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07/02/2020

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student x

Not sure if you've covered this already. What are your thoughts on a PhD student having a supervisor who is competent and knowledgeable but not really established in the student's area of interest? For example, student x is working in contemporary metaphysics, and x's supervisor works mostly in ancient but has also done some work in contemporary metaphysics. Also, suppose that the student is not at a tippy top school. Bad idea? Makes no difference?

Thanks!

advice

Student x,
Don't do it. It is vital that your advisor be an expert in your area. Why? Because she is supposed to, first, help you get to the front of the research frontier in a way only an active research can. Second, when it comes to a letter of support, someone working in Ancient, saying that a dissertation or student work in contemporary metaphysics is really important and cutting edge, counts for very little. Think of it comparatively. There are bound to be, for every job you apply for, at least 3 others who have a similar background and set of accomplishments as you who ALSO have a letter from a supervisor who actually works in the area. What is a search committee supposed to do.
I do not know how far down you are from the tippy top, but there are prejudices against lower ranked schools. I worked at an okay 4 year state college, and my colleagues showed a real disdain for applicants from such places. And a few of these were really quite unaccomplished colleagues. Personally, I just looked at the accomplishments, and the work.

Don't really know what to do

I work in philosophy of science, but recently I have started to submit papers in another subfield of philosophy. These are all journals with a good reputation. However, to my surprise, it seems that a pattern is being established: editors ask me to provide suggestions for possible reviewers. This never happened to me in philosophy of science. What's the best practice here? Naturally, I'd propose people I know (assuming they have not read the paper and they do not know I'm working on that specific topic), because I know that those people will take their job seriously. However, even if those people do not know that I'm writing that specific paper, they may recognize who I am. But this, I say, happens even in blind peer-reviewed, especially in highly specialized fields such as philosophy of science. Am I terribly wrong?

student x

On the topic of "tippy top" schools, how much can good publications offset coming from a lower ranked school on the job market? I'm set to defend in the fall and my department isn't particularly notable. I have however been fortunate enough to get two publications in top tier journals. Should I keep aiming to publish at high ranked journals or I am better off submitting to mid-level journals where I may be more likely to accumulate publications?

advice

Student x
Too often people talk of top tier journals - top tier journals that will really draw attention are: JPhil, Phil Review, and Mind ... and then the very top specialty journals, like, in my field, PhilSci and BJPS. Often when people say top tier it is outside that list. If you are coming from a non-distinguished program and your publications are not in those journals, do not expect interviews at schools with graduate programs (MA or PhD). If you get a job, it will be at a 4 year college, almost certainly.

student x

Fortunately, my publications are in PhilSci and BJPS (as it happens). Should I keep submitting to those journals or shoot for ones with generally higher acceptance rates?

It's complicated

student x and advice: I'd say that publications in top tier journals today are a necessary condition only to participate in the game. For instance, if you are in phil sc, you should have both bjps and phil sc (maybe synthese), plus a publication in one of the specialized journals (studies, hopos, bio & phil, etc). But today many grad students get to that level - what really make the difference in addition to such type of publications are recommendation letters from top scholars and an amazing research trajectory.

jack

I have a question related to that of Don't really know what to do. Should a philosophy journal ask the author of a submission to suggest possible reviewers? What are the rationales for and again this?

publisher

Jack & Don't Really,
This is a common practice in science journals, to ask for (i) possible referees, and (ii) sometimes a list of people who you do not want to review your paper. In science it is common place to have only single blind - so the reviewer sees who the author or authors are. I publish regularly in an empirical field (call it scientific), and the key journal will not send your paper out for review unless you have your name on it.

Ending coursework soonish

My department discourages students from professionalizing too early--but they are vague on when professionalization should start ramping up. They actively discourage us from publishing (and they encourage us to get the dissertation finished first). (I think they're trying to counter people who get distracted by publishing and then let the dissertation collect dust.) So, is this normal? What IS the best publishing advice for a graduate student, when should we start publishing?

Also, am I the only one who isn't motivated by teaching? I try hard at it and treat it seriously, but there isn't really anything about teaching that I actively like or that motivates me to be in grad school or academia. (I don't dislike it either, it's kind of just a job.) I learned that I'm probably more of an exception in this regard, or else I'm one of the few willing to say that teaching doesn't motivate me. How should job applicants spin their relationship to teaching? Does it matter if we aren't passionate about it?

Evan

Ending coursework soonish:

I don’t think you are the exception or rare ones. I suspect that a great many of professors feel the same way as you. I’ve talked to many PhD graduates who dreaded the idea of teaching and they simply just want to do research or write.

In an other past post, a commenter argued that the primary function or duty of professors is to publish their own research and not to provide feedback or to guide students.

When I was in high school, my teacher warned me about this saying that most professors are experts and not teachers. In the other past post, I made the disjunction between teaching and lecturing. Teaching is the genus while lecturing is the species. I think lecturing by itself is the bare minimum a professor (or anybody) can do in regards to teaching since it is an act of transferring knowledge. This is of course separate from guiding or instructing which also falls under the category of “teaching.”

