Ask the Grumpies: Flying into the department 2-3 days/week and family time

traveling parent query asks:

I have a preschooler, my husband has a stable government job he loves, and we just bought a house in our current city. I have a potential (who knows…academia is a dumpster fire) opportunity which is a short plane ride away. It’s an amazing post in my niche but not a city I’d want to uproot my family to given the lack of comparable job opps for my husband + our love of our current city. It is a very exciting job and might allow me to make a lateral move back eventually. I think given the changes in remote work, I’d need to be in 3 days a week during the semester, and maybe 1 week a month during the summer. Am I bananas for thinking this is totally doable given our financial situation, my husband’s overall competence, etc? I mentioned it on a mom site I read and people thought it would destroy my family, but like, my husband is an equally involved and competent parent, his job is very normal hours, my kid is easy going? Management consultants have kids and I could make up for term time travel with flexibility during the long (not in the US, shorter semesters) summers?

I thought in your careers, you might have met someone who has done something similar? Did they end up miserable?

I live in a location where it is difficult to solve the two body problem so I know a lot of people who spend 2-3 days/week on campus and the rest working from home (or from coffee shops in their home cities). As far as I know their family lives are fine, even those with children. Even those racking up frequent flyer miles. I am unaware of any divorces or delinquent children.

Interestingly, the person I know who did this with a preschooler is a woman (she was the next pregnant lady in our building after I had DC2, so she gets DC2’s outgrown clothes… I think we’re at the friendship level where I’d hear about problems, and if not, I’m really close friends with her mentor who knows everything in their department). The men generally have older kids or no kids.

The two in my building that rack up frequent flyer miles say that it is a good idea to get into the habit of using the airport and plane time to get work done.  It’s actually easier for them to focus because there’s no interruptions.  (This is not my experience with flights, but I guess if you’re taking the same flight over and over it becomes more automatic.)  My external friends who do long daily train commutes (think San Diego to LA or SF to Palo Alto) say the same thing– commuting when you’re not the person driving allows you to do focused work (their advice is to leave on an early enough train that you can snag a seat).

Alice offers this advice:

I’m not an academic, but can speak to the travel for work side of things a bit. Early in my career, I worked for a company whose business model involved heavy travel, and when I was pregnant/when our child was younger, my husband’s job required a lot of travel.

When I was the one traveling, I didn’t have a relationship or a child. Most of the people at the company were single or in relationships but only a scant handful had younger children. The travel was fly onsite early Monday/fly home on Friday afternoon, and videochat wasn’t the thing that it is now. I know one man whose wife and daughter moved to the onsite city with him even though it was a 1-year job because his toddler would forget him while he was away. She’d be shy and hesitant at first on Saturdays and then engaged and joyful on Sundays… and then he’d fly out on Monday morning and it would start all over again. He said the pattern was too heartbreaking for him to continue it. So that’s a negative potential with a very little kid.

However. When I was pregnant and until my daughter was about 3.5, my husband’s job had him away every other week or every third week, depending on what was going on with his work situation. His travel was usually Sunday-Thursday. We didn’t have the problem of our daughter forgetting him. We did do some videochatting, but not much. I made it a priority to make sure that he and I were communicating, generally via text, every day. And I made sure to send him a lot of photos, particularly while I was home on maternity leave. The travel was hard for him emotionally– he got tired of it and felt like he was missing R&R time that he would’ve had if he was home. But it didn’t wreck our marriage or our family.

From a family relationships and kid emotional development standpoint, what you’re outlining could be fine for all of you. In my opinion, it could even be good from a gender roles standpoint. For us, my husband’s travel really cemented the Mom Does Everything pattern. With you being the traveler, it might do the opposite. To me, that seems like a good thing. If your husband is already responsible for family logistics or if he’s willing to take them on, this could give your family a level of balance that mine doesn’t have.

I can’t speak to the financial side of things, but would advise being really thoughtful about your flight timings and keeping a sharp eye on weather forecasts if you get the job. Never book the last possible flight you’d need to catch in order to make it to your first commitment, and if the weather is predicting something big in your home city (blizzard, hurricane, etc.), consider getting to or staying in your work city before it hits. For my husband and myself, the companies had planned and paid for the travel, so if flights were cancelled or if there was a delay, missed time at work was accepted, even if something important was missed. If you’re doing a more DIY traveling for work setup, travel-related flight/weather complications may not be okay in the same way.

