Tag Archives: sociology

how much do you charge?

Here’s an “ask scatterplotters” for mid-career folks. I got an email from a younger colleague that I don’t know the answer to: “I am being asked by a government contractor to provide an estimate of how much I would charge to write a white paper and two fact sheets. Do you have any clue what kind of fee would be reasonable?” Do you? More broadly, I’ve never known how much to ask when I’ve been asked to consult with lawyers or NGOs, or asked how much I charge to speak. I’ve asked back: can you tell me how much other people charge? Can the more experienced scatterplotters among us give some idea of the going rates are for the various types of consulting sociologists might do? In particular, I’d find it helpful to know how the acceptable rates vary by: (1) what exactly you are doing, (2) your level of prior academic or consulting experience, (3) your status in the profession, (4) the nature and resources of the client, (5) region of the country.

If you are able to provide some benchmarks or answers, please specify what type of consulting/work you did, what kind of client it was, your region, and what you charged. If you are using a pseudonym, it would be helpful to provide some kind of status or experience indicator to help us calibrate.

 

liability insurance?

Someone asked me about liability insurance on research. The person is concerned about the risk of being sued for libel for research that makes a company look bad. The research is based entirely on publicly-available materials and truth would be the ultimate defense, but the company has a history of suing activists as a strategy for responding to protests about their actions and a lawsuit can destroy you, even if you ultimately win. A collaborator on the project is a lawyer, which I suppose is partly why the subject came up.

I’d never heard of such a thing. Turns out you can purchase such a liability policy. Educator policies protecting you against the risk of litigation by students and policies for clinical psychologists protecting both their treatment and research show up readily in Internet searches. You can find a few blog posts out there about how to protect yourself against libel suits when you study people or organizations.

So, does anybody else out there know about this? Is this a coming thing? Or is it a scam?

too many reviewers

I freaked out recently when, after reviewing an article, I received a packet of FIVE (5!!!)  reviews on the same article. I chewed out the editors for wasting my time and told them I would never review for their journal again. After an exchange (in which I got a little less testy), I told them I’d post my concerns to scatterplot and open a discussion on the topic. Although five was over the top and freaked me out, it has become pretty common now for me as a reviewer to get a packet with four reviews. No wonder we regular reviewers are feeling under the gun. The old calculation of two or even three reviews per article has gone by the wayside. The pressure for fast turnaround and the high turn-down or non-response rate among potential reviewers has led editors to send out articles to extra reviewers in the hopes of ending up with at least the minimum two or three.

But this is a death spiral. As a frequently-sought reviewer I get at least four requests a month, sometimes as many as eight, and I used to get more before I got so crabby.  When I was young and eager, I was reviewing an article a week [and thus, by the way, having a huge influence on my specialty area], and I know some people who are keeping that pace. But at some point you burn out and say “no more.” I, like all other frequently-sought reviewers I know, turn down outright the requests from journals I don’t know for articles that sound boring, and then save up the other requests and once a month pick which articles I want to review. So the interesting-sounding articles from good journals get too many reviewers, while the boring-sounding articles from no-name journals get none. If journal editors respond to the non-response by reviewers to boring-sounding articles by sending out even more reviewer requests per article, our mailboxes will be flooded even more and the non-response rate and delayed-response rate by reviewers will go up even more. Senior scholars are asked to review six to eight (or more?) articles per month. You have to say no to most of the requests.

And then we have the totally out of hand R&R problem. Continue reading

2012 sociology job market

If you are one of the twelve people who follow me on Twitter or one of the three people who follow the RSS feed for my website (Hi, mom!), you’ll know that I’ve been tracking the sociology job market this year. My method is pretty crude. I download all the job postings to the ASA Job Bank each month and count which ones have variations of the phrases “tenure track” and “assistant professor.”

As of the end of November, here’s what my monthly count of advertised tenure-track sociology jobs looks like:

tenure_track

By my count, 329 advertisements have been posted for these types of positions so far this year. This is up 5% from where we were last year, up 15% from 2010, and up a whopping 73% from 2009. That said, this year is down 8% from 2008, a year that was a horrible market according to a 2009 ASA study.

In prior years, about 80% of jobs that were going to be listed were posted by the end of November. Based on that, I estimate that we’ll come in at about 410 jobs this year, which is 15 jobs less than my forecast based on July, for those who care about that sort of thing.

