How to Encourage Service to the Profession?

How to Encourage Service to the Profession?


A professor writes in:

We hear a lot of complaints about how the APA and about how journals are run from folks who don’t volunteer for the APA or serve (and have never served) in leadership positions at journals (e.g. as those responsible for finding referees and ensuring to the best of their limited abilities that referees are doing their jobs).  Suggestions for improving APA and journal practices and services, when they accompany the complaints, are often demands that those that already volunteer their time at a sacrifice to their own research and careers volunteer even more of their time.  As someone who has had leadership roles both in the APA and at a journal, I can attest that this is not possible, in addition to being unjust to demand.

So, my question is: Given that it those volunteering the most hours have no more to volunteer and, in any case, it is unreasonable for those doing less to demand that those doing more do yet more to serve them, what are our options for improving the APA and/or journals in the ways some would like to see them improved? 
I myself see no way for this to happen without more folks volunteering more hours.  So, the question seems to me to be one of how to create incentives for more folks to volunteer with the limited resources we have for doing so.  But perhaps others will see options I’m not thinking of.  

In short:

(1) What can we do, generally, to improve the institutions that serve the profession?

(2) If good answers to (1) require more people volunteering their time, how do we get people to do that?

It would also be useful to discuss something I’ve long wanted to raise on Daily Nous, namely:

(3) To what extent is it appropriate for the profession, or academia more generally, to rely on people willingly taking on extra work without pay?

I’m sure there are other relevant questions worth asking. Feel free to raise them, and attempt to answer them, in the comments.

(For a related discussion on credit for refereeing articles, see this earlier post.)

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David Wallace
David Wallace
6 years ago

On (3), I think describing service work as “without pay” isn’t quite right. Oxford pays me to do teaching, research and service, including service to the profession: if I referee for a journal, or serve as a PhD external examiner, or write a tenure review, these are all tasks that it’s perfectly acceptable for me to do in work hours and to count as work when talking to administrators. The problem is rather that there’s little or no mechanism to incentivise me to do the service-to-the-profession bits of my job beyond a sense of responsibility: unlike teaching and in-house service, it’s not directly enforced by local management structures, and unlike research, it’s not that useful to my CV (and relatively dull too). In principle you can imagine a model where universities paid staff less and contributed to inter-institutional service funds that paid generously for service done (and, indirectly and in a very small way, that happens with tasks like being remunerated for writing book reviews, with the remuneration coming indirectly from institutions’ library budgets) but in practice it looks more trouble than it’s worth.Report

sydm
sydm
6 years ago

Two issues with journal refereeing (from an author’s perspective): it takes too long, and you sometimes wait months to hear from the journal, and get no comments back with the decision. From a referee’s perspective: it’s time-consuming and relatively thankless. I occasionally get a note of thanks from an editor, but mostly I get additional requests to be a referee.

How to incentivize referees: Since most (but not all) journals are profit-making, and owned by profit-making publishers, it seems appropriate that referees be paid for reviewing articles. I review grant proposals for government agencies, and I’m paid to do it. Doing so requires a substantial investment of time, and sometimes requires travel, but I am compensated, modestly, for the work. I’d be happy to get a free book, or access to a journal for a year, or a small sum of cash in exchange for reviewing articles in a timely manner. (This might not be a good incentive for referees who make a lot more money than I do, or have better libraries, etc.)Report

Dani
Dani
Reply to  sydm
6 years ago

I agree with this. Recently some journals have begun offering a year’s subscription in exchange for a review. All else equal, I am far more inclined to review for those journals than others that request my time but don’t offer something in kind.Report

Jan Dowell
Jan Dowell
Reply to  Dani
6 years ago

Dani,
What do you recommend editors at non-profit journals that offer free subscriptions do?Report

Dani
Dani
Reply to  Jan Dowell
6 years ago

We cross-posted there. I think that all other things equal, I’d be more inclined to review for a non-profit, open-access journal than a for-profit one with high subscription fees, for the same reasons.Report

