The Small Pond Science Bingo Card


Are you interacting with colleagues from research institutions that have misconceptions about your job? Heading to a conference? Here’s a bingo card:

SmallPondScienceBingoCardTrimFeel free to download a copy and share.

Even though I made this bingo card, I have to admit I’m not a big fan of the genre when it deals with identifying systematic biases (as this one does), because it might close more minds than open them. But after getting R1splained on twitter last week*, I gave into temptation, so here’s the card for handy reference. Yes, I’ve been told everything on this card. Some of them I hear on a regular basis.


  •  Update: Someone asked me what happened to the link. Apparently, some hours after this post came out, the colleague who R1splained me decided to delete the offending tweet. I can only assume that my friend deleted the tweet because he recognized that it was insulting to say that teaching-focused institutions don’t have researchers on their faculty. But I’m not too sure that’s why, because instead of sending an apology, he just blocked me from following him on twitter. So I guess he is ashamed of enough of his words to hide them, but not enough to person up and take responsibility. Oh well. (I did take a screen capture, but I think it wouldn’t be productive to share it. He deleted it for his own reasons and I don’t think my desire to share it should trump those reasons. I understand this is a consequence of misunderstanding, and not malfeasance. My goal here isn’t to shame people who look down on researchers outside R1s, but instead to promote understanding of all of the great research that happens in non-R1s.)

  •  2nd update: Just in case you’re keeping tabs, I noticed I was unblocked. That was nice to stumble upon.


6 thoughts on “The Small Pond Science Bingo Card

  1. Terry – I have to admit I’ve said several of these things (at least I1, B2, G1, and G5 for sure). I think I’ve said them in an honest attempt to learn more about non-R1 environments. So if I were to chide you (very gently), I’d say that a lot of people would like to know more about institutions like yours, and talking about your bingo squares is a way they do so! How that comes off is, I presume, all about the underlying attitude – and I think we’re generally better to ascribe the best motivation at first, at least until we’re forced to reassess that.

    Having gotten that off my chest: I can totally see the annoyance; I could make a similar bingo card about being a a medium-sized institution away from Canada’s big cities :-)

  2. “Nice talk, show you teach a lot” is actually one of the best compliments I ever received (whether it was intended that way or not). I keep that in my back pocket for days I am feeling like an imposter. Anyways, this post made me giggle/cringe at the same time. I’ve also been R1splained about other (research-focused, non-teaching) jobs described as “real jobs”—ouch.

  3. Hi Terry,

    I can totally see why you would find it annoying or patronizing to hear some of these statements. But I’m worried by some of the items on your list. Some of them are statements that I could imagine others making quite often, for perfectly good reasons having nothing to do with any implicit bias against non-R1 institutions or the people who work for them.

    “Great talk, it shows you teach a lot” is an example. Anyone who thinks (as I do) that good teaching and good seminars tend to go hand in hand is quite likely to say that to you–or to someone from an R1 university–as a compliment.

    “I’m jealous you do your own field work” is another example. I know you do your own field work because you’ve blogged about it many times–I don’t assume that you do because of some incorrect stereotype about how research gets done at non-R1 institutions. And as someone who doesn’t collect his own data any more, I am jealous of you.

    “I don’t know how you do it” is another. I say that to colleagues at other universities (R1 and not) all the time, for all sorts of reasons. In general, I’m very impressed with anyone who’s very successful at doing something I know I couldn’t. So now I’ve written myself a mental note to never tell you how impressed I am with all that you do, in case it comes off the wrong way. (just kidding) (sort of)

    “Do you go to seminars at nearby R1?” is another. I’ve asked that question of several colleagues at R1s. Not because I falsely assume that they don’t have any research seminars at their own institutions. But because I’m at a physically isolated university myself, but did my PhD at a university that was itself spread out but was in close proximity to another university. Which makes me generally curious about how much interaction there is between people on nearby campuses of different universities.

    So sorry, but even though I feel like I know you reasonably well, the overall effect of this list on me is one that you seem to have anticipated at the end of your post. I sympathize with your annoyance about getting R1splained all the time. But precisely because I feel I know you reasonably well and respect you highly, I don’t want to add to your annoyance unwittingly. Unfortunately, I question my own ability to show you the friendly respect I want to show you by being thoughtfully self-conscious about what I say to you. Because even knowing you reasonably well, and having read many posts of yours on this topic, there’s no way I ever would’ve (or could’ve) anticipated that some of the phrases on your card come off to you as expressions of bias. I’m even wondering a little if this comment itself doesn’t unwittingly add to your annoyance in some way… I leave it to you to decide if my reaction (which I’m guessing you anticipated) is a feature, or a price worth paying, or what.

