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blogging about personal experiences in the profession

15 September 2013

Nate Jensen had a great blog post the other day about a paper he wrote that essentially took five years to get published. I’ve written about similar experiences on haba na haba: first about a paper that was rescinded after being accepted, and then about a paper that was rejected seven times before eventually coming out in print. Once when I was whining about the review process for the latter paper, a friend told me about how a paper he wrote in graduate school that didn’t get published until his fifth year on the tenure track — he’d worked on it for ten years!

But back to Nate — he followed up that post with a post yesterday on blogging about our profession (meaning political science/academia). In it, he writes, “I’m always a little disappointed that my posts on research get a lot less attention than posts on the job market, job talks, or publication process.” The blog stats for haba na haba are consistent with Nate’s experience: posts I’ve written about personal experiences (i.e., taking a child with you to another country when conducting research, or what I did on the job market this past year as a nursing mother) always generate more traffic and discussion than posts about research (whether my research or that of others).

Nate’s post — particularly the part about being famous for a blog post being one of the worst professional outcomes — reminds me of a dinner conversation with colleagues this summer about Anne-Marie Slaughter’s “having it all” post and how she’ll likely be remembered for that and not the research she’s published the past two decades. Still, I can think of worse outcomes.

9 Comments leave one →
  1. 15 September 2013 9:16 pm

    Great post, Kim Yi. I also blog my personal experiences as an interdisciplinary, early-career scholar (on the tenure-track), and I feel the same way. My blog posts about personal experiences get WAY more traffic than my research posts.

    I do, however, feel very differently about Anne-Marie Slaughter. I do wish she were remembered for posterity for her influential scholarship in international relations and international law. That’s how I met her before she was on Twitter, or wrote for The Atlantic.

    Great post.

    • 15 September 2013 9:27 pm

      Thanks, Raul. I always enjoy reading your blog — particularly the “personal professional” posts. The writing from 5-7am totally speaks to me. 😉

      I think AMS will be remembered for both, but I think the top-of-the-head context for folks will be having-it-all. At least she’ll be remembered by many more people than exist in the world of political science — and who knows? Maybe readers of that piece in The Atlantic went out and read her scholarship. Maybe.

  2. 15 September 2013 9:52 pm

    Kim, I think it has to do with the fact that our jobs are often stressful,overwhelming, and lonely. Because of this, we need (or at least I do) space to vent and more importantly, commiserate. Post like yours, Nate’s and Raul’s, among countless others, make us feel like what we are going through with the market, the journal submission or tenure process is survivable, if not always the rose-petal strewn path we’ve imagined. It also gives us a real, honest perspective into these things, which is sorely lacking in most graduate training. To me, the posts inspire a sense of camaraderie and motivation- that it may take years for a project to finally see the light of day, but it will. It also gives us a chance to celebrate each other’s achievements, which is something we don’t do enough of!

    • 15 September 2013 9:58 pm

      grad school: where you never learn how the delicious sausage is made.

  3. 16 September 2013 12:50 pm

    … but when I look at the “popular posts” ticker on the right side of your page, four out of the five most popular posts from your blog are about Malawi, suggesting that your professional work is garnering as much attention as your personal life.

    For myself, I find I always read academic blog posts about personal stuff, like being a single parent or dealing with expectations that female profs will be really nice or having MSS circulate endlessly in R&R limbo, mainly because these are in many ways easier reads. There’s no learning curve involved, because I’ve BTDT. Blog posts on less biographical topics – like, I don’t know. problems with common econometric models or Turkmenistani politics or fragile ecosystems – can be daunting because the learning curve is steep and I have to have the “absorbing new and difficult information” part of my brain engaged as well as the “resonance with what I have already experienced” part.

    • 17 September 2013 3:33 pm

      Amy – that was an interesting observation. I looked into it a bit. It seems the previous setting was that most popular posts were ones that had the highest “like” count on wordpress (which, I believe, is only available to other bloggers on the wordpress platform). I’ve switched it to number of page views in the past two days. Overall, though, the greatest hits on my blog have often come when I post something about Malawi that catches on with Malawians or folks who are interested in Malawi — particularly if the news is “breaking” (i.e. the death of Bingu wa Mutharika or the deadly protests in July 2011).

      Your comments are totally in line with my own taste/experience, so perhaps we all shouldn’t be so surprised when these personal-professional (rather than professional-professional) posts generate a lot of traffic and discussion.

  4. 24 September 2013 10:30 pm

    I don’t understand why Nate’s blog post got so much positive feedback. He never explained whether he actually revised the paper after rejections. If he did – then he has a good story. If not – why should we be surprised when the paper kept getting rejected. My point is that too often people get their paper rejected and then simply resubmit to a “lower” journal as is. that says more about the authors then about the academic profession.

    • 26 September 2013 6:48 am

      My guess is that he did a lot of work on the paper after rejections (but you’re right that he’s not explicit about that in the post). In my own experience, I’ve nearly always done revisions between submissions, even if not answering EVERY comment made by reviewers when a paper was rejected before submitting it elsewhere. The exception is when papers are desk-rejected — this has happened a lot for me with medical journals (where the average outcome is desk rejection). Sometimes it’s about fit. But also, with desk rejection, there’s no feedback on how you can improve the paper. In a recent case, I had a paper desk-rejected by editors and I submitted it as-is to a “lower” journal (a great journal, but not a generalist one, as in the original submission). The editors said it was a fine enough paper but that it belonged in a subfield journal. This case is just to point out that not revising in between doesn’t necessarily mean we’re being lazy or making bad decisions.


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