Tuesday, August 05, 2008

Coffee Shop (Summer 2008)

This is an open thread, subject to moderation. Anything that doesn't belong in the actual rumors thread or the discussion of the job-hunting process, but does cover the general ground of what's appropriate grist for the mill, should be posted here. Examples include: journal discussions, press discussions, and conference discussions.


Anonymous said...

If hiring and tenuring at R1s were as predictable as you make it out, I would expect to see much less turbulence.


Huh? Just how much turbulence is there? If all one did was read the rumor mill, then you'd think there's nothing but turbulence. But there are obviously huge selection effects in terms of what gets posted on the rumor mill. Not many people would interested in reading a post saying, "Breaking news! Joe Schmo is staying at Blah University for the eighteenth consecutive year."

I'd hypothesize that there's a lot more stability than there is turbulence in this (and most other) fields. And for good reasons--both personal and organizationally. Anybody who's been around this business for any length of time knows that moving a senior scholar is very difficult.

The "turbulence" gets such attention on this board precisely because it is relatively unusual, not because it is so common.

Anonymous said...

On a separate thread, I'm working on my first book and have been talking to 2 presses, Cornell and Penn. My work would fall broadly into Security Studies. Any thoughts on which one is better regarded?

Anonymous said...

I could understand a legitimate debate between Princeton University Press and Cornell, but I cannot understand any debate over whether someone should publish their first book with Cornell or Penn. Needless to say, I don't think Penn is even remotely close to Cornell in the area of security studies.

Anonymous said...

7:32 is correct. Tough to beat the input of Roger Haydon. He will make the book better...or reject it.

See the survey of IR scholars a few years ago. They rated the quality of different academic presses in IR. The usual suspects came up as the "top" publishers -- Cambridge, Princeton, Oxford, and Cornell. Penn is nowhere on this list.

Anonymous said...

7:32 is right. Don't even consider PENN. I know of someone who decided to go with them and still regrets it.

Anonymous said...

I am currently a PhD student considering a transfer in graduate programs. I'll appreciate any advice on...

1. The schools that provide good training in formal and statistical methodology (the ones that come to mind are Stanford, Rochester and NYU)

2. Is it unusual for a graduate student to transfer programs?

3. How are reference letters to the new institution handled? If the change is for both professional and personal reasons, is it ok to directly ask for a reference letter from an existing faculty, or is it better to go under the radar?

4. In the event the transfer does not come through, could this affect funding at the current institution?

I get a feeling that I have not weighed all the risks of a transfer, so I'll appreciate any input.

Many thanks!

Anonymous said...

I am a recent PhD who has an honest question that has been nagging on my mind for years. That is: what the heck is the purpose of calling yourself a "neo-realist" or a "liberal" or a "constructivist" anymore? Maybe before the quantitative revolution in IR they were convenient because they gave us something to write about. But anymore, these labels are supremely frustrating. They force us into silly paradigmatic boxes that clearly do not fit for all questions all of the time. Is there anyone out there who really believes that a positivist science of international relations requires that we know how to distinguish structural realism from neorealism from neoliberal institutionalism from the English school from constructivism and on and on and on?

Anonymous said...

If you apply for a transfer, and then end up staying at your current institution, I don't think it would affect funding at your current institution, unless the faculty at your current institution are amazingly petty and bitter.

Anonymous said...

If I were considering a transfer, I'd talk to other grads who have done so. Rochester has many current graduates who transferred from other programs. Just write them.

Anonymous said...

I think that is a very interesting question. Let me give my two cents. I think that there is a lot of cross-pollination going on these days, making it harder to put people in boxes, and less useful to try. But I think it is confined to the part of the field that is not rationalist. Neoclassical realism is essentially the wedding of structural realism to constructivism and cognitive psychology. And constructivists are increasingly fond of showing how those with socially constructed goals can utilize rationalist means to achieve their ends, or use the fact that aspects of international life are socially constructed to achieve their egoistic agenda. I think this is all great, and pushes us forward where our groupthink in the past held us back.

But it hasn't been reciprocated by rationalists, who are much more easily identifiable, and have much more of a standard template from which they don't stray: some form of interests, institutions and information. The only thing that varies is the model, just which interests they disaggregate, etc.

But this is a big problem, because this work is more highly valued by the field as a whole than anything else. And if rationalists aren't open to cross-pollination, it affects those who do interesting work on the lines between paradigms adversely. I speak from experience. Rationalists will argue that it is just a methodology, without any empirical content. But most of us know this isn't true. It would be easier to have a dialogue if it were.

Anonymous said...