Grumpy Nation– have you seen families where one person travels a few days a week work?  What advice do you have for someone about to embark on weekly journeys?

 

How to get more citations as a junior scholar (in a social science without embargoes)

With Google Scholar being so easy to access these days (compared to other citation indices that you had to get from the library and look up one article at a time), getting your work cited becomes more important than ever for things like promotion and tenure.

Unfortunately doing good work isn’t enough if people aren’t aware of it.  On top of getting things published in good journals, you also have to get your stuff out there so people know about it and recommend it to other people.

How do you do that?

If you’re in a field that allows you to put up working papers prior to publication, then do that!  You can put it up on SSRN and/or on your own webpage concurrently with sending it to a journal.  (Or sooner!  Though do be careful about having a version you’re happy with posted and make sure you’re not in an area where people steal ideas from each other prior to publication.)

You can also send your paper to people that you cite– people are generally very nice when junior people do this and sometimes they even send back helpful comments and encouragement.

Make sure you cite other people and other important papers– google scholar and other indexes often let people know when they’ve been cited and if your paper looks interesting, they may look at it and keep it in mind the next time they do work.

Make sure you cite yourself, if appropriate.  I had a junior colleague who at one point had more publications than citations.  That should not be!  Not after your first two publications, at least.  Google scholar doesn’t care if citations are self-citations, though some indices do keep track of that.  In any case, citing yourself appropriately means that people reading any one of your papers can find other relevant papers of yours without having to look you up personally.  That means they’ll be more likely to add multiple relevant papers of yours to their next literature review.

Also:  get out there and submit your stuff to conferences.  Even if you don’t get in, the committee will have read your abstract at the very least and might remember it then next time they have a student doing something similar.  Even better is getting accepted and having people see your work in progress.

Have a short elevator pitch for whatever project you’re working on– once conferences are back in person, people like to ask junior people what they’re working on, and if you have a short summary of something interesting, they may remember it and you.

Grumpy Academics:  How do you get more citations?  How do you get your work and your name out there?

When to go up to full (at my R1 university)

According to the when to go up for full workshop I attended several years back and according to the full professors I’ve talked to at various places there’s a checklist of things that basically boils down to:  Be twice as much of whatever you were at tenure.

Have twice as many quality-adjusted publications.  (I exceeded this 5 years ago)

Have twice as amazing service responsibilities by, for example, being on boards of journals and/or serving as an associate editor of a journal.  (Hit this 5+ years ago)

Be more well-known in the field, as evidenced by, for example, being on conference program committees, hosting conferences, etc. (So many years ago)

Take more of a leadership role in service by heading committees etc. instead of just serving on them.  University service, not just department service.  Etc. (Soooo many years ago)

 

When not to go up for full:  5 years after that (unless you’ve really put it off that long, in which case, going up right now is better than waiting even longer)

Yes, I checked all those boxes 5 years ago and for whatever reason just did not go up.  That’s 5 years and a bizarre new research path that has to be explained and a letter writer found for.  More PhD students whose outcomes have to be found (thankfully NSF makes you list them so I didn’t have to do as much digging as I otherwise might have).  More grants whose exact dollar amounts and own contributions and grant numbers have to be found and entered into forms.  And I have the same word limit that I would have had if I’d gone up 5 years ago.  I can barely fit the journal names into the space they give, much less coherently explain all of my different research agendas.

I delayed because I didn’t want more service responsibilities.  But I got them ANYWAY.  They just would have been different service responsibilities.  I delayed because I’d been promised a money chair available only to Associate professors, but there was a delay and it ended up being given to someone else instead.  And, since I would have been the *only* full professor without a money chair, it’s quite possible I could have gotten a different one if I’d been full.  I delayed because it’s easier to move as an associate instead of a full, but I’m stuck here until DC1 finishes high school now anyway, and now it’s embarrassing how long I’ve been associate.  None of these were good reasons.

If applicable, what are the rules for promotion at your institution?  Academic readers: Have you gone up for full?  When do you plan to go up?  When do people say to go up?

Ask the grumpies: When do I tell my department I’m taking unpaid leave as a NTT prof?

Liz asks:

I am in a NTT full time faculty position and finding it is not for me. I am going to take the 2021-22 school year to see if there are any changes that will make me happier in my position (and look at non-academic careers that I may go into), but if after that I choose to leave, when should I let my department know?

