Our books






Become a Fan

« New article in Journal of Moral Philosophy: "(When) Are Authors Culpable for Causing Harm?" | Main | Preparing for success in a new job? »

04/05/2023

Comments

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

Emanuele

Speaking for research-intensive institutions only.
I come from a non-American, non-ranked PhD program, and publications were the only things that we (myself and my colleagues) could use to prove our 'worth'. We were explicitly advised in this way; and it worked (for me and for several of my PhD colleagues). But I would like also to add that more and more PhD students publish in great venues consistently, and maybe now you need to add something more (grants, outreach, etc). Who knows, maybe one day you'll need publications to get into PhD programs (joking, but not so much).
It is true that there are candidates who can get jobs at R1 without publications or by publishing only with their advisors. For these cases, prestige (either of the institution, or the advisor, or both) matters a great deal.
In both situations I described, luck also plays an important role.

Anon

American but been in UK for years now: publications matter to get a permanent job, even for many teaching positions. But still occasionally people get jobs without publications or without top publications due to luck, being the internal candidate and/or prestige bias/nepotism. Gender balance of the department may also matter. Even people with good publications might not be able to compete if there is a lot of these things together. One recent hire at a very top uni is evidence of this - I know someone who has great publications who lost in that search to an internal with very few publications. Whole market is unfair, but made worse when sometimes it is more about who you know than what publications etc you have

Michel

My experience on the market was that the number and the quality of the venue of my publications did not make an appreciable difference (and I have a couple in the T10 generalist journals, and a couple just outside the T10, as well as several in top specialist journals). I consistently netted 0-1 first-round interviews, and no more. I got my job because a warm body was needed for summer teaching, then a colleague died and I was there to pick up the empty courses.

I think the reason is that my AOS and PhD-granting institution are both too low-status. Though I might have done better with something in PhilReview... who knows?

The idea that you need T5 publications--or even three--doesn't seem borne out by my experience (of looking at the CVs of who is hired where). That said, it does seem like those with something in PR, Nous, Mind, or JPhil have a leg up. I suspect it buys them a second glance in the pile of applications.

It's worth observing, however, that those journals publish virtually no work in some subfields, so there's not much pointing sending your work there if yours is one of them.

sisyphus

Grad program & teaching experience seem to be the other main factors that come into play.

Anecdotally: I am 3 years post-PhD. My PhD granting program is Leiter unranked. I have lots of teaching experience (20+ courses now, at different institutions). I currently have 6 publications that are all either in the Leiter top ten, or in the top ranked journals in my subfield (phil sci). I have also secured a big grant prior to the last job cycle.

I got a decent postdoc out of grad school (when I had two pubs.), but no job offers of any kind since (and I've been applying). My impression is that getting more and/or better publications is (sadly) not going to help me very much.

AOC is king

So many of the top jobs went to people with (at least) AOCs in sexy areas: AI, race, social, etc. Unless you're a true superstar (graduating with 5 publications in Nous, or whatever), the best predictor is whether you're working in one of those (currently) sexy areas, trumping otherwise better (on paper, at least) CVs.

sisyphus

I think @AOC is king is right. A "sexy" AOC or AOS is a huge factor. The number of jobs in the traditional LEMM areas is dropping off fast!

I find this to be a conundrum. I like my AOS and want to keep going with it. Though, to get a job, I could try pivoting so as to claim a sexy AOC. But, I have little interest in doing so, apart from securing a job. Moreover, it seems to me that making the pivot for job-securing reasons are the wrong reasons anyhow. Hence I'm not trying - but it likely means I won't get a job.

No Better Strategy

I would just echo the OP's sentiment of feeling like the advice I received in grad school might not have been the most helpful. Like the OP, I was told that publishing a fair amount was basically the most important thing one could do to secure a job. My recent experience with the job market has suggested that pubs don't matter nearly as much as I thought they would.

At the same time, I acknowledge that it still may be the case that publishing is a sound strategy to obtaining a job. Trying to have a 'hot' AOC might not be a sound strategy because 1) what's 'hot' changes quickly (especially with a warming planet) and 2) choosing a 'hot' AOC that one doesn't care much about might not work to one's advantage anyway.