Dani
Dani
Reply to  Dani
6 years ago

Sorry, I should be more clear. I’ve never turned down a review request except when I either (a) was not blind, or (b) didn’t have the time. Recently, however, I Received two requests from different journals on the same day. One offered this carrot (which is frankly meaningless to me, as I have access to the journal via my institution anyway) and one did not. I chose to accept the review for the first, and to decline the latter. Because at least it seems like an effort at sharing the wealth from a system that has until now largely taken the free labor for granted.Report

Jan Dowell
Jan Dowell
6 years ago

Paying referees and editors at profit-making journals would certainly be nice. But if this is the best solution, how do we get from here to there? Boycott unpaid work for the journal (that is, a large-scale refusal to provide it until compensation is offered)? This certainly would make authors worse off than they currently are in the near-term and may not help them in the long-term. And it wouldn’t help with the situation of journals that aren’t for-profit, like Phil Imprint.Report

David Wallace
David Wallace
6 years ago

I can’t speak for all institutions, obviously, but I don’t think that evaluation-based model fully captures it. (Not least because I work for a university that doesn’t do evaluations.) Oxford pays me to split my time on whatever mix of teaching, research and service I think appropriate, with some enforced minimums (I need to do enough research to meet the UK REF requirements; I need to put in the contact hours with my students and mark their work; etc), but those enforced minimums are well below what I actually do.

For some service task to count as taking on “extra work”, I’d have to use time to do it that I’d otherwise have spent not working at all. If I do more service work, and therefore get less research done, that’s not unpaid work. But I agree that there’s no real incentive beyond personal responsibility to allocate my work time that way, and that that’s a problem.Report

ejrd
ejrd
6 years ago

Universities currently do not have any real incentives to take service all that seriously. Service does not raise a university’s national profile and so they value it only in the sense that you have to do ‘something’ and that something is actually biased in favor of intra-university service (in my experience being on internal university committees is seen as more valuable, in terms of one’s evaluations, than refereeing for journals or being on external committees–unless they are very prestigious). Any more service done beyond this is unnecessary and strictly voluntary. I take it this is the sense that Justin is worried about when he says that service is unpaid labor and requires some kind of justification.

How to change this? I’m not sure. As with any collective action problem the solution is easy and impossible: philosophy departments could simply start weighing service more heavily than they do (thus creating some pressure on the administration) but this won’t ever happen. As individuals we are all caught up in the research-first, teaching-second, service-fourth mentality. I know that some of you can do it all, excel in research, teaching, and service….but I am not so lucky. Insofar as time is a zero-sum game for me and insofar as teaching and research take up most of it, I definitely wish I could do more service but I’m already in several committees and supervising undergraduate senior thesis papers and I’d like to have time for a personal life as well.

For the record, I also use to review book proposals for one of the larger academic publishing houses and they *always* paid you for the service (not a lot, mind you, but they actually paid you for expending your professional time!).Report

Professor Plum
Professor Plum
6 years ago

A few thoughts:

The OP is specifically asking about service to the profession that goes *beyond* refereeing for journals or book publishers, i.e., serving on editorial boards or APA committees. The OP seems to be suggesting, or at least wondering, whether this kind of service should be compensated; the worry behind the question is that it may be unfair for some philosophers to do all this unpaid work.

To me, this doesn’t seem especially unfair. Some people seem to really enjoy the “power” of serving on editorial boards. They can put it on their CVs, and, at many institutions, it does have a role to play in being promoted to full. For those who aren’t moved by this sweet siren song of perceived influence and power, I think you’d have to offer way more compensation than is feasible. Maybe 5K+ per year? I don’t know. But relying on careerist motivations seems much cheaper and more reliable.

The APA service work raises a whole bunch of other questions and issues. Many phosophers are unsatisfied with the APA, and I don’t think most would support raising the membership dues to pay people to serve on what some see as pointless and ineffectual committees.

