An Academic Department Attempts to Go Beyond CVs and JIF in Hiring

Sep 03 2013 Published by under Academics, Tribe of Science

In Science, from Sandra L. Schmid, Ph.D. [PubMed] who is Chair of Cell Biology at UT Southwestern.

The problem:

CVs provide a brief description of past training—including the researcher's pedigree—as well as a list of awards, grants, and publications. A CV provides little insight into attributes that will ensure future success in the right environment. For example, a CV is unlikely to reflect the passion, perseverance, and creativity of individuals who struggled with limited resources and created their own opportunities for compelling research. Nor is a CV likely to identify bold and imaginative risk-takers who might have fallen—for the moment—just short of a major research success. The same is true for those who found, when they realized their goal, that their results exceeded the imaginations of mainstream reviewers and editors, the gatekeepers of high-profile journals. Finally, for junior hires at early stages of their careers, a CV is unlikely to reveal individuals who are adept at recombining knowledge and skills gained from their graduate and postdoctoral studies to carve out new areas of research, or those able to recognize and take advantage of unique opportunities for collaboration in their next position.

Her Department's solution:

We will be asking applicants to write succinct cover letters describing, separately and briefly, four elements: (1) their most significant scientific accomplishment as a graduate student; (2) their most significant scientific accomplishment as a postdoc; (3) their overall goals/vision for a research program at our institution; and (4) the experience and qualifications that make them particularly well-suited to achieve those goals. Each of the cover letters will be read by several faculty members—all cell biology faculty members will have access to them—and then we will interview, via video conferencing technologies, EVERY candidate whose research backgrounds and future interests are a potential match to our departmental goals.

She closes with what I see as a deceptively important comment:

Let's run this experiment!

You have probably gleaned, Dear Reader, that one of my greatest criticisms of our industry is that the members of it throw all of their scientific training out the window when it comes to the actual behavior OF the industry. Paper review, grant review, assessment of "quality", dealing with systematic bias and misdirection...... MAN we are bad at this.

Above all, we are reluctant to run experiments to test our deep seated beliefs. Our beliefs that GRE quantitative or verbal or subject predict grad school performance. Our beliefs that undergraduate GPA is the key or maybe it is research experience in a lab of some DewD we've heard of. Our belief that what makes the postdoc is X number of first author pubs in journals of just exactly this Impact Factor. Our confidence that past performance predicts future success of our new Asst Professor hire....or tenure candidate.

So often we argue, viciously, our biases. So infrequently do we test them.

So bravo to Chair Schmid for actually running an experiment.

61 responses so far

  • Michael Kane says:

    It may be a good idea, and they may like the results, but of course there's nothing scientific about this "experiment," and no one should fool themselves that trying something different is any kind of "test" of prior assumptions or biases. Predicting grad school success is bad enough, with a dozen or so new students per year in a program, but in hiring decisions with one or fewer hires per year? Life doesnt provide a control group for such decisions, and youll probably just create new biases and just-so stories to fit the resulting data (datum?).

  • meshugena313 says:

    Fascinating. I found this point to be spot on: "... to reveal individuals who are adept at recombining knowledge and skills gained from their graduate and postdoctoral studies to carve out new areas of research, or those able to recognize and take advantage of unique opportunities for collaboration in their next position."

    From my own experience 4 years in to this adventure as a PI, this has been the most fun and rewarding (in terms of science, papers, and new collaborations, but not in terms of $, yet).

  • mineralphys says:

    Amen to the post. I share DrugMonkey's criticism of how we in academia tend to approach all sorts of evaluations. I also understand the earlier comment that this "experiment" is not really a science. Still there is a big territory between verifiable/testable hypotheses and rampant biased-based decision making. There is huge amount of room to examine and improve how we do evaluations, and our critical thinking skills can be put to good use here. It starts by replacing some of the arrogance and prejudice with some humility and open-mindedness. Biases need to be questioned first in order to be tested.

