advisees/tenure?

Una Smith una at doliolum.biology.yale.edu
Wed Jan 15 19:44:34 EST 1997


Chris <cboake at utk.edu> made a number of good points, but I think one item
needs to be handled more precisely:

>>   I know of quite a few highly respected and widely published faculty who
>> have produced few if any PhD's.  The explanations usually get back to
>> their being so busy with their own careers that they neglect or alienate
>> or terrorize their students.  This lack of success in training does not
>> correlate with their success in publication, funding, or progress up the
>> academic ladder.

Quantity of PhD's produced DOES NOT EQUAL quality.  There are few jobs
available in a small, established (i.e., not rapidly growing) field such
as paleobotany, compared to larger or newer fields.  It would be utterly 
inappropriate for faculty in such a field to produce as many PhD's as
their colleages in some other fields.  Relative to other paleobotanists,
my advisor has produced an average or higher number of PhDs.  But his
career total is unlikely to go beyond 10.  He produces 1 PhD about every
4 years.  Some other faculty in my department have huge research groups
and produce 5-10 PhDs in the same period.  A better measure of "success"
vis a vis graduate training might be the number of PhD's produced per
unit of money spent.  By that measure, my advisor is surely one of the
top performers in my department, because paleobotany research requires
no expensive equipment or exotic reagents.  No matter how big the field
is, if it is stable then the equilibrium production rate is on average
roughly 1 PhD student (who stays in academia) per professor, over his or
her entire career.  And it is hard to see how current PhD production
rates (far above the rate of growth of the fastest growing populations
in any nation), without greatly broadening the purpose(s) for which a
PhD is a worthwhile or necessary investment.


>>   I do agree with Valerie and several other posters that some faculty
>> cannot accept that their students will not all have academic careers. 

I have encountered this stereotype too.  But I've also heard it the other
way:  faculty who seem to think you're a mindless drone working toward a
PhD merely because you have no idea what else to do.  Sadly, I have known
students who are in graduate school for precisely that reason.

	Una Smith



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