Saturday, January 15, 2011

Tribal customs of academic disciplines

Some of the different ways that different academic disciplines organize their scholarship, and the signals they send about it, are discussed in a recent column in the Chronicle of Higher Education about tenure reviews.

"A fair analysis of a tenure candidate requires that the committee members know (or learn) about the culture of the relevant academic discipline, particularly with respect to norms of publication numbers, venues, authorship order, conference presentations, invited talks, and student or postdoctoral advising.

"Considerable variation in those features exists across academe, even within science and engineering fields. Whereas one academic discipline might value short publications in highly selective conference proceedings over peer-reviewed journal articles, another requires peer-reviewed journal articles (in high-impact journals) as the primary indicator of productivity. Similarly, one discipline might alphabetize author order, another always has the "brains behind the project" as the last author, and another considers the first author listed to be the most important. Some fields expect assistant professors to have advised one or more Ph.D. students through to the completion of their degree, but in other fields that would be considered unusual."

The different customs of publication order present some opportunities in interdisciplinary collaborations of the kind that arise in market design, particularly since the authors publishing outside of their disciplinary journals are freed from the burden of sending signals.

1 comment:

dWj said...

On the other hand, there may be opportunities for arbitrage if the authors do get professional credit for the paper; they may both be able to get what appears to them and their profession to be the better place in the order.