Category Archives: Early Career Research

If Two Women Work Together, Does the Work Exist?

OnTheShouldersofGiantsI’ve been thinking a lot about that recent economics study regarding women as co-authors not fairing as well as their male counterpart co-authors and single authorship… and the huge catch I’m having is that even if you have two female co-authors the inference then becomes that no one did any work which is completely unsensical, but in context…if say looking at an application of one woman’s work you discredit it, and in another application process or evaluation of the other woman/co-author’s work is then discredited too… it’s like the article/work isn’t even real and didn’t happen. Yet it is there, and did.  ‪#‎iftwowomenworktogetherdoestheworkexist‬?

Stories about gender bias such as the one mentioned above When Teamwork Doesnt work for Women, There’s no XY (shouldnt this be XX?) in Team, and others like Female Scientists Told to Add A Male Author to Their Study further support fears and career concerns of women, and of myself.

I’ve never cared about who’s name comes first in authorship of equal contributions…but as of late I have been wondering if this was a mistake. Perhaps, I should have requested reverse alphabet more or not have let others in front since they were going up for tenure or on the job market…in many cases it was even my idea–wanting to be a good colleague and friend, or being in a higher status position. I do ideally believe all the good work would be recognized and those who matter would know.  Over the last year or so I have spent a decent amount of time wondering if this has hurt me career-wise… according to this it hasn’t in my equal collaborations with females (which is most of my collabs) so that is something…rather it has just hurt us both possibly… but we do know if you are never sole author it definitely seems to have consequences for women. And what does this mean for first or lead authors? Can there be a lead author if two women work together? #nextstudy

While I think we have always known sole authorship is of course weighed most heavily,  I do not think we realized this biased disadvantage in partnering-up. I love collaborating. I will continue to collaborate as I think it spurs microcreativity, can be efficient (particularly when you have a high teaching load and few resources), and above all, we all [stand] on the shoulders of giants.





Professor Pet Peeves and Water Cooler Talk

I recently shared a tweet about Sociological Images’ Professors’ Pet Peeves. The tweet got an unprecedented number of favorites and retweets. I found this quite amusing as it clearly illuminated my twitter audience and offered a moment of professional “in solidarity.” As the pet peeves listed were so true and (stereo)typical. Lisa Wade did a great job with this list.

keepcalmreadsyllabusThe pet peeves listed are very common and always incite commentary among my colleagues. I would even go as far to say that these pet peeves are commonly known and discussed by professors around the globe. However, upon closer consideration, I began to questions the frequency of these offenses in my semester. The one that occurs most often in my world is by far the “unprofessional correspondence” and followed closely by what I would refer to as “stuff that’s on the syllabus.” I realized in thinking about how much I interact with students and the sheer number of students, it is actually fairly rare that more than a couple of theses offenses occurs in any given semester. Meanwhile, my water cooler talk, Facebook, and Twitter do “blow-up” quite frequently with incidences every month. I guess when you have one or two instances a semester across a large group of people it does make the problem seem rampant.

In my case, these incidences may not happen very often but in most cases when they do it is memorable. I would also say that there has been a definite shift in the last few years related to student-professor interactions in which those interactions have felt more casual and students seem bolder. I say this as a mere observation and do not mean to suggest this is either good or bad. I do also have to admit I wonder quite frequently if its me—did I not explain something adequately? Is it a change in student culture, perhaps a cohort effect related to the Millennials?  Or could something else be going on?  At times, it feels very hard to grasp as I, as a student, would never have thought to tell a professor I wasn’t going to be in class or point out that I missed a day. I definitely would not own up to not having read the syllabus, and I rarely went to the professor directly for information outside of the substantive material covered in class.

Perhaps, we have been indoctrinated into an academic culture in such a way that these skills seem so innate to us and when someone doesn’t know them it almost seems like an issue of common sense or this at times is how it is talked about. We think students should know or find it disrespectful if it is ignored or time was not take to learn these skills. After all, most of us spend the entire first day on our expectations, the syllabus, and if you are like me our individual pet peeves, preferences, and so forth. Thus, the annoyance when offenses occur because it is as if we were not heard.

