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08/14/2019

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Ed

"My own sense, having served on several search-committees at a more teaching-focused school, is that conference presentations and activity may play very little (if any) role in hiring committee deliberations. In brief, my sense is that this may be because committees at these types of institutions care most about two things: (1) a good enough publication record to get tenure, and (2) teaching/service. Because it's possible to present at a lot of conference but not publish much, my sense is that people at schools like mine may not attribute much weight to presentations. But, of course, this is just my sense, and it may be incorrect."

At my teaching-focused school, conference presentations count toward tenure.

When I evaluate job candidates in general, I want to see that they're fully active participants in their scholarly community. Being such a participant involves presenting your work.

When I evaluate job candidates applying from grad school, ideally, I want to see that their work has been selected to be presented at competitive conferences (think MIT, Oxford, Rutgers, UCLA, and other generalist grad conferences that receive hundreds of submissions*). APA presentations and invited presentations don't count much in this regard (since getting on the APA program is often a matter of having won the there's-a-symposium-organized-on-my-area-this-year lottery, and being "invited" to present anywhere as a grad student is often a matter of being well connected).

*Take a look at the lineups for these conferences from past years. Most of the presenters have made names for themselves in their respective fields.

Amanda

Marcus I (and some others, and now Ed) have mentioned before that at many teaching schools, conference presentations count toward tenure. (Yes, I am now at a R1, but I was at a teaching school before, and conferences were specifically included as counting for tenure. I also know friends at teaching schools who say the same.)I know that this isn't true at your institution, and it is probably not true at many teaching institutions, but it *is* true at many others. I am not sure why you don't seem to believe this, or if you do, you never acknowledge it.

Anyway, I agree with Ed that what conference presentations show is active participation in the field, which should matter. I also agree that it is really odd to not count *extremely* competitive grad conferences like those at the ivies. I don't agree that APA conferences should not count, at least on the main program. It was my understanding that these were blind reviewed (with a full paper) and competitive. I know blind review is probably violated at times for the APA, but with a less connected person, I would think the violations would be less common.

Marcus Arvan

Hi Amanda (and Ed): I recall those discussions. I don't mean to imply in the OP that presentations don't apply to tenure. They technically count for tenure at my institution, just like yours. My thought is simply that there are probably few institutions like ours where presentations are going to be a difference maker, and that because of this, they aren't likely to be a difference-maker at the hiring stage. Let me explain.

Suppose, on the one hand, a person’s publication record isn’t strong enough for tenure. Will their conference presentations make up for it (enabling them to get tenure)? I have to confess that I’m skeptical, as my experience is that people care far more about publications. Conversely, suppose a person’s publication record is good enough for tenure. In that case, will their not having been active at conference be a difference maker (viz. tenure denial)? Again, I’m skeptical - as my experience is that people care far more about publications.

This, in brief, is why I’m inclined to think presentations are not a difference maker at the hiring stage, at least at schools similar to mine. Again, I think R1 schools and prestigious SLACs may be the exceptions (since in these cases general prestige in the discipline matters a great deal, and having many prestigious talks can signal that).

But perhaps I am totally off on this. Do you both think conference presentations can be difference makers in interviewing and hiring decisions at your schools? If so, fair enough - I’ll revise my credences! ;)

Chris

I just want to correct Ed's impression of the APA in case others share it: APA colloquium papers are anonymously reviewed with a low acceptance rate comparable to major journals. Yes, you can also get on the APA program in other ways, such as through an invited symposium, so it is important to be clear when evaluating someone's c.v. whether they had a paper accepted via the ordinary, anonymously evaluated process or not. You only get a graduate student travel award, for example, if your paper is accepted through the anonymously reviewed channels.

Ed

I can see that my post was unclear. I didn't mean to suggest that the APA does not review any kind of submission anonymously.

But one question about colloquia, Chris: When are the themes for them chosen? Before or after the APA receives submissions?

Remco Heesen

I'm surprised how highly grad conferences are rated by Ed (and I mean surprised in a neutral sense, not in the "how could you possibly think/say that" sense that's common in philosophy). I took grad conferences off my CV as soon as I finished my PhD, reasoning that (a) they might make me come across as a grad student in the negative sense that Marcus (channeling Karen Kelsky) has talked about before, and (b) I had enough other conferences that I felt I didn't need them. Perhaps I was bit quick in doing that though? Committee members like Ed might have liked to see that I presented at the University of Rochester's graduate epistemology conference which I think is fairly prestigious, plus two other less prestigious ones. On the other hand my reasons for taking them off still strike me as legitimate, so it might be a tricky tradeoff.

Christa

Ed, at least for the Central APA this upcoming year, the themes were chosen after review (Programming Committee *just* did this last week for the 2020 meeting). And, I'm guessing that's standard operating procedure, as you might notice from time to time that a session is very very loosely connected. After putting together the papers that clearly go together, things get a bit dicey in choosing session groupings/titles.

Anon

From a few posts above: "APA colloquium papers are anonymously reviewed with a low acceptance rate comparable to major journals."

Has this changed recently? The last time an APA email told me about acceptance rates, it was 25%. (Which I would characterize as a much higher rate than major journals).

Chris

Anon: well, there is variation from year to year and my understanding is that the Pacific acceptance rate has been lower than that in recent years. I seem to remember thinking it was more like 10%. But I could be wrong. Which division was the 25% figure from?

At any rate, with the APA, graduate students are competing with papers from faculty, unlike the "graduate only" conferences - so my main point was that it would be odd to favor someone who'd published in a graduate only conference over someone who published in an APA.

