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Seasoned Veteran

The publication date itself wouldn't be that relevant, right? What matters is whether you submitted it and had it accepted (or had the chapter solicited by an editor and wrote it up) while you were employed at your university, right? That's how it works at my university, at least.

Marcus Arvan

Seasoned Verteran: Nope, some universities do it on the basis of publication date, not when it was submitted or accepted.

In that position

I was in this position transitioning from NTT to TT — I just negotiated as part of my hire that my publications as a NTT faculty at the institution count for tenure (and has it written in to my offer letter).

Seasoned Veteran

Marcus: Oh wow. I suppose I should, uh, confirm the policy with my chair. Haha! Thanks!

postdoc yells at cloud

Rant: this aspect of the tenure process drives me nuts. I've been out of the PhD and hopping around between different postdocs for several years now, and I've now got enough publications for tenure at most R1s. But should I be fortunate enough to get a TT, this whole body of work won't count for anything, and I'll have to do it all over again. It's enough to make me want to leave the profession all by itself.

This seems crazy to me: getting tenure should be about your record as a scholar, right? Maybe in the days when people just got jobs right out of grad school, it made sense to start counting publications from the beginning of the appointment. But now that so many people are in my position and do a lot of their early career work before ever setting foot on the tenure-track, it's kind of nuts to keep doing things this way. As a result, you get people plotting ways to delay their publications out of fear that they won't count towards tenure. This should trigger some alarm bells: if the process for evaluating people's scholarship is making people refrain from doing that scholarship, something is very wrong.

Now, I can think of a few reasons why universities persist in doing things this way:
1) they want to hold all TTs to the same standard, and this is easier if you just count from date-of-appointment;
2) when you're on the TT, you're not just researching - you're doing teaching and service too, and so the tenure review process should evaluate the quality of research *while also undertaking those responsibilities.*

(1) and (2) seem like legitimate challenges for tenure committees, but I don't think they justify the current practice. Re (1), holding people to the same standard shouldn't mean ignoring most of a person's scholarly work just because it happened when they had less job security and were applying for jobs all the time. Re: (2), NTTs and postdocs also have teaching and service responsibilities - it's not like they just do research all the time.

Maybe there are other reasons to justify the current practice that I've missed. But as far as I can tell, it's outdated, it results in people not getting credit for legitimate scholarly work, and it incentivizes people not to publish. I'm sure nobody will ever do anything about it, but let the record show that I - a disgruntled anonymous commenter without a TT position - think it stinks.

Marcus Arvan

postdoc: I totally understand and empathize with your frustration. As someone who got my TT job with a long list of publications, it was indeed frustrating to not have them counted.

That being said, it's also worth getting clear about the real reason why some universities do this. My sense is that it's not done for for reasons (1) and (2) that you list. It's done, rather, because they don't want to hire someone into a TT who has a great publication record prior to hire but then 'rests on their laurels' and publishes nothing after being hired. Universities want to hire people that are going to *continue* producing (and, at R1's, continue to produce at a high level).

So, for example, as you note, you already have a publication record that would probably be sufficient for tenure at many R1s. So now imagine that universities didn't have the policy in the OP. In that scenario, you could get hired, publish *nothing* after getting hired, and still get tenured. Or consider my case. I had enough publications upon being hired to get tenure at my institution. If my university didn't have the policy it does, I could have published *nothing* after getting hired and still gotten tenure. Universities don't want this, for obvious reasons: they want to avoid hiring someone who is just going to coast by on their past record. They want to make sure that you will publish *after* getting hired - and so they incentivize that by only counting publications post-hire.

Anyway, I realize it still sucks. But this, I think, is the real primary reason for the practice.


