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We interrupt these announcements

to bring you a moment of seriousness, with our abject apologies.

I have an essay up at Inside Higher Ed on the MLA Task Force on Evaluating Scholarship for Tenure and Promotion.  The essay is located in a nearby Internets tube so that, if you’re reading this on a computer, you can “cross-link” to it right here by clinking on the screen.

No, this isn’t today’s big announcement.  Today’s big announcement is scheduled for 11 am Eastern Liberal Elite time. 

But in the meantime, since this regrettably serious post is actually about educationistic matters, I’d like to take this opportunity to point out that I am once again running in a weblog award competition as a runner-up, this time to the tawdry sex-and-gossip site called “IvyGate.” (It’s basically a two-blog race.  And we’re number two.) Here’s what IvyGate has to say about this:  “the other finalists actually, um, appear interested in pedagogy and helping people, but nevertheless we intend to mop the floor with them.”

Well, I resent this deeply.  Pedagogy and helping people? This blog specializes in stereotypical liberal sneering and advanced crapulence.  We have no interest in people helping people helping people like you, pedagogically or educationalistically or otherwisedly.

And we will not be mopped the floor with!  We must defeat the scandalmongers and chattering classes (remember, they’re classes, not cultures) at IvyGate!  Now is the time for all good readers to come to the aid of their We Are All Giant Nuclear Fireball Now Party!  Vote!

Posted by on 12/08 at 08:06 AM
  1. Michael, you omitted a “cross-link” to the Internets tube where the voting takes place!  Using my special Friday-morning enhanced powers of reasoning, I was able to determine that the IvyGate site might have thought ahead and actually “cross-linked.” This may have something to do with why they’re ahead in the voting—as of a minute ago it was 138 - 111 (not in your favor!).

    Posted by  on  12/08  at  09:54 AM
  2. We can and will compete with the sneering and mopping classes. just watch our pedagalogically deft comments roomba our way to a three way race.

    Posted by A. G.  on  12/08  at  09:55 AM
  3. OK, Charles, I added a word with a cross-link in it!  (Actually, I had trouble loading the relevant page when I was composing this post.  I blame the snowstorm.) And remember, you can vote once a day through December 15!

    Posted by  on  12/08  at  10:06 AM
  4. Well, I’ll cunningly vote from a bunch of different computers. Or would that be wrong? Quite apart from the WAAGNFNP, Big Ten pride should vault Michael to victory! Look at our combined enrollment - it crushes the Ivy League. If they win this, they can continue to put us down as Football teams with colleges attached, in their typically condescending Ivy League way.

    Posted by  on  12/08  at  10:20 AM
  5. And we will not be mopped the floor with!

    This blog has to be WAY ahead in the crucial category of running jokes.  Which are not to be confused with running dogs.

    Posted by  on  12/08  at  10:38 AM
  6. Or would that be wrong?

    Oh, what is “wrong” anyway?

    This blog has to be WAY ahead in the crucial category of running jokes.

    I’m actually losing track, but I think we’ve got between thirty-five and forty at the moment.  (It’s hard to tell because they’re all running at different speeds.) From the Question That Is Really More of a Comment to the Oppo - Personal - Research Squad to the Luthorian Surrealistic Pillow Brigade to the Preposition - Ending - With CCST to He. Who. to the Gays and Lesb***ns to the mighty apparatus of the WAAGNFNP itself, it’s a pretty healthy range of inside-baseball silliness, I think.  Who knows?  If we keep it up, maybe we can run with the big running-joke dogs and challenge Sadly, No! again next year.

    Posted by Michael  on  12/08  at  10:46 AM
  7. In re: graph 2

    Just read the IHE piece. Thanks very much for that, MB. As someone about to throw himself into the MLA and emerge in a few months, I hope, with a TT job (in a world with this piece, can introductory appositives phrases still be used? Probably not), it’s comforting to think that civilized people are coming up with ideas to halt or even reverse the gradual disintegration of the desirability of academic jobs. Reconsidering the monograph thing is a good idea; so is making adjunct positions less desirable to institutions. (how about those fatuous arguments at George Washington U about the adjunct union? Argh.)

    If you know: I’m a fan of Prickly Paradigm Press, and having read their Haraway, McKinnon, and Rorty (about which I have, uh, mixed feelings), I thought I’d turn to Lindsay Waters’ Enemies of Promise: Publishing, Perishing, and the Eclipse of Scholarship. Does your article make Waters’ book superfluous for me? I already know that things are bad; do I need to know how bad?

