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News: Talk about how to cope with chronic illness, disability, and other health issues in the academic workplace.
 
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Author Topic: Can't Keep Up  (Read 23458 times)
aussiedeadwood
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« on: April 09, 2012, 1:52:01 AM »

Down here at my uni in Australia they now have us on a strict 2 referred journal articles per year quota or you have no access to research funds or research time. You need this rate of publication over a period of time in order to apply for major grants which are now the main goal of academic life. If you don't do these things the there is the threat of redundancy which has been happening across the sector. "Continuing employment is a long way from U.S. tenure.

I am far from meeting these expectations as my own research has declined with divorce, clinical depression, and a lack of dedicated research time at mid-career. If I didn't have kids I would abandon, but I need the money to help raise them and can't imagine what else I could do here. I feel trapped and isolated. I basically like the job but am not ambitious or driven enough to keep up with the soulless machinelike colleagues who are well trained for the corporate world academia has become in the past two decades.

I am seeing a performance psychologist (we are like oil and water), addressing the health concerns, but worry that I have fallen out of love with academia. Do I just hang on and wait for the next round of restructuring? What I really hate is how much I think about all this!
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mozman
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« Reply #1 on: April 09, 2012, 10:11:08 AM »

Two publications per years isn't a machine-like pace.  That's about what I expect from each of my post-docs.

I do sympathize with the depression and personal problems, but perhaps they're clouding your judgement?
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Could you grow the foot into another patient? I mean, you are a scientist.
brixton
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« Reply #2 on: April 09, 2012, 10:51:02 AM »

What's your field and teaching load?  Two refereed journal articles in Philosophy isn't the same as two in Biology.  It seems odd that they'd have a cross-the-board requirement for all fields.  That being said, I wouldn't lose too much sleep, unless I'm missing something.  If you don't have the energy to write/research, why would you want the research funds?  It seems like it's not something I'd obsess about, especially if you're mid-career.  Instead, I'd spend my time getting re-energized about my academic field or teaching or some aspect of your department/uni.  Finding a therapist who is more like you also seems wise. 
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mozman
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« Reply #3 on: April 09, 2012, 11:27:24 AM »

What's your field and teaching load?  Two refereed journal articles in Philosophy isn't the same as two in Biology.  It seems odd that they'd have a cross-the-board requirement for all fields. 

This is true. I'm biased - I just assumed the OP was STEM (due to major grants etc...).
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Could you grow the foot into another patient? I mean, you are a scientist.
janewales
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« Reply #4 on: April 09, 2012, 11:57:44 AM »

It seems odd that they'd have a cross-the-board requirement for all fields.  That being said, I wouldn't lose too much sleep, unless I'm missing something.  If you don't have the energy to write/research, why would you want the research funds?  It seems like it's not something I'd obsess about, especially if you're mid-career. 

The OP might be somewhere like the University of Sydney, which had declared its intention to fire 340 faculty (10% of the total academic workforce), and it did indeed use an across-the-board productivity figure to determine who should be let go. I believe that at the moment, there's a temporary suspension of the cuts, but the point is that in Australia, there's plenty of practical reason to worry about not meeting requirements.

An Australian academic might want to weigh in here with more details.
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hegemony
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« Reply #5 on: April 09, 2012, 4:58:55 PM »

OP, can you tell us approximately what field you're in?

Of course the depression is the most urgent thing to get a handle on -- that makes everything seem like slogging through quicksand.  I hope you've been making use of all the resources available -- therapy, medication if deemed appropriate, help with household tasks and childcare to take some of the burden off, etc.  Is a sabbatical a possibility?
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Tragedy tomorrow, comedy tonight.
sockdolager
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« Reply #6 on: April 09, 2012, 7:58:56 PM »

Two refereed journal articles in Philosophy isn't the same as two in Biology.  It seems odd that they'd have a cross-the-board requirement for all fields. 

The Australian government has a system for measuring productivity that vaguely attempts to factor in this difference - each journal article is worth 1 point, but if there are multiple authors then that point is divided (equally) by the number of authors. So you get 1 point for a single-author paper (typical in philosophy) but 0.2 for a biology paper with five authors. When setting productivity targets, some universities use absolute numbers of outputs, some use points. Both systems are flawed when applied to individuals.
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aussiedeadwood
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« Reply #7 on: April 10, 2012, 5:09:27 AM »

Thank you all for your posts. I work in the humanities in a field that requires data-collection etc. so 2 articles a year seems a lot to me for a MINIMUM (yes they treat us all like laboratory people down here). I had sort of imagined myself writing 2-3 good books in my life and calling it a day, but apparently those careers are over.  And honestly we all know there are people who have made substantial contributions to the humanities with much less.