Ed: yes, the "themes" for the colloquia on the main program are chosen after the papers have been accepted. They do their best to put together papers on similar topics to increase attendance, etc. That many papers often seem to be on the very same topics says something about trends in philosophy, rather than whether they pre-organized a topic.

Chris

Well, I did some searching and found this:

Paper acceptance rates
Five-Year Average Paper Acceptance Rates
Overall Colloquium
Eastern 25.6% 22.8%
Central 26.1% 25.8%
Pacific 25.0% 27.1%

So it looks like you're right, Anon. Still, I think my main point about APA vs. graduate conference stands (and that it is important to know which APA papers were accepted through anonymous review as opposed to an invited symposium).

Anonymous person

APA acceptance rates are much, much higher than any remotely good journal I know of. They are also (at least in the division I’ve refereed for) only refereed by a single person, who is quite often someone who (while hopefully competent to make a judgment) does not work in the paper’s subfield.

I don’t share Ed’s judgment about grad conferences. But I don’t think there is any reason to take them off your cv, so given that he (and presumably others) have such judgments, I would personally advise job candidates to keep them on their cvs.

Amanda

Strange I wrote this comment last night but it didn't seem to appear.

Marcus I just disagree with you re conference presentations. They *can* make a difference in getting tenure. If one person had X (not impressive number) publications and 0 or 1 conference presentation, and another had X publications, but say, 6 or 7 conference presentations, I could see the latter and not the former getting tenure. When I said they count toward tenure, I did not mean "in name only." At my former university they "really" counted in showing you had an active research agenda. Anyway, I am curious where you have gotten the impression this never happens...is it just your own university?

Also, I am not sure what you mean by "not enough publications to get tenure." At both my former and current university, there is no set number. Tenure is based on a large number of factors, and the admins don't want to tie their hands with a specific number. I thought this was the norm. Is it common to have a set number of publications for tenure?

All that said, I think conference presentations rarely make a difference on the market. The one time they might would be when someone has no presentations, and this sets off a flag for a search committee member. I think they usually don't matter because most people have lots of presentations, so it will rarely be a difference maker. All you need are a few to maximize job market chances, I think.

Amanda

Even if grad conferences are only amongst grad students, I still think there is often reason to take them more seriously than non-grad conferences. Here is why:

1. it is very common for "professional" conferences to accept almost everyone who makes a submission.

2.Professional conferences typically only require an abstract, and I am not sure how much it matters that someone can write a decent abstract. The competitive grad conferences require a full paper.

3.The top grad conferences are incredibly competitive, with 200 to 300 applications, and only accept 4 papers. Many of those applicants will be professors full papers, top research schools in the next couple of years. It just seems odd to think that winning this type of competition isn't at least as meaningful (probably much more) than getting in at a conference that had 30 total submissions for 8 spots and required a two paragraph abstract.

Marcus Arvan

Hey Amanda: I guess I will have to update my credences! I think my sense on this was based partly on my sense of how things may be thought of in my neck of the woods, but also on my general sense of how peer-reviewed publications vs. conferences are thought of in the profession more broadly. I didn't mean to suggest that there is some set # of publications one needs to get tenure (though I do know some places that inform new hires of basically how many publications they need in particular venues to meet a minimum bar for tenure). All I meant to suggest is that I was skeptical that presentations would be a difference-maker in T&P--that when it comes to research output, publications (rather than presentations) are commonly taken to the primary measure of tenure-and-promotion worthiness.

But apparently I was wrong about this. I'm happy to learn that I am! That's one of the things I think this blog is good for: for disabusing us (myself included) of our false presuppositions. :)

Amanda

I see Marcus, thanks for listening! And I agree with you about the general sense of presentations throughout the profession. But I also think that such "general senses" are heavily geared toward the elites of the profession. This means not only research professors at top schools, but simply those very involved in the profession, who work on lots of committees, go to APA meetings, etc.

Anyway, at my former institution the impression I got was this. I don't think anyone would deny that typically publications are an accomplish that requires clearing more difficult hurdles than presentations. But at my former school, they were less concerned about that sort of thing than they were about someone simply being active in the generation and exchange of ideas. I think they realized that given the teaching and service demands they required, asking professors to not only do research, but to meet various extremely competitive research bars, would interfere with teaching and service. And yet they didn't want to just throw research to the wayside, for they still believed in the importance of scholarship. There were also a fair amount of university events where professors would present their research to a student audience, so comfort in presenting was valued for that reason.

This school had a 4/4 teaching load, with it being fairly common for professors to teach in the summer. But what is even more relevant, I think, is they *type* of student. They were extremely underprepared. I had taught underprepared students as an adjunct before, and thought I knew this group, but was really shocked at the type of students and their writing skills, or even more, that it was common for 1/2 of the class to not turn in an essay assignment worth 1/4 of their grade. That said, there was a divide between professors who had a very active and sometimes prestigious research agenda, and those that did very little at all. Part of this was by department, for way the majority of the school was like the philosophy department, there were a handful of research oriented departments. And even in the teaching ones, it was possible to get course releases and grants to have a more research like position, but while this happened it was uncommon.

I also think this is a good place to note the following: my school had Phd programs. I think 5 or 6 of them, with the psychology department actually having some research prestige. However, it would be just wacky to consider my former job an R1 job. Yet I think according to the classification that you and others have used in the past, it would be considered this simply because it has PhD programs. If so, then this classification needs to change as it way overestimates the humber of research jobs in philosophy. It seems fairly obvious to me that research jobs are distinguished from teaching jobs in that the former has (1) lower teaching loads (2/2 or 2/3), and (2) a tenure process that is primarily decided on the basis of research. Any classification that calls a philosophy department an R1 when they teach a 4/4 and have minimal research requirements for tenure is deeply flawed.

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