I am contracted through May 2022 and am going through the renewal process for the 2022-2023 school year right now.

This is a really hard question to answer because so much of it is, “it depends.”  Like if your department has been evil to you and you have zero intention of going back and you don’t think you will ever need recommendations from them, and they would definitely treat you even worse if they knew you were on the way out, then you definitely would put off telling them until the last possible minute.  If, on the other hand, your department was extremely supportive and just wanted what was best for you and was desperate to keep you and you’re hard to replace, and you had an idea for a one year replacement as a visiting position, then you’d want to let them know as soon as possible so you could help them plan and set all that up.

You’re probably somewhere between those two end-points.  It sounds like from your email that you’re not actually taking next year off, is that correct?

[Correct!]

I haven’t talked to my chair about any issues I am having with this job and plan on talking to [hir] at the end of the semester. Some of the issues I am having would have to be changed at the college level, so I am not optimistic about changes my chair can implement to make this job something I want to do long term. At this point, I would want to walk away sometime in summer 2022.

Thinking of the leave of absence, I would need to justify that this would be beneficial to the university. If I left academia, I would probably not do something related to my field and a leave would probably not be approved.

Ok, so it sounds like you’re thinking of taking a year leave of absence and you’re not sure if you would then return after that.  So you want to leave your options open so that you can return.

Well, first off, there’s no reason to say anything to anyone until you know what you’re doing the year after next.  (Unless there’s some standard procedure for applying for sabbaticals for non-tenure-track faculty?  If there’s a timeline on that leave of absence approval, then you may want to follow that even without something lined up.)

How much time should you give before the end of the 21-22 school year?  That one is harder.  If you knew you weren’t coming back ever for sure (and you didn’t want to burn any bridges), you’d want to give them as much time as possible to find a full-time replacement.  It would also be nice to let them know before classes are scheduled for Fall 2022-23, though of course you don’t have to.   Other than that, there’s not much advice to give.  They would prefer you tell them as soon as you know for sure what is going to happen.  You might want to hold off because it can be weird when it is known someone will be leaving.  If you give them more time, they might be able to replace you fully and you’d be less likely to come back after, but also if you give them less time they might not *want* you back after a year.  If your chair wants to keep you, more time might make keeping you easier.  If you’re not planning on coming back and aren’t going to need rec letters, none of this matters, so you might as well be kind.

Grumpy Nation, what advice do you have for Liz?

Ask the grumpies: Advice for trailing spouses?

Jess asks:

Advice for trailing spouses? I am not an academic, but my boyfriend is about to start a PhD program. Assuming we stay together, which I would like to, reading your blog makes feel like I’m signing up for a lifetime of moving to wherever there is a job for him (in potentially not great places). He promises that he will not take a job in a place I’m not happy with, but it’s still easy to get stressed about my lack of control and options. I am confident that I can get a job in most places, but I am pretty career-focused and it is weird to think that each job I’m in has an externally defined end date for the foreseeable future (current job prior to PhD program, 5-6 years for PhD, then a few years for post-doc before hopefully getting a professor position). Would love any advice from Grumpy Nation :)

So first off, don’t let your career become completely secondary.  A lot can happen in 5-6 years.  Don’t lean back.  Just because someone starts a PhD program doesn’t mean they’ll finish.  Just because someone gets a PhD doesn’t mean they’ll go into academia.  Just because someone starts an academic position doesn’t mean they will stay in academia!  (See:  #2, #1’s DH, lots of people, particularly in fields where post-docs are common.)  You may end up being the leading spouse and he may end up being the trailing spouse!  In either case, having savings and being very good at your job will give you more flexibility in finding new jobs or being able to keep your job as a telecommuter.

While it seems like it for people on the academic track while they’re in graduate school or reaching for tenure, there is more to life than just getting tenure at an academic institution.  Academia is just a job.  It can be a very nice job, but it is still a job.  There will be trade-offs (unless he gets a tenured offer at Stanford or Columbia, depending on your joint geographical preferences).  Working for low pay and a high teaching load in a tiny town at a university without a lot of resources may not be worth it, especially if there aren’t good job options for you.  In places that are better, there are more likely to be options for you because they are more likely to be in cities or more likely to have industry surrounding the university.  (Not entirely– my DH currently doesn’t have options locally unless he wants to change careers or work as an adjunct/research assistant, but he’s also telecommuted since leaving his university position because he is very good at what he does.  Though he is currently unemployed, so we will see what happens.) As one gets older one starts to value quality of life options more.  Industry salaries tend to be higher too.

