Monday, January 26, 2015

Why keep playing the academic publishing game?

Several times during my mega-massive writing weekend I asked myself: Why am I doing this? What could possibly make such an onerous task worthwhile? Why keep playing the academic publishing game when the rewards are so meager?

There are rewards, of course--a good teaching job, tenure, promotion to full professor--but after all those rewards are won, what then? Why keep presenting conference papers and writing articles with no tangible rewards dangling on the horizon? I'm a tenured full professor with nothing to prove; I'm not on the job market and my institution doesn't offer any sort of merit pay. The most I can hope for is a pat on the back from my department chair in my annual review. So why keep playing the game?

The main reason, I suppose, is that it's fun. I enjoy reading new things, researching new approaches, and contributing to the scholarly conversation. The time may come when I want to slow down my pace, but as long as playing the game gives me pleasure, I won't hang up my cleats.

Nevertheless, I do understand the frustrations of those who don't see the point in continuing to work so hard with few tangible rewards, and for that reason I would favor the implementation of some kind of merit pay that recognizes scholarly accomplishments. An institution that expects faculty at all ranks to teach a 4/4 load should not be surprised when research and publication take a back seat to teaching, but we can surely do more to encourage and reward scholarship beyond the promise of tenure and promotion.

But I'm not grumbling. I love to research and write about literature and I'll keep doing it regardless of the meager rewards. However, the next time I read some angry screed about all those stale, unproductive, outdated senior faculty members who haven't learned anything new since the Johnson administration, I may have to find someone to kick.


Anonymous said...

I sometimes agree with merit pay at a small college, but it is a slippery slope. Often those determining who gets merit pay are not the most objective people. Should merit pay be doled out for great teaching AND great scholarly work? And should it be some sort of sliding scale--which is almost always seen as unfair? And if one is both a great scholar and a great teacher, shouldn't they get more? I have rarely seen merit pay at small schools not cause sssooo much controversey.

Bev said...

I agree that implementation is a problem, especially at a small college where we all know each other so well. But if not merit pay, then what? We need a tangible way to keep people motivated to research even after tenure.

Anonymous said...

One thing that some schools use is to give the faculty member who is indeed a productive scholar and achieves tenure the thing they need most--time. Cutting a tenured professor's teaching load by even one course helps a lot. I know how hard this is at a small school, but honestly it's time that is really the need here. And even though giving time has its own set of hassles and shouts of "unfair," it is usually easier than money to deal with. Tough problem all around to solve.

Bev said...

Good point! I'm actually enjoying a one-course release for research this semester, so I shouldn't complain. These course releases are few and far between, however.