“Research Active Faculty” Criteria


(NOTE: I’m reposting this because there appeared to be problems with commenting on the original version.) A philosophy professor writes in with some questions about whether, and if so, how, various universities classify tenured faculty and distribute responsibilities among them:

I’m at a large private research university where tenure stream philosophers teach six courses per year and have substantial service obligations. Our administration wants to be able to classify certain tenured faculty as research active and assign more teaching to tenured faculty who aren’t research active. They’ve instructed my department to develop relevant criteria that can be applied to our faculty.

Some questions for DN readers:

  1. Does your university do anything like this (and what kind of university is it)?
  2. If so, what does it take for tenured philosophers to count as research active at your university? Info about how the relevant standards compare to those for awarding tenure would be helpful here.
  3. If your university doesn’t do anything like this, what if any criteria do you think would be reasonable?

Readers?

(Video of “Asinas II” by Jennifer Townley. More here.)

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Dale E Miller
3 years ago

We do this, and the standard is essentially that you have published at least two journal articles in a five-year period. This is officially our minimum standard for being involved in graduate education (with a higher rate of publication being required in order to be a committee chair), but faculty who don’t meet it are also given an extra course a semester to teach. Faculty in this position are seen as not meeting expectations in research; we don’t, say, allow faculty to voluntarily accept extra teaching in exchange for having lower or no research expectations. So it’s an awful position to be in, since if you weren’t publishing enough on a 3-3 you’re unlikely to do so on a 4-4.Report

JDRox
JDRox
3 years ago

Dale’s school’s rules seem pretty reasonable to me, although of course there are many famous philosophers that published at a lower rate than that. Maybe a rule like 2 papers or 5 conferences would be better. The basic idea of “research active faculty” seems like a good one, but operationalizing it will be tricky for obvious reasons.Report

Dale Miller
Reply to  JDRox
3 years ago

The full policy actually does allow for conferences to be substituted for papers—I think that it might be that you can have one publication and three conferences—but you can’t make that substitution two five-year periods in a row.Report

Daniel Kaufman
3 years ago

At our school, it’s pretty much a peer-reviewed article once every two years or a book, once every three. Our Dean is generally pretty flexible in stretching these, and I only know of a few cases where people were made research inactive and had their teaching loads increased, and in everyone there were other factors that played into it as well.

I recently was successful in adding an additional component to the College policy, according to which substantial public outreach work — the sort of thing I do in the Electric Agora or on my Sophia program at BloggingHeads — for which one can demonstrate impact and quality, grants an extension to your peer-review-research clock, subject to the judgment of your department’s personnel committee, Head, and College Dean. So you’ll be granted greater time between publications, before being made research active. From what I understand, other universities have been working at trying to figure out how to incorporate more public outreach into the normal Teaching, Research, Service triumvirate. I know that my partner in crime, Massimo Pigliucci, has been pushing for greater recognition of public intellectual work at CCNY, in light of his own very substantial contributions in this area.Report

Daniel Kaufman
Reply to  Daniel Kaufman
3 years ago

Correction: That line near the end should read: “So you’ll be granted greater time between publications, before being made research *inactive*.”Report

elisa freschi
Reply to  Daniel Kaufman
3 years ago

Coming from Europe, I am extremely surprised that an article counts like 2/3 of a book! It takes me way longer to write a book than an article (I would say that I write a book in the time it would have taken me to write 20 articles). Do you think this is representative of a different conception of books? And how widespread is it in the US or North America in general?Report

Daniel Kaufman
Reply to  elisa freschi
3 years ago

In analytic philosophy, most of the action is in the journals. And the top journals are a higher editorial bar to pass through than books, even books on top presses.Report

Trevor
3 years ago

At my R2 university, I think it’s 5-7 articles or a book in five years to stay at 2-2, 3-5 articles in five years for 2-3; and 1-2 articles in five years for 3-3. (This is only for tenured faculty; tenure-track faculty have an automatic 2-2 load pre-tenure.)Report