You will have to make decisions about whether you are willing to live apart from each other for short periods of time.  If he has a one-year position, will you move for that or stay where you are and rack up a lot of frequent-flyer miles?  Sometimes time apart allows couples to focus on work and end up being so good that they can more easily find a place together.

And remember that people outside of academia don’t stay at the same job forever.  Follow your career aspirations and look at potential forced job changes as opportunities.

Basically:  My best advice is that you cannot predict the future.  Take these changes as they come and figure out your choice sets at the time.  Then decide on the trade-offs for those choice sets, remembering that nothing needs to be a permanent decision. You don’t need to make decisions years before you know what your options are going to be.  Academia can create a lot of unnecessary anxiety because it seems so clear what the “right” choices are, but that’s really an illusion that seems ridiculous to people outside of the ivory tower.  Also, the more money you save up, the more options you will have at these choice points and the less stressful some of those choices will be.

Grumpy Nation, what advice do you have for trailing spouses?

DH’s company is ending a month early and I decide to stop putting off going up for full

DH’s job was supposed to end in December, but they lost a small contract (recession-related), so it is ending at the end of November (they are still paying for health insurance for another month).

DH has been baking a lot of bread.  But for the most part he seems fine.  I keep reminding him that he could actually just never work again and we will still be ok.  But I assume he’ll probably want to, knowing him.  And I can’t lie– I really really liked being high income and just not having to think about money AT ALL.

Having looked over our finances, I want more wiggle room.  I want to not have to draw down savings at all until DC1 is in college, even though we could go through quite a bit of savings and still be fine long-term.  I also want to do that without having to worry about cutting expenditures.

So what that means is that I need to make more money.

There will be no raises in the foreseeable future.  Except the 10% raise people get with promotion.  I sure could use another 10% raise.

I have been putting off going up for full for YEARS at this point.  Mainly I wanted an equity bump first (that finally came last year) because I figured it would be harder to get at full since there’s so much more variation in full professor salaries than associate professor (some people do just stop researching and are fine with that).  And then second mainly is that there are a LOT of committees that I am wanted on and a lot of committee leadership positions I will be tapped for once I’m a full professor.  I’m fresh meat and I actually get things done.  Specifically I’ve been avoiding heading the P/T committee because I wanted to wait until we were done with a likable junior faculty member who wasn’t doing great’s case.  But Covid has put that off another year.  I can’t wait hir out forever.  PLUS zie is doing a LOT better– after the dismal third year review, zie actually started getting new work done instead of shipping the same dissertation papers, and everything has been hitting, so it’s a less depressing (but potentially more contentious) case.  And at this point I’ve been put on so many committees that don’t require being full professor that it might be nice to swap out some of those.

I’m hoping not to head the curriculum committee because that involves a lot of herding cats.  The curriculum committee head very much wants me to take over.  One of the things I absolutely hate is trying to get other faculty members to answer emails for service reasons.  If I have to do something, I’d rather head P/T, mainly because I have been on SO MANY of these that I think I know how to write the letters at this point and I like the mentoring aspects.  I don’t think I would do as good a job as the current head who is a brilliant writer for these kinds of reports, but his three year term will soon be up again so someone would replace him anyway.

Another reason I delayed was because I had a little gap in my publications… not technically a gap, but I did a bunch of invited things that got easy pubs at second tier journals (literally 5 in one year, though it’s more spread out on my cv), and some other servicey stuff for a grant in higher education journals, and then a bunch of grant proposals and new work of opportunity including lengthy data collection, which meant … basically I hadn’t had a top field pub in like 3 years, which is embarrassing.  [And WAY too much service for the department, but that’s another post.] But I have a solid pub forthcoming (even though it should have published better than it did, but what can you do), I have 3 little papers under review, and I have one paper that just needs about a month more work and it should place in a top field journal (I may send it higher first)… and some other papers.  Basically what I’m saying is my pipeline was unbalanced but I’ve gotten through the clog, so I wouldn’t be embarrassed to have people look at my body of work and write letters at this point.  And my google scholar page looks impressive– all my highest cited works are single-authored.