As someone whom the previous poster would without doubt identify as a rationalist, albeit one who has hung out with the sorts of people whom that poster likes, let me quickly sketch what I think would be a typical "rationalist" response. To generalize broadly about a group of people who in many ways vary quite widely, the rationalist camp emerged in the 1990's as a response to the perception that the paradigm wars had not accomplished very much, in large part because there was an excessive focus on grand theory and insufficient focus on theoretical rigor and empirical validation. The main failings of the paradigm war period were, again from a rationalist perspective, that the major theories were unfalsifiable (if the end of the Cold War can be made compatible with neorealism, then just about anything can), that there was an insufficient focus on mid-level questions, and that you had two groups of people yelling at each other and drawing bright lines in the sand (e.g. Mearsheimer on institutions) when these fights were never going to resolve anything because the truth was somewhere in the middle.

From this perspective, rationalists attempted to pick up the good insights of the grand theories but a) be less dogmatic in how they could be applied and b) attempt to be much more rigorous in both drawing testable implications from theory and in testing those implications. How successful this has been overall is a matter for debate -- personally I'd say that rationalist work has done well on clarifying theory but has had more trouble developing good tests of those theories.

This perspective colors the questions the previous poster commented on. If the grand theories are now getting together, this isn't too exciting to rationalists, since they feel that they've been exploring the implications of such a synthesis for a long time now. Moreover, the sense is that a lot of work of the sort that the previous posted applauds remains committed to the sort of grand theories that ostensibly can explain a lot but in practice are basically unfalsifiable/consistent with anything. Finally, it probably doesn’t encourage rationalists to reach out to this literature that a significant (although in my experience declining) population in the non-rationalist camp displays strikingly little knowledge of or interest in rationalist work.

A number of implications follow from this situation: yes, paradigm boundaries are much less useful for sorting work out these days; yes, in practice rationalism goes beyond being just a method to have empirical content (although that content largely builds upon prior work, and there's more variety in the rationalist camp than many traditionalists recognize); and rationalists would argue that their work is more highly valued because by moving beyond the paradigm wars it found a way to do a better job of uncovering new and interesting arguments and empirical findings. None of this should imply that rationalism does not have its own failings (and it's quite consistent with the argument that a lot of rationalist work, especially the earlier stuff, simply recapitulated more traditional studies with new language). But at the end of the day I joined the rationalist camp because I found that it gave me the best tools to answer the real-world questions that I wanted to answer.

Anonymous said...

I also want to get some advice on how to successfully complete a tranfer from one dept to another. Specifically, I would like to know:

1) What kind of stuffs I should (or should not) put into my statement (e.g., rationale on why am I leaving my old dept, a prelim research proposal, name of faculty I want to work with, etc.)?

2) How transfer credits are usually handled when students are transferring? Would I lose some of the credits I already earned at my current dept (by the time I transfer it would be the end of the second year in my program)?

3) Any other tips that could have increased my chances of getting accepted into the program I want to enter (e.g., try to develop contacts with someone in the new dept)?

Any advices from people who were in my situation (or knew someone who did) would be much appreciated. Thanks in advance.

Anonymous said...

Chances are if you're transferring from an R1 to another R1, the faculty know each other and can quickly find out if there's a red flag causing you to want to transfer (i.e., failing grades, screaming match with your adviser, etc.). So I wouldn't mention your reasons in the statement.

Anonymous said...

In my view, 5:55 is *dead wrong.* I've sat on admissions committees under certain circumstances and if you *don't* explain your reasons for transfer committee members get suspicious. That doesn't mean you bash your institution, but explain why it doesn't suit your needs, you need to relocate for personal reasons, or whatever.

Do not count on your letter writers to specify your reasons either. Sometimes they do, sometimes they don't.

And while faculty do know each other, sometimes when you're looking at hundreds of apps you forget, other times the faculty member you know isn't available, and sometimes the person with the file at the key moment doesn't know anyone who knows you.

Anonymous said...

I agree with 6:53. If you're applying to transfer into the grad program I direct, the admissions committee will want to know why. Admitting grad students who are enrolled in other programs can be risky. In addition to the possibility that such applicants are malcontents or people with a near-fatal lack of social skills, we've gotten applications from students running from a record of academic dishonesty. Anyway, we're likely to be suspicious. I'd like to see your reasons explained in your personal statement and confirmed in faculty recommendation letters. If you're not sure your recommenders will mention why you're transferring, ask them to. If your record merits serious consideration for admission and funding, I am likely to check out your story by contacting the letter writers or others I know in your department, if there is anyone.

Anonymous said...

I would think the red flags are most likely to emerge if you are trying to make a lateral transfer (between two programs of relatively equal quality). Then, one would want to know why.

But in many case students are seeking to make an obvious move upwards to a better program. In that case, it's fairly obvious why, so you want to take care that your letter does not seem arrogant or demeaning towards your current department. So better to justify your application in terms of all the wonderful things the target program has to offer rather than all the things your current department doesn't.

Anonymous said...

i am looking for a good IR department ranking list. which is/are your favorite/s?

cheers, D.

Anonymous said...

Large or small?
Teaching or research?
Policy or no?
Public or private?
R1 or "not"?


Are we really going to have this discussion again?