Archive for the ‘Academia’ Category

What do you look for (part two)?

January 2, 2013

Having expounded in my previous post what kind of person I look for, when serving on the search committee for a tenure-track hire, now it is time to list the criteria that I adopt to try and spot my ideal candidate, as I go through application packages (APs).

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What do you look for (part one) ?

December 30, 2012

I am a faculty member in a university physics department, who finds himself periodically involved in faculty searches and hires. How do I evaluate the curriculum vitae of an applicant for a tenure-track position?
What do I look for, and what are the red flags? Does it really boil down to counting (first-authored) articles, impact factor of journals where they were published, citations, invited talks, or maybe places where and individuals by whom the applicant has been mentored, as a student and postdoctoral associate?
Do I even look at the research plan? If so, how do I judge it?
What about teaching potential and/or experience?

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Binomial distributions and multiple choice tests

October 24, 2012

Readers of my blog know that I generally regard multiple choice tests (MCTs) as an adequate tool to assess student knowledge of, and proficiency with, a given set of topics. I have written about this subject here and here.

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Who’s really obsessed with Impact Factor ?

September 19, 2012

What brings more prestige to a scientist, an article which receives hundreds of citations, even if published on a relatively minor, or even obscure journal, or one that is published on a high profile, glamorous publication with a high Impact Factor (IF), but whose citation record is modest ? Most scientists, I believe, would answer such a question by expressing their preference for a publication that is highly cited.

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Impact factor trends (2012 edition)

July 22, 2012

It is that time of the year when  Impact Factor (IF) data are updated. As I finished retrieving the 2011 values (from ISI Web of Knowledge), I started looking at notable changes (upward and downward). Being a condensed matter physicist, I am focusing on those journals that are most relevant to me, but I am wondering whether similar observations to those expounded below are made in other subfields.

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Instructional technology and college education

June 30, 2012

In this op-ed on the New York Times, Jeff Solingo, editorial director of the Chronicle of Higher Education points to a few concrete, urgent actions that universities and colleges across North America should take, in order to weather the financial crisis affecting institutions of higher education.

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IF versus EF

June 15, 2012

I have only recently become aware of the existence of the Eigenfactor (EF). It is a proposed measure of the overall influence, impact, prestige of a scholarly journal in its own discipline, or field. The one and only measure with which I was familiar is the well-known Impact Factor (IF), which is actually fairly straightforward to understand. By contrast, the eigenfactor is determined through a rather complex procedure (I am not going to discuss its computation in this post — for details, see here).

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Stay out of my commitments

April 9, 2012

In his latest post, Douglas Natelson at Nanoscale Views bravely attempts to explain to the rest of us what a “conflict of commitment” is. At most research universities, faculty have to make formal yearly disclosure of any activity in which they engage (during working hours, I presume), not directly related to their immediate academic duties, possibly negatively affecting (conflicting with) their scholarly performance.
In turn, Universities set up elaborate policies on how best to “regulate” such activities. What should be permitted ? Where is the line to be drawn ? What kind of action should be required, on the part of the University administration, to curb any instance of faculty committing excessive time to “extracurricular” endeavours, to the detriment of their productivity ?

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In praise of boring projects

April 1, 2012

How many scientific discoveries have been made by investigators carrying out studies that, in principle, should have merely reproduced known results and/or confirmed the conventional wisdom ? I do not have numbers but I suspect many. Serendipity plays much more important a role than many a scientist  would care to admit. 

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Letter from the trenches

February 20, 2012

I have received a letter from a student who obtained their doctoral degree with me a few years ago, and after one postdoctoral appointment decided that their heart was really into teaching.
They wrote me to let me know how things are going, and gave me permission of posting their letter here (I am withholding the person’s name). It may be of interest for those who might be considering switching from research to a teaching career. Currently, only a tiny fraction of doctoral degree holders take that path.

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