But what if we also consider that not all students get everything covered in every class. In fact, few do.  While I do largely agree that many students do fully utilize their syllabi, I would also suggest that current students come from a culture of available information at the tips of the fingers and they ask questions. Not only do they ask questions, and some even operate by going directly to the source with their questions and concerns—aka the professor. All things I would appreciate/commend if it were about content or substantive coursework material. So why is it so annoying to us when it is about the logistics of the course?

We know how much work we put into our courses and classrooms. We hear how often we say these things, perhaps the annoyance. I often have to explain p-values, for example, a number of times to various students and often times I know I have explained it multiple times to the same student and will likely explain it multiple times more. I rarely get frustrated or consider that the student is being disrespectful or not listening in those cases, merely that they have not grasped the concept yet. Maybe we are creating a hierarchy of what is consider to be easier or harder concepts to grasp. Logistics we may take for granted as concepts to be taught. Also, logistics vary greatly across courses and professors and maybe inconsistently enforced from setting to setting or professor to professor. Nevertheless, we expect to explain multiple times content to our students…shouldn’t we expect to explain the logistics too?

watercoolertalkI don’t have a solution to offer beyond patience and setting clear expectations from day one (and possibly being prepared to reiterate those expectations), but I will say that one great latent function that comes from all of this for the professor and academic culture is the water cooler talk and social bonding.

It’s OK to Slack on Blogging



Blogging is not very impactful toward making tenure…thus I occasionally slack on it.

and, that’s ok.

How I Used Twitter and Ended Up Learning to Write

With Kate Drabinski

We write all the time. We’re academics, so it’s sort of our job. And then there’s twitter. Why bother tweeting? It isn’t real writing, and it will never make it in our tenure or promotion files, so isn’t it a waste of time? Not at all, we say, and here’s why.

1. Twitter keeps us thinking and learning. Real time online conversations keep us moving and going and thinking and seeing others being productive. It is a place where academics can feed for ideas and spurs our micro-creativity. Compared to the traditional academic timeline in which feedback and interests can be months or even years—let’s be honest, Twitter real time conversations enables real time feedback. This feedback and interest in what we, and others, are thinking about inspires our writing.

2. Twitter keeps our offline writing projects moving. Because of those real-time conversations, we stay motivated to keep writing and thinking when we log off. It can also help us to make decisions we might otherwise stew over. Twitter keeps us productive and can jolt us out of those negative phases when we get blocked or discouraged. Sometimes it just takes a single tweet to help get out of bed. Also, a response or favorite from a follower can help us to not feel so alone when we are discouraged or moving slower—to recognize it all as part of the process.  “@drcompton @kdrabinski I feel this!”

3. Twitter forces us to think about audience, something academics are notoriously bad at doing well. We both tweet to multiple audiences–academics, sure, but also activists, students, personal friends, family members, Ashley Judd, Dr. Ruth, fellow bicyclists in the case of @kdrabinski, and fellow sneaker enthusiasts in the case of @drcompton. Tweets go out to all these followers, and part of tweeting well is remembering this and writing in clear ways that will resonate with these different audiences at different times, but never with everyone at all times. These are important skills to remember as we write offline for similarly diverse audiences, and twitter makes us practice on a daily basis.

4. That tiny character count makes us be precise in our writing, another thing academics are notoriously bad at. We’ll leave it at that, for precision’s sake.

5. Being precise means revising, deleting, rewriting, and revising again, the very most important parts of writing well, and the parts too often left for later until forgotten altogether. 140 characters isn’t a lot, and rarely is our thought fully formed the first time we try to force it into that tiny space. We must focus, focus, focus—focusing on what is really necessary and important. We find ourselves deleting, trying again, figuring out what can be saved for another tweet, and what our central point really is. Twitter forces us to revise on the spot, and real skills are developed that translate to our offline writing. After all, a first draft is simply writing to the starting line. The real work is in the revision, and twitter won’t let us forget that.