So, I don't regret having a fair number of solid publications, nor the time I spent writing them. It is sobering to see how many candidates can get jobs without pubs for whatever quirky or incidental reasons (who knows whose advisors etc). When there are so few posts to start with, each one ends up being really important to everyone's prospects!

some success

Publications are very important, but as others above have noted, many other factors can swamp them in particular searches. There have been a lot (too many) jobs concentrated in a few areas the last few years - this leads to all sorts of odd hires. I took 5 years to get a TT job, and I had two papers in PhilSci + others ... at the end of the day, though, it is my publications that have got me the opportunities I have got in the profession. So, even if in the short term they do not yield a job, in the long run, it pays to have well placed publications

Bill Vanderburgh

Three in tippy-top journals sounds like more than enough for most jobs. One or two in good journals is likely sufficient.

Most of the competitive applications (ones we have advanced to the long and short lists over several searches over the last few years in our research-interested department at a large, urban, newly-R2, teaching-focused state university) have had at least 2-3 publications. Some people got a look when they were exactly what we were looking for in terms of areas and teaching experience with fewer (even no) publications in hand, but to my recollection none of the people we hired had fewer than two publications in hand. That's not a requirement, just how things worked out given the competitiveness of our pools.

We didn't give much weight to where the articles appeared, since we just wanted to have evidence (combined with the research statement) that the candidate would be able to earn tenure, and a couple of pubs before a permanent job is enough to show a trajectory.

We did place a fairly strong emphasis on the philosophical sophistication of the writing sample, and most of those we received were either published or under review. (As a result, writing samples that were pre-submission drafts often felt under-developed.)

from the uk

UK department: we had a lot of permanent hires this year, and didn't shortlist (didn't even longlist) anyone without publications.
The number of them also mattered, but the quality (i.e. publication venue) mattered more.

Of course it also depends on the career stage of the applicant. From a fresh PhD, 2-3 publications in very good journals would be enough for a longlist (and then there are other factors that determine the rest).

Participant and Observer

Sorry if this is out of place, but since the AOC thing was brought up: anyone else get the feeling that really applied Phil Sci had a great year? I've noticed people doing "crunchy" applied Phil Sci are doing well, even more so than AI/race/social/etc.

Also, I echo sisyphus's take on LEMM -- at least with the armchair side of LEMM, that isn't doing a bunch of science stuff with it (e.g. phil mind that isn't heavily engaging with cog sci or neuroscience). The junior LEMM market looks like it's almost dead outside swanky schools. Not quite fully there but the pulse is weak. Maybe future appointment information will change that assessment.

To link it back to the topic, if you're areas are not in demand, I doubt publishing a bunch will be your salvation. Same with glowing teaching evals, for that matter.

tttt

I agree with some other commentators that having great publications is a sound strategy. But thinking in terms of "I have to publish 3 papers in top 5" is not helpful at all. It is neither necessary nor sufficient for a particular post--often far from it. Not to mention that it is an unrealistic goal. So I suggest forgetting about this overly specific advice.

P.S. for generational talents, they actually don't need publications. I've seen letters and samples so glowing that they can blind committee's eyes (no negative connotations intended).

R

I'm perhaps biased because I got hired with low pub # and know people who did too. My program is good but not top-top. My topic is somewhat popular but not crazy hot. I don't work at a PUI.

One thing that seems to matter is the ability to articulate a coherent, well motivated, promising research program. Having pubs help with this because 1) writing full papers force you to rehearse the coherence & motivation narrative, and 2) pubs serve as evidence that the program is promising and feasible.

But there are people who have very good pubs who can't (or won't) do this. They may be very good papers that individually solve important questions, but don't really connect to each other, and so the reader still wonders if they just stumbled across those topics or if they can consistently do it again. (Fwiw I am very convinced by the "I've serendipitously done it 5 times already; of course I can do it again" argument. But, from talking to others, it seems that many people are not convinced by this line of reasoning.)