    Posted by  on  12/08  at  10:47 AM
  8. I just voted, and you’re only down one vote.  Can I count this toward my eventual tenure file?

    Posted by Crazy Little Thing  on  12/08  at  11:02 AM
  9. I’m actually losing track

    Nobody knows the shibboleths I’ve seen.

    Posted by  on  12/08  at  11:37 AM
  10. Sibyllettes?

    Astaroth’s in the other thread, I think.

    Posted by  on  12/08  at  11:42 AM
  11. The WAAGNFNP Ministry of Defense and Offense is demanding that all members immediately stop what they are doing, logon to the WebLog Awards site, and vote for our most high, The Supplicant Commander.  This is an important and necessary offensive attack to bolster our defensive strategies as the CCST begins so soon. 

    spyder
    Minister of Offense and Defense
    note to self: can’t leave out running dogs of bands of colors, numbers, and shades of tone in 3TP’s and Gojira graphix.  Or was that inferred in the pillow context of blue cheer next to the orange sunshine skies?

    Completely outside the box, and more appropriate to this thread, the notion that journals and periodicals are being scaled back in relation to the MLA, is “mirrored” in discussions in our friends over at the physics blogs about their journals as well.  It seems that some of been reduced to encouraging donations as funding stream to maintain the opportunity for grad students and un-tenured professors to be able to be professionally published.  This problem will span throughout academia and get worse.  Just today, Bushco ordered the closure of eight more regional libraries (home to extremely important environmental documents required for pressing matters of protection of watersheds and habitats), ostensibly because of budget shortfalls.  The sequestration of informational source materials is dangerous, and the lack of publishing access damages the society as whole.

    Posted by  on  12/08  at  03:24 PM
  12. can’t type for x#it today. 
    It seems that some of been reduced to encouraging donations as funding stream to maintain the opportunity for grad students and un-tenured professors to be able to be professionally published.

    Please read as: It seems that some (physics journals) have been reduced to encouraging donations as funding streams, to maintain the opportunity for grad students, and un-tenured professors, to be able to be professionally published and reviewed.

    Posted by  on  12/08  at  03:26 PM
  13. Berube is ahead by 376 to 323. But that’s not enough folks. By the 3Tops Rule we must win by a margin of 3 to 1. If not, the Original 3Tops can refuse to see The Supplicant and his pilgramage will be for naught. That’s not good.

    Vote! Vote! Vote!

    Posted by Bill Benzon  on  12/08  at  06:28 PM
  14. Gadzooks! It’s the blogospheric analogue of the Many-worlds interpretation of quantum mechanics on this blogue today. Simultaneous parallel threads with subtle differences.

    I’m certain there are many valuable cross-disciplinary insights waiting to be discovered. Someone should write it up and submit it to Social Text.

    Guarantee that ending, you got a deal.
    I guarantee it.

    Posted by  on  12/09  at  12:14 AM
  15. I’m actually losing track, but I think we’ve got between thirty-five and forty at the moment.  (It’s hard to tell because they’re all running at different speeds.) From the Question That Is Really More of a Comment to the Oppo - Personal - Research Squad to the Luthorian Surrealistic Pillow Brigade to the Preposition - Ending - With CCST to He. Who. to the Gays and Lesb***ns to the mighty apparatus of the WAAGNFNP itself, it’s a pretty healthy range of inside-baseball silliness, I think.  Who knows?  If we keep it up, maybe we can run with the big running-joke dogs and challenge Sadly, No! again next year.

    remember, if you forgot any running jokes it is just because of your small staff.....

    Posted by  on  12/09  at  07:20 AM
  16. I’ve just read the IHE piece and the MLA report. Could explain further how there can be both an ‘overproduction of monographs’(67) AND a ‘downward trend of monograph sales to libraries’ at the same time? And if so many monographs are ‘articles on steroids’(39), why aren’t university presses turning them away in favor of something better, given that everyone’s writing a monograph these days?

    The other thing I’m finding baffling is that, if the ‘tyranny of the monograph’ has such a strong hold over tenure, why are those new, jobless post-docs who have committed themselves to writing their first monograph rather than their first article, not taken more seriously than they are by job interview panels?

    Surely there can be no ‘rethinking the dominance of the monograph’ or ‘promoting [of] the scholarly essay’(6) that the report calls for if one of the primary criteria for getting onto tenure-track in the first instance continues to be getting at least one article published (29)? For, as the situation stands, articles are the things that get you onto the tenure-track upon which you (hopefully) get the given the time and resources with which to write your book…

    Finally, if the case can be made that word count is irrelevant when it comes to evaluating scholarship (essentially we’d be doing if you put articles and monographs on equal footing), why is it that there are so few peer-reviewed journals willing to accept pieces around the 3000-4000 word mark or under?  Why do their requirements specify submissions between 8000 and 10000 words?

