On Academic Productivity

How are some people so very productive in academia? I guess most of us will have a pet theory or too. This post from orgtheory.net has a nice list of productive behavior. Lists like this are worth saving an revisiting so thats a good a reason as any to post it here:

  • Team work: Almost every star I’ve asked works in large groups. If you look at the CV’s, they have tons of co-authors.
  • Division of Labor: A lot of them have told me that they are very good at assigning tasks. One of them told me he *never* does fund raising. He works with another prof who in a medical school who has access to funds.
  • Shamelessness: Most academics sulk over rejections. These folks don’t. Soon as a paper gets rejected, they send it out ASAP.
  • Recognizing diminishing marginal returns: A paper will improve between first and second drafts. These folks understand that obsession over the 2oth and 21st version is pointless.
  • Attitude: Sounds corny, but every single one of these folks has an amazing forward looking attitude. They love what they do and they see the future as bright.
  • Minimizing junk work: Some probably shirk teaching or admin work, but what I have observed is that they are ruthlessly efficient. They reuse course materials, borrow syllabi, and use teaching to deepen their knowledge of a topic.
  • Recognizing the randomness of reviews: Most people complain about the randomness of reviewers. The star publishers draw the logical conclusion. If you can get random negatives, you get random positives.So just keep submitting until it you randomly pull positive reviews.

Bottom line: Sure, some people are geniuses, but a lot of productive people simply very good at time management and they don’t let the little things get to them.

The part about junk work is the part I take most issue with. I get that shirking teaching and admin free’s up more time for writing but it also does create a bad sense of faculty and collaboration. It also means that other faculty have to take up the slack. I don’t mean that admin should become or take over your life but that’s a far distance from shirking.

The Unmanly Reader

There is something compelling about lists. That’s why they are often used as clickbait and some of them are amusing. But there is something about book lists. The 10, 50, 100 books you should read always makes me wonder why the list is there. Is it to make those who have read them feel better? Or is it designed to make those who haven’t read feel inferior? Or maybe they are designed to rank our cultural capital? If you read 80 out of 100 on the list you have a solid B. Its good but you must try harder. Oh, dear only a C- well then…

This usually doesn’t bother me but then I came across the list of 80 Books Every Man Should Read with the tag line: ” An unranked, incomplete, utterly biased list of the greatest works of literature ever published. How many have you read?”

What does it mean? How many must I have read to be considered a man?

Friday list 1: Worst 100 films

Everyone needs a useless list. Especially on a Friday. Among the more interesting useless is the 100 worst films (ever). This comes from the Internet Movie Database. Here are the worst ten films ever:

90. 2.3 Bela Lugosi Meets a Brooklyn Gorilla (1952) 671
91. 2.3 The Quick and the Undead (2006) 803
92. 2.3 Kazaam (1996) 9,637
93. 2.3 Levottomat 3 (2004) 1,660
94. 2.3 Shark: Rosso nell’oceano (1984) 1,018
95. 2.3 Turbo: A Power Rangers Movie (1997) 3,077
96. 2.3 House IV (1992) 797
97. 2.3 Battlefield Earth: A Saga of the Year 3000 (2000) 31,463
98. 2.3 The Last Sign (2005) 972
99. 2.3 Track of the Moon Beast (1976) 1,254
100. 2.3 American Soldiers (2005) 1,417

Makes me want to go and rent them!