Tuesday, January 27, 2009

Global time wasters

My, my there are a lot of you, and from all over!

Figure 1: Map denoting where the visitors to this blog hail from (red dots).

Don't you have anything better to do?

Thursday, January 22, 2009

How Many Papers for Tenure?

The title of this entry comes from a Google search a recent visitor to my blog used.

Good question.

I can't answer it.

The only people who can give you some kind of answer to this are senior faculty in your department (and possibly college), and yourself.

But you absolutely must know the answer very early in the tenure-track process. Preferably before you officially start your position. At the very latest six months in.

So how do you find out how many papers you need? You need to do two things:

1) Ask. Ask early and often. Ask the senior faculty in your department. If you've met some, ask senior faculty in related departments within your college (e.g. within medicine, or within arts and sciences). You may not get a straight answer. You may get several different answers. Hopefully you will get some kind of answer.

2) Look it up. Find out how many publications the last few people who made tenure in your department had. No one tenured in the last few years? Look up the publication totals of recently tenured people in related departments within your college.

Once you've done both of the above, take the largest of the answers you've found (they may not match up).

That's the absolute minimum number of publications you are aiming for.

Absolute minimum. You want more. You may need more.

The answer to the question "how many papers needed for tenure?" is not set in stone.

[UPDATE] Do apply some common sense to the above. Let's say your senior colleagues provide you with a consensus estimate of X publications, and the last three people to get tenure in your department had (X+1), (X+2), and (X+10) publications. Take (X+2) as your minimum goal.

Tuesday, January 20, 2009

Dear Future Applicant for Tenure and Promotion

Your time on the tenure track is thundering its way towards the big decision. Soon you are going to have to put together that thick wad of documents known as your tenure packet/dossier/file. All of the documents in that packet are important, but some are more important than others. None are more important than your curriculum vitae. This document, your c.v., is a summary of almost everything needed to evaluate you for tenure and promotion. The other documents just provide the details.

So, dear applicant, please take the time and spend the effort to make your c.v. a document that will help those evaluating you come to the right decision. Because we really do want to see you be promoted with tenure. (Unless of course one of us is an obnoxious dickwad.)

You can ease our task by making all the information we need easy to find and read. Put the important stuff up front, and leave out the truly unnecessary.

And please don't use your c.v. to demonstrate your artistic nature. Please. Don't.

Do have a neat, logically organized c.v. And spell check it. A sloppy, disorganized c.v. makes you look... well, sloppy and disorganized. Not really what I want in a colleague.

Here are some further thoughts on some (not all) of the basics:

My personal preference is for this to be in reverse chronological order, going from your current position back to your undergraduate schooling. Leave out where you went to high school* - really, we don't give a rat's rear end. And those perfect SAT/GPA/GRE scores you're so proud of?* Not of any interest to us when it comes to tenure decision time.

Reverse chronological order please. That Journal of Biological Chemistry paper you published while in elementary school? Very impressive, but not going to count towards tenure. Put the papers you've generated as an independent PI first. Those are the only ones that count. And do us a favor. Make it very clear what papers came out of which positions - I personally like subheadings denoting "Papers arising from my postdoctoral work", "Papers arising from my graduate work" etc. It's important to include these because they establish your history. But they won't count towards tenure.

And those manuscripts on your postdoctoral work you published while on tenure track? Sorry, they don't count towards tenure. They belong in the "Papers arising from my postdoctoral work" group. No, really, they don't count. Ever.**

What about papers "in preparation"? Not going to count. Don't bother with them.

Okay, if you really, really must. One "in preparation". Two at the very most. They still won't count. Three or four "in preparation"? That's asking for trouble. Unless you've published a gazillion papers while on tenure track - but they still won't count. If you're a little short on published papers and list three or four "in preparation"?* You've just given me the impression you have trouble finishing things, even with the tenure guillotine hanging over your head.

Ten "in preparation"?* You're a delusional fool. Granted, I've met some tenured delusional fools, but to a person they hid their delusional foolishness until after they got tenure.

Start with current/active funding. That's the most important by far. Actually it's really all that counts. Then list pending. If you have a revised grant pending that got a good score the last time it was reviewed, give us the score. Expired/previous funding comes last. Within each subgroup, reverse chronological order please.

You won a trophy for badminton at high school? How nice. Doesn't count. Please just list the relevant stuff. Preferably in reverse chronological order.

Professional Society Membership
Listing this doesn't count for much, but not listing it looks... odd.* It suggests that you're not involved in your field outside of your own research program.

Internal Service
Please indicate what level each committee is. A Graduate Curriculum Committee at the University level is a very different beast to one at the Department level. President of your undergraduate chemistry club? Doesn't count.

External Service
You do have some, right? List the journals you reviewed manuscripts for and the agencies you reviewed proposals for. Editorial boards. Professional society activities. These are important. To get tenure and promotion you need to demonstrate that you have national standing. Recent national standing.

Bottom line: Put the stuff that counts up front. You do know what counts at your institution, right?

* Yes, I have seen this in a c.v. within a tenure packet.
** This topic deserves a post all of it's own.

Monday, January 12, 2009

Writer's block

Anyone know a good cure?

I'm trying to write what should be the last paper from my old, almost dead research program, but just can't raise the enthusiasm to get it done. I need to get this off my desk for a bunch of reasons, not the least of which being that one of my former undergrads worked her butt off collecting the data for this paper. She deserves the first authorship. She is now off at med school, so the writing is up to me.

I'd rather be writing about my new research...

Monday, January 05, 2009

It's a New Year!!! Woohoo!!!

Most years in early January I waste time bemoaning the fact that I didn't achieve everything I wanted to in the previous year. Not this year. Did I get everything done I wanted to last year? Hell no. I fell about two manuscripts and one grant submission short of my goals. So what? I managed to rebuild my dying research program and renew my NSF funding. IMHO, a good year.

This year seems somehow more exciting and full of new possibilities. My new research project is up and running (albeit slowly), I'm laying the groundwork for a second, equally exciting new project and I'm restocking my lab with new personnel. Right now, the academic life is good.

What about the funding downturn and failing economy? Not gonna let that stop me. Uh uh. Wouldn't be prudent. Someone's getting funding. Might as well be me. Besides, bitching and moaning about such things is not only a waste of time, but also makes you a less than desirable colleague. I'd rather be working on my kick-ass science.

How about you?