Personally, I think the time has come for a big rethink of the APA: since the Eastern has now been decoupled from hiring, I would support getting rid of the divisional distinctions and having one meeting each year in the fall or spring. If we did this we could cut many redundant committees, and free up resources for genuinely useful projects.Report

ejrd
ejrd
Reply to  Professor Plum
6 years ago

One reason against the single conference approach is that it would either dramatically reduce the number of conference presentation opportunities available, especially to early-career folks OR necessitate a very long conference that could not be fully attended by anyone.Report

Mark Schroeder
6 years ago

Professor Plum, I can safely report that I get no satisfying sense of “power” for my editorial work for JESP or for PPR – nor indeed for any of the other service work that I do that goes well beyond the “20%” of my time that my employer nominally attributes to service responsibilities, whether service to the profession or to my own department or university. Nor do I get special satisfaction out of putting them on my CV – I’m pretty sure that if I took all of my service off of my CV very few people would notice. I do it out of a sense of responsibility – where I see some valuable work that needs to be done well, and have reason to believe that it will be done less well if I don’t step up to do it. In fact, I’ve never spoken to anyone who has taken on what I would describe as serious service responsibilities who seemed to see it in any other way.Report

Professor Plum
Professor Plum
6 years ago

@Mark Schroeder:
Well, I guess we travel in different circles; when I have asked friends and colleagues why they take on seemingly burdensome service work they cite things like “having a role to play in shaping the field”, and I know many see high status editorial roles as a source of pride.

I don’t deny that some, like you, are motivated by a sense of responsibility or honor or selfless sacrifice. But that acknowledgement doesn’t undermine my fundamental point: all of these motivations are cheaper and more reliable than the motivation for financial compensation.Report

a grad student
a grad student
6 years ago

What is the justification for an outdated, burdensome, and time-consuming journal system that no one seems to enjoy (neither those reviewing the articles nor those submitting them)? I imagine and hope that people are smart enough to be able to tell for themselves when an article is good or merely useful. Is this an incorrect assumption? I’m not being cheeky, I genuinely don’t understand.Report

Internet Reader
Internet Reader
6 years ago

Apart from the APA’s Quinn Prize, are there any other awards for service to the profession?

I might add that, looking at the recipients of the Quinn prize, it seems to go to rather well-known philosophers, perhaps some of whom have had access to the most prominent service positions (and thus became highly visible candidates for the Quinn prize) because of their research prominence. In other words, one might ask whether the Quinn prize is largely a way of rewarding only a small subset of those who have served the profession.

Would more service awards from the APA be a good idea?

Quinn Prize website: http://www.apaonline.org/?quinnReport

Becko Copenhaver
Becko Copenhaver
Reply to  Internet Reader
6 years ago

This comment is a great opportunity to remind folks that nominations for leadership positions in the APA for next year are still open…until October 31.
http://www.apaonline.org/events/event_details.asp?id=424070
Have a look at the positions and think about colleagues (or yourself) whom you think might not otherwise have access to the most prominent service positions. Sometimes folks who don’t have the kind of research prominence Internet Reader mentions, or folks who aren’t at R1s, get nominated by their peers, accept, are elected and contribute a great deal to our shared enterprise. That’s nothing but good for us and for the APA.Report

Professor Plum
Professor Plum
Reply to  Becko Copenhaver
6 years ago

When I click on “View the online nominations system,” I get a 503 error message.

Poor APA. My combined pity and embarrassment almost makes me want to volunteer to help! But more seriously: I see that you need to be a member to even nominate someone for a committee. Come on APA! I get that you are positively desperate for members, and I totally understand why you require committee members to be actual members in good standing, but if you really cared about getting a diverse pool of candidates, you would waive the membership requirement for nominators. At this point, most philosophers I know IRL are *not* members of the APA.Report

Amy Ferrer
Reply to  Professor Plum
6 years ago

We’ve now corrected the broken link; thanks for pointing that out, and please accept my apologies for the error. You can also reach the nominations system directly here: https://nominations.apaonline.org

The APA exists to serve philosophy and philosophers beyond our membership, but the APA would not exist without our members, and so members are empowered to determine the direction of the organization, including choosing the association leaders through nominations and voting. Whether you like what the APA is doing or want to change it (or both), the best way to do so is to be an active and engaged member—nominate colleagues or volunteer yourself for leadership positions, vote in APA elections, participate in divisional business meetings, contact board and committee members with your ideas and suggestions.Report

Professor Plum
Professor Plum
Reply to  Amy Ferrer
6 years ago

Thank you. However, I think the current policy is silly and doesn’t advance your own stated goals.