Anyhow… money is not the stupidest reason to go up for full.  And presumably with DH at home I will not have to worry about what is for dinner or if the laundry needs to be done at all.

I should also work on some more grants, I guess.  If it weren’t for money, I would wait until I was done with my current backlog.  But I have two big grants coming to a close this year and only one small grant starting up.  So…

I guess DH being unemployed is theoretically good for my career?

 

Thoughts on academic journal editing again

  • I’ve gotten a couple of replies from authors I’ve rejected from the journal I’m an AE at thanking me and the reviewers for our excellent and helpful comments.  I didn’t know that was a thing people did.  (The last journal I was AE at the only replies I got were asking me to reconsider my decision!  I’ve only gotten one of those so far with this journal and it was a reject-and-resubmit in which there was a fatal flaw in the paper, none of the reviewers wanted to see a revision, and fixing it was doable but would create an entirely different paper and could fundamentally change the results… my letter specifically said that changing all the minor things was not enough, and yet, they sent back a response in which they fixed all the minor things and not the major and asked me to reconsider.  Don’t be those people.)  I think as editor I think a bit more fondly of the authors who have sent the thank yous than I did before they sent it… like it’s a little weird, but also, the reviewers and I *did* send super helpful comments in each of those cases.  So maybe I’ll start doing that, but only when the comments are helpful(!)  Though I’m pretty sure Larry Katz has already formed an opinion of me (the QJE provides the most helpful comments of any journal, in my experience).
  • I also didn’t realize until very recently that the journal I’m currently at doesn’t automatically send the final results to the reviewers, just the authors.  The last journal I was at did.  (They’re different systems with different pluses and minuses.)  So I went back and sent those out for everything I’d processed since December.  All the grad students I used replied with thank-you emails which I wasn’t expecting.
  • If you are an editor and you’re planning to send out to 3-4 reviewers, keep a list of graduate students and early assistant professors as you come into contact with them as well as their areas of expertise.  Reviewing helps them because generally they don’t have many journals listed on their cvs and if you send them the other reviews they learn about the reviewing process (also they’re more likely to say yes) and they tend to take it seriously.  For the most part they’ve done an excellent job in terms of comments.  I try to only have one or two though and have the remaining people with more direct experience with the topic of the paper.  I call my list, “Victims”.
  • My undergraduate advisor sent me a paper to review last month, so I sent her one this month.  She hasn’t accepted it yet.  I’ve started adding other editors to my victims list (not Larry Katz though!)
  • At the top field journal I edited for, people got reject/R&R about right.  At my current journal which is a lower tier journal, they over R&R by a LOT (we’re supposed to only R&R about 10% give or take– it’s not a hard and fast number, but if I just listened to reviewers I’d be R&Ring like 75% even when they note fatal flaws that might not be fixable and could fundamentally change the paper if fixable).  One of my colleagues who edits for a top journal says people reject too much.   I suspect there’s a nonlinear function that intersects at the top field journal level.  I know before I took this job I only recommended reject at this level of journal if I thought the paper was not publishable anywhere.
  • When I send to people with mixed experiences editing (so some with no experience and some at the journal I’m at, for example), I will often get nearly identical comments with completely different recommendations.  The words you use are much more helpful at the journal I’m currently at.
  • I like clearing my slate for editing as quickly as possible.  I worry that I’m getting sent more papers because of this.  :/
  • One thing I didn’t realize before I started editing is how draining just making the decisions in the process is.  Fortunately for this journal I don’t have to decide on desk rejects, but I do still have to decide who to send out to and then after I get their reports, how to translate them to whether or not the paper should be rejected.
  • I find it really helpful when reviewers explain in plain terms in their letter to the editor what the main concerns with the paper is (or alternately, why they think it should be given an R&R).  It’s much harder when reviewers only send the comments to the authors, because it’s harder to get a handle on which bits are the ones responsible for a decision of Reject (or alternately, why it should be revised if they don’t spend some time explaining that in the author letter).

How to write a referee report

Seriously cribbed from A Guide for the Young Economist.  This is how the majority (though not all) of economists do it, and when I’ve reviewed for other fields I’ve been complimented on the organization, so I don’t think you can go wrong using this format even if you’re not an economist.