    Just my two cents. Take it for what it’s worth, which may not be much.

  4. Jeremy, thanks for the $0.02. I usually try to wait at least a day before commenting on my own posts, but I thought I’d contextualize your comments and respond to your specific items and how they needed up on the bingo card.

    Are these legitimate feelings and real questions that you can wonder about? Sure — this bingo card here is just to let you know how some of them might be received by the recipient.

    When someone from a teaching institution goes to a research conference, then they are already at a deficit on the basis of their institutional affiliation on their nametag. There is, among some in the audience, an expectation that the research won’t be amazing because the author is from an obscure institution. (Is this fair or right or universal? No. But does it happen. Most definitely.)

    In other words, when a person from a teaching-centered institution gives a research talk at a research conference, the last thing they want is a compliment on their teaching in lieu of a compliment on the quality of the research presentation. Amazing data! Great ideas! Cool discovery! But a “you’re a great teacher!”? If that message comes before — or instead of — a compliment on the science itself, then it’s not really a good thing to say, in my opinion.

    It’s like complimenting a chef in a fine restaurant by saying that the food was served hot.

    “Jealous you do your own fieldwork” – I really do enjoy doing my own fieldwork, although I don’t nearly do as much of it as I’d like. And that jealousy is a fine thing for others to have. But if you don’t have a strong relationship with someone already, then this can sound a little condescending. Like a chef running a huge restaurant telling someone who runs a small restaurant chef that they’re jealous that they get to chop their own vegetables. I also recognize the joy of chopping veggies, actually — but it can sound condescending. The flip side of having to do your own fieldwork is not having the funding/people/resources to hire people to do it. By lifting up one side of the coin, the other is in the air too. I’m just telling you, people feel this way.

    “I don’t know how you do it.” – I often, often hear this from people who have very low teaching loads at research institutions. Usually not from anybody else. The implication clearly its that, in the context of my base teaching load, that it’s amazing that I am able to get research done. Why do I find this problematic? Because it betrays a huge assumption about the mission and responsibilities of jobs at teaching institutions outside R1s. Most of us have job expectations that involve substantial research. We get it done because it’s our job. It should not be amazing that we are researchers as well as teachers. The fact that someone thinks we are amazing for merely doing our jobs can be — and often is — a subtle dig at the entire class of institutions that we work for. Research happens a lot outside of R1s and complimenting someone on the fact that we do a lot makes it sound like we’ve chosen a job in which research isn’t valued.

    “Do you go to seminars at nearby R1?” Let me get specific here. A lot of people have asked me, “Do you get to go to UCLA (or Caltech, since my wife works there)?” If that’s the first question you ask, then that doesn’t even entertain the concept that catching seminars at my own university is a worthwhile activity. Imagine you introduced me to your spouse, whose cousin is a movie star. How would your spouse feel if one of my first questions was, “Do you get to hang out with your cousin often?” Your spouse matters as a person, and you’re married to your spouse, not your spouse’s cousin. I work at CSUDH, not at UCLA and not at Caltech. If you mention UCLA or Caltech in the initial get-to-know-you chat, that reveals you’re more concerned about my connection to something better known or prestigious than myself, or my work, or my university. The clear context of the “do you get to visit UCLA?” question is, “Your campus isn’t quite good enough, but do you get to at least have an affiliation with someone that is?” I understand that’s not always the intention in this question, but it’s very easy to to interpret it this way, and people do.

  5. As a fellow prof at a liberal arts college, I thought your bingo card was spot-on. Others that have driven me up the wall during the almost 3 years I’ve been at a small institution include:
    “Are you at [institution] because you couldn’t get any other faculty jobs?”
    “So, have you had buyer’s remorse yet?” (<- from the chair of an R1 department where I turned down an offer the same year I accepted the offer of my current job)
    Also, the ever-popular, “Oh, [institution]… where is that again?”
    And the imposter-syndrome-inducing, “But how could you NOT get tenure at a teaching institution? Don’t they just give everyone tenure?” (HA HA HA HA HA cringe)
    (Specific to my institution: “Is that the women’s college?” Nope… just because they start with the same letter does not make them the same institution!)

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