If you want to grow membership and have a large and diverse pool of committee members then it makes more sense to allow non-members to nominate both members and nonmembers and make membership a requirement for service. If you did that, you would be much more likely to get new people to become or renew their membership; people will likely pay up for a seat at the table (either for careerist or self sacrificing reasons), but no one is going to join the APA just to nominate someone or throw their own hat into the ring for some service obligation.

This kind of shoot-yourself-in-the-foot policy is why it pains me to give any money or time to the APA.Report

Jamie Dreier
Jamie Dreier
6 years ago

When I edited a “Contemporary Debates” anthology, I really did have the sense that I was contributing to shaping the field. When I was on the Program Committee for the Eastern APA it was similar: I felt like I might be able to help construct a program that covered the important issues of the day.

For the work I do for journals, I do *not* have the sense of shaping the field, except in ways I worry about and try hard to avoid, because I don’t think editors’ specific philosophical views should be influencing journal content.

On the whole my experience is much like Mark Schroeder’s. But it’s not exactly honor or selfless sacrifice (as those who know me will surely attest!). It’s more like this: there are things that seem important, and they have to get done, and I think I could do a creditable job. Also, they’re interesting — you get to find out how things work, and you get to collaborate with good, interesting people you would not otherwise meet.

I would be worried about paying referees. On the one hand, I am very grateful to the people who do a lot of it and do it well. On the other hand, it seems like paying for referee reports might have a large impact on who is doing the refereeing, and I have no idea whether it would be for the better. I would also be concerned if every time I picked two referees for a paper I had to think of it as doing them a favor, tossing some paid work their way.
I assume no other academic fields pay referees for journal reports… or do they?Report

Professor Plum
Professor Plum
6 years ago

@Justin: well, I think people could care about the “power” associated with being on editorial boards in a number of different ways; some might relish being acknowledged as an authority, some might be happy they can check off some requirement for full, some might enjoy rejecting papers that run counter to their preferred research paradigms, and so on. I think all of these count as careerist motivations, and while I have no desire to talk about individuals and speculate on their motivations, I think it is disingenuous to pretend that *no one* is motivated by these sorts of considerations. Of course, no one is going to admit that they agreed to be on the editorial board of some journal because it makes them feel important, but I don’t see how anyone can deny this is a motivation for some.

As I said above, I’m sure others serve out of more noble motivations, but I don’t see how this helps make the case for financial compensation: if you really are moved by a sense of responsibility or selfless sacrifice, then being offered financial compensation would seem not only beside the point in getting you to perform the task but also potentially disrespectful–offering cash for something people do out of a sense of responsibility can be rather insulting.

I don’t know that there is a real problem here when it comes to service work for high status journals. Perhaps I’m wrong, but I don’t think most “elite” journals have too much trouble finding people willing to serve, nor do I feel like the people who do serve are all worthy of further recognition and acknowledgement. Either they are satisfying their careerist motivations, or they are satisfying their sense of responsibility or selfless regard. Win-win.

When it comes to low status work or serving on APA committees, I acknowledge there may be a problem. But I think this problem is solved by changing the institutions or journals; financial compensation seems unlikely to help.Report

Becko Copenhaver
Becko Copenhaver
6 years ago

On motivations: mine are much more particular then noble selflessness or obligation. I serve from gratitude and reciprocity. When I tally the kinds of things I do now in terms of service to the profession, most are services without which I could not have been a philosopher at all: reviewing tenure files, reviewing promotion to full files, reviewing departments, reviewing articles, making conferences happen in which people who work on similar stuff can interact usefully, doing something that makes an undergrad, a grad student, an adjunct, a junior professor, know that she matters to our community…I would not be here if others hadn’t done that for me, and I want to make that happen for others. I don’t think this is noble in any way. I don’t think this is abstract obligation in any way.

Gratitude and reciprocity are abstract, but how one chooses to act them out are very particular. Unfortunately, choosing not to act on them is general…thus our collective action problem.