    Posted by Hiding Pup  on  12/09  at  07:43 AM
  17. First question first, Pup.  The problem is not that there are X number of total books on the shelves.  The problem is that there are so many new titles, and as any university press director or librarian will tell you, each one now sells about 150-200 copies to libraries instead of 600-800 because of reallocations of university library budgets (and that has to do, in turn, with the costs of journals in the sciences).  As one editor put it, the current cost per unit of academic books couldn’t be any higher if they were binding and illustrating them by hand.

    I’m not sure what your second and third questions mean.  Your fourth seems to miss the point:  we’re suggesting that we change the way “the situation stands,” after all, and there is no sense in which rethinking the dominance of the monograph is undermined by the publication of scholarly articles.  Thinking of articles as gateways to books is thinking wrong.

    And last question last, the difference between books and articles is not simply a question of word count.  They are, in fact, different genres with different conventions and expectations.  That said, I see no reason why journals would not publish 3000-4000 word essays.  Some do.

    Karl (comment 7):  sure, read Lindsay Waters’ book.  He’s extremely idiosyncratic, and he quotes Bob Dylan a lot too, not that the two phenomena are related or anything.  But he’s occasionally right on target, as when he complains that one aspect of the current system amounts to departments farming out tenure decisions to university presses.

    Posted by Michael  on  12/09  at  08:18 AM
  18. "Idiosyncratic” and “occasionally right on target.” High praise indeed!

    The problem is that there are so many new titles,

    Is this a combination of (at least) two factors: 1) the increase in the importance of the monograph? 2) the fact that there are just more people now?

    Posted by  on  12/09  at  09:31 AM
  19. Thinking of articles as gateways to books is thinking wrong.

    And last question last, the difference between books and articles is not simply a question of word count.  They are, in fact, different genres with different conventions and expectations. 

    Yes.

    A problem I’ve always had is that I’ve got an affinity for pieces that run between, say, 15K and 25K words. That’s too long for an article in hardcopy publications and too short for a monograph. To some extent this is a function of my theoretical and methodological inclinations, which are not at all mainstream. Hence I cannot and do not assume a readership that’s familiar with my methods. So, I’ve got to devote a great deal of space to developing those methods.

    Still, there’s no reason to think that current article, monograph, and book conventions are somehow inherent in the nature of knowledge. Obviously those conventions have to somehow accommodate the inherent demands of knowledge production, but they also reflect the demands of the material production of books and journals. Digital technology has changed those material demands in a profound way. Small production runs for books are much more practical now than they were 10 years ago. And web publication—though it’s got problems—can be much more flexible about length and use of images and recordings.

    Posted by Bill Benzon  on  12/09  at  10:16 AM
  20. Thanks for your reply, Michael.  I suppose what I was trying to get at the in middle of my last comment was this: the origins of the flawed monograph/article hierarchy lie not in the mid-career demands of tenure review but at the pre-tenure-track flashpoint when new post-docs apply for their first jobs.  Imagine, if you will, this first-round job interview at the MLA:

    PANEL: Many thanks for sharing your views on teaching with us.  And now let’s talk about research: could you elaborate on your publication record?

    CANDIDATE: Well, I was really energised by the scintillating conversion I had with my examiners during my viva voce.  They all enjoyed the breadth of my work and inspired me to begin work, at once, on my first monograph.

    PANEL: Oh, we’d all like to publish a monograph for sure - but what have you actually published?

    CANDIDATE: Er...nothing...the monograph revisions are going really well though, and I’m really excited about some of new directions I’ve been able to explore.

    [Embarrassed silence from both parties.]

    In England, there’s a rule of thumb that states six articles is commensurate with a monograph.  Let’s not dispute that figure for now but, all things being equal, our imaginary candidate, who may have done perhaps a third of the work required for his monograph, will, necessarily, lose out to the next candidate waiting outside the hotel room, who’s already had two articles published.

    So here, at this interview, is where the existing monograph/article hierarchy emerges.  If articles and monographs are to enjoy equal footing with one another, then our candidate’s unpublished monograph-fragment ought to be valued by the interview panel as highly as his competition’s published articles.  But it’s not.  Of course it’s not. 