  • Busy says:

    The same is true for those who found, when they realized their goal, that their results exceeded the imaginations of mainstream reviewers and editors, the gatekeepers of high-profile journals.

    This. While most of my strong papers are readily identifiable as such, I have three out-of-left-field papers which were initially rejected from all major publication venues. With time one of them has become well known, the other two still sit in relative obscurity while people rediscover the ideas and publish them again to great success five years later. It simply took that long for editors to wrap their heads around the observations we were making.

  • Dave says:

    I'm very skeptical. It will still come down to CNS and/or a K99 for junior hires.

  • Dave says:

    ...although I should say I admire the effort. At least someone is trying it.

  • cookingwithsolvents says:

    @post #1

    Ah, but 'control group' implies that only ONE person can be a great fit for the department and grow into a valued colleague. Of course, many such people are out there and hunting for candidates is a complex process that also involves the candidate's wants, needs, and desires. The goal of the hiring process is to find the candidate that has the capability and desire to be a valued colleague in area XYZ deemed important to the department. Then get them to sign on the dotted line and get going on that hot science.

    To paraphrase DS: 'there is no ONE, you just round up'

    More food for thought: how many candidates have 'failed' in a department because the department decided poorly on a strategic area, picked the 'hot topic' person, the topic dried up, and the person was the last to realize because they came from the lab that invented said technique? That number is not zero, to be sure. The candidate may even have wanted to leave the technique behind or start other projects but didn't because they were 'the XYZ person' in larger, collaborative projects with big people at the institution.

  • Dave Fernig says:

    This is very much like the "personal statement" that we use, though we leave it free form, with no prescriptions, which can also be enlightening. Good personal statements make you look at the papers and consider shortlisting.

  • Ola says:

    Yeah just what we need, more effing metrics! I'm going to call BS on this yielding anything different than what their current system yields. For example:

    (2) their most significant scientific accomplishment as a postdoc

    I would bet good money that most candidates will simply list their highest IF paper, using the IF of the journal as a reinforcer that the accomplishment was "significant". Now, the interesting candidates (at least the ones I'd be interested in interviewing) would be the ones with CNS papers, who nevertheless list a publication in a low IF journal that nobody has heard of, as their most significant contribution. But I somehow doubt those folks' CVs will be at the top of the Skype call list.

    I do like the idea of interviewing more candidates, and using videoconferencing to achieve this, but I am just guessing that adding this extra filter layer (because that's what it is, another filter on top of the existing stuff - don't tell me they're going to hire without asking the shortlist in for in-person interviews) will simply yield the same old candidates - the ones from "top" labs who can speak clearly and deliver a good talk.

    Another point - her Department @ UTSW currently has 3 Asst. Profs, and they all have a few very high impact factor pubs in their recent history, so they were hired using the "old" methods she's dissing here. If I was one of those 3, I would be reading between the lines of this opinion piece... "oh shit, my chair is having second thoughts about hiring me". I'd love to hear how they're getting on in terms of career development. Would also be interesting to see if any young PI's recently came up for tenure in this department and didn't make it? Otherwise it's hard to see where the driving force for this article comes from?

  • drugmonkey says:

    there is a place for "experiment" to mean "Try something just a little bit different for fuck's sake for one damn time, I mean jesus you people" that is an advance. At this point a well controlled scientific plan of attack is not necessary for it to be an improvement.

  • drugmonkey says:

    "oh shit, my chair is having second thoughts about hiring me".

    I believe that Schmid is a brand new, outside-hire Chair. So no "second thoughts". Might be criticism of the way they did things before she arrived or maybe she is just bringing a new perspective that reflects her [evolving?] views. Certainly she has CNS pubs and left as Chair of Cell Bio at TSRI where they are puh-lenty interested in the same.

    Maybe a reflection of what she sees as the overall hiring picture in Cell Biology? Or a reflection of the fate of postdocs she knows?

    Why are we not willing to assume the best here?

