that strategies taken to avoid bad fit, flight risk, etc. can’t lead to a strictly speaking worse pool of hired candidates if not done wisely.

Verify your Comment

Previewing your Comment

This is only a preview. Your comment has not yet been posted.

Your comment could not be posted. Error type:
Your comment has been saved. Comments are moderated and will not appear until approved by the author. Post another comment

The letters and numbers you entered did not match the image. Please try again.

As a final step before posting your comment, enter the letters and numbers you see in the image below. This prevents automated programs from posting comments.

Having trouble reading this image? View an alternate.


Post a comment

Comments are moderated, and will not appear until the author has approved them.

Your Information

(Name and email address are required. Email address will not be displayed with the comment.)

Job-market reporting thread

Current Job-Market Discussion Thread

Job ads crowdsourcing thread

Philosophers in Industry Directory