On the other hand, some people are able to present a convincing narrative even without a lot of published evidence. I've heard file-readers say stuff like "the pub record isn't as great as the other person but this sort of work is very difficult and super important, so I'd be shocked if they can't pump out pubs soon enough."

This is why I think the "gotta publish X papers or no chance" advice is dangerous. It's not that publication doesn't help, but sometimes this advice pushes students to go for the first route and publish many isolated, small-scale (but high quality!) projects to the detriment of spending time putting together a bigger narrative.

Coherence

@R - that comment is REALLY helpful! I'd love to have a thread or hear more from you about what makes a convincing narrative. I personally am sometimes held back because I don't want to overpromise in my research program. In particular, I am pretty humble about what I (and most non "genius" philosophers) can accomplish with my work. But maybe I need to aim higher? Will some committee members see that as being unrealistic and naive?

sisyphus

As much as I think what @R notes is good advice (other things being equal, having a very cohesive narrative about your research surely helps!) it is not something I'd bank on to get you a job.

Again, anecdotally, I have a cohesive research programme (4 of my 6 papers are all on the same topic, putting forward/defending the same theory, which has actually been getting nice engagement in the lit.). Yet, I have nothing, job wise, to show for it. In fact, this past job cycle of the two places I got interviews, each time the job went to someone with only 1 or 2 publications (in lower ranked journals than my pubs) and with less teaching experience than me... but they were coming from top ranked grad programs/other possibly helpful factors. In short, a good publication + good grad program might get you there, but if your grad program is ranked low, publications - particularly good ones - might end up working against you! So far, this seems to be my experience. I'd encourage the OP to look at this thread from the cocoon as it certainly is turning out to be my experience: https://philosopherscocoon.typepad.com/blog/2018/01/grad-program-rank-publications-and-job-market-a-hypothesis.html


Focus over Quantity?

R,

That may explain some things. I have a lot of publications, but I have only ever had one TT interview. My publications are scattered over several areas of philosophy, but that's a casualty of working multiple jobs in multiple countries, each of which has required learning a whole new area. I have also noticed that people who get TT jobs tend to be focused in a specific area, even if they have published very little.

Obviously having an itinerant series of jobs in different areas is better than an alternative of no job at all, but I suppose having focus might be one of the benefits of getting control over your research agenda early. Would that I could, but better that I would have...

grad at non elite program

I'm a grad student at a low-ish ranked program. The people who have gotten jobs recently (in the past few years) have ranged from having tons of publications (with some somewhat elite ones), to a few (but with one or two very elite ones), to one or none (this is quite a few people, and the ones I can think of who had just one publication didn't have it in a super high ranked journal. Most of these jobs have been at R2s, slacs, etc.--places that care about both research and teaching. Two or three of them have been international but all those people have had at least a few publications (though not always super elite ones). Some of them have been at R1s (in one case with zero publications, in one case with quite a few). Most of these people did not have the AOCs or AOSs listed above as "sexy", but many of them did work on things of relevance to lots of different people. My sense from talking to them, the faculty, and the placement director (I am about to go on the market myself) is that a lot of this has to do with a mix of having a good-sized, interesting-but-still-approachable, and very coherent research program, alongside significant teaching experience and training.

R

Re Coherence- I'm glad it helps :) It took me a long time and a lot of work to put together a narrative, partly because I had internalized the idea that I should focus on getting one publication at a time and not think about anything too grand until after tenure. What has helped me is to think about these questions: 1) What got me excited for philosophy in the first place? When I'm excited, I can better excite others (students and search committee members). 2) If I'll be a well-known expert 10 years from now, what do I want to be an expert of? What do I want people to say when they meet me for the first time? 3) If I can "fix" my students, teach them something I think they really need to know but aren't taught (or are taught wrong) at present, what is that something?

Note that I'm by nature a pretty optimistic person -- I truly believe that doing philosophy can change the world -- in a way that I recognize isn't super common. So YMMV. I think "aim higher" is probably a good idea because your default is probably going to be too low. But I don't think one should aim higher than one sincerely believes, because then it would be really difficult to convince others that it's feasible. I'd rather see a project that's perhaps a bit too modest than one where the person appears detached and is just throwing buzzwords at me. So, perhaps the better strategy is to make yourself believe more and naturally aim high as a consequence.

