More Research, Less “Closure”

I am still working on my dissertation (expected May 2015). One of my problems thus far as a graduate student is that I have twice been denied admittance to the APSA conference; perhaps the most prestigious conference for political scientists in the world. In my opinion, and the committee or chair who refused me, my work “does not fit” with the category to which I applied.

I am happy to hear that APSA has accepted petitions to open up a new section. I believe that at least one of my papers would have made the new section, if it were available. Basically, in order to solve political issues, we need to open up research doors and not restrict a student of political science’s research agenda to established categories. Here is proof of such success from an email I just received:

I’m happy to report that the system works, if a bit creakily. An administrative mixup at APSA prevented the news from reaching me until recently, but after I submitted a petition with 307 signatures in January, the APSA committee on organized sections approved the creation of an organized section on Political Epistemology. Our first business meeting has been set for Saturday, August 30, 1-2 PM, at the Marriott Capital Boardroom in DC (during APSA).

According to the preliminary bylaws I submitted with the petition, we will fill seven positions by election: President and six other Executive Council members, who will then elect from their number a Secretary, a Treasurer, and a Communications Officer. Since we do not as yet have dues-paying members who might vote online (dues have yet to be established), the seven positions will be filled at the meeting. Equally important, we can discuss section goals, ideas for awards, the possibility of a journal, and whatever else.

I recognize that everyone will not be able to make it to the meeting, so I’d like to encourage you to send me any thoughts about the section that you’d like shared with those who will be there. I’ll be sure that your comments are circulated. And if you’d like a copy of the bylaws, just let me know.

Thank you for helping to make this new venture possible. Perhaps it will help focus political scientists’ attention on the role of ideas in political behavior and the normative implications of that role.

Jeffrey Friedman
Visiting Scholar, Dept. of Government, U. of Texas, Austin
Editor, Critical Review: A Journal of Politics & Society
P.O. Box 869, Helotes, TX 78023″
I would like to congratulate Jeffrey Friedman! Hope to see you at APSA!
Finally, let’s be aware of closure, whereby my understanding is different than your erudition, and you call me “out” when I am clearly “safe.”

17 thoughts on “More Research, Less “Closure”

  1. Your defense has been pushed back? Hope things are going well.

    I think APSA should be selective. There are other conferences that admit almost everyone (MPSA, for example) where people can get experience. Further, I think panel fit is important. Too often I go to a panel and really only care about one or two papers because the others are not really on the topic. I think it makes the experience more enjoyable for presenters and attendees.

  2. My defense has never been set, but if a job opened up, I was told that it could be possible to set it since I have the dissertation pretty much done. As an optimist, I wanted to be on the job market for this fall–but no job offer, and so now I’m focusing on producing a better dissertation and applying for 2015. Good question!

    Panel fit is very important, yet I think there is an great debate on the available panels and the panels that would be available in a perfect system which accepted all projects meaningfully contributing to the ps literature. We’ll probably never close the gap there completely, but that’s a conversation worth having, and partially solving (as in the post) I think.

    Thanks for you comments!

  3. I think section chairs have a pretty good idea what people in their section want to see presented. Section chairs have to schedule panels that will get section members to attend. If panel attendance is low, they get less panels the next year. So while it does suck that graduate students do not always get the experience to network and present (you can always go and not present to network!), I think there is a good reason for it at least.

    My best advice is to 1) attend smaller specialized conferences and attend high acceptance conferences (like MPSA) and prove yourself. If you do well here you might make it to the next step and 2) use social media like twitter to engage in conversations with people in your subfield and share your research in a very digestible fashion (graph or table). But be careful not to use social media for solely the purpose of self-promotion, that gets annoying.

  4. There’s a difference in where we are coming from: I’m talking about “new” panels to expand research lines so that the members of the field are adequately represented; and you are talking about how panels currently exist and may whither away.