  • Dave says:

    @Ola - totally agree. The answers to (1) and (2) will be essentially "I published in CNS". Should be enough to get an interview. As you rightly point out though, I would be a little concerned if I was a recent hire there and all of a sudden they had a rethink in their hiring practices LOL. But they all seem to be doing pretty well to me. All have R01s, two of the three have renewed an R01 and the other has two R01s running at the same time. All seem to be publishing well, but not in glam mags as far as I could tell. But money talks and by that metric at least, all looks good. So I guess we will never know the internal reasons for this experiment. Is it too simple/naive to assume that she just thought it was the right thing to do?????

  • Dave says:

    Why are we not willing to assume the best here?

    Proof is in the pudding DM.

    It's the same as ol' Eisen blabbing on the other day about how glam is not important to him, but as YOU pointed out almost every new hire in his fucken department was glam'd up. Worse, all recent candidates selected for interviews there were fully glam (according to one poster). When it comes down to it, I find it laughable that they will select your average Joe Postdoc for a TT job because he/she can write a nice personal statement. Give me a break.

  • drugmonkey says:

    "The proof of the pudding is in the tasting", actually.

  • Busy says:

    Is it really as bad as people make it sound when it comes to pedigree in the biosciences? In my field of course candidates from a top institution have an edge, but there are enough hires at the top departments from outside the big labs to be assured that good people do get picked up, even when they come from some rather unknown universities.

  • drugmonkey says:

    Busy-

    I suspect that for any given subfield / department, there will be "big labs" and somewhat lesser "outside the big labs" in which there is nevertheless still some pedigree benefit. So it isn't necessarily a top-10-labs-or-go-home deal.

    Also, "pedigree" simply means that the people voting on, or gating, the applicants have heard of the training lab. Obviously the biggest, hottest, CNS publishin' labs in the field are going to be known to the most people.

    But pedigree means more.

    Pedigree can mean that you happen to have an influential greybearded member of the department who just so happens to know and like the Professor X a candidate trained with who nobody else really "knows". Or it can mean that Professor HawtShawt just so happened to have done her undergrad at unknown smallish College Y and it makes her take a second look.

    There is also another thing to beware of. It is easy to think of oneself as not having any particularly awesome "pedigree" because of various factors. After all, there are no literal halos around scientists. If you are at an Ivy, well, all the people you know are also there and let's face it, the system makes you feel like dirt all the time anyway. Sure your Chair and TopDogProff are well known but you did your postdoc with ObscureAsstProfNoob so *you* don't have "pedigree".

    You might.

  • I'm going to call BS on this yielding anything different than what their current system yields.

    I'm not gonna "call BS", but my prediction is that this is what's gonna happen.

    And BTW, it is instructive to go to some of the humanities blogges and see how they feel about the efficacy of pre-campus-invite interviews--phone or at conferences--in broadening the criteria employed and the characteristics of who gets hired. Based on what they say, the pedigree shitte is even worse in the humanities, where people who haven't even finished completed their dissertations or otherwise demonstrated a tangible scholarly contribution to their fields other than maybe a conference presentation get hired for highly prestigious tenure-track faculty positions on the basis of their pedigree. At least with glamour pubs, we are weighing actual scholarly contributions to our fields.

  • Jim Thomerson says:

    I was at a small, new, regional university with both direction and location in its name. My colleagues wanted to hire the best scientist available. I wanted to hire the person most likely to do well in our ecosystem. I wanted someone who would think our situation was really great compared to where they had been; but, at the same time had a record of coping well, under difficult circumstances, where they had been.

  • Busy says:

    I'm not sure about that Jim. I was at a similar small university and we did best when we hired top candidates period. Of course we had high turnaround (myself included) but even a revolving door department was better than the alternative. Plus some of the good guys stayed, and a lot of positive changes took place because of people accustomed to a better way of doing things.

  • drugmonkey says:

    Of course we had high turnaround (myself included) but even a revolving door department was better than the alternative.

    So presumably the University paid no startup costs whatever?

  • Busy says:

    They did. However the previous batch of professors brought so little money that even with startup costs the University came out ahead. E.g. my first grant there was larger than the rest of the department combined. By the time we were done hiring this way funding had gone up by over 10x.

