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Author Topic: Would you edit a collection pre-tenure?  (Read 6128 times)
lilchrissy
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« on: April 20, 2012, 6:34:12 PM »

I'm chairing a panel at an upcoming national humanities conference, and was just solicited to submit the proceedings for publication.  I'll be going up for tenure in two years at a SLAC, and would like to hear from those of you who have served on P&T committees about seeing this on my CV.

The publisher is not top-tier, but it's not a vanity press either.  There is some debate here on the forum as to its reputation, but it is, at the very least, considered a legitimate scholarly press.  In terms of my tenure dossier at a mid-tier SLAC, would an edited collection like this be worth pursuing (i.e., be considered akin to an article published in a scholarly journal)?

In terms of where I'm at right now (midway through year four):  I've got one article that is forthcoming in June; one revise/resubmit at a top-tier journal; and one article I'll be submitting in a month.  I've also got two essays accepted for edited collections (although I know these don't always pan out and don't necessarily count as much as journal articles) and one prestigious outside research grant. 

The topic of the panel is not related to my scholarly research -- it's a pedagogical panel, and so it is something I wouldn't have even thought to try and propose to a press.  So, part of me is thinking, "why not?" since it won't see the light of day otherwise, but my browsing of the forum's advice seems to suggest it might turn into more work than I anticipate, and might not be an addition to the dossier either.  Then again, I will be applying for tenure a mere few months following the conference itself, and so the bulk of the work wouldn't occur until after the tenure file is submitted, so it might be nice to be able to put it on the CV as in process?

Thanks for your advice on whether or not to pursue this!
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flotsam
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« Reply #1 on: April 20, 2012, 7:57:36 PM »

I will give a somewhat guarded second to your initial "why not?" response.  Here's my caveat: Approach this as if everything involved (and it will be more work than you think) is strictly on top of or in addition to the work you were already going to do, particularly if that work was with an eye to tenure/promotion.  That is, editing this collection may be worthwhile from both a professional and personal standpoint, but it cannot be a substitute for any other required work, merely supplementary to the requirements.

Some folks may advise -- perhaps quite rightly -- that extra work is always a bad idea, and that additional scholarly activities that do not directly advance your career are wastes of time, time that could be better spent on stuff that does directly advance you. Also, in some cases, a publisher of lesser repute could possibly hurt you (in the eyes of critical reviewers), so the edited collection may not be much of a feather in your cap.  I probably shouldn't name names, but I notice that each time I have organized a panel, Cambridge Scholars has sent me a polite, professional inquiry into whether I want to produce a collection.  I'm not badmouthing them; indeed, I've contributed two essays to books published by them.  But the reputation is less than stellar, and depending on your department or college, it may not look very good for you.

That said, I still think there's value in the project.  While on tenure-track, I organized a panel that became a point of departure for an essay collection (with a well known, non-univ-press ... ok, Palgrave Macmillan), which I'm proud of.  However, even if it received some kudos, it probably did not count directly toward tenure/promotion.  I think it was noted with approval, but if I had not already met (and exceeded) the publishing expectations, this collection might not have pushed me across the finish line.  I had another book and a bunch of articles, so I wasn't cutting it close.  If you feel you might be, then do not add this to your burdens.

It wasn't as much work as writing a book, of course, but there was lot of time-consuming activity that exceed "editing" per se: email back-and-forth, herding contributors and badgering them about deadlines, making sure that contributor-contracts were signed, corralling everyone's permissions or making them cut material that would have required permisssion ... then, once it was all in, doing the stuff you do with your own singly-authored books: dealing with peer review, working with publisher on marketing materials, going back and forth with the copy editors, dealing with proofs and creating and index.  It's a lot, but if you have the energy and can make the time for it, this could be something you'd find worthwhile.

I feel like I may have talked you out of this, which -- if so -- may be a good thing.  As I said, please do not do this if you have other, necessary work to do, but if this can be icing on that cake, then I say "why not?" as well.
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seniorscholar
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« Reply #2 on: April 21, 2012, 9:54:22 AM »

I would echo every word in flotsam's excellent post. And urge you to double-check the actual tenure requirements at your college. At the SLACs for which I've done outside tenure reviews, three peer reviewed articles in reputable journals and two essays in edited collections would not quite clear the bar stated in the description of requirements sent to outside reviewers, though I do know that one such person was, in fact, tenured (largely to take on a burdensome departmental position).
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ruralguy
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« Reply #3 on: April 21, 2012, 3:17:51 PM »

It really depends on what you mean by "mid tier SLAC". At my 100-ish ranked, 4-3 load school, this sort of thing would be encouraged,
and would count as a solid "unit of scholarship" (my words). But once you get higher up, like Dennison and Dickenson and such,
(don't know 100% for sure) , this is likely to be seen as "nice", but less than a peer reviewed article (or whatever is the standard in your field). 

I wouldn't go by "stated tenure requirements", as there are likely to be none that are specific (there never are).
Go by what people have done in the RECENT past, and the input that people in power have given you.