David Wallace
David Wallace
3 years ago

A general point: I don’t think the question of what counts as “research-active” can be separated from the administration’s overall objectives. If there are N members of your faculty and they’re all on a 3/3 load, that’s 3N faculty-delivered courses per semester. If M of those N are designated “research-active” and moved to 2/2, that reduces the number of faculty-delivered courses to 3(N-M)+2N. Assuming the administration has a reasonably clear picture of how much faculty teaching it needs (I accept that’s not a trivial assumption!), that’s going to determine roughly how many people it wants designated as “research-active”, whether that’s basically everyone, or about half the faculty, or only a couple of super-active people. And in most of those cases the question isn’t absolute (“who counts as research-active”) but comparative (“who counts as most research-active”).

I’ve assumed for illustrative purposes that the aim is to reduce teaching loads for the most research-active, but the point stands even if the intention is to increase loads for the least research-active.

TL;DR: you need to sit down with someone from admin and get a more detailed picture of what they have in mind structurally, assuming you haven’t already done so. The definition can’t be separated from the structural aim of the policy.Report

Dale E Miller
Reply to  David Wallace
3 years ago

In our case, as things stand, I think that the administration wants everyone to be “research active.” Of course, research-active faculty here have a 3-3 load, so they still do a lot of teaching. (This is true in our Arts and Letters college, that is. The other colleges have lower teach loads. Yes, we are very unhappy about this.) We don’t usually use this language, but the threat of being designated “research inactive” is a stick to make people publish (or to retire if they are old enough and no longer want to publish), and the administration would be happy never to use it.Report

OP
OP
Reply to  David Wallace
3 years ago

The administration here is rarely fully transparent about their objectives. As best as we can tell, though, their directive is motivated partly by the thought that some senior tenured faculty are doing little if any research and we can save some money by making them teach courses that we would otherwise hire adjuncts to teach (we employ lots of adjuncts).Report

Andrew Sepielli
Andrew Sepielli
3 years ago

Should be easy: just figure out the proper ends of philosophy (truth? understanding? revolution?); then determine which behaviours, in context, are most conducive to these ends, and call those “research activity”. Or if that’s too hard, then calories. Just measure in calories.Report

C. Jordan
C. Jordan
3 years ago

I’m at an R1 university and my department’s research active definition is 3 peer reviewed articles per year and a 2-2 teaching load. Post-tenure, faculty may negotiate a higher teaching load with lower publishing, but such a decision would make promotion to full prof unlikely. It has happened, rarely, that individuals were assigned higher teaching after low publishing, but there is no standard definition of when numbers requiring this will happen. It has been case by case. My university is just now considering differential teaching/ publishing for all departments; I guess you could say that my department has been ahead of the curve. We’ve been using this system for almost 10 years now I’d say.Report

JDRox
JDRox
Reply to  C. Jordan
3 years ago

Wow, this seems like an extremely high bar: it’s very difficult to produce three *very good* articles a year, even on a 2-2. Many “top” philosophers don’t hit that mark. So I would expect this policy to result in low quality high quantity research output. Is there something I’m missing?Report

Daniel Kaufman
Reply to  C. Jordan
3 years ago

Given how long turn-over times are at many if not most journals, I don’t even see how this is possible. It would seem to require having an almost inhuman number of papers in the pipeline. Certainly not a standard I could ever meet.Report

Dale E Miller
Reply to  C. Jordan
3 years ago

This seems like, well, the worst policy ever. Is there a possibility for high quality publications, however that might be measured, to count for more?Report

Kenny Easwaran
Reply to  C. Jordan
3 years ago

Is this a philosophy department? There are academic fields where I could imagine this as a basic assumption, but in philosophy there aren’t many people at all that average 3 publications per year.Report

Curious
Curious
3 years ago

3 articles per year? Given how long per review takes, that seems like a lot. Certainly far more than my R1 (and leiter top 20) requirements for tenure, which is one article a year.Report

also curious
also curious
3 years ago

I’m curious whether any of these requirements take into account anything like quality or prestige. Does a publication in Northwest Texas Journal for the Love of Wisdom Studies count the same as a publication in, say, Noûs?Report