    Having been to a handful of conferences (see my Research Page), sometimes just as a participant, I agree with your sentiments about networking at small conferences. I do recommend Wayne State’s citizenship conference. I have more LinkedIn connections from that conference than MPSA (twice attended) and APSA’s Teaching and Learning conference combined. see

    Again, I see our approaches as different to self-promotion. All my work on Political Pipeline (blog), Government_Now (Twitter) and my LinkedIn account presuppose that I am building up the field–not myself. My former social media sites are my “professional outlets” for me as a educator and researcher–Facebook is for pictures of my backyard and raving Michigan State comments…All of which do not represent Wayne State University (you’re in check again, haha).

    Playing a game of chess, you know I am a “republican” or political Independent. I imagine you prefer progressive liberalism and the Democratic Party. Sincerely curious. Thanks for the good comments!

  5. I think my argument is operating under the assumption that there is simply not enough room for new panels (Indeed, most discussions of conference reform include decreasing the number of panels because many in the field think there are already too many!) so I am willing to defer to section chairs. I think they are capable of selecting papers that they feel best represent what their members want to see. This view may be colored by the fact that I’ve never been rejected from a conference but I think I’d feel the same if I had been.

    What do you mean by professional outlets? How does that differ from engaging other scholars in your field and getting your name out there?

    I also heard that Wayne State University placed six students on the market this year. That is very good. Do you have details about the placements?

    Why do you presume me to be a Democrat or progressive liberal?

  6. Recent Job Placements for Wayne State Grads:

    Assistant Professor in the Department of Political Science at Grambling State University in Louisiana.

    Assistant Professor of Political Science and Associate Director of the Pennsylvania Center for Women and Politics at Chatham University in Pittsburgh, PA

    Assistant Professor in the Department of Political Science at Saginaw Valley State University

    Visiting Assistant Professor of Political Science at Drake University in Des Moines, IA

    Assistant Professor in the School of Public, Nonprofit and Health Administration at Grand Valley State University

  7. I’m applying to every position that I would be a good fit for. Since I research republicanism as a core American value, I am able to apply for a wide range of opportunities. Just applied to University of Colorado at Boulder–talk about a great fit!

    per our discussion and original post, “what the field thinks” seems really arbitrary… second, a “radical” [political] scientist actually creates “new” research lines for “the field”; meaning, “what the field thinks” hasn’t been thought about before… My point is that research by radicals is limited or even missing from conferences by organizational / institutional design.

    My reason for posting was to advertise and congratulate APSA on “moving forward” in a responsible way, and the actual people who accomplished the task. In this way, “new” is still alive.

  8. Regarding statistics on Wayne hiring, that’s good advice. However, with a Master’s in Teaching and an enterprising research agenda with the help of Jeff Grynaviski and Philip Abbott, I might have a statistical chance if and when one of my 3 articles circulating top-tier journals does land. I also have an extensive twitter and LinkedIn network, and I have used my blog to connect with many of the top professionals in the field over the years. My background at James Madison College and my focused research agenda on “republicanism” are important too. Anyway, it’s hard to go wrong by giving myself the opportunity, even if UC Boulder simply learns my identity and background from my letters of rec. Indeed, I did just apply to Kenyon College, which is an awesome fit too, and statistically much more likely to hire me (without a top-tier journal article and an active research agenda).

    I think “great fit” is the best predictor. If UC Boulder needs an expert on American republicanism–I just might be the best candidate as Assistant Professor–not Associate until I’m established in the field.

    Article is poking at my research agenda but doesn’t break through. There is a difference between republicanism and liberalism, and it matters to American politics. The field almost always focuses on liberalism during explanation these days.

  9. I do not think “great fit” is the best predictor. The best predictor is prestige of phd department and number of articles published. Most job ads are not detailed enough for candidates to know whether something is a great fit. In American Politics most job ads are relative vague indicating that they are looking for someone in institutions or behavior.

    I think Kenyon might be too high. If you look at their most recent hires, it is students from the ivies like Yale getting those jobs. Kenyon is one of the premier liberal arts college in the Midwest!