If the standards at your school are like mine, then this could be a great opportunity to get solid recognition both inside and outside
of your school. If its more like the higher level SLAC's, then this could be too much of a time drain.
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lilchrissy
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« Reply #4 on: April 21, 2012, 5:25:22 PM »

Thanks everyone for the terrific advice -- this has been really helpful.  Ruralguy -- it sounds like we are at similar institutions.  Of the three most recent tenure cases that I know of, one sailed through with four articles (2 journal, 2 book collection); the two other cases were touch-and-go but ultimately given tenure (in the case of one, hu had one accepted article and one article appear after the dossier had been submitted; the second hu had a book published by a vanity press).  Granted, my knowledge of these cases are really through the rumor mill, but what has gotten passed down to me from my senior mentors is that aiming for three articles is the right target, and that pedagogical articles will also count.

With that in mind, it sounds like it might be worth pursuing this.  But I will wait and see how the panel shapes up and how interested the participants will be in a project of this sort. 

Thanks again -- I really appreciate your thoughtful responses and am grateful to have this community to turn to with questions like these!
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msparticularity
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« Reply #5 on: April 21, 2012, 7:09:46 PM »

I want to urge caution for a slightly different reason: the timing. The rule of thumb is generally quoted as around 18 months for a book, but for an edited collection that is grossly inadequate. While there are probably, somewhere out there, edited collections that have actually progressed from conception to release (or at least "in press") within two years, I don't personally know of any. The degree to which this kind of project tends to run into delays is truly extraordinary, and the problem escalates when you have contributors who are major players in your field and thus both really important to your project, and also very busy with other stuff. The real problem is the number of points at which you have to wait for multiple others to complete the various stages: initial submission; revisions; then final proofing. You may also need to juggle getting reviews back from multiple reviewers--and sometimes different ones for the different contributions. I am guessing from the fact that you're at a SLAC that you don't have a grad assistant to do most of the logistical stuff for you, which is what makes it more manageable for most editors of collections.

Quite frankly, juggling all of that is often enough to pretty much shut down any other research progress, so you could too easily end up without the volume to count toward your tenure package, and also without anything else. I think this project sounds like serious risk for you at this stage of your career.
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traductio
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« Reply #6 on: April 22, 2012, 2:38:40 PM »

I want to urge caution for a slightly different reason: the timing. The rule of thumb is generally quoted as around 18 months for a book, but for an edited collection that is grossly inadequate. While there are probably, somewhere out there, edited collections that have actually progressed from conception to release (or at least "in press") within two years, I don't personally know of any. The degree to which this kind of project tends to run into delays is truly extraordinary, and the problem escalates when you have contributors who are major players in your field and thus both really important to your project, and also very busy with other stuff. The real problem is the number of points at which you have to wait for multiple others to complete the various stages: initial submission; revisions; then final proofing. You may also need to juggle getting reviews back from multiple reviewers--and sometimes different ones for the different contributions. I am guessing from the fact that you're at a SLAC that you don't have a grad assistant to do most of the logistical stuff for you, which is what makes it more manageable for most editors of collections.

This is very, very true. I've put together an edited collection for which I should -- I hope! -- have a final contract within the next couple of weeks. In my own projects, I work quickly and efficiently. The collaboration process is painfully slow -- it's now been nearly two years since the conference out of which the volume grew.

Plus, academics, I have discovered, are frequently a pain in the neck to work with. Don't get me wrong -- some of our contributors have been absolutely outstanding. But one -- I kid you not -- told my co-editor and me that with respect to his article, we could tell the reviewers "tough sh!t" if they didn't understand it (his words). It's a key piece, and we wanted to include it, but the reviewers were right. Long story short, he'll be making some perfunctory changes, and we explain the problems away in our conclusion to the book.
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lilchrissy
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« Reply #7 on: April 24, 2012, 8:39:02 PM »

An additional question then:  would you recommend working with a co-editor on this, or is it better (i.e., easier, more prestigious on the CV) to go solo?

I have a wonderful professor emeritus in mind to ask about co-editing the volume.  My assumption (probably unwarranted) is that since hu is retired but a long-time mentor of mine, that hu might be willing to shoulder some of the burden of co-editing both to help me out and out of interest in the topic.

Any thoughts on co-editing vs. going solo?
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flotsam
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« Reply #8 on: April 25, 2012, 12:34:04 AM »

I wouldn't think that having a co-editor would hurt, as far as the CV goes, and a senior scholar's input might always be welcomed by the publisher, but do be cognizant of the too-many-cooks-in-the-kitchen possibility.  Although sharing the load might make things more efficient, I've always found that it's sometimes quicker to do the work myself.

Also, as others have noted, make sure you know how this will be viewed by your dept or college when it comes to tenure/promotion review.  It is possible that singly authored or edited books might look different to the reviewers.
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tenured_feminist
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« Reply #9 on: April 25, 2012, 6:53:04 AM »

I'll be going up for tenure in two years at a SLAC, and would like to hear from those of you who have served on P&T committees about seeing this on my CV. . . .

In terms of where I'm at right now (midway through year four):  I've got one article that is forthcoming in June; one revise/resubmit at a top-tier journal; and one article I'll be submitting in a month.  I've also got two essays accepted for edited collections (although I know these don't always pan out and don't necessarily count as much as journal articles) and one prestigious outside research grant. 