The letter to the authors

Start with a paragraph called “Summary”.  There’s some disagreement if these are still needed or just waste time, but I think if you do the summary paragraph right, it can be useful to both the editor and the authors.  The summary should NOT just be a restatement of the abstract.  It should be a summary of what the actual paper is about, and not what the authors think it’s about.  So, for example, if it’s an experiment, you would have a sentence saying what you think the authors are trying to do (Ex. The authors explore the effect of salt water vs. fresh water on underwater basket weaving.)  Then you say briefly what they actually did.  (The authors did a randomized controlled experiment using a student population in which…)  You might end with a statement about how they extrapolate their claims to a broader issue.  Often the abstract doesn’t actually fit what the paper is about– it makes much larger claims about what happened.  The summary should be neutral and describe what the authors actually did.  This is helpful to the editor to know what the paper is actually about before they read through it, and helpful to the authors in case what your understanding of the paper is about is different than what they intended.  They can fix their writing to make the paper more clear.  I find it helpful to focus on the method section and tables only for this part.

Then create three sections:

Major:

Minor:

Minutia:

Major should include things that you think must be fixed before the paper is published.  If the paper is a reject, then this is where reasons for rejection would go.  If the paper is an R&R, these are the items that must be addressed for sure.

Minor:  This is where smaller questions go.  You might have things that need clarification, things that are incorrect, additional robustness checks that are not make-or-break but should be addressed, and so on.  It is helpful to include page numbers with these.

Minutia:  This is where all the typos, page proofing, etc. stuff should go.  You’re recognizing that they’re small mistakes that the authors will want to fix, but that they’re not big deals.  These definitely need page numbers.  (If one of your recommendations is “spellcheck” because there are multiple spelling problems, I would put that under minor, as opposed to saying “should it be here instead of hear on the first sentence of page 28?” which would be a minutia, but YMMV.)

Always be polite in your referee report, even if the paper is ridiculous.  Do not make a reject/R&R recommendation within the paper.  (Also:  as an editor I can say for certain that positive letters don’t always lead to R&R recommendations and negative letters don’t always mean the person recommended reject.  It’s insane how some people can say different things depending on the audience.)

Advice is generally that you do not have to spend as much time on reject papers as you do on R&R– some people will say just stating the major points is enough if you plan to reject.  As a reviewer I generally try to give advice for making the paper better should it go to another journal or should the editor disagree with my assessment, but sometimes a paper is just not publishable so it doesn’t matter if they never fix the typo in footnote 17 even if I found it.  I’ve found editing at a lower tier journal that reviewers tend to over recommend revise and resubmit (they’ll be like, “the paper says that correlation is causation, but if they could only get at causation, this would be a great paper, R&R”), and the explanations people give me are much more important than their actual recommendations.  My colleague who edits at a top journal says reviewers over reject (“this is the best paper I’ve ever read, Reject”), so the explanations are important.  When I was editing a top field journal, reviewers tended to get it “right” on average.

The letter to the editor

You will also generally have a letter to the editor.  I find the best editors letters provide a concise summary of the letter to the authors and possibly elaborate on the context of your comments– Basically reiterate the major points that led to your decision of reject, or explain what must be fixed before publishing.  If you don’t have much to say because it’s an obvious accept, use this space to fight for the paper.  You don’t have to be anonymous in the letter to the editor, so you can say more things that put it into context or explain what you’re not sure about because it’s not your area of expertise or what you are sure about because you are an expert.  If you’re not sure if it should be R&R or Reject, here is a good place to say so and explain why– what are the pros and cons?  These pros and cons should also be in your letter to the authors, but you can provide more context in your letter to the editor.  You can also put disclaimers in the letter to the editor like, “I didn’t realize when I accepted this paper that it was written by a former coauthor” or “I reviewed this paper for a top journal earlier and recommended it be sent to this journal instead.” Some dudes who read this blog think that there should never be anything said to the editor that isn’t in the letter to the authors, but I strongly disagree.  I appreciate the reiteration of the major points of the review (especially since some people don’t use must be fixed as their delineation between major and minor sections, but instead use difficulty of fixing etc.) and any context that I should know about (and I really don’t need to know about that typo on footnote 17 unless the paper is a revise and resubmit, but not everybody keeps those things to the minutia section).