While I agree with your explanation, Marcus, I do not believe that this is a sufficient justification for the practice. Universities could count your prior publications and demand that you demonstrate that you are still publishing after you have been hired. This is actually the situation I am in: My university accepts my previous publications as part of the tenure file, but I have to have publications (preferably, submissions/acceptances) after the date I have been hired. I also got some credit on my tenure clock. Hence, I can go up earlier, if I want (and the T&P committee recommends it).

I believe, like postdoc, that the usual practices (publications before hiring do not count) is completely outdated, since longer postdoc periods are very widespread right now. And it goes against the spirit of tenure, if an important part of your publication record does not count. It is also weird, since people who start their TT directly after their PhD build their publication record on the research they have done as PhDs. Is milking your PhD evidence that you will publish after you have received tenure? I am not so sure about that...

anonymous tenure track at R1

The flip side of what "postdoc yells at cloud" says is this: there might be fairness reasons that really matter for not counting earlier publications. I'm in a TT job that I got straight out of grad school with one publication. But two of my junior colleagues (one more senior than me, one less) came from fancy postdocs--in one case, many years of fancy postdocs with almost no teaching or service responsibilities. That person will go up for tenure before me. As such, they will contribute to setting the standard/the way my work is evaluated. But I can't possibly attain what they have managed to publish in four-five years of being paid well with zero teaching and service responsibilities. So--while I see reasons for and against doing this--one reason for doing it is that it will likely actively harm people like me when I go up for tenure if my colleague's entire publication record is looked at in their tenure case. If instead they looked at their publication record in actual years served at our institution, the standard stops looking so impossible for me to meet.


This is very informative. I didn’t know this was a thing. There are many factors at play in determining whether you should implement one strategy over the other.

First, it depends on whether or not your TT job is at a large R1 or a small teaching-focused school or whatever in between.

For early-career philosophers, I would just do the bare minimum of what is required to get at least hired even if it’s not a TT job. You need publications to have a strong or competitive CV to even get hired at most places even if they’re not a TT job. Try your best to meet the minimal expectations of the type of school you’re planning on spending the rest of your life in early in your career. Publishing too much without a TT job can intellectually burn you out later on. Some people argue that philosophy gets better with age. But burns out are still possibilities, which would undermine your TT requirement.

Second, keep up with the literature. There is this tendency for philosophers to think more than they should read. I highly doubt that the literature will move on to the degree that makes your arguments irrelevant so long as you keep up with it and make outlines or brief plans on how you want to write your papers. And even if the debates in the literature render your ideas irrelevant, move on. Don’t be *excessively* committed to one idea or argument.

Third, I would not advise withholding actual *drafts* since those will take too much of your time and energy. Keep your ideas broad enough so that when you reach a TT job, you have multiple outlines and plans for your future papers. Don’t overwork yourself on the side since you still need to actually publish anyways. Outlines are great because you can have multiple since they’re just brainstorming, which will make writing drafts easier when you do need to publish on a TT job. Keep your potential papers for A TT job brief but firm so you have something to work on.

Fourth, if you’re afraid that your withheld papers will be irrelevant later on, then choose a different type of strategy of writing. My tip is to figure out what things most or all philosophers have not discussed before. What sort of things are they neglecting? Is there something substantial or relevant that most or all philosophers have missed?

Finally, there is the realist perspective: since academics are increasingly required to publish more and teach on top of that, withholding actual drafts might not be practically done since you’re already required to publish certain amounts every year anyways. From a realist perspective, it might not make any difference at all, unless you have a lot great potential articles to publish or if you think like your philosophical skills and imagination will decrease with age. This goes back to my earlier point on burn outs. And even then it’s no guarantee that these potential papers will be accepted since acceptance rates are extremely low to begin with.

There is no strategy that will guarantee anything. I suspect that those who have a broad interest and/or are competent in many areas of philosophy are the ones who will probably have a better time publishing and coming up with new and fruitful ideas. Perhaps philosophers should, as Helen once wrote before, be a generalist and not a specialist. There is wisdom in that advice.

