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Roman Altshuler

These days, "don't publish on topics you're really interested in until you have tenure" basically translates to "don't publish on topics you're really interested in." I mean, some people have no real interests and will simply chase the market, and some people happen to have interests that align perfectly with market preferences. For everyone else: publish what you want, because otherwise you'll probably never get to.

Marcus Arvan

Hi Ian: Thanks for another great post!

For what it's worth, I'd caution early-career people against being too concerned with (1) ("The journal articles that best reflect your fascinations, enthusiasms, and sense of intellectual autonomy might not be the journal articles most likely to do any real professional work for you").

Following Thi's recent post, I think the bigger problem may be a tendency of early-career people to write on things that *don't* reflect their fascinations--because they think they need to write on "hot topics" in order to publish.

My experience cohered with Thi's. It was that not writing on stuff that truly fascinates you is a #1 way to kill one's joy in doing research. It was only once I started actually writing papers on stuff that fascinated me that I began to have any success publishing--and, more importantly, actually enjoyed writing and doing research.

Anyway, you note this yourself in (3) ("You need to be aware of your own epistemic and professional psychology..."), so I guess my message to early-career people would be: when (1) and (3) conflict, consider going with you actually find fascinating. It may be the only way to enjoy your work, and who knows? You might just do great work in the area because you love it--and other people might find it fascinating too.

Ian James Kidd

Marcus: quite so! One can say to the determined trend-chaser: you either follow your own interests, or you're following someone else's, thereby placing yourself in a situation of willed submissiveness and giving that someone a disproportionate power they don't necessarily deserve. This might relate to another rule: "invite but don't demand interest in your own work."


If anything, I wish I had written more on topics I really care about. For me, that is a bit of a problem, because the topics I really care about are not the type of papers typically published in top journals. There are exceptions, of course, where a top journal publishes something from a small, interdisciplinary area of philosophy. But if you look at Mind and PPR there won't be a lot of these papers. I also wanted an R1 job. However I have managed to do well with publishing in top speciality journals, and doing a couple of more main stream pieces to show I have the skills to do that type of work. The problem is, if I am not doing work I love, I do less of it and do it less well. One of thing that really matters, I think, to both R1 and other universities is that you are a major player in your field. I think if you don't like your research this is unlikely to happen. And who wants to do research they don't like, anyway? So, while, I think there are some exceptions to this rule, it is generally a good idea to do what you like. An exception might be that if the area you like has almost no jobs, then you might want to consider a second best option. I.e. if you do philosophy of math AND really care about getting a TT job maybe you can see if there is another area you care about.

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