Special topic:  Top journals

For top journals (for which I have not yet been an editor but have done a lot of reviewing), you may want to keep in mind the following points:

  1. Is it clean/well-done?  (This is the bare minimum)
  2. Is it Novel? (Doesn’t always have to be, but it helps a lot… though you can’t be too novel or it gets rejected because it’s “not economics” even if it actually is.  grrrr.)
  3. Does it make a major theoretical and/or empirical contribution to the field?  (Sometimes papers don’t need to add to empirics, but they do need to have a theory base even if not literally a theoretical model.)
  4. Is it Important/ of general interest? (This is highly subjective and where many of my papers strike out because it turns out they’re ahead of their time.  grrr.)

Update:  Here’s xykademiqz on the same topic for her science field.

Do you do a lot of referee reports?  How does your field handle them?

Ask the grumpies: Should economists not teach anything about race?

SLAC prof asks:

In a tweet, Trevon Logan says

The whole thread has more information.  It makes me want to give up.  He says economists do race all wrong.  What do you think?  And what does one need to do/know to be qualified to teach about race?

Ok, so first off:  I am not black.  Also I know and hugely respect Trevon Logan and his work (and I’m fairly sure we referee each other’s papers and I’ve always been impressed with his!)

But I disagree with him.  I think this is ok for two main reasons:

First, I have had a relatively large number of black (mostly female) students, many of whom have taken some of these cross-campus classes he discusses, and they have always asked me for more on race, not less.  You just cannot teach health economics without discussing disparities (and many of the big papers in this area are from epidemiologists and demographers, not economists).  You cannot teach labor economics without having a huge section on discrimination, and while many of the white male economists working in this area have blinders on, it is fairly easy (if you have been listening to people, or if you’re female/minority) to point that out and modify their theories into something more realistic and less bigoted.  Like, of course taste-based discrimination exists, we don’t have competitive markets, duh.  (And current US events during my last semester’s class made it very clear that discrimination can lead to monopoly power, not just be a consequence of it.)  Theories of statistical discrimination should include incorrect stereotypes because we don’t have perfect information, honest to FSM.  Your (not privileged white male) students can generally point out these flaws themselves just using their own experiences and common sense.  You cannot teach public finance without talking about the political economy of race and how these programs affect different groups.  Heck, Political Economy is less than half a class without discussing race.  Similarly, Law and Economics (even if you’re planning on limiting to patents and contract law, race is still a factor!).  Sports economics!  You just cannot do justice to any subject that affects money or people without discussing how race impacts it.  So I include these topics and every year my students have more ideas for things to add.  (Like yes, in health economics we do need to talk about how white doctors have used black women’s bodies and DNA without their permission, you are absolutely right.  That would be a great addition to the Tuskeegee paper we already discuss.)

Second, I have listened to the troubles of our young black female faculty across campus (I was on a university-level thing to improve things, which we sort of did but also mostly didn’t … in any case, we did a lot of listening in addition to convincing the university to allow salary equity bumps and a few other things) who primarily teach these classes that Dr. Logan is suggesting we send our econ majors to.  It is really unfair to them to inundate them with mostly white male econ majors who have been taught that it’s just fine to play devil’s advocate and haven’t really examined their implicit biases at all.  I have enough trouble breaking them in in my intro stats classes.  Can you imagine how disruptive they would be in a discussion based class with women and minorities from what they consider to be lesser majors?  That is going to have huge negative spillovers.

I have other reasons to disagree which may be less ok, and I would modify his advice some.  (Note that since I wrote this post– several other people in the comments of the twitter thread have made these or similar suggestions.)

First off, I agree with him 100% that most of the white dudes in econ who gatekeep and work on racial discrimination start from racist assumptions and for many of them, their main goal is to show how it is Black people’s fault (or women’s fault etc.) for not being more like White men.  It’s only recently that economics has started thinking that no, maybe Black people and women are rational, they’re just playing a different game.  This problem can easily be solved by just saying, “Don’t teach any papers on race by white men (or by Roland Fryer who may be black but has serious issues).”  You can even modify this advice to “Teach only papers on race by black scholars (except not Roland Fryer).”  There’s plenty of great work by black scholars and some by other minorities and women that don’t start with racist assumptions or trying to bend evidence to “prove” racist ideas.  There are even textbooks and summary articles that would be great for lower-level undergraduate classes (William Darity Jr. is a good author/editor to start with).

And there are a LOT of white economists who could themselves benefit from reading this work.  Maybe they should start with So you want to talk about race and/or White Fragility and following Black scholars on twitter.  Then they can move on to articles in academic journals.