What I see people doing around the sector who aren't stars, and aren't on continual mega-grants (a tiny number of people in the humanities), is that they start publishing half baked ideas on presses like CAMBRIDGE SCHOLARS just to hit their targets. I may have to do the same (or start putting my name on my students papers which of course is what most academics do).
Or else just hope when the axe falls that I'm on the "teaching only" side of things rather than the "You are outta here" list.

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juillet
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« Reply #8 on: April 11, 2012, 4:41:47 PM »

I don't know what kind of field you are in, but why wouldn't you put your name on your students' papers, as long as you are actually involved?  I am a graduate student and my advisor's name goes on the majority of my papers.  I am using his resources, his data, he played a primary role in the development of the overarching ideas for the research in our lab, and, he's playing a key role in the development of my papers by reading drafts and providing substantial feedback even if he didn't technically write any of the words.
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obelisk
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« Reply #9 on: April 14, 2012, 7:01:09 AM »

Quote
2 referred journal articles per year
It is quite common now in the factories formerly called universities to set quotas regarding production of publications. In the case of Universiti Brunei Darussalam (for more see thread on CHE), for example, the quota has been set as 1 paper/year in a so-called premium tier journal (that is 3 within a 3 year contract) for all faculties. The definition of premium tier journal is however defined as befits the reviewer at the administrative top. 
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totoro
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« Reply #10 on: April 14, 2012, 9:32:23 PM »

I'm at one of the top Aussie unis research-wise and I am "research director" of my school (i.e. large department) and we don't have any individual quotas like this. In fact we are trying now to discourage production of large numbers of publications for the sake of publications because going forward numbers will still be important but increasingly average quality will be more important. My struggle at the moment is trying to convince people that publishing heaps of crap book chapters is not a good idea. Flow of research funds from our school has depended on number of publications (points) and dollars of grants. We are trying to shift to rewarding quality....

OTOH our university recently released a 10 year plan which includes targets for how many grants we'll win and how many of our disciplines will have what rank in the ERA (research assessment exercise).

In Australia, grants/fellowships are expected in all fields because the ARC hands out money in all fields.

And they have now announced cuts in staff are coming in the next few months. After seeing the shambles at Sydney, they are going to consult widely before firing people. It is very vague but looks like the goal is to eliminate units where teaching demand is low or research productivity is low before targeting individual academics on the basis of performance. But other universities might start by firing people who perform poorly in their eyes on research.

So, I think the OP could have a real concern here if their university isn't sensitive to context. This sounds like a very crude approach to assessment. The ARC, for example, asks what factors may have reduced your research performance in the past when they assess your track record.
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aussiedeadwood
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« Reply #11 on: April 17, 2012, 9:45:30 AM »

I kind of like the sound of you totoro, wish you were my research overlord. And I feel sorry for those about to lose their jobs at your uni.
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farm_boy
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« Reply #12 on: April 18, 2012, 1:51:03 PM »

I can't imagine working as hard as I did 20 years ago.  In grad school and in my first TT job I worked 80 hours a week during the semesters and 40 a week during Christmas and summer vacations.  Granted, I'm not that bright or efficient, so I had to make up for those deficiencies with lots of hard work.

I could never do that now.
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Screw you... You're not a troll. You're just posting pathetic jerkish, troll-wannabe, crap.  (mystictechgal, Member-Moderator)
aussiedeadwood
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« Reply #13 on: April 24, 2012, 7:59:02 AM »

My Head of School told me today my head is "first on the chopping block". We talked of a plan whereby I write three articles in the next six months (in a book nobody will read) which if added to the top journal I've just been accepted to (something I think makes a real contribution but is now reduced to a *1*)might show improvement (but would still fall well short of the 2 articles per year over a five year period that it takes to make you "research active"). That would then make for the basis of a "plea" on my behalf.

Looks like I'll be making an appointment with that career counsellor down the street. As the tag says I "Can't Keep UP". But what is it that I am failing at? What I see on a daily basis is colleagues massively stressed out trying to meet these criteria. Where is the passion for one's subject? Where is the time to take chances on interesting or difficult research? What I see is massive cronyism for the sake of preserving "Careers". Its just so tawdry and dull at the same time. Time to start retooling and enjoy these last years teaching.
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farm_boy
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« Reply #14 on: April 24, 2012, 9:10:26 AM »

Everything is numbers.  We worship numbers.
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Screw you... You're not a troll. You're just posting pathetic jerkish, troll-wannabe, crap.  (mystictechgal, Member-Moderator)
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