    What do you think the probability of one of your articles landing in one of these journals is considering the fact that your work has been rejected from both MPSA and APSA in the last year? I do not mean to sound mean or rude but I think its important that people have realistic expectations. Giving yourself an opportunity is great but if the probability is so remote it becomes counterproductive. You could be using the time and funds to apply to more realistic job or to polish up some articles/finish your dissertation.

    Look at Wayne’s placement over the past few years, have they placed anyone at an institution like Boulder or Kenyon? What makes you different where you think you could land a job at one of these institutions? All graduating phd students have research agendas and potential articles out for review.

  10. Also, if you think that article is wrong you should blog about it. Why is it wrong, what do they miss, an why is it important? Share that post on twitter with the author of that article. That is an example of great social media usage.

  11. I don’t think the article is wrong. I simply find different insight into explanations, usually. As a metaphor, say the “event” we are talking about is a pond. Your link might describe the water, and I might describe some fish and the pollution levels. There’s nothing wrong about either description–and we, as political scientists, will never provide the reader with the “full explanation.”

    I have been asked to do more social media blogging by faculty at Wayne, which is encouraging, but time restrictions have their price. I just got an article out yesterday… if I knew it would be rejected, I certainly wouldn’t waste my time sending it. And if I am rejected, for the grinding times that’s true, I can tell you that I have usually learned something from the experience.

    I expect Kenyon to favor my Master of Arts in Teaching degree more than Boulder, as well as my Microsoft Office Master certification and technology skill set. Since 2006, I have had excellent / superior student evaluations categorically (see Teaching Tab). I think a liberal arts college needs a quality researcher and a “master teacher!” I have the experience, student evaluations, and credentials to contend that I am a master teacher (i.e., about 100 credit hours higher education, over two additional years teaching technology in adult education). Coming from James Madison College, I prize the liberal arts college environment and as a community orientated individual, I constantly aim to strengthen the community in which I reside–like see Royal Oak’s “Business” website, more of which you can find here too (as my recommendation to the City regarding the Business page):


    You will probably find than many Ivy League candidates have very little teaching experience, let alone a Masters and a presentation on “new higher education teaching pedagogy” to turn a lecture hall into a “learning debate” (i.e., my APSA’s Teaching and Learning Conference paper).

    Perhaps I’m too idealistic here, but it comes down to me as an individual and what I offer, compared to my competition. As a researcher for Jeff Grynaviski these past couple years (see our MPSA paper, 2014), the question Boulder and Kenyon should ask is: Who will be more productive as a researcher, and more proficient as an educator, than Girdwood–if and when hired?

    From James Madison College to Jeff Grynaviski, my company is not much different than any Ivy League Schools (like Wayne’s faculty). And I can tell you that Grynaviski’s expectations aren’t any less for me than for any other student of his when he was at the University of Chicago.

    As for my work that has been rejected, please see the post to which these comments are made. Rejection is not equal to incompetence, in case that’s where you are going with it…

  12. I am curious, when you tell your advisers you are applying to these places, what do they say?

    I don’t think anyone will care that you know how to use Microsoft. Do you know how to code? That is a skill places are looking for!

    I am also unsure the weight given to an MA in teaching. The style of teaching one learns doing an MA in teaching is much different than college (and especially liberals arts) teaching. But I guess it does not hurt.

    Rejection may not equal incompetence but my point is that that barrier to entry at a conference is much lower than barrier to entry at a peer-reviewed journal (let alone a top journal). Its almost for certain if an article does not get accepted to a conference that its very very very unlikely that it will be accepted for publication. If you can not jump over a one foot fence, what makes you think you can jump over a five foot fence?

    And if you don’t think your pedigree is that different from the ivy league…I’d say your delusional. You might read the same material in a substantive seminar but its totally different. The expectations are greater. Your professors are more knowledgeable. The students are more knowledgeable and committed 100% to the program (no part-timers or people who work full-time). Then when it comes to methodological tools you are just blown out of the water. Its not even close. I’d wager that second year students at most top-twenty institutions have more advanced methodological tool kits than most fifth year (and beyond) Wayne students.

