Monday, June 26, 2017

Self-Promotion in Academia

Dan Nexon had a long series of tweets about self-promotion, which generated a number of responses. They are all tied nearly here. His main point is that when you publish an article you need to make sure it gets as much attention as possible, which means going to social media consistently. It's not a one-shot deal.

The discussion veered around a bit about how times have changed and what young scholars should be doing now. And that's when I realized that there was no definition of goals. In other words, what's the point of all this? That question will be answered very differently by different people.

Goals include but are not limited to:

  • tenure and promoted to Associate Professor
  • promotion to Full Professor
  • publication
  • citations
  • external grants
  • salary increases
  • visibility in your field
  • visibility to the public
  • engagement with others on a topic you're passionate about
  • fulfilling college/university mission
  • media quotes
  • get invited to give talks
  • become policy relevant (in whatever way)

Some of these overlap, but some don't, and you do different things to achieve them. Self-promotion may or may not be part of that. Plus, some goals are critical to your life and some are not.

Change of vantage point will necessarily shift what choices you make. Take me, for example, and compare me to another white male full professor, even in my own department. Functionally we're the same. I use social media all the time--I love writing, the engagement, etc. The other professor does not, but loves his research and feels great about his work. This doesn't make either of us more or less "successful" in any sense. I won't be paid more because of social media presence, or cited more. If we're both enjoying our careers, then it doesn't matter much.

Or take an assistant professor. Their goal is tenure. Period. For some, social media serves as a way to connect to established scholars and engage with interested people they otherwise wouldn't have met. For others, social media is time consuming, worry-inducing, and draining. I'd tell the second person not to bother. Neither would necessarily be more likely to get tenure.

Of course, if the faculty member is a person of color, a woman, LGBTQ+, and/or any other under-represented minority, the calculation is far different because self-promotion is much more often taken as aggression of some sort and leads to more backlash. As a middle-aged, white, male, tenured full professor I am about as protected as you can get and so my choices are much wider open. Also check out Stephanie Carvin's series of tweets about the work/life balance challenge for women. I also have not addressed non-tenure track faculty, where you add in a whole host of other challenges.

I could go on and on with examples. Self-promotion is good for some, and maybe not for others. It fits some people and not others. I think this is like my many posts about academic writing. There is no single formula.


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