KH
KH
Reply to  also curious
3 years ago

In the way that these policies are usually written it does! My department currently has language like “appropriately peer-reviewed,” but people are not inclined to dispute how to apply it.Report

Neil Levy
Neil Levy
3 years ago

The comments about how certain benchmarks are hard to reach because of long review times are strange. When a year ends, a new one starts (in my experience, anyway).Report

KH
KH
3 years ago

I took the OP to be addressing a different issue than what most comments address. It’s common that there are minimal standards for the research unit that most faculty maintain. If you teach a 2-2, (at most public institutions) there’s a corresponding calculation according to which your load is 4-4 but your research buyout is half-load. And for that buyout there’s a minimum. That’s what’s being discussed. (Often this minimum doubles as the requirement for graduate instruction).

But OP had something different in mind, as I read the post. The minimum research load is designed with the expectation that all but underperforming faculty reach it, hence the low-ish standards like two pubs per five years. But occasionally admins come up with the idea that since different people publish at different rates and with differing levels of impact, the loads could be better distributed unequally. Hence the designation ‘research active’, which does not sound like a designation for everyone who does their contracted minimum. The idea is to take courses from especially productive faculty so as to garner more research productivity from (say) the extra two course buyouts per annum than the usual professors minimum or near/minimum.

Can OP confirm that this is the question? Otherwise we are debating Public research university bureaucracy 101 in hereReport

OP
OP
Reply to  KH
3 years ago

OP here. The issue in your first paragraph is what I was asking about. We have no policy saying what the minimum standard is and the admins want us to come up with one.Report

KH
KH
Reply to  OP
3 years ago

In that case you need to play it safe, and recommend something that anyone should reasonably teach over the given time period. We have two pubs in six years, with some flexibility on the second pub like the sort mentioned by another commenter. But that’s for a quarter-load buyout (3-3 teaching). If some or all of you teach 2-2 or 2-3 you might be justified in asking for more.Report

HGM
HGM
3 years ago

What is OP’s institution’s current base teaching load?Report

OP
OP
Reply to  HGM
3 years ago

6 courses / year.Report

Jason Brennan
Jason Brennan
3 years ago

My tenure home is a political economy department in a business school. The b school has a list of “undisputed” A-journals and book publishers. In general, publishing at least one A-level paper a year is sufficient for a course release the following year. So, productive tenure track faculty teach three courses a year; unproductive tenure track faculty teach four. Our non-tenure track but permanent/ long-term teaching faculty teach five, though research active teaching faculty can get that reduced to four.Report

jmugg
3 years ago

My school does this. I am at a regional campus in the Indiana University system. TT faculty have a 3-3 load, but technically it is a 4-4 with a teaching release 1-1 teaching release. Tenured profs are expected to publish 1 peer-reviewed article every 3 years (I heard that a book gets you 7 years). If a TT faculty member does not publish an article over the course of 3 years, then they teach a 4-4 load until they do. Salary does not decrease nor do they lose tenure.Report

Daniel Kaufman
Reply to  jmugg
3 years ago

This is essentially our system at Missouri State, with just a slightly greater amount of research required.Report

Harold
Harold
3 years ago

At my university a journal article or book chapter is worth one-fifth of a monograph. (Edited collections are worth nothing – you get to count your chapter but not the whole thing.) The amount of face-to-face teaching we do is determined by one’s publication output over the past three-years. You can also get discounts on teaching by committee service and graduate supervision. The most anyone can be asked to teach face to face a week is capped at 14 hours. No staff as far as I know (except perhaps some sessionals) teaches that many hours, but it is not uncommon to teach 10 hours when you haven’t had a book in a while. The system encourages people to aim low for journals and publishers, and also rewards people who are well-connected with editors of book series. (It also rewards Continental philosophers, who seem to publish books more often than analytics.) As for the question of what research active means at my place: given the cap is in place whether you publish three articles over three years or no articles, to be research active means at least 4 articles/chapters over three years.Report