Monday, 19 September 2011

Know your place

I like my job. I like my colleagues and students. I like the wide variety of things I teach and the intellectual enrichment that comes with that. I like teaching as an experience: nothing beats a class in which informed and interesting questions bounce around the room.

I don't like having a job split between two departments, and not having a permanent contract. It feels like being on hold for years on end.

What I'd like is a permanent job which gives the space and time to start writing serious academic work about my specialist subject (Welsh writing in English, since you ask). That dream job came up recently, at my beloved first university, no less. The one with the mountains and sea.

I didn't get an interview. The basic reason was that my publication record was too weak. I'm not exactly surprised at not getting the job, because all university staff are now under huge pressure to produce publications (the money follows research output disproportionately to teaching skill/range etc), but I did hope for an interview. Ah well. In the words of a wise man, 'you can never go home… but I guess you can shop there'.

So the new strategy is to start being a bit more ruthless and selfish about not taking on extra things, and to be a lot more disciplined about writing. Obviously I'm saying this on the first day of the teaching year… Perhaps every time I feel like a blog post, I'll read or write a paragraph.


Music for Deckchairs said...

I'm not here to argue you out of your commitment to churning out scintillating journal articles made exclusively available to people with institutional subscriptions to academic journals, except to point out that, well, IMHO this would be a loss. That's all I'm saying.

Your experience is a serious one, and close to home for me too, and I think there are some questions in here for the sustainability of the higher education system. If we're really caving in to the idea that there's a high table for the ruthless and selfish, and a sort of brawling mosh pit of frustration for the rest, surely the blood-and-guts HBO drama interpretation can't be far behind?

Can't we do better than this?

ed said...

Sorry to hear that you didn't get an interview Vole. I'm starting to think that making it in the music business is easier than making it in academia...

Dan said...

Sorry to hear that - I'd have thought the alma mater might have given you a chance at the interview stage.

On the broader point, whilst I certainly think being encouraged to publish research is a good thing, I do think there's an increasingly narrow and obsessive focus on publication track records - presumably a product of the RAE and upcoming REF - which may mean other skill sets get afforded less importance.

One of the things that bothers me about this is despite claims of 'quality' supposedly guaranteed by peer review, I've read some pretty awful journal articles in the past few years, yet regardless of this these articles will still count towards a person's publication record. Add to this the fact that some people seem to partly make a living out of writing general 'review of the sub-discipline' type articles that are designed to get cited lots of times, and it would seem that assessing research 'excellence' via publications, citations and journal impact values - and with the close involvement of the grasping academic publishing industry - is perhaps a little flawed.

Or maybe I'm just bitter as I've not had an interview in a while either.