    And because unfinished monographs (the same monographs that, when finished, currently get you tenure!) aren’t valued in the same way as published articles AT THE BEGINNING OF YOUR CAREER, published articles soon turn into tickets to tenure-track.  Our articled candidate will get the job and enjoy the salary, resources and professional network with which to leisurely write his first monograph, should he wish to do so; while our wannabe monograph-writer resigns himself to bagging groceries in Food Lion.

    In order, then, to reassess the importance of the monograph and promote the scholarly article as the MLA report suggests, academe would have to give up entirely its existing practice of hiring fledgling faculty on the strength of what they’ve already published. Given the large number of new post-docs, I find the probability of this action being taken very unlikely indeed.

    Changing the nature of the Ph.D. to allow it to be either a series of article-length pieces or a book-length piece wouldn’t help (24).  Those candidates who’d opted for the former would still find themselves publishing before their book-orientated peers and supervisors would have no choice, in good conscience, but to advise their students to choose the same.  Then we’d be right back where we started.

    Nor would digitally publishing all dissertations help matters either: candidates with dissertations that were designed to be diced into articles at a later date would continue to hold the same distinct competitive advantage over their monograph-peers they’ve always had, simply because they’d be in a position to publish something, anything, sooner.

    At the very, very heart of all this is the unavoidable fact that it takes longer to write and publish a monograph than it does an article.  And academe is, at present, a very impatient beast.

    [For the record, I successfully completed my PhD in English Lit. in 2003, aged 24.  My entire publication record consists of one item, added just last month.  Yes, that item’s a monograph.  And, yes, I still haven’t secured a tenure-track job ☺]

    Posted by Hiding Pup  on  12/09  at  12:23 PM
  21. Hiding Pup, I’m sorry you’re having a rough time with the job search.  But when you say

    if articles and monographs are to enjoy equal footing with one another, then our candidate’s unpublished monograph-fragment ought to be valued by the interview panel as highly as his competition’s published articles.  But it’s not.  Of course it’s not

    all I can say in response is that this doesn’t correspond to anything I’ve seen in my twenty years—as job candidate, as graduate placement director, and as search committee member.

    You seem to insist not only that articles will always outweigh monographs-in-progress but also that they will be valued only as evidence of monographs-in-progress.  The former, I assure you, is not true, and the latter is precisely what the MLA report seeks to change.

    Posted by  on  12/10  at  11:45 AM
  22. Hi, Michael,

    Actually, I didn’t insist that published articles *wil always* outweigh monographs in progress - only that they do outweigh monographs in progress **at the very start of one’s career when one has no existing publications to one’s name**.

    In the words of your own report:

    ‘Often today, Carnegie Doctorate-granting departments expect that graduate students will already have published one or more articles by the time they graduate; these institutions expect the same of the junior faculty members they hire’ (29).

    Are you saying that your experience actually suggests these institutions *would* be willing to - and regularly accept a single, unfinished monograph (one, in all likelihood, without a book contract), in lieu of the already-published article(s) they currently expect from their graduates and new junior faculty members?

    Posted by Hiding Pup  on  12/10  at  09:24 PM
  23. Hiding Pup, I honestly think you’re still missing the point.  Yes, I’m saying that departments sometimes prefer book manuscripts in progress to published articles.  I’m also saying that departments sometimes think of published articles only as evidence of progress on book manuscripts.  And the Task Force report is saying that this needs to change.

    I wish you the best of luck with the job search.

    Posted by Michael  on  12/11  at  10:10 AM
  24. The difference between books and articles is not simply a question of word count!!!

    Posted by Business  on  12/12  at  08:37 AM
  25. Very true, Business, but if the monograph in question is an ‘article on steroids’, then the difference becomes primarily one of word-count surely?

    Posted by Hiding_Pup  on  12/12  at  08:41 AM
  26. I think “Business” is comment spam, Hiding Pup.  He-she-it has been leaving similar remarks on a number of posts.

    Posted by Michael  on  12/12  at  09:27 AM
  27. Gosh, how very clever! grin

    Another favourite blog of mine, “The Little Professor”, raises an interesting issue about the way in which the Big Project is on the brink of extinction:

    http://tinyurl.com/ycg2px

    Do you think there’s still room for Big Projects in 21st-century academe?

    Posted by Hiding_Pup  on  12/12  at  09:49 AM
  28. I’d just like to say that the gold standard for tenure / Fort Knox joke is...well, comic gold.

    Posted by  on  12/13  at  05:29 PM
  29. Thanks, Goldmember.

    Posted by  on  12/14  at  02:56 AM

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