  • DrugMonkey says:

    I am not so certain that a happy medium wouldn't have worked out better. Why can't you try to get ppl who are fundable *and* might stay?

  • Busy says:

    Usually the people who wanted to stay were not sufficiently driven to go for the big ideas/projects/grants.

  • qaz says:

    I think it important to remember that the processes of basing decisions on impact factor and other flawed, but concrete criteria, were put in place to fix an actual problem - which is the pedigree and spin/talk problem that (as DM notes) still plagues a lot of humanities departments. This new system is going to vastly favor people who come from a certain academic and cultural background who have learned how to talk the language of science. It may be that in the current world (where one's grant-writing skills are what matters for success) that one's ability to spin a good story and talk a good game are more important to success than CV and impact factor, but it is very easy to get snowed by a good salesperson who might well not actually be a good scientist.

    And we should also remember that there was a time when the criteria were so vague that one could easily say "we didn't just pick white men, they were the best set of candidates".

    If Schmidt REALLY wants to run an experiment, she needs to have two committees, one using the old system and one using the new system, to identify two sets of candidates, and to compare them. The control group is not a different set of candidates, but a different committee process. She could do that, but it would mean extra work for her faculty. I call BS on this as "an experiment".

  • Busy says:

    If Schmidt REALLY wants to run an experiment,

    No she doesn't. She wants to run a department with limited time and resources, not perform a scientific experiment. There is the danger that if it is really badly run it will only confirm biases, but outside of that, even an informal, uncontrolled "let's remind ourselves of factors other than the CV" seems a positive step.

    Remember the perfect is the enemy of the good.

  • qaz says:

    Busy -

    I disagree. There are lots of historical reasons to think that her idea is not going to improve her candidates, and a lot of reasons to think that her idea is going to severely impact diversity. And if there's no effect, is this just a more expensive way of finding a reasonable candidate.

    Not being perfect doesn't mean she can't still do a good job.

    Also, I'm very concerned by the idea that she lumps CV, which contains all you have actually accomplished (patents, novels, awards, education, and publications) in with impact factor (quality of journals). If she really wants to break IF, then she should ignore IF. The idea that intangibles are a better record than CV is just asking for trouble.

    Also, she explicitly calls this an experiment, which doesn't mean "try some random sh..t, and see what happens.

  • bashir says:

    I hope you guys aren't so pedantic in real life. You know what she means by "experiment".

  • DrugMonkey says:

    The spectrum, FTW

  • Brian says:

    This is odd. This "idea" is no different than all of the search committees I've been on. We always require a cover letter, a research plan, and a CV. There is ample room to provide this information and we absolutely consider it. The only thing different in this supposed grand idea/test is interviewing more of the candidates via teleconference. Okay, that's fine, but hardly revolutionary.

    I submit that the process of hiring a new faculty member is an exercise in risk management for the department/institution. Prior track record may not guarantee future success, but it is the best objective predictor we have. Now, that doesn't necessarily mean CNS articles, but it does mean consistent candidate-driven success (i.e. success follows the candidate). It's a risk calculation. Someone that has shown the ability to get it done in the past is less of a risk than someone who hasn't. It's really that simple. It doesn't guarantee success by the "better" candidate, nor does this preclude potential success by a "lessor" candidate, but one must weight the risks.

    Lowering the bar to find the diamond in the rough will only hurt us in the long run IMO.

  • Busy says:

    a lot of reasons to think that her idea is going to severely impact diversity. [emphasis added]

    Sorry, but that is just hysterics. I might be willing to entertain an argument in you claim that there are some reasons to think that her idea will have a negative impact on diversity. And indeed it might, at which point I'd like to remind you that finding one flaw on a system does not invalidate it if it replaces an even more flawed system.

  • The only thing different in this supposed grand idea/test is interviewing more of the candidates via teleconference.

