14 September 2011

The two words that can sabotage your tenure

There are two words that have probably sabotaged many a promising academic on tenure-track.

“Still time.”

Dr. Becca described “third year syndrome” in a tenure-track orientation session. One of the more cryptic pieces of advice was to beware of  I had not heard of this, although the importance of the third year is that it’s normally the halfway point in the probationary period.

The problem with the halfway point is that it’s easy to get there without doing the research that is going to get you tenure. You think, “First couple of years, I'll be preparing courses for teaching and establishing my lab. Second year, I'll probably be recruiting students and technicians, and these experiments that I need to do to get me grant money are long and sophisticated, and they'll take another year...”

Before you know it, you’ve reached the halfway point and produced no original scholarship from your new university.

You might think, “That’s okay, they only evaluate the total publications at the end, so I can have a lot the last couple of years of probation.”

The problem with that way of thinking is that your probationary period starts to look like one Zeno’s paradoxes: you get to the halfway point with no publications, but there’s still time in the second half of probation. You get halfway through the second half with no publications, but there’s still time in the last year. You get to the last year and have submit manuscripts to journals... but the review process drags out. The reviewers demand more experiments before accepting the paper.

And then you’re at the end without the publications you need to get tenured.

Make it a goal: get something out by the halfway mark.

Photo by Graham Binns on Flickr; used under a Creative Commons license.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

I would take this further. I'd say have at least a couple of things by the halfway point if not more. And keep ramping up.