Different universities have different expectations for their professors. If you dread providing guidance or feedback, but don’t mind lecturing, then I would choose a university that would allow you to do just that.

And if you dread lecturing as well, then I would just apply for a researcher role and not as a professor. The word “professor” implies some sort duty to teach even if it’s just the bare minimum e.g. lecturing.

Ending coursework soonish

Evan:

Thanks for your insights! In fact I dread lecturing and I probably won't do it unless I get backed into a corner, but I'm much more comfortable running an interactive classroom with well-structured activities. At any rate, a research position would be ideal if I can snag one.

Current grad & incoming prof

Evan: I was the commenter in the other thread I think you were referring to. To clarify, I was talking about professors at PhD-granting institutions; I'm aware that there are many other professors in other roles/institutions. And my point was primarily one about compensation, not about how professors themselves conceive of their duties -- or even what their primary duty should be. I've benefited from many professors at my institution who valued teaching over research, despite the financial incentives of the university. (But I am another example of someone who prefers research to teaching...)

Ending coursework soonish: Particularly if research is your goal, you should start publishing as soon as possible. Once you have a couple chapters, the dissertation can be hastily wrapped up at any point you get a job; but publications are what help you to get the job in the first place. Jason Brennan gives the good advice of always having 3 things under review (which I haven't ever been able to maintain, but may be a good motivator). The dissertation should always be thought of in terms of material for potential future publications, never as an obstacle to publication. Or at least this is how I went about things and what helped me.

Covid PhD?

All things considered, is it better for your future academic job prospects to delay graduating and stay in graduate school or to graduate with a PhD in these Covid times? I have heard people in the profession talk about how extended "length of time to get your degree" can count against someone on the market. Alternatively, I have heard people talk about how having a "stale" PhD (i.e. your chances of getting a TT job decrease every year that you are on the market after you earned your PhD) can also count against you on the market (aka the "staying fresh" rule). I currently have completed my dissertation and am one of the older graduate students at my university (between 5-9 years in the program). I am not sure if it is better for my future academic employment to defend and graduate sooner rather than later. Everyone thinks that the job market in the Fall will be terrible. Some think that hiring committees in the future will be more understanding about getting your PhD in a post-Covid era, but I am not sure how sympathetic they will actually be. Any advice or insights are most welcome!

Ending coursework soonish

@ Current grad $ incoming prof

"Jason Brennan gives the good advice of always having 3 things under review (which I haven't ever been able to maintain, but may be a good motivator)."

This is one of those things that becomes SO OBVIOUS once somebody points it out, thank you! It's going in my "tips and tricks" file :) It fits with thinking of research projects along a pipeline: try to move different projects along so that there's always three at the review point in the research pipeline.

Evan


Ending course work so soon:

You’re very welcome!

Current Grad: Thanks for the clarification!

Here’s my other advice (command?) on the whole “teaching” thing. If you’re going to do the bare minimum of teaching, then at the very least try to be sufficiently competent at it. For example, lecturing.

Two sub-species of lecturing are: summarization and explanation. If you can provide excellent summarization and explanation of the know-how and know-that of your subject, then that would go a long way for students.

My first philosophy class was philosophy of mind. Philosophy of mind was extremely difficult. The readings were primary and secondary texts, but they were still meandering and specialized. I knew they weren’t written for non-specialists.

I almost cried at how difficult it was to read and understand the concepts, ideas, and text in general (besides Decartes because his was the easiest to understand for some reason). I did not expect philosophy to be this specialized and esoteric at the time. I thought, what have I gotten myself into?

But thankfully my professor at the time was an excellent lecturer and could explain it in such a way that was easy to understand. If it weren’t for his exceptional ability of explanation and summarization, I probably would have dropped the class, but I stayed and really enjoyed it.

JR

I have a teaching question and request for recommendations from readers: I regularly teach the introductory philosophy course at my institution, which is required as part of the core curriculum for all undergraduates and is generally taken fall or spring semester of the students' first year. Given that this is typically their first exposure to philosophy, I have found it helpful to begin the course with a unit on "What is Philosophy?". For this unit, I have had great success using Midgley's "Philosophical Plumbing" essay, and Russell's "The Value of Philosophy" (chapter from Problems of Philosophy), but I'm looking for some different texts of this sort, ideally from more diverse voices and perspectives: short, discussion-generating takes on what philosophy is or why it is important that take a stronger stand than the usual bland introductions from textbooks, but also do not presuppose much background or use a lot of technical terms. All suggestions welcome! Thanks!

Incoming PhD

I'm preparing my first article for submission and I'm struggling to cut my paper down to the word limit at journals I'm interested in submitting to. Part of this, admittedly, is lack of experience: there are undoubtedly components to my article that a more experienced author would intuitive know to cut. And some of the excess word count results from unnecessary long sentences, extraneous citations, etc. That's obviously stuff I need to cut. But I also feel like there's a point where I, as an author, should just say that I'm done and move on to the next thing.

