Archive for the 'tenure' category

Should She Do It?

Nov 04 2011 Published by under colleagues, tenure

A request from a reader for advice (original e-mail excerpted and slightly altered to preserve the anonymity of the writer):

I'm a tenure-track scientist, nearing the time of tenure evaluation (a year or two to go). Recently, a senior male colleague and I have developed mutal feelings for each other (we are both single), and are considering whether to pursue a relationship.  He is not much older than I am (about 10 years), but is a full professor and the chair of the department P&T committee.   Given our university's policies, romantic relationships are permissable but he'd have to be removed from any supervisory role (i.e., not allowed to vote on my tenure case or annual evaluations).  He has substantial concerns about what our potential dating might do to my career; I feel like we could manage these issues, but worry that I am perhaps being naive.

I'm curious whether dating a colleague ever works (particularly in the junior woman-senior man configuration), whether it always casts shadows over a young FSP's career to be involved with an older man in the field, whether there are things that can be done to mitigate the possibility of damage (e.g., not disclosing it at work beyond our department chair, as mandated by policy-- though obviously, if things work out, at SOME point we'd have to do so, and "we've been dating for 3 years and are getting married!!" may not be the way to do it; not publishing together; something else I'm not thinking about?)  Precisely how bad of an idea is this, exactly?

Other information: He has dated in our field before, so has a bit of a reputation (and met his ex-wife when she was a graduate student in a closely related discipline; she moved to another instution when they divorced.)

So far my pretenure evaluations have been positive but not home runs (my teaching and service are great, I should try to publish more than I do, though [description of recent improvements in publication record].

In general, I don't think it is a good idea to give relationship advice to someone you don't know. Yes, we out here in the blogosphere are, in theory, more 'objective' than this woman's friends in real life, but maybe in such cases objectivity is not a good thing -- we don't know these people and can only evaluate the situation from incomplete information.

But let's do it anyway.

Actually, I think that all we can really do that might be helpful is to say how we might view such a situation if we were in this woman's department or in her field.

I don't think I would really care one way or the other, or, at least, not in any way that would affect this woman's career. If I were in her department, I wouldn't vote against her for tenure, for example, just because she decided to date a senior colleague, even one with "a bit of a reputation".

That's not to say that there wouldn't be some consequences, especially within the department if the relationship doesn't go well, but I will leave it to others to go negative with their advice on this issue.

Beyond this specific situation, though, I was thinking about whether (and how much) it matters how successful the woman is in terms of how much freedom she has to pursue whatever relationships she wants, with no/fewer consequences.

For example, does it matter in this case that the woman in question, although apparently doing OK, wasn't hitting "home runs" in the early years of her tenure-track position? Does that change how we view people (in general, or women in particular) in terms of their professional and personal lives, or can we separate these? I think I view them separately, but am not sure that is true in general.

41 responses so far

Last Ditch Effort

Nov 30 2010 Published by under publishing, tenure

This week, I present a question that some colleagues and I were discussing recently, based on a semi-hypothetical situation involving tenure-track faculty.

Imagine that you are in or near the final year of your probationary period; i.e., you are very close to being evaluated for tenure (or promotion in general, I suppose). You have reason to believe that you may not have enough publications, but you do have some unpublished results that you could write into a manuscript or refereed submission to a conference (depending on what is valued in your field).

[Or, if you are a senior faculty member advising a colleague who is in the situation described above, consider what you would recommend.]

Is it better to:

(a) submit to a non-selective publication venue or venues, gambling that the very existence of an additional publication or two is what matters most, no matter where they are published; or

(b) submit to a highly selective publication venue, gambling that the publication(s) will be accepted and that it's the prestige of the journal/conference that matters, not the number of publications; or

(c) do nothing, hoping that your colleagues, promotion & tenure committees, Deans etc. will be impressed with the quality of the existing work, even if the quantity is below the norms of your field.

Probably the best strategy would be a two-pronged attack of (a) + (b), as long as you aren't shingling and submitting the same paper to more than one place but really do have sufficient results/ideas to put into separate submissions of various types. The manuscripts do need to be (theoretically) publishable, substantive, and well-written (if possible) -- not just something tossed into the publishing maw in the hopes that someone will let it through and give you a least-publishable unit in time for your tenure review, so this discussion is based on the assumption that there is publishable material that can reasonable be put in the form of a manuscript or conference paper.

For either (a) or (b), you also have to give yourself enough time for the manuscripts to work their way through the review process: no one is going to be impressed with a manuscript listed as "in preparation" or "to be submitted to Journal on DATE" (my department/university ignores these completely), so you really do have to submit the thing(s). And even if you do submit before your tenure file is reviewed, that's of course not as good as having something accepted, or at least returned for revision (at the very least). Listing a manuscript as "Submitted to Nature, YESTERDAY'S DATE" might not impress others as much as you hope it will.

If your last-ditch strategy involves getting one or more peer-reviewed manuscripts through the review process on time and posted online so that it/they can officially be considered as "published", be sure to check on what the likely time-to-publication is. A colleague and I recently examined time-from-submission to time-to-publication (online) for various journals in our field, and the results varied a lot. I know that in some fields this is not so much of an issue, but in some corners of the physical sciences, the time-to-publication from first submission can vary from weeks to many (many) months.

I don't mean to completely ignore option (c). Perhaps your record really is good enough and you don't need to agonize between (a) and (b). In some cases, a few very high-quality papers are better than a pile of good but perhaps not-as-substantive papers. This is where a good mentor can provide guidance that is relevant to your institution and field.

And this might also be where commenters can provide some advice, especially if the academic field is mentioned in the comment.

21 responses so far