Re sisyphus- of course you can't bank on it. You can't bank on anything to get a job. I understand it this way: once you present a coherent narrative, other people can judge it. And they may judge it uninteresting or unfit. But, without a good narrative, others can't judge you at all.

Of course prestige also plays a role. I think: people are more likely to believe someone putting forward a grand narrative without a lot of pubs as evidence if the person is from a prestigious program. So, "all else being equal", prestige helps. But prestige is also very far from something a job seeker can bank on.

Re Focus over Quantity?- Right. Having worked in several different areas with pub pressures definitely makes it hard to develop a coherent narrative. However, I don't think staying within one area is all that important. My own work started out very scattered. I'm still very junior but has changed AOS several times (without pubs as evidence either). Anecdotally I think it's more likely for someone who has never changed AOS to not have a narrative (perhaps because they never needed to convince other people why their work is valuable and why they're capable of doing it, as us AOS-hoppers often need to do).

I think high pub pressure makes it difficult to work on a grand picture, especially if the pub pressure also requires learning new literature. That said, I don't think moving across multiple AOSs hurts the cohesion of the narrative.

sisyphus

@R - I am aware you can't bank on anything when it comes to the job market (coming up on my 4th year on the market).

I mostly meant to note in passing how frustrating it can be for people who might well be checking all the boxes within their control (good narrative, good publications, good teaching experience, etc.) but who cannot change other factors, like prestige, to hear its possible to get a job with few or no publications, but with only something like a good narrative. From my view, I'm inclined assign far less weight to the narrative and far more to things like prestige in such cases.

But, again, let me underscore that other things being equal, of course, I can't imagine a case where having a good research narrative ever hurt anyone.

It's the WS

This is about research TT positions in top north American R1s. It’s based on comments from search committee members in these R1s. Publications in good journals appear to be important primarily in the initial cut. They can help candidates lacking the prestige factor to be looked at more closely, and their writing sample (WS) to be read more thoroughly. But after the initial cut these search committees like to make their own judgements about the philosophical or research ability of candidates, rather than using the number of publications as a proxy. TLDR: The WS is the biggest component of this judgment and on whether to give you an interview, so spend lots of time on honing your WS. More below on how.

From Ken Taylor (ex-Stanford chair) in the last post of https://leiterreports.typepad.com/blog/2017/09/the-differing-codes-in-which-letters-of-reference-are-written.html “once we get past the initial screening, only our judgment matters…” “…we don't and wouldn't farm out that judgment to anybody. Not a dissertation advisor, not a journal editor or referee, not anybody.” “…if neither I nor any of my colleagues on the search committee…likes the work, it doesn't matter if the candidate has a letter from God itself praising the work as the equivalent of revealed truth. It doesn't matter if the work is or is not published in the Journal of Complete Philosophical Wisdom.” “So my advice to job candidates, is make darned sure that writing sample stands up to close scrutiny. That's what your fate ultimately hangs on and it's the main thing you can control.” Read the whole post, it’s useful.

For more on how the screening process works, see the posts by R1 profs in post 8 (Univ of Toronto), post 12 (Univ of Nebraska) and post 13 in https://leiterreports.typepad.com/blog/2013/01/members-of-search-committees-what-do-you-actually-do-in-reviewing-files.html For instance Post 12 says “Once I'm narrowing things down to those on the short list, the writing sample and my own evaluation of it carries most of the weight. It seems to me to be the best evidence I have of the best work this candidate is capable of at this stage”. “Having a good degree won't make up for a bad writing sample; coming from a less than a first-rate graduate program won't be any reason to downgrade a first hand judgement that this is a good paper.”

