I’m not going to feel guilty about not reading your closed-access paper

There are lots of times that I find a reference or a link to a paper that looks like it could have something to do with a topic that I’m researching. If there is a readily-available version of the paper, then I read it. If it is in a closed-access journal, then I may check to see if I have access through my university library. Especially for recent or on-line first papers, the answer is often no.

At this point, I could request a copy by interlibrary loan or e-mail the author to ask for a copy. Sometimes I do these things, but only sometimes. There isn’t time to chase down copies of every possibly-relevant paper. So there are papers I never read that would be useful if I did look at them.

I used to feel guilty about this, but I’ve decided that I’m over it.

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Puzzling about philosophy books

1. Publishers usually set the prices of philosophy books so as to exploit the market, rather than so as to maximize readership. I hate my publisher especially, but putting ideas in books often means sequestering them where they won’t be read.

2. Most philosophy is best done in journal articles, both for reasons of style and dissemination. Philosophy is no longer a discipline that requires a book for tenure. So the obvious response to 1 is just not to write books.

Nevertheless, there are still some projects that make sense as books rather than as articles. So what’s one to do?

3. For a textbook, I can offer it as an Open Education Resource. If it meets a need, other people will use it. And it can be acknowledged as legit after the fact.

4. For a monograph, I can share an unformatted draft in the same way I do for articles. This kind of self-archiving (Green OA) should be more common than it is, but that’s a rant for another post.

The thing I’m puzzling about is what alternatives there are for the published book itself.

5. This post felt like it should be a list of numbered points, even though it looks pretentious now that I’ve typed it out.

How do matters lie with the polygraph dissertation?

I’ve been thinking lately about dissertations. The traditional model is for a PhD student to write a book-length exploration of a topic. A newer model is for the student to write several publishable papers on related topics. I’ve heard the former called the monograph dissertation, which naturally makes the latter a polygraph dissertation.1

I have met some philosophers who are hostile to the polygraph dissertation, but not for any clear reasons. I’ve met others who welcome the new model. As someone advising graduate students, I would like to have a better sense of what the disciplinary norms are.2

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E-publishing boondoggle

Via Daily Nous, I learn that Pacific Philosophical Quarterly (PPQ) has begun offering an odd choice to authors. When a paper is accepted, the author can opt either to have their paper appear post haste in an on-line only issue or to wait years for their paper to appear in a print issue. Articles in the print issue will appear on-line at the time of publication.

The publisher insists that the on-line only issues and the print+on-line issues will be of the same prestige and significance. After all, a paper is  accepted for publication before being assigned to one or the other.

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Recruitment blast

As I wrote a while ago, my department is trying to drum up more graduate applications. One strategy is to send out encouraging e-mails. I’m endeavoring to write to all the philosophy departments in our corner of the country. I’m presently in the middle of that, so you might hear from me soon.

In the interests of maximizing reach, I’m posting the e-mail here too.

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Characterizing philosophy

I recently came across a passage that characterizes analytic philosophy in this way: “when it comes to constructing arguments, we beat words and ideas into submission.”1 I am ambivalent about identifying as an analytic philosopher, but I don’t really recognize myself in this at all.2

Philosophical prose is not written like poetry, but I’ve never felt it was like beating anything into submission. Reflecting on why that passage felt so wrong to me, I hit on a different analogy.

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The slipperiness of significant publication

I’ve written before about trying to establish the significance of a philosophy publication, which mostly becomes an issue at tenure and promotion time. In an earlier post, I argued that citation counts are mostly rubbish for philosophy. Still, there are pressures to provide numerical measures.

In support of a recent tenure case, our department gave the acceptance rates at journals as evidence of their significance.1 The danger in using such a measure is that, if widely adopted, it would quickly become uninformative.2 If scholars get more credit for publishing in journals with low acceptance rates, they will preferentially start to submit to those. The journals will get more submissions but still accept the same number. This will, in turn, drive down the acceptance rates of those journals.

I recently learned that there is a name for this general phenomenon, Goodhart’s Law: “When a measure becomes a target, it ceases to be a good measure.”

This shifts it from being this hunch I have to being a well-established phenomenon. I can now invoke it with greater conversational gravitas. Continue reading “The slipperiness of significant publication”

Recruitment bleg

My department has had a precipitous drop in both applications and admissions for our PhD program. We have funded positions which we haven’t been able to fill with new-to-program students. These are a pretty good deal and involve no teaching responsibilities for the first year.

So I have two requests:

First, how do you think we should go about trying to make people who might be interested aware of the opportunity? Some programs mail out glossy posters touting their graduate programs. I suspect those mostly get thrown away, however, and I’m not sure that people these days look to posters for information.

Second, if you are in the position of mentioning our program to someone who might be suited for it, then please do so. Obviously this isn’t everybody: Students who can get funded slots at top-ranked programs should take them, some students should be talked out of going to grad school, and so on. But there are students who would get a lot out of coming here.  We have strong faculty in a number of areas. Our graduates have a decent record of getting permanent and even tenure-track jobs. Many have gotten jobs at community colleges, the sort of jobs that aren’t even on the radar for graduates from top-ranked programs.

If you have ideas or questions, please comment.

Self promotion

I got news today that my promotion from Associate Professor to full Professor has been approved by the university president and will be effective with the start of the Spring semester.

This is a difference that means nothing to people outside academia. It doesn’t really change my job any, because I was already department chair and already had tenure. I didn’t even put any thought into the prospect myself until I was pretty far along as an Assistant Professor.

There’s a raise in pay, but not enough that it changes the integer number of yachts I can afford to own. For those graphing yacht buying-power over time: Still zero.

Even so, colour me chuffed.