Posts

Robert Caro as a Model

In today's New York Times (9Jan20) there is an article about Robert Caro, author of monumental histories of Robert Moses and LBJ. His research and writing are monumental as well. You are unlikely to finish writing a Caro book in time for tenure review, unless it began as you dissertation. But few academic historians as as revered as is Caro.
While it is foolish to expect your dissertation work to be as pathbreaking as is Caro's work, still it sets a standard for effort and writing that may well inspire you, not a bad thing. Choose your heroes with care, and surely do not restrict them to professors and the like.

Plagiarism

The current public affairs person at Treasury has been found to have a doctoral dissertation rife with unattributed quotations etc. Several years ago, in a doctoral course, I found that the final papers were filled with unattributed quotations, paraphrases, etc.  This is cheating, violations of academic integrity, and may lead to harsh penalties.
Of course, do not intentionally cheat, leave out references to sources, and quotation marks when appropriate. To be sure, ask you advisor or instructor to put your paper through TurnItIn's test for originality. Such copying is common in consulting and politics. 
So for advice see a regular faculty member who has a deep research portfolio and many publications. (Our spectacular teaching faculty may not have these since research is not part of the job description.)
Seymour Cray was the premier supercomputer designer.  His firm was Cray Research, after he left CDC. John Rollwagen, his CEO,... 
    The real message was something I always told our people. Namely that we had exclusive access to Seymour's disruptive ability to create uniquely powerful computers from quite common elements. And that we, in turn, uniquely organized ourselves to build and sell as many of those machines as possible in competition with some of the largest companies on the planet.
     We succeeded by embracing Seymour's disruptive talent and then singlemindedly organizing around it. I always reminded the Crayons that our success came from that total commitment to supercomputers and if there came a time when we became the disrupted rather than the disrupters, it would be time to move on with happy memories and great resumes.

Promotion and Tenure, some probabilities

Empirically,
Marginal tenure cases lead to marginal careers, or disappointing ones. Probability is above 95%, maybe 98%. They take much longer than other cases to be promoted to full, if they are so promoted at all.Rarely does a tenure turndown then have a distinguished scholarly career. Surely there is a stigma to being turned down, but that seems not to be be the issue. Perhaps 1-2% of turndowns have distinguished subsequent careers. Slow progress from associate to full is only rarely accompanied with the production of a major work when they come up for promotion. Probability is 5% at most.In general, we make many more mistaken positive decisions than mistaken negative ones, the ratio being perhaps 10:1.
The basic principle is that being a faculty member of a university that is on the rise is a rare opportunity. Mistaken appointments and promotions preclude our appointing more talented scholars. And there is a agglomeration effect, more excellence leads to further excellence, while we…

The Road To Hell, and The Weather Along the Way

Would we be better off were we to swear off apocalyptic thinking?
I have spent much of my research career thinking about apocalyptic possibilitiesEach possibility has passed out of consideration, although the arguments have merit, and even the evidence is persuasive. The big question is when to constrain behavior, and if there is ever a time when it is "too late" to act. Also, we are rather weak at predicting technological developments compared to sketching apocalypses, so the apocalypse tends to have a better argument than a more wait-and-see policy, or perhaps a deliberate research effort to develop those technologies (which may be a matter of societal arrangements rather than a material discovery). More generally, the prospect of apocalypse is used to  justify policies and behavior that would otherwise seem not so prudent.
The possibility of doom, if taken as a matter of decision analysis, is fraught with uncertainty, and correspondingly with fright and faith. I am unsure…

Micro and Macro

The standout part of the Harrassment Training was the video on microaggressions. My version of that is when I am said to be intellectual and smart. Often it is less a compliment than a microaggression. I first recall being told I was smart when I was an assistant professor, by a friend/colleague, and it was meant as a genuine description--I had always known really talented people since I was exposed to them from places other than my high school, and then in college. I surely was  and am not in their league, neither so smart or sophisticated.We know that "smart" or other such terms were used to describe Jewish academics, and it was generally not at all a compliment, meaning uncouth and just intelligent. The Soviet Union specialized in this as did the Third Reich, so supplying the US with some of its greatest scientists and mathematicians. In general, until about 1955-1960 the Ivies were not exact so welcoming of Jews, for which see Karabel, The Chosen.https://www.amazon.com/…

Preface to a book in draft, People at Work In Industrial Los Angeles or The City as a Composed Synergetic Syzygy