When should one throw in the towel, admit they probably won't get their article down to the maximum word count, and just submit to journals whose word counts they reach (even if those journals are less good fits/less likely to accept)?

anon

This is probably not super important, but on your CV, how should you list an article when the online publication date is very distant from the print publication date? For multiple papers of mine these two dates are in different years.

I'm thinking of just writing down (2020 print / 2019 online) where I would normally write the date?

preparing

I have a question about preparing for teaching remotely in the fall: how much (extra) effort should I put into it?

I chose to run the classes asynchronously in the spring when we had to move everything online. I decide to run them synchronously in the fall. I feel that asynchronous online classes are not fair to students many of whom are expected to come back on campus (at least for now for my university) and to pay full or almost full tuition.

While I am learning about some really nice tools that help run classes synchronously, I have some worries and am wondering how much time and effort I should put into it. First, it seems to me that what we are facing is a pretty unique situation, and I am not sure whether we will encounter similar situations in the future (hopefully not!). And I am inclined to teach "real" online classes asynchronously to give students flexibilities. So, I am not sure if I will get another chance to teach remotely and synchronously in the future. Second, while I put a lot of time in it, I am not sure students will appreciate it. I read some articles and it seems that many students are disappointed about remote learning. Yes, I can probably design a really nice class and impress students, but is it really worth the time and effort?

First Time on the Market

Has anyone compiled a spreadsheet or list of the postdocs and fellowships that repeat from year to year? I would love a link if so!

Soon-to-be applicant

For those of us who will be applying for PhDs this year- does anyone have experience being on an admissions committee? If so, how do you whittle your initial pile of applications down to a short-list where you actually read the samples and review the apps in depth?

What are you looking at? GPA? Undergrad reputation? SOPs? What is your advice for making it past that first cut?

yo

Do you have any advice or do readers have any advice about how to select referees or readers for a book manuscript when initially submitting it for peer review? Should everyone I suggest be an expert in the particular thinker that the book is about?

Older but Wiser

I am an older graduate student (circa 40) who, in the coming years, expects to go on the academic job market. In your experience, is it true that older candidates are often looked at less favorably than younger candidates? Is there some sense that, with a younger candidate, it is more likely that "her best work is ahead of her"? To the extent that this age bias is prevalent, are there ways for older candidates to mitigate its impact? More specifically, are there particular worries about older candidates that they might be able to address in their application materials?

Busqueda

Should junior TT faculty, who are trying to do things such as get another TT job or secure a book contract with a good academic press, list their dissertation committee members on their CV?

Karen Kelsky advises against it because by her lights it makes one seem much more like a junior scholar or maybe even a graduate student.

But, on the other hand, both search committees and academic press suffer from prestige bias. So, one might think that if one's dissertation committee is very famous, one should include them on one's CV.

incoming grad

is it ever too early to be trying to publish? if so, what are the downsides of trying to publish too early?

more specifically, I'm an incoming first year phd student at a top program and I have a couple of articles drafted that I want to try to get out into the world. if I were still in undergrad, I'd have a trusted advisor read them and advise me, but I'm not. I don't have any relationship with people at my soon to be grad school yet, and because of the pandemic, I don't want to assume that I'll be interacting much with potential advisors this fall, or sending them independent work to read. the way I see it, there wouldn't be much harm in sending off my articles to good journals and hopefully getting some helpful comments from reviewers (or, unlikely but very best case, actually getting published!) since reviews are anonymous, right? or am I missing something?

don't do it

Incoming,
Yes it is too early. Undergraduates should not bother publishing, unless you were told you were the next Saul Kripke. And you should not send undergrad papers to journals to get feedback. It is not that kind of service. Referees referee for free, and they do so on the understanding that a colleague - an equal - is sending in a manuscript that they have some reason to believe is a contribution to the professional literature. You are missing something.

Author??

This might be a silly question but here goes. What would you think of a philosopher publishing fiction in addition to publishing philosophy? If their work has philosophical themes - if a character was a philosophy professor, or if characters explicitly discussed philosophers' work - would you think that was evidence of un-seriousness or lack of dedication to really doing philosophy? Would you assume the work was autobiographical? Would peers or mentors or hiring committees care? I studied creative writing in college and have been working on fiction projects in my spare time on and off since then and there's one I want to publish. But if there's even a little chance it would hurt my prospects in philosophy, forget it...

PT

@Author?? -- This sounds great to me! I'd definitely read a novel like that, and I'm really sure a lot of people (both academics and non-academics) would enjoy well-written characters like that.

I'm less sure that hiring committees would care, and I wouldn't expect it to count for much by way of tenure and promotion. Maybe there'd be a way to sell it as "public-facing philosophy", which is beginning to get counted more and more, but even so, that seems like a stretch.

But if it's something you want to do just for fun, then why the hell not? Seems like a great idea!

reader of fiction

Author??
There are professional philosophers who have published fiction. Alex Rosenberg published a novel about a woman trying to survive during the holocaust, and Craig DeLancey publishes science fiction. Talk to them - e-mail them and get their impressions.

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