Unless you started off-cycle, you are not midway through year four. You are all but done with year four. If your SLAC is typical, you should be getting your file ready to go out to reviewers exactly one year from now. You have ONE published article. R&Rs, "slated for publication in a forthcoming edited volume (but no contract in hand quite yet)," and "recently submitted to Journal of Prestigious Studies" will be discounted heavily, and you have no guarantees that these things will be under contract by the time your file goes out for review.

I'm sympathetic. I've done a few edited volumes. I'm working on one now. They are a lot of fun, and they really help to open up new creative vistas. But what you need to do right now is build your CV for a successful tenure bid.

I'm sorry to be discouraging, but there will be other opportunities to edit volumes. If you're denied, you don't get a second chance at a tenure bid without undergoing a long, stressful, and ultimately successful run through the job market.
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ruralguy
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« Reply #10 on: April 25, 2012, 10:41:38 AM »

My SLAC might be like the OP's, I can't quite tell, but the details of the tenure cases mentioned make it seem like it might be slightly more
competitive than mine. Though, I have to admit, we've been hiring more folks in the last few years with articles and books under their belt, so there isn't quite as much lack of scholarship at tenure time as there was 10+ years ago.

I can say with confidence that if a candidate fhere for tenure had absolutely no problems with teaching evals, and was on some sort of committee, and had 4 articles, nobody would make a peep about not giving tenure. Probably the same would be true if it was down to two articles. I think if it is truely only one, then if the person had some trouble with students, there could be trouble getting tenure. If he's a superstar with students with one article, he'd get tenure at my school, most likely.

In any case, the more important issue would be whether an edited volume would "count"--at a 4-3 SLAC, most probably yes (definitely yes at mine).  Whether you could get it done is another issue. I would personally be more efficient by myself, precisely because I have such a high teaching load (well, high-ish---I know some folks have much higher at some places), that I don't want pure research guys breathing down my neck every twenty seconds. I'd rather just do my scholarship at my own pace and just try my best to complete in 12 months or 18 or whatever it takes.

Another issue: do you have any other coals in the fire? If not, I'd take the edited volume, and start thinking of other stuff too. If you are in the middle of some other article, probably better to do that.
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hungry_ghost
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« Reply #11 on: April 25, 2012, 12:03:27 PM »

Regarding a collaborator: My experience with a different type of volume is that co-editing with a collaborator has been almost entirely positive. My co-editor is very senior and I am very junior. We keep each other going and encouraged. We have each managed to notice potential problems and keep the project out of trouble. His name has opened doors and has attracted positive attention to the project, and may have been instrumental in getting a contract with a good press. (good=appropriate for our project) We have completely different personalities and approaches to this project and have been nice complements to each other.

But I have been extremely lucky. My co-editor is a wonderful person and an excellent scholar. With a bad collaborator, it would have been hell.

I can't say anything about how this might affect your tenure case at your institution. It seems like this is a question to ask your mentor and your chair at your home institution. Given what you write below, it doesn't sound like it should have much effect either way.

This is very important:
I will be applying for tenure a mere few months following the conference itself, and so the bulk of the work wouldn't occur until after the tenure file is submitted,

In light of this, it seems that it would be very easy to push the timeline for the project back until after your tenure file is in. The first year of such a project is pretty "quiet": you send out a call for papers and get preliminary commitments from authors, find a press, start considering potential reviewers, etc. but the real work doesn't start until you get papers. You can set your timeline so the deadline for first papers is after (probably well after) your tenure file is in.
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busyslinky
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« Reply #12 on: April 25, 2012, 12:15:52 PM »

Sounds like delaying it until your tenure file is complete is the way to go.  So, you really wouldn't be completing this editing pre-tenure.

Also, I would put this on hold until you have all your 'real' publications accepted and/or published.  I wouldn't even be going to conferences to get as many papers accepted as quickly as possible.

1 publication and lots of possibilities may not be enough even for a mid-tier SLAC when hundreds of people with excellent credentials are gunning for a position in your field.
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seniorscholar
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« Reply #13 on: April 25, 2012, 4:09:36 PM »

Go to the conference, listen to the papers, announce that you're editing the volume of prodeedings, and could  give the call for papers and the rules (length, format, deadline, etc. to the people that present) include the information that you will be editing xxxxx for yyyyy Publisher in your tenure file. But don't do any actual work until after the tenure file is in.

And if, at that point, one of your articles still needs minor revisions, poofreading, etc, etc., do that first. Depending on the tenure process schedule at your school, you may still have time to add an announcement or provide a published copy at some point before the decision has moved past the point of no return.
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lilchrissy
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« Reply #14 on: April 25, 2012, 4:51:08 PM »

Senior Scholar -- that sounds exactly the route to go.  And to all the rest who took the time to respond -- thank you for the advice and different perspectives.  This discussion has been incredibly helpful (and has made me anxious as well -- one more year to go.  That's exactly right, and I needed the wake-up call).  Thank you!
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