Are there lots of folks who don’t feel it? Sure. Incentivizing some or all of these services is not inconsistent with recognizing that these acts in fact serve us, and are thus valuable. And given that we are currently in a situation in which the real costs of service (to research and teaching) are inequitably distributed, recognizing their value seems warranted (and not at all disrespectful). For those who don’t feel it, incentivizing these services might expose them to the value of the service. For those who do feel it, placing a compensatory value on what they do tells them that what they are doing is visible, valued, and makes a difference.Report

David Sobel
David Sobel
6 years ago

One thing this post reminds us of is the gratitude that is due the people who serve in these onerous and usually thankless positions. The next time you feel tempted to run down the APA or a not for profit journal, keep in mind that these things are run by volunteers. These volunteers typically do this out of a sense of duty to the profession, or a sense that they can do needed work, or a sense that others did this for them and it their turn. Such motives should not be confused with the idea that they do this out of self-aggrandizement or to gain status in the profession. Such service is not the route to fame, fortune, or full-professorship.Report

anonymous
anonymous
6 years ago

Prof Plum’s comment at 8:44 above is spot on. I would be more than happy to serve — but have never been nominated by someone else, and the couple of times I have thrown in a nomination/application for myself, I never heard anything back. No letter acknowledging receipt of the nomination, no polite rejection. Nothing. Why would I bother to continue to try? The APA clique does not seem interested in diversifying or recruiting those of us who don’t work at R1 universities.Report

Amy Ferrer
Reply to  anonymous
6 years ago

I’m sorry that you weren’t properly acknowledged by the APA when you volunteered for leadership positions. It’s very important to me that every nominee is thanked and acknowledged for being willing to serve in APA leadership positions, so please accept my (belated) gratitude for volunteering in the past.

For what it’s worth, I and many other members of the board and committees are indeed very interested in increasing the diversity of career stages and institutions represented among the APA membership and leadership, and I would encourage you to nominate yourself again if you are still interested in a leadership position. If you personally aren’t interested in serving at this time, I encourage you to nominate others who you believe would serve the APA and the profession well, including (especially) those from non-R1 institutions.Report

ABD
ABD
6 years ago

Some months ago there was a discussion about reviewing practices on one of the philosophy blogs (sorry, don’t remember which) and I was surprised at the number of people who indicated that they would like to do more refereeing (or any at all!), but simply aren’t asked? Is it just the same group of philosopher’s getting inundated with requests to referee? Are these the only people qualified to do the referee work? There has got to be a way to get those people involved that want to get more involved, but are unsure how to.Report

Kate Norlock
Kate Norlock
Reply to  ABD
6 years ago

ABD, I’ve thought about that thread a lot, too, as a new journal editor. When I get a submission, places I turn to for immediate possibilities for referees include PhilPapers, Philosopher’s Index, editorial boards and Google-Scholar. I want to find referees with some demonstrated research in the same area; I don’t know how else one would know that someone does [inquiry into X]. So unless an academic both publishes and does at least the minimum to ensure that their publications appear in database hits and/or a Google search, then I can’t know that they do [X]. Of course, the frustration of this is that we all have the experience of searching on keywords from our own research and finding that we don’t come up in results!

Like A Grad Student above, I often think it would be better to dump the whole journal system as we currently do it. Crowd-sourcing online publications would be fantastic and not require service from editors begging people to referee. However, admins who are not philosophers but decide on tenure scarcely seem to understand what philosophers do at all; absent the peer-reviewed journal system that we obediently perform, I don’t know what admins would do with tenure files.Report

david chalmers
Reply to  ABD
6 years ago

we’re currently working on a service like this through philpapers. we’re building a searchable database of philosophers, and there will be a special interface for journal editors to search for referees. philosophers in the database will be able to enter information about what sort of refereeing (which areas, and so on) they are willing to do. i hope that helps!Report

Jan Dowell
Jan Dowell
Reply to  david chalmers
6 years ago

Good lord–that’s fantastic! Thanks so much, Dave!Report

Marcus Arvan
6 years ago

I’d like to second Anonymous 9:53’s general point. I think there are probably a lot of people who would volunteer to help improve things, but who have never been asked/invited, and don’t know how to get involved.Report

Jan Dowell
Jan Dowell
6 years ago

Marcus,
Amy Ferrer has some recommendations above.Report