My best guess is that this is about how many jobs we can expect to see posted in the coming years. I doubt we’ll see a surge in money for hiring in the social sciences given the current political and economic climate.

roundtable 2

I thought I’d toss this out for discussion. A young sociologist I know submitted a newly-written unpublished paper to ASA. After a long delay it was eventually accepted to a roundtable. In the meantime, the sociologist sent the paper for review to a non-US on-line specialty journal, expecting the usual review/publication delays. To the person’s amazement, the paper was not only accepted immediately for publication but is scheduled to appear (on-line) before the ASA meeting. The paper was submitted to ASA in good faith as an unpublished paper that had not been presented elsewhere. Do you think the scholar should withdraw the paper from the roundtable? My answer is no. But I thought it could be interesting to hear other people’s thoughts.

intro again

OK, fast question. Are there key ideas or concepts that are absolutely essential that people be taught in an intro sociology class or you would think the proffie wasn’t doing her job? I’ve already reviewed syllabi and can tell that folks teach radically different courses in intro — we do not have a standardized course like, say, first year calculus. Does this mean I have a completely free rein to teach any of the parts of sociology that interest me? Or are there key ideas that people really should know when they leave. I’m thinking of this in an abstract level. My idea is to hit on the essential concepts/themes while delving in some depth into a subset of sociological research problems taken from a few different areas.

For sure, I think we’ve got to do “social structure constrains individual action.” And “a lot of what we think is just natural is really socially constructed.” And “Data can reflect on the truth or falsehood of a lot of claims about social life.” And some basic information patterns of social inequality and how they are maintained.

Other essentials that you’d nominate?

ask a scatterbrain: film credits?

Well. I just got an email. I’m editing the exact text to preserve anonymity. “Your work ‘Racial Topic’ is excellent. I would like your permission to use some of it.The screenplay I am working is described at (website URL). In one scene, the lead player, an 18 year old boy, is making a presentation to Congress about the problems of dark-skinned young people. This is where I will include some of your work.” So, how do I reply?

First, I appreciate his asking. ‘Racial Topic’ is a web site. Most folks just download and go, and I don’t even know about it. I’ve seen my graphs show up — with and without attribution — all over the place. One of my slides even ended up on Sociological Images without attribution to me. (That got fixed when I pointed out the problem.)  But what should I do? Just say, “Oh sure, no problem,” like we do when someone else cribs our lecture notes? Or should I ask for something? Here are the issues as I understand them:

(1) If it were a book, it would be different. Long ago, “The Sting” was actually stolen from an academic book about con artists. If the producers had asked, the author probably would have sold it for $10,000 and thought he was lucky. But they didn’t ask, he sued, and as I recall he got a few million. But, um, lots of statistics about ‘racial topic’ posted on a web site are not really the same thing as a book.

(2) Percent of the work based on my stuff. This sounds like it is just one scene. I don’t know if the character is going to just quote some statistics (which you can get elsewhere) or show some of my graphs, which are more distinctively mine.

(3) Possible outcomes of the project. If this is just an Indie film that goes the way of most such projects, it doesn’t matter. But what if it turns out to be a commercial success? If I say “Oh sure, whatever” am I possibly giving away the farm? If I should reserve some kind of rights, how do you do that? What questions should I ask?

Sorry for posting twice in one day.

ask scatterplot: teaching statements

This whole trend toward obtaining “teaching philosophy” statements from candidates for jobs and promotion to tenure befuddles me, as I tend to think of them as empty exercises. But there must be people who think they are meaningful, else this would not have been a trend. I have never written one, having managed to get tenure long before such statements became required, and am not quite sure what to say to my students when they ask my advice about how to write a good one. So I’m asking scatterplotters. Do you ask for statements of teaching philosophy from job candidates at your insitution? Do you read them and take them seriously? And, if so, what are you looking for in them? What distinguishes a good statement from a bad one? What should a job candidate think about in preparing at teaching statement?

a “relatively good” job market? really?

Opened my email this morning to find this new (and in my opinion, horribly argued) report from the American Sociological Association, about the sociology job market. (EDIT – OLD REPORT).

Spoiler – their conclusion:  “These findings suggest a relatively good market for new sociology PhDs.”

Their justification for this statement?  There were more assistant professor jobs posted in the ASA JobBank in 2006 than there were people who received PhDs that year.

The authors (Jerry Jacobs and Roberta Spalter-Roth) do attempt to qualify this “finding” with a breakdown of substantive areas – open jobs, criminology jobs, theory jobs, etc.  and … come to the same conclusion.  They do not note that there are a glut of people who are looking for culture jobs, social movement jobs, and education jobs, or that most “open” jobs actually have a good idea of who they’re looking for (usually NOT culture or social movements or education).