Marcus Arvan

“ For early-career philosophers, I would just do the bare minimum of what is required to get at least hired even if it’s not a TT job... Publishing too much without a TT job can intellectually burn you out later on.”

Evan, for what it is worth, I disagree with this. The more I published, the easier publishing got for me—and helped me keep up my productivity after getting hired TT. It’s easy to be research productive after you’ve figured how to do it. It’s much harder to shift from being not so productive to suddenly being productive after getting hired. Habits are habits, and practice is practice. The more practice one has publishing before a TT job, the easier I think you’ll find it to publish enough once on the job to get tenure. Or so my experience has been. Maybe my experience isn’t representative, but the general principles behind what I describe above seem true to me of most things in life: if you want to get good at something (like publishing or shooting a basketball), do a lot of it - not the bare minimum.


Marcus: I said “can” not “will.” But yes, I agree with you generally. I was having those people who struggle with too much on their plate already in mind. For them, they can get burnt out doing philosophy for 8+ hours everyday on top of teaching, grading, refereeing, etc. As well, I was also talking about the bare-minimum of published papers and not the bare-minimum of practice. Indeed, I suspect that a lot of philosophers had so many rejected papers per paper published already. And if they are required to publish the bare minimum of 1-2 articles per year, then it’s safe to assume that they are going to get a lot of practice by sending out more than that only to have them get rejected. I hope that clarify things.


@Seasoned Veteran: Definitely confirm the policy with your chair, as well as any other decision-making authorities.

I once had a paper accepted ~10 days before the start of my contract with a new job. Even though it was published while I worked there, with their university affiliation printed on it, it did. not. count.

I literally could have just delayed my reply to the journal editor by two weeks and it would have counted.


So for these institutions where only your post-hiring papers matter, do they instruct external letters to only think about your post-hiring work?

Just asking because I've seen some language in tenure procedures that make reference to getting the external letter writers to confirm that you're a big deal in your field (roughly speaking). This language seems broad enough that it includes anything a person has written.


On a side-note: I do think philosophers should keep track of how many papers of theirs get submitted, rejected, and published yearly. I think that would help a lot of people (especially early career people or grad students) get an idea of approximately how much they should be writing to get one paper accepted. Having some sort of ratio can be helpful to motivate them to keep writing if they are not doing enough as they should.


My track record based on a rough memory, in case you're interested, Evan (I'm counting revisions as part of one single submission):

Top 15 generalist journal: ~sixth submission.
Top 5-ish specialist journal: first submission
Top 25 generalist journal: first submission
Top 5-ish specialist journal: ~13th submission (oddly my best paper)
Top 15 generalist journal: ~fifth submission
Top 6 generalist journal: first submission
Top 3 specialist journal: first submission
Top 15 generalist journal: second submission

I have a paper under review at its fourth journal that will eventually land. I also had papers that I decided not to continue with after rejection from one, one, and three journals (all were premature papers that I submitted as a grad student).


As it happens I actually have kept a detailed record of this.

Top 4 generalist journal: 1st submission (FWIW this was a short paper on a topic that had basically only been discussed in this journal)
Top 20 generalist journal: 5th submission
Top 10 generalist journal: 2nd submission
Top 20 generalist journal: 2nd submission
Top 20 generalist journal: 4th submission
Top 20 generalist journal: 3rd submission
Top 5 specialist journal: 3rd submission
Top 10 generalist journal: 2nd submission
Top 4 generalist journal: 7th submission (I really believed in the paper and kept aiming high)
Top 5 specialist journal: 1st submission (invited for a special issue)
Top 10 generalist journal: 3rd submission
Top 5 specialist journal: 4th submission

I have several papers still under review, including two that have been rejected five times. I also gave up on one paper outside my normal area after three rejections.

Looking at this list it's not as bad as I thought - I would've guessed the average was at about 5 submissions but it's closer to 3. But this still means more than two out of three submissions are rejected.

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