Friday, August 28, 2015

Catching up


Of the giant to-do list, this part is somehow the most and least important.

It's my tenure case.

For those that aren't familiar with academics, there's a process called tenure.  The point, ostensibly, is to promote really good research.  The idea is something like this: you hire someone and give them a probationary window of 5-10 years to prove their worth.  During this time, they work on research and get a few thing published to show that they're capable of producing good work. However, research is a fussy thing and sometimes you spend a year doing something that amounts to "turns out this is completely unaffected by that" which is only interesting as a footnote, not a full-blown research paper. Or you engage in something that requires tracking and measuring and studying something over a 5 or 10 or 40 year time period. Actual output is a "noisy signal" of real effort, as we say in economics. It's hard to tell who's working hard on a long-term project and who's just napping under his desk all day. The tenure process is an attempt to organize that: work hard on some shorter, low-risk projects to show you know what you're doing and then we'll grant you tenure so you can work on those longer term, high-risk projects that may take years to develop.  With tenure, you won't have to worry that your annual review has nothing new to show this year.  Get something really good published every few years and we'll assume you're still working hard behind the scenes.

So, my probation is up.  I have to submit everything I've accomplished and see if they think it's evidence of me being a decent investment and risk for future less-monitored work. I have three published articles (two in top rate outlets) and two more under review for publication with pretty encouraging feedback from the editors, and 8 more projects that I've had abysmal luck with thus far. But it's all due Monday, and so it's organized into 29 file folders, 34 pages of documentation, and a four page resume (CV). Super important.

On the other hand, not one person will look at it until January and I can make updates.  So completely unimportant.

In the mean time, Tuesday's the first day of my classes and the semester's still pretty much all up in the air.  And there are 3 papers I need to read and provide 1-2 pages of professional comments for--this is, in fact, a big part of the job.  So, done with the "super important hurry up and wait" thing; now on to the all the "stuff that couldn't wait but had to anyhow".

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