Friday Links: how to feel less guilty about time off, time associate profs spend on service, and more!

Also: the webcam showing bears fishing for salmon at Brooks Falls is back, the myth that academic science isn’t biased against women, ways to fail at your job search (or, ideally, things to avoid doing!), and being an academic “other”.

From Meg:

This piece has good suggestions on how to tackle guilt related to taking some time off. This is still something I’m working on!

The Brooks Falls salmon/bear cam is back! Sorry for killing your productivity.

This piece has depressing numbers on the representation of minorities in academia, and argues that higher service burdens on underrepresented minorities contributes to this. It includes this really interesting graphic, showing that white men perform the least service, while women of color perform the most:


On a similar topic, I found this response to the recent Williams & Ceci PNAS paper informative. (The W&C paper argued that STEM hiring is biased in favor of women.) The response lays out 5 major problems with the Williams & Ceci study. Well worth a read!

This post from Acclimatrix at Tenure, She Wrote has great suggestions for things you may be doing wrong in job applications or interviews. I really agree with her advice to come up with ideas for local work (or work that takes advantage of local resources/strengths). And I’ve been amazed at how many job candidates act like their interactions with grad students don’t matter. Don’t do that (ideally because you are actually interested in talking to and learning from the grad students!)

Also over at Tenure, She Wrote, there was a powerful guest post from NotYourOther on her experiences as an underrepresented minority in academia. It’s a really powerful post on the challenges and responsibilities of being an “other”, and is also well worth a read.

Jeremy is away this week, so no links from him. And apparently Brian couldn’t top his brony link. 😉

6 thoughts on “Friday Links: how to feel less guilty about time off, time associate profs spend on service, and more!

  1. I really enjoyed the article concerning “workaholism,” Meg. I definitely fit in the category of the busy beaver. I realize the external drivers of the workplace (striving for tenure, grant deadlines, etc) can make us work ungodly hours… which apparently Jeb Bush wants to see more of.

    One thing the article did not touch on, though, are the internal drivers, which for me have always taken precedence. I often tell my psychologist I do not suffer from OCD, because I don’t have time for it… . I have been driven by two things in my work: doing it right, and making it interesting for others. Sounds easy enough, but for me it never has been. My father was a psychologist too, and for whatever reason, he never praised me unless I did something that in his eyes was flawless. I think maybe that’s a curse many of us in science carry with us.

    And so early in my career, I found myself going through a vicious cycle. In the early phases of a project I had boundless enthusiasm, but worked relatively normal hours- maybe 50 hrs a week. But then when the group got into the nitty gritty of experimentation, data analysis, writing publications and, hopefully, writing new grant proposals- my time on the clock would become excessive. Sometimes I’d go several days with almost no sleep. Well, I got a lot done, but the price of this was burn-out. I came to dislike that which I once loved. Then my productivity plummeted. Eventually it would rebound, but this cycle really did me no good concerning quality of life issues.

    Now, at the age of 54, I somehow came to understand to better regulate these things. My enthusiasm can take me late into the night, and so a 12 or 14 hour day still happens. Sometimes I will have a string of them. But now I recognize the very early signs of burnout. I can pick up on even the slightest decreases in productivity- which is not quantitative, but qualitative. In other words, I inherently know when it’s time for a breather… and I take it, and I never think of my work when I am on a break… much less talk shop.

    My quality of life is tremendously better, and so too is the quality of my work.

  2. Hi Meg,

    It’s worth noting that the chart that you posted about service and mentoring shows results only for associate professors at UMass Amherst. The associate professor level at UMass Amherst has the largest reported gap in service and mentoring between men and women, as suggested by the chart here. So the data in the chart is not even representative of UMass Amherst faculty.

    Notice that, in the charts that I linked to, there is almost no gap between men and women associate professors when summing research, teaching, mentoring, and service. Women associates report spending more time on teaching, mentoring, and service, and men associates report spending more time on research, with women associates reporting 18 minutes more total hours of work per week. The main time gap is that women report doing more housework and more carework.

    It would be nice to see the results broken down by academic field, given that there might be different time allotments to research, teaching, service, and mentoring between STEM fields and the humanities.

    • Interesting. I am a humanities academic, but I would suggest that mentoring and service are not in any way valued as highly as research (particularly applying for grants) in my discipline. So the fact that (white) men spend more time on research and (non-white) women more on mentoring is certainly interesting. There is some research from Australia around 10 years ago that supports your point that women spend more time doing care and housework. The dots that are not connected here is that academia is organised (certainly in my discipline in Australia) today around unpaid overtime. And the things that get done outside working hours are often research, the very things that secure tenure, promotions etc.etc. So if you are not able (or let’s be frank, not willing) to sacrifice your family & personal life for your career, you are unlkely to progress (or perhaps even have continuing work) in the same way as the peers who are willing to. Rather than urging the partners of female academics to do more housework and childcare to they can then work long hours doing unpaid research work, as their single/male/childless colleagues do, how about we actually start taking the life/work balance thing seriously in the academic world?

  3. Lots of reasons for underpriveldged people (minorities, poor) to avoid academia: 1) if you’re poor, 10-12 years of school is a *long* time to wait for a decent paycheck; 2) you won’t have people from your peer group when you get there; 3) science has decent ta/ra money but some other fields dont; 4) you may have responsibilities in your family that prevent you from going to the school(s) of you choice.

  4. Bit late with this comment, but that Acclimatrix post is indeed spot on. And while this wasn’t the intent, I think it illustrates why proposals to give out tenure track jobs by lottery (i.e. just throw all the “qualified” names in a hat and pick one) are seriously misguided. On balance, interviews add a *lot* of information (as opposed to adding noise on balance, or adding bias on balance). Or at least, you’ve got a serious uphill climb if you want to argue that they merely *seem* to add information, but actually don’t.

    • I agree with Jeremy that a “lottery system” would be foolhardy as a hiring process for tenure, or any job, really. I think the elephant in the room we often no longer speak of, out of political correctness, is the issue of chemistry. A tenured colleague is gonna be around for awhile. So hire someone that has excellent creds, but a Napoleon Complex or some other personality issue, and look out. So for example, when I worked in medicine, one bad hire of a director with just such a complex caused more than half of the surgeons in the division to leave within five years. Some had been there for decades.

      I’ve always been curious how institutions/ departments walk that fine line during the interview process to make these kinds of assessments. For myself I’ve focused on behavior. And while candidates tend to be on their best behavior during interviews, it’s the subtle things that come to the surface. This has been especially important for hiring field crews that spend inordinate amounts of times together. I’ve always looked for, and mostly succeeded in retaining compassionate people- those who genuinely want to help others. Often I will hire just such a person with little to no experience for the job, over someone with oodles of experience, because team chemistry means more. I end up investing more to train them, but my headaches are minimal because my crews function exceptionally well on their own.

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