Tuesday, July 31, 2007

Questions answered, unanswered

I was discussing publishing papers with my supervisor today. There are at least two papers, though he has reservations about both. This prompted a question from me. Part of my reluctance to commit to the world of academics is the worry that I won't be able to come up with anything publication worthy. I know that I'm not alone in this. How will I know when something I've done is ready for publication? How will I even know whether my questions are interesting enough that they would even be worth trying to answer them? On this second question, I feel somewhat validated that papers on ideas and questions that I've come up with on my own have already appeared in the literature. The first question I am less certain about, and this is what I ask my supervisor. It's subjective, he responded.

After his response, I added that it depends on whether my goal is just to get a certain number of papers in print, or whether I could actually be proud to associate myself with the papers that bear my name. This reminded me of a former graduate student from Queen's who had published a large number of papers, about 10 times as many as I have had published or accepted. He gave a presentation on some of the material from these papers at a seminar once. The results weren't very interesting. I said as much to my supervisor, and this was enough for him to be able to identify the student that I was talking about. His opinion was about the same as mine.

He then told me that this student tried to insist that the department hire him for a faculty position straight out of the Ph.D. program. He didn't get hired. In fact, no Queen's Ph.D. graduate, no matter how well qualified, would ever get hired by the department for a full time faculty position without having gone somewhere else first for. It sounds like even a post-doc somewhere else is not enough. This answers another question that a number of people have asked me. Do you think Queen's would hire you? Maybe 10 or 20 years down the road, they would, but the question is clearly being asked about the present. In that case the answer is no (though a number of students have done short post-docs, or limited term teaching positions, but in most cases I don't think this is what the questioners have in mind either).


Anonymous said...

"Do you think Queen's would hire you? [...] the answer is no."
"Canadians tend to accept fame only after [the person] has made their name outside of Canada."
-Foreign Affairs and International Trade Canada Centre for Intercultural Learning, "Who are this country's national heroes?" Canada - Intercultural Issues

Randy Elzinga said...

The justification for it is that doing so encourages academic inbreeding. I agree with that.

I've also read advice to young academics advising them against taking up long term positions at the university where they did their PhD as well, because the older faculty will always see them as they did when they started their PhDs: young, wet behind the ears, and not deserving of respect.