    Relying more on brief teleconference interviews to decide whom to bring to campus than on paper documentation of previous success and future plans is going to almost certainly skew the list of invitees in the direction of instantaneous first impressions of "fit", which could very easily mean in the direction of those who readily present themselves as glib smooth-talkers communicating according to the norms of straight white heterosexual d00d academia.

  • Busy says:

    I personally don't like the idea of teleconference interviews. I find them awkward from either side, but in fairness New Zealand essentially runs their entire interview process this way. What happens is people become more adept at detecting glib over substance.

  • drugmonkey says:

    Prior track record may not guarantee future success, but it is the best objective predictor we have. ...but it does mean consistent candidate-driven success (i.e. success follows the candidate). ... Someone that has shown the ability to get it done in the past is less of a risk than someone who hasn't.

    One of the key parts of Schmid's Op/Ed
    "individuals who struggled with limited resources and created their own opportunities for compelling research. "
    leans dangerously close to admitting that in certain large and established GlamourDouche labs, someone would have to be an utter dimwit not to get a CNS paper as a postdoc. So yeah, they enter your department with the right models, possibly a "system" that will get them a start and all the right shiny bits on the CV ...buuut.... long term creativity and core scientific drive may not be present. They may also be hapless in the face of having to build the sort of SuperLabbe they just exited for themselves because they never had to do any scrambling and hustling just to make shit work.

    I've remarked before that I think the greatest liability in a new Asst Prof is to have had too easy of a ride up until that point. If *I* was the one reviewing CVs, I'd be looking for signs of where stuff went really badly for the candidate and they managed to overcome it anyway.

    "candidate driven" success does not jump out from a list of papers, necessarily. It could very well have been "lab driven" success.

  • Busy says:

    In my field there is a lab famous for producing graduates with top CVs that generally cannot hack it once they are on their own.

  • drugmonkey says:

    Does that mean that they get Asst Prof jobs and then "flame out"? Or that nobody will actually hire any of them?

    or does "hack it" mean that they cannot reach quite the same lofty Glamourous heights as their training lab but are otherwise decent scientists?

  • Dave says:

    I've remarked before that I think the greatest liability in a new Asst Prof is to have had too easy of a ride up until that point. If *I* was the one reviewing CVs, I'd be looking for signs of where stuff went really badly for the candidate and they managed to overcome it anyway.

    "candidate driven" success does not jump out from a list of papers, necessarily. It could very well have been "lab driven" success.

    Damn right DM. Spot on. You're on a roll lately.

  • Jim Thomerson says:

    Years ago our chair, a cell biologist, invited several cell biology postdocs in to give seminars. They were all at good labs. About 10 minutes into the presentation, the chair would stand up, and ask what hypothesis was being tested. None of the "hot shot" postdocs had any answer for him. I never knew exactly what was going on there, but it struck me as very strange.

  • Busy says:

    Initially they were hired since they had good pubs, but eventually the pattern became clear and now people look really hard for signs of independent creativity before making an offer.

    In terms of your second question most of them can hack a minor career but since they were being hired at top places their record looks like a failure. If they had gone straight to a middle of the road institution they would have done fine.

  • Alex says:

    Regarding teleconference interviews before in-person:

    It used to just be a phone call with the search committee. Logistics were easy (gather everyone around a speaker phone) and the principle seemed fine (get some back-and-forth discussion rather than just paper. It might or might not add value, but at least it didn't seem to hurt.

    Now it's a Skype interview before the in-person. Since group Skype sessions only work well with the right set-up, this means that the faculty logistics get more complicated. Gathering people around a laptop doesn't work; you need a special teleconference suite handled by University IT. Also, people feel more free to critique "demeanor" in Skype interviews than in phone interviews. In my anecdotal experience I haven't heard any openly discriminatory critiques of visual demeanor, but that doesn't mean it wasn't present in anybody's mind. And some of the non-discriminatory stuff that I've overheard has still been stupid and irrational.