In terms of whether or not economists think about discrimination incorrectly… some of them do, but I think we benefit from looking at how different social sciences deal with race and discrimination.  NONE of them give a complete picture.  The assumptions and questions asked are different.  We gain tremendously from thinking about these different viewpoints and different ways of modeling.  (I took Race and the Economy from an amazing Black woman and she incorporated overviews from other fields in the class.  It can be done.)  I could go into huge detail about this, but that would get too long… suffice to say that these different viewpoints complement each other; they are not substitutes.  An economist can learn a lot from how anthropology, sociology, psychology and other fields conceptualize discrimination and other questions involving race.  (Insert rant about irritating white male gate-keepers in labor economics here who think innovation and interdisciplinarity is incorrect.)

Maybe the better advice would be for economist professors themselves to take a few classes across campus, or at the very least, read a textbook from another field, before adding race to their classes.  They should also read up on how to make their classroom more inclusive so that students don’t feel scared to speak up when the professor screws up.

As for me, I have been including race in my classes since I started and I cannot imagine stopping now.  The more I teach, the more I listen to my students, and the more I learn from them, which helps students the next time I teach.  It is a learning process for everybody.  Did I have some cringeworthy moments when I first started, probably, but minority students have been gentle with me and each year I’ve learned more and gotten better and future students benefit from that.

Update:  The more I talk with my colleagues interested in adding a race unit in their classes, the more I’m convinced that my suggestion about only using papers written by minorities is the correct one.  I had no idea that people didn’t know Becker was a huge racist misogynist jerk(!)  I mean, I thought everybody knew that.  People knew it back when he was still young, like decades ago.  So no, DO NOT read Becker in the raw original.  Many of his theory structures are lovely, but read them with the sexist and racist assumptions removed by someone else; there are great minority scholars who have explained the baseline theories and added to them, so go with them.  (William Spriggs talks about some of the problems still inherent today.)

I swear, my colleagues are all going to give up and just end up covering Bertrand and Mullainathan, though I did convince one to try Quillian et al. (in PNAS) instead.  Look, it’s not that B&M isn’t a great paper, it is, but the really horrible overlying thing is that it got into the AER because everybody, including labor economists who should have known better, thought this was the first time a correspondence audit had been done, completely ignoring ALL of the correspondence audits done by Black scholars or non-Americans– I learned about them in my undergrad economics class on Race in the economy.  What I mean is, I’m fairly sure that racism is the reason those earlier audits by black people aren’t known at all.  Quillian and coauthors do a good job of collecting them and plotting their results over time.  (It should have been published in Science, but the racist editor overruled like 7 referees who all said it was must publish.)  Quillian is also white, but he’s a sociologist, so maybe he gets a pass?  Plus he’s very nice.  I’m not sure if there are any minorities in the “et al” portion.  (Plus the econometrics textbook we use has B&M as one of their datasets and students replicate all the ttests and regressions, so it’s not adding that much for our majors.)  Any time I explain this to a White labor economist they get really mad at me because B&M is somehow the first hardcore proof they’ve ever seen about racism against black people other than those small scale in-person audits from like the 70s that somehow Jim Heckman “disproved”  in the 1990s (spoiler:  he didn’t really).

Update 2:  Last night we talked to a number of students and alumni (mostly underrepresented minorities) and they said to be careful to make sure that the lesson is integrated into the curriculum, and to not just have it as a separate unit unconnected with the rest of the class.

Ask the grumpies: College sports and money

Rose asks:

How many College/University athletic programs are not fully supported by attendees at games. How many of them are paying the highest salaries on campus to sports coaches? How many are funding stadiums and special gyms for athletes by increased student funds over the past 20 years? What are the debt rates for such athletic programs?

Here’s a report from 2013 on how athletic programs are paid for.  Only a minority are self-supporting.  There are also graphs for increased funding and increased student funds.

Here’s some info on coach salaries from 2019.  I don’t know of any schools with football programs in which the highest salary isn’t a coach salary (though sometimes basketball), but I don’t have exact numbers.  Not all schools have football programs.  In 2018 the highest paid public employee in 39 states was a coach.

Here’s a 2017 article about sports debt from bloomberg.  Here’s another from 2018 from USA Today.

It will be interesting to see what happens in 2020.  I know that my school has said even if all classes are online, we will still have football.