  13. 1. they affirm when they sent a letter of rec. If Stanford isn’t interested, they’re not involving my advisors–yet someone at Stanford does see my name, and my application.

    2. Code? Why do they need that when their are web developers to tap down the hall? Big projects can be internships for them as professional development…. On the other hand, yes, I think it’s an advantage to have a solid twitter, linkedin, and blog (i.e., another reason to use your real name online).

    3. I lost you here. Having just finished teaching the new GTAs at Wayne State (i.e., I did the Microteaching sessions at orientation for Wayne’s poli-sci dept); I can say that my teaching experience, prima facie, is a large advantage (for me as a job candidate) to any search committee placing a high value on hiring someone who has the demonstrated ability to share teaching strategies, activities, and ideas–a new Professor whose students will be enthusiastic learners because of excellent teaching. Many PhD recent graduates have little to no teaching experience, and sorry, but you can’t learn what I learned in a MAT program through short certification… that’s like saying a semester as a poli-sci student means you know as much as a graduated masters of poli-sci–not true. For high end research institutions who have one great teacher; yeah, I’m off their list with any competition, but we really don’t know who else is applying, do we? And for all other places, maybe I have the most demonstrated teaching agenda (as an applicant) with a growing research agenda and a dissertation under the direction of respected academics.

    4. If the paper wasn’t given at a conference, for whatever reason, it is still in my interest to get professional feed back on it. My research agenda and “base” of articles has been improving in quality and clarity because of the feedback–or the continual reshaping of the article for a new journal is an efficacious experience considering my line of work. Like, I’m “working” and you seem to be saying–stop working. And if the paper lands, the chances of me getting a pay increase rises, etc.

    5. To say something or someone is delusional is to say that you know “reality.” How do you define it?

    I’m thinking: In my high school, there were a couple classrooms of students who “could” get a PhD. The reality is that only a few from my high school will get a PhD…. 20 years later, anyone who is getting a PhD is from one of those early classrooms, so to speak; a bright person. all phds, regardless of quirks, are bright people. The “hiring” question then becomes: what position is vacant and what skillset will fill the vacancy? Or, from all these bright candidates, who has demonstrated good research and teaching commitments in line with the vacancy? You seems to be placing the following subsidiary question as primary: Which five candidates are from highest ranking universities according to this (given) list of ranked Universities? Truth is, neither of us know the reality, so we are both a little, or perchance a lot, delusional about it.

  14. 1: Its not necessarily positive that they see your name. Could cause negative attitudes toward you and your advisers for applying for a job that you have no chance at getting. Hiring committees do not want to look through trash. And in all honestly, a department secretary probably handles the first cut. Just looking at institution and publication records.

    2: The fact that you do not understand why code is an important skill to have proves you do not understand modern political science properly.

    3: My point here is the style of teaching learned from a master’s degree in teaching (aimed at high school students or whatever) is completely different than teaching secondary students. If you are teaching your students the same way you learned to teach high school students you are failing them.

    4: The peer-review pipeline is clogged up enough already. It would be a professional service for you to not submit articles have almost no chance of being published. For example, if you can get in at MPSA with it there is NO way you are getting it in at peer-reviewed journal. If you continue to submit articles that have no chance of getting published you are failing the profession.

    5: That is the great thing about methods. There is in fact a right way and a wrong way to do them. Be honest, if I gave you the data could you replicate this graph?

    6: Bright is not binary. It is continuous. Your last point assumes a binary where all phds are bright and therefore quality cancels out and fit is the determent of employment. I would also argue that fit is not exogenous. Often times schools will decide to hire based on a candidate on the market. For example, Stanford is hiring this year because they want to hire Andy Hall. If Andy Hall was not on the job market, Stanford probably would not be hiring.

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