  • Evidence why using brief pre-screening Skype interviews is likely to be counterproductive if the goal is to increase the diversity of those chosen to interview on-campus:

    http://www.bakadesuyo.com/2013/09/how-to-ace-a-job-interview/?utm_source=feedly

  • Brian says:

    "candidate driven success" is evidenced by success in multiple venues. If the candidate seems to pull it off no matter where he/she is, that is an indicator of "candidate driven success".

    Success in multiple venues is at the top of the list as far as I'm concerned. The trouble, I suppose, is defining "success".

  • Dr Strangely Strange says:

    Are they going to publicize the results of this so called experiment, and what is the chance that this procedure was the one actually followed. Just like in any paper, the Methods dont always reflect what happened and you cannot believe it unless you try it yourself. This sounds to me like just another initiative by a new chair to think out of the box, look different (bold creative), hire an image consultant, whitten teeth and catapult into a deanship somewhere.

  • Physician Scientist says:

    I am chairing a search committee now at a top 25 (but not top 10 med school). When we met as a committee to set up criteria, we thought success in two places (as a grad student and post-doc) was most important. Personally, I like to see success as a grad student where it was clear the that the quality of science or publications rose after the student joined the lab - this obviously doesn't apply to a CNS lab, but a student putting out 2 or 3 solid papers in society level journals with limited author number in a lab that doesn't publish much does look good. We also want to see some history that the applicant can successfully grant - not necessarily a K99 or career award, but some indication that they can write a grant.

    In last years search, there were candidates who were borderline for an interview. I called each of them and had a conversation. We ended up interviewing 5 candidates. Two were good and three, despite high IF papers and grants, were not strong. This was obvious from their talks and their ability to answer questions. The one we ended up hiring was from a well-known lab. S/he had a small, one year $80,000 grant, but most impressively, had 2 very strong two-author papers in just-sub CNS journals. It was clear that s/he had driven the project and s/he had the support of the post-doc advisor to take the project to start a new lab.

    So that's what we look for - success in two places where it was clear you were driving the bus. 23 author CNS papers don't impress so much, but a strong 2 to 3 author paper does. It really does have to be clear the applicant can write as the administration is not hesitating to cut bait with those who can't get grants quickly.

  • Dave says:

    society level journals with limited author number

    Why are you so obsessed with this? The number of authors is rarely an accurate reflection of how many people were actually doing the work. Politics is a stronger factor, at least in my department. Why do you care who is a middle author? And how do multiple-author papers detract from the quality of the candidate when this is probably not under their control, especially in CNS levels pubs?

  • AcademicLurker says:

    In my experience, where the weakness in a glamorlab candidate tends to show up is in the chalk talk. Once I got to see things from the other side I was shocked at seeing people come in and wow everyone with their research seminar and then totally fall down during the chalk talk. They obviously hadn't thought about how to get an independent program going.

  • Eli Rabett says:

    WTF, what BunnyHopper wagon did you and Schmidt fall off of. Even in the NRHU (Non Research Habituated University) Eli lurks in all candidates are asked for a 3-5 page description of the research they propose and their educational dreams. Those had better include Schmidt's 1-5. Oh yeah and the chalk talk

  • Physician Scientist says:

    Dave-
    The reasons for the limited authorship as as follows:

    1. In large studies, it is difficult for an outsider to tell who did what. I have 2nd author pubs from my post-doc where I did a ton of work and others where I did little at all. We can't tell courtesy authorships from real work. As an outside committee, we are looking for someone who is driving the project and smaller author numbers help us in this way.

    2. We do not have the same resources that a Glamour school has in terms of obvious collaborations/facilities and it will be difficult for a new asst prof to replicate the mentor's environment. An example would be if the mentor has access to large, curated patient samples that are not available to outside researchers or a $15000 a month mouse colony. Additionally, the new assistant professor will need to run a project on startup funds - we've found that people who are in control of their project do better financially (eg. understand mouse costs and what not) and this seems to correlate with smaller author numbers on pubs.

