Thursday, June 4, 2009

3rd year review

The third year review. Whose crappy idea was this. It seems like a good concept. The asst prof gets feedback in an official sort of way - a mock 6th yr review. Like a practice thesis defense.

Except it really isn't.

I have to prepare my "packet" for my third yr review at the end of my second yr. If I was a theorist or someone who did simulations, maybe this would be okay - maybe I would have a paper in review right now. Maybe my students would have produced something novel worth submitting to a decent journal.

I'm an experimentalist. I work with theorists AFTER I (or my grad students) have data. Which means I (my grad students) have to have a working experiment or at least have preliminary data before we could even consider doing some kind of "quick and dirty" theory thing. This means that I have to have grad students who are completely functional. And experiments take time. Some never work.

I could be one of those asst profs who just shoves the grad students out of the way, takes the data, writes the paper, and leaves the students completely clueless about a paper that has their name as the first author. I refuse to take this tactic.

My students will understand every aspect of their PhD research. However, this takes time. There is a ramp-up period. I understand this. I will not be a bad advisor and inflict permanent mental trauma on my students simply to appease some completely asinine rule.

I spoke with my mentor about this. His response was that he got tenure with no published papers or awarded grants. That would not happen now, so it really was a pointless conversation.

Maybe, someday, this will change to a 4th or 5th year review which would really be better for everyone involved. I mean, I didn't practice my thesis defense or my job talk in my first year of grad school...


FemgineerPhD said...

This is really bizarre. Is a comprehensive 3rd year review pretty standard? The only publications I would expect to be putting out that early are the trailing ones from my postdoc. And the fact that in your mentors time, you could get tenure without even a single grant (let alone pubs) is really surprising. I wonder what tenure was based on - politicking? Things really have changed. I spoke to a distinguished emeritus prof who is very well-known in my field and he said he's shocked by how much academia demands of young people now. He thinks it's detrimental and short-term-result oriented. I know he's not the only older generation of faculty who feels this way. So where do these dramatically ramped up standards originate from?

Anonymous said...

I know exactly what you mean. My institution appoints asst. profs for four years, renewable for another four, with the idea that you go up for tenure in year 7. I ended up with my 4th-year renewal review essentially in my third year, and it didn't really do much for me. I have a feeling that this process exists for the ~ 5% of asst. profs that really need to be removed (because of some real pathology) earlier than tenure review time, not for the other 95%.