For how to make your WS stand out, read this APA post by Allen Wood, who served on search committees at Indiana and Stanford https://blog.apaonline.org/2016/01/12/advice-for-applying-for-academic-jobs-in-philosophy-indiana-university-bloomington-part-2-2/

A side note on successful ABD candidate. Their unpublished dissertation is likely to be their highest quality product and the source of their WS. It’s quite possible that this WS could be judged as being more impressive (even if the candidate hasn’t published anything yet from their research) than the WS submitted by somebody with more publications in well regarded journals.

One takeaway is that using number of publications to compare candidates really misses the picture in how top R1s actually evaluate candidates.

Coherence

@R - I just wanted to 'up' two points that reflect my experience.

"I had internalized the idea that I should focus on getting one publication at a time and not think about anything too grand until after tenure." - YES.

"High pub pressure makes it difficult to work on a grand picture, especially if the pub pressure also requires learning new literature." - YES.

FWIW, I come from a "high-prestige" program. Which is just to say that, especially in this market, ticking the prestige + pubs + whatever is still not enough. Or maybe it is enough, because it's a lot about luck, but even those with "prestige" need to work on ticking every single box (and praying for luck!)

postdoc

When I was a naïve student I thought the job market, at least for research oriented positions, was primarily concerned with number and quality of publications. What I learned is that this is just a small part of the picture. Connections are a must. Having a popular research area helps. Prestige can trump all your hard work. Someone from fancy pants university will be hired over you even if you have a dozen publications and they have none. And, of course, these days it also helps if you're the right demographic.

finally the right demographic phew

@postdoc "these days it also helps if you're the right demographic" - presumably as opposed to the old days, in which demographic made no difference and faculty as a result represented the wide and multifaceted spectrum of human experience?

EU

I guess it depends on the country/geographical area where you apply. Based on my experience, in Europe publications matter more than in the US. E.g., I have seen new TT hires in the US with, say, one single-authored pub and one co-authored pub with their PhD supervisor. In many European countries this would matter for landing a first post-doc (maybe), but in most cases not a TT job.

The One and the Many

EU,

That's true in general, but it still occurs in even very competitive European countries that someone can get a TT job out of their PhD with a single publication. It depends on a lot of things, like the teaching needs of the department. Conversely, of course, we all know of postdocs in Europe with absurdly high numbers of publications, years of teaching experience, and a great funding record, who can't get a TT job anywhere in Europe. The job market is a lottery, not a system.

I would say that I don't know of cases where people got attractive TT jobs in Europe without ANY publications. So publications do matter as a prerequisite for an attractive TT job.

sisyphus

@It's the WS - Thanks for that insight. I've often found myself wondering how best to approach writing samples (e.g. should I send what I think is my best paper, or the paper that best fits the job, etc.) I'll try to give WSs more thought in the future.

Still, I'll still push back a bit. If it were true that number/journal rank of publications acts only as a sort of gatekeeper to get your WS looked at more closely, and WSs offer the real proof of a candidate's philosophical abilities, one would expect a much different distribution of who's getting jobs than what we find based on graduation program prestige. See the data here: https://philosopherscocoon.typepad.com/blog/2020/07/can-good-publications-offset-grad-program-rank.html (E.g. literally only ONE person coming from a PGR unranked program was hired in a top 20 department!!)

Sadly, I think the more likely hypothesis is that whether they are aware of it or not, hiring committees have strong bias towards prestige, which plays a role in how they judge things like WSs. The alternative hypothesis is that everyone coming from prestigious program also has a better WS. While that's possible, I find it unlikely. It's not always the case that a good WS & prestige go hand and hand - which is what the data would yield if WSs are really doing the heavy lifting. If this were true, the extreme distribution of who's getting jobs would indicate only once did someone from an unranked program outdo those coming from top ranked programs when it comes to something like a WS.

I'd put money on saying that, if hiring committees were blinded (as during peer review), their judgements about things like WSs would shift a fair bit. (Also makes me wonder what would happen if more people from lower/unranked programs had chances to be on a hiring commmittee, how it might shift bias...)

Verify your Comment

Previewing your Comment

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

Working...
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.

Working...

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.)

Subscribe to the Cocoon

Job-market reporting thread

Current Job-Market Discussion Thread

Philosophers in Industry Directory

Categories

Subscribe to the Cocoon