Physicist, Startup Founder, Blogger, Dad

Friday, September 30, 2011

Market solution for PhD advising

I knew the author of this article when she was an assistant professor at UO. Since then, she moved to UIUC (Illinois), received tenure, became a department head, left academia and moved back to Eugene. Her web site.

Karen, stop by and see us some time! :-)

Chronicle of Higher Education:

Dear faculty members:

I sell Ph.D. advising services on the open market. And your Ph.D. students are buying. Why? Because you're not doing your job.

Lest you think that by advising, I mean editing research papers and dissertations, let me disabuse you. I offer those services, but rarely am I asked for them.

A former tenured professor at a major research university, I am now running an academic-career consulting business. That's right: I am doing graduate advising for pay. I am teaching your Ph.D. students to do things like plan a publishing trajectory, tailor their dissertations for grant agencies, strategize recommendation letters, evaluate a journal's status, judge the relative merits of postdoctoral options, interpret a rejection, follow up on an acceptance, and—above all—get jobs. And business is so good I'm booked ahead for months. ...

See Advice to a new graduate student.


Jean Huiskamps said...

So ... she's advising Ph.D students how to "game the system". For me as an outsider of the scientific system this sounds like: "the scientific system is going down the drain, in the same manner as the financial system". Incentives are skewed and the system becomes dysfunctional. Similar critiques are described in the two anti-string-theory books "Not even wrong" and "The trouble with physics". Doing the kind of science that brings profit instead of doing the kind of science that brings progress. I have some sympathy for this, because funding has been severely reduced following stupid political choices (like wars in Irak) and scientists still have to earn a living somehow ...

David Coughlin said...

I don't know if I would call it 'gaming' the system, so much as 'operating' it.  There is a go-path in every big organization and learning how to follow it is what is really meant by 'organizational skills' [not taking notes on filecards and remembering where your pink highlighter is].

silkop said...

It's a slippery slope. The chances are that the better "advised" PhD students could gain short-term competitive advantage over those "not so well advised", even if the latter would bring more benefit to science throughout their career, perhaps by being less "business-savvy" and instead more interested in their particular field of research. If the lady accepted delayed payments based on the scientific success of her clients, now that would be something entirely different and admirable. As it stands, this very much seems like cheating, and the fact that it happens overtly and is not viewed as taboo is certainly a sign of the times (not a good one).

David Coughlin said...

She is offering a secondary advising 'market' because the primary 'market' members are by and large failing.  I think that what-ifs become indistinguishable from random outcomes very quickly here.  Alternate to your explanation, any exceptionally smart, not-inclined-to-sycophancy, grad student is going to see the shortcomings of advising at their university and look to supplement it.  And I disagree with you, training and enabling grad students so they are fluent in operating the bureaucracy frees up a good chunk of their brain to focus and the truly hard problems of their research.  This is a material advantage accessible to anyone [and it doesn't require exceptional talent to get].  Do you want 90%-ilers running at 100% of capacity, or 99%-ilers running at 80% capacity?

Karen Kelsky said...

thanks for this Steve!  I didn't see your incoming link until because I didn't know where to look for them on my blog!  Ha, I'm such a beginner.  Anyway, we should have coffee!  I'm on campus every morning M-Th.  Email me at kelsky@uoregon.edu.

Postdoctoral jobs said...

The postdoctoral research position could either be within the same lab and the department where the PhD student has completed their PhD or could be elsewhere. Some graduates prefer to remain within the department as they have become familiar with the surroundings while others prefer to obtain a position in a completely different country. The main purpose of doing a postdoctoral job is to get training in an area of research that is complementary to the researcher's interest. For example, if one as completed a PhD in cell biology and the new graduate could either consider research involving Stem Cells.

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