a few more thoughts on independence

Sep 08 2017 Published by under Uncategorized

There are some good comments on the independence post, to which I have written some (lengthy) replies.

But here are a few more thoughts, from offline comments and talking with my friend:


How much independence?

Insistence on relentless independence can be throwing out the good science baby with the mentor-dominated bathwater, to coin a metaphor. It's very easy to dismiss one's mentors, or better yet, Julia's mentors,  as out of touch, or not understanding, or if they are close in age, just Not Quite As Good as oneself. There is value for working with other people. The difficult judgment is determining if the TT candidate faculty is driving the research, or functioning as an executive officer.  What is the scientific/creative relationship? Publishing by oneself is clear.

How explicit the criteria?

I perceive this as problematic, to say the least. In my view, the more explicit the criteria are, the more difficult it becomes to look at good people who might not quite make it. If it's a blue-yellow axis when does blue become green, and is green ok for blue and when does green become yellow? Yes, some things do need lines. By using a word like "independence" or "excellence", with some guidelines, it leaves room for the multiple levels of assessment to allow for different kinds of achievement. It also leaves room for abuse. But the answer to the abuse is not more specific and explicit criteria, but for more reasoned, rational and defensible assessment.

One more reason for not having explicit criteria

Making a form with boxes encourages box ticking behavior.



3 responses so far

  • drugmonkey says:

    And wishy washy "we know it when we see it" criteria lead to bias and extortion.

  • CEP says:

    The other thing that a "form with boxes" does is narrow focus so that one can't see outside the box, to perhaps nontraditional funding sources.

    Here's a not-quite-hypothetical. Consider a hypothetical mid-tenure-track researcher doing basic research of a kind that has a direct linkage to a presently raging industrial controversy — say, biochemical components of bunny-hop persistence through dietary or other ingestion analysis. BigAgriChem or BigPharma company comes along and wants to support this research* at a level equivalent to or perhaps superior to R01 with renewal. How does that fit into "independence" boxes restricted to R01 as the measurement criteria? And should Dr MidTrack even consider participating in such a scheme, given that uncertainty?

    * For purposes of this illustration, we'll assume there are no unethical strings attached.

    • potnia theron says:

      From a tenure committee perspective, money is money. I've got colleagues with DOD funding, and colleagues who think that DOD money is blood on your hands. The latter tend to be tenured people.

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