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 “too many reviewers”

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:


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.