What happens off campus stays off campus


I suspect that one’s research profile on campus has no relationship to what happens off campus in the research community. (Keep in mind that this pertains to teaching campuses.)

These kinds of perceptions might matter, to some extent, if they govern how resources are allocated.

A person might be considered to be mighty fine on campus in their small pond (get it?!), but among their research peers could be unknown. Likewise, I’ve known a couple people who have been tremendous scholars in their own fields but this fact was either unknown, unappreciated, or willfully ignored on their own campus.

There might even be a negative relationship between the two parameters. Some people who have scant standing in their scholarly communities can easily puff up every little thing and can readily deceive professors outside their disciplines. In some fields, conferences are more prestigious than journal articles, and in others, only books count for much. In one’s own department, the sham might be transparent, but throughout campus the big scholarly charades can be successful. Promoting yourself on campus takes time, and that’s time that could be spent getting real work done.

Serious and productive scholars may have no time or incentive for promoting or discussing their research on campus. In departments or colleges where major research is more cause for suspicion than praise (which I’ve seen multiple times), wise researchers should keep their heads down.

(As a corollary, most administrators are smart people and can see through the bunk pretty easily, and they also have access to information that others don’t have. So, a widespread perception among faculty on campus doesn’t mean that the the Dean and the Provost don’t know the time of day. This is, as far as I’m concerned, the only place where perceptions matter, because this is where resources get allocated. I don’t really know how to influence this, though, other than by keeping my head down and working. If I use my words sparingly, each one will have more weight. So, I avoid interacting with administrators as much as possible, so that if I really do need something, there’s a greater chance they’ll be there for me. That’s the most sophisticated I’ve gotten at image management, which I think is rudimentary.)

In short, my anecdotal observations suggest that, the more someone talks about research on a teaching campus, the less it happens. I’m not sure how universal this observation might apply, though.

2 thoughts on “What happens off campus stays off campus

  1. Interesting post. I’m not sure I agree 100%. I do think it important to talk about your research on a small campus as resources tend to go to those that can demonstrate productivity and the more that your colleagues in other disciplines know “what you do”, then I think the better you fare in internal funding decisions. Also, curious about the potential to “up” the research profile of people in small ponds with other aspects of social media. I think this blog is a good example. Carry on!

  2. I’m not sure I agree 100% either. If there is a correlation, though, i think it’s a weak one. I bet you couldn’t run the parametric analysis anyway, because the distribution of the people would be bimodal.

    I’ve got a post in the works about this in more detail.

    I think it would be very good for researchers on teaching campuses to talk up their research. But this doesn’t always happen, and sometimes for good reason.

    When it comes to internal funding decisions, I’ll let my CV speak to the committee that makes those decisions, and if I’m more productive than they thought I would be based on my rep on campus, I’ll let them be surprised. It cuts both ways. If I’m productive enough, they’ll say that I don’t need their help anymore as the people who aren’t productive need the boost. That’s damn annoying. I’d much rather have support than a reputation. Also, if you build a reputation, that means that the pressure is on you to deliver. I’d rather be low profile and surprise people on occasion. Ultimately, though, if I’m hobnobbing around campus, I’d prefer to talk about things other than myself.

    (In my own situation, trumpeting my own work wouldn’t help me out, and probably make things worse. I stop at notifying the PR people about new papers, and taping the first page of reprints of this current and previous year on my door. That’s just to deflect any criticism that someone might have if I’m not working because I’m not in my office.)

    I don’t think I’ll break the fourth wall and discuss how this blog might affect my profile, which to me is still a mystery at this point anyway.

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