    3. We don't rule out large auth0r number pubs, but we do like to see some evidence of smaller number pubs at some point in the career. That is, does the applicant NEED to work in a large environment or can they work for the first few years with just a tech and newbee student. The latter do better historically at our institution.

    4. Some might argue that a first author's ability to limit courtesy authorships would correlate with their independence and ability to "speak up" to an authority figure. This has been voiced in our search committee.

    Nothing is perfect. We've just found that by looking at the people who haven't done well at our school (not all schools), there are some trends that we can look for. We will certainly miss some good people - this can't be helped, but we do the best we can. Its terrible when one of the newer hires is let go - both for them as well as for the school and search committee.

  • Physician Scientist says:

    Oh....and the chalk talk is huge.

  • Dave says:

    Appreciate the detail and I can see where you are coming from, although I don't buy (4). Some could argue that knowing how to play the game early is an advantage.

    Its terrible when one of the newer hires is let go - both for them as well as for the school and search committee.

    Would be interested to hear how frequent this happens at your place and the reason(s)???

  • Physician Scientist says:

    Dave-
    simple...they don't get an R01 in the first 3-4 years.

  • Dave says:

    Sucks. Three years doesn't seem like a lot of time to get an R01 as a noob, especially these days.

  • AcademicLurker says:

    My previous institution adopted a policy of booting people at their 3rd year review if they didn't have RO1 level funding. It struck me as insane. Given the hefty amounts of $$ they've started giving out in startup packages, I don't see how it can possibly be cost effective.

  • Muscat says:

    While I appreciate what this effort represents, given that the positions being discussed are "assistant professors" (and not, say, assistant researchers"), and so presumably have a teaching component, it is kind of depressing that there is not one single mention of teaching in regard to the evaluative process.

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  • CC says:

    I agree with Muscat and the other commenters? What about the candidate's teaching ability? Is that not an important aspect? I know that at least one department (AET) at my alma mater had both faculty and selected students evaluate candidates' lecturing abilities. They gave the candidates a few chapters from a textbook and required them to select one chapter and create a lecture on it.

  • drugmonkey says:

    It is established fact that if "original research" is *any* contribution to tenure and promotion then the University doesn't give a flying fig about teaching ability. What they really care about is grants and the papers that get them

  • Alex says:

    Eh, there are places that value both teaching and research. But generally the way it works at those places is that they claim that teaching is the dominant criterion, but in fact it's (at best) equal and more often secondary (though still necessary).

    And at the places that claim that research is #1 and teaching is an important #2, that means that teaching has zero importance.

  • drugmonkey says:

    I would be interested to hear about those cases of allegedly equal consideration where good teaching made up for a minimal research record. In contrast to the self-same institutions' cases where a professor had great research going but the teaching was crap, phoned in effort.

  • Our promotion and tenure standards state explicitly that while teaching, service, and research are "all components to be considered", outstanding service and teaching "can never compensate" for deficiencies in research. Translation: Teaching and service don't mean jacke fucken dicke, and this is what junior faculty are told by their chairs. In all the years I've been here, I've never had a single conversation with anyone about classroom teaching other than the logistical fact of doing it (i.e., show up at a certain place at a certain time to teach a certain topic).

  • Alex says:

    Keep in mind that I'm speaking from the world of teaching-oriented institutions with few/no grad students. At some of these places, research is judged rather loosely. As long as you can show that you're getting something done, well, that's fine. So, ostensibly teaching is more important, i.e. teaching is evaluated for quality and research is evaluated as a checkbox item.

    However, here's the thing: Teaching isn't really evaluated for quality. Somebody will sit in on your class, and you'd have to be an idiot to not give a well-organized lecture that day. Student evaluations matter up to a point, but it's understood that those aren't infallible measures of quality. So as long as teaching is half-way defensible by some generous measure you're fine. You'd have to tick off a lot of people to get denied tenure. In fact, the best ways to get denied tenure or promotion are to either piss people off (a far more important criterion than research or teaching) or fail to publish anything (since zero papers is something that can be objectively measured). Teaching is more...squishy in how it is evaluated.

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