My response: what drivel.   I realize that ASA wants to put a shiny coating on what is happening in the academic job market world – that scatterplot discussed ad nauseum in the fall – but this “report” is ridiculous.

UPDATED:  I read my email this morning without coffee first. The report above is from early 2008, before the economy tanked.  They’re updating the results, available at this year’s ASA meeting:  Here is the link to the preliminary findings for the New Jobs Survey:

http://www.asanet.org/galleries/default-file/Intro2008ASAJobBankStudy.pdf

Much more (appropriately) bleak. I still think the 2006 “conclusion” is ridiculous for job markets 2006-2008, however.

ask a scatterbrain: teaching methods

I’m posting this for New Soc Prof who raised the question in her own blog. What suggestions or advice do you have about teaching research methods and, in particular, what texts do you like, and why?  Have you had good success with particular approaches or syllabi? Do you want to warn people off books or approaches that bombed? New Soc Prof is particularly interested in advice for interdisciplinary courses.

did i miss something?

According to this on the ASA web site, “To assist attendees in their explorations of the city, ASA is sending a copy of the Discover Boston 2008 Guide to everyone who pre-registers for the ASA Annual Meeting.”  I am pre-registered and don’t remember seeing this.  Did anyone else get it?

blog commenting, blinding articles

I’m in California helping my mother, who is much better than she was in March, but still mostly housebound, on oxygen, and weak. She’s easily frustrated and demanding, which is both understandable and tiring. One upshot is that I’ve been blog commenting all day. I do get periods of free time, but as I never know when I’m going to be interrupted, it is hard to crawl into the writing I’m way-overdue on. So far I’m 0 for 0 in my goal of working at least two hours a day, although I have gotten some reviews done.

Apropos of bits of work, here’s a question about articles for review. Say there is a pretty well-known data set that is identified with exactly one research team, such that anybody who has read the literature will recognize the authors, or at least the PI, from the data. It does not matter whether you use “identifying reference withheld” or third person references, the author, or at least the author’s research team, will be identified. How much trouble should the author go to in attempting to present the appearance of conforming to the norm of not identifying the author, i.e. in using the third person in describing the research procedures? (Identifying reference withheld would seem absurd in this situation, especially as the withheld citations would be central to any literature review.)

My view as a reviewer: if the author of an article in my area is a senior person, I know who it is. But under the cloak of the anonymous reviewer, I am willing to say critical things about my friends. And good things about people whose work I don’t recognize (and thus know must be junior). I have been told by editors that this is common; people will not say bad work is good just because their friends wrote it. It is the anonymity of the reviewer that is central to the integrity of the process. So I don’t think trying to pretend anonymity is worth the trouble. In fact, I loathe “identifying reference withheld”!! If you are going to anonymize, do it with third person references.

What do you think about an author who does not even go through the motions of third person references to disguise authorship, in a case where disguise would be futile anyway. Is that bad form? Or understandable, let it go? Should editors police this kind of thing? Do they?

tenure and public sociology

There have been several posts lately about public sociology and the tenure process, including newsocprof and thepublicandtheprivate and, most recently RadioFreeNewport. All are written by young scholars. The general tone of these remarks is either to worry about the impact of public sociology on getting tenure, or to decry older sociologists who tell younger sociologists to focus on getting tenure before getting heavily involved in public sociology. So another view seems helpful. I say this as someone who did not do public sociology until later in my career, well after I had tenure. These younger writers are ignoring the central point that tenure protects you when you do public sociology. Continue reading

how to be a good advisee

As I suggested in response to the thread about picking an advisor, it is a mistake to view an advisor as a commodity for which you comparison shop, as you might select a new dress.  Rather, it is a two-sided process of building a long-term relationship.  Your own behavior and characteristics are just as important as the advisor’s, and it isn’t just a matter of finding the right person, it is a matter of acting in ways that make both of you feel good about your interactions.  So it is important to consider what makes the experience good for the advisor, not just what makes it good for the student.  In the long run, former advisees are friends and junior colleagues and part of your professional network.  Having former students who do well in the profession make you look good.  But there can be plenty of immediate rewards in the advising experience itself.  This varies somewhat depending on personalities, of course, and others may have other opinions.  But here are the things I think about when I reflect on advisees I have appreciated and advisees who have been less satisfactory. Continue reading

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