Is it possible to have too many publications (15+) that will put me out of the running for a SLAC job? I have always wanted to go SLAC but am concerned I went down the research wormhole a bit too far and set myself out of the SLAC market.
Date: 12 Jul 2014 18:13
Number of posts: 10
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Years ago, I'd say yes it's possible to have too many pubs to be considered for a SLAC job. But now, the market is so over-inflated with high-quality candidates who can't get jobs, that it might not matter at present. Also, there is more pressure on faculty at SLACs to publish and to even get grants than there was in years past, so you might be in good shape now if a SLAC is what you want.
The reason I say this is it used to be "common knowledge" that SLACs wouldn't waste their time interviewing research-focused people who seemed unlikely to accept their job offers or to stay at their institution log term. The assumption was that research focused people only wanted research jobs, so SLACs should instead focus on hiring teahcing-focused people. But, now that the job market is so bloated, SLACs can legitimately compete for research-focused people, and even keep some long term.
I know many will respond and say I'm way off, and that's fine. I know there are plenty of people who are research focused and would love a SLAC job. I'm not denying that. I am just saying that 7-8 years ago, you'd be considered over-qualified for a SLAC job, and someone with far fewer pubs than you (but more teaching experience) would likely get the job instead. Nowadays, the landscape is very different, and I think you will be rteated more fairly if you apply to SLACs.
I should also ask what your area is? 15+ pubs means different things in different subdomains in psych.
Thanks, anonbanon. As far as pubs… Maybe it would be useful to have another thread dedicated to number of pubs current folks on the job market have along with their area. Will check for an existing thread and push it to the top if it's there.
Me personally, I'm cognitive. Also, no grants but I have submitted to NIH as a PI.
Ideal SLAC position would be one where I have a balance between research and teaching… I would consider that a 2/2 load with an opportunity to continue my existing lines. My thoughts are that with that kind of load you can have both quality teaching and quality research. Does that even exist or is the new trend the expectation to teach a high load and still put out quality work? If it does exist, are they in the minority of positions?
Anongry - if you're looking for a SLAC with a 2/2 teaching load, then you'll be applying primarily to elite SLACs known for research. These are fairly rare institutions. Most SLACs that encourage or require faculty research have a 3/2 or 3/3 teaching load. However, even those with higher teaching loads (4/3 or 4/4) usually encourage or prefer faculty who do some research and get students involved with this.
Last year I was on a search committee at my current institution (well-ranked SLAC). Out of all of our candidates, nearly all who landed an interview had a balanced background demonstrating both strong teaching and evidence of active research involving students. The main thing those of us at SLACs look for in a candidate is evidence that the applicant is an effective educator and is invested in his/her students. If you can tie your research accomplishments to undergraduate students (e.g., describe your work with undergrad research assistants in a cover letter if you worked with such students), then this will only make your research look more favorable. That said, having a solid research program won't hurt your chances with SLAC positions. However, not demonstrating strong teaching abilities will.
I had quite a few pubs (20+) when I was interviewed for, and offered, a position at a SLAC (which I accepted). They were a bit concerned about me being a bit too research-focused, but since I've been here, almost all of the new faculty who were hired when I was have gotten grants. Also, in concert with DocJ, there is a strong push for us to publish a good deal and get grants.
With this market, the SLACs can demand more research from their faculty. I'm carry a 3/3 load, and there is an expectation to publish and get grants. It's doable, but I have to work quite a bit (but I guess we all do). So, I'd say keep doing good research and let the chips fall where they may.
I've worked at a decent (but not elite) SLAC, and I was fortunate to be around for a couple of searches. Some faculty definitely had that opinion - if an applicant has too much research experience, they might only be using the SLAC as a backup, or they won't stick around long. (Maybe this isn't a concern at the top-tier SLACs, since they can be doing as much excellent research as the R1s.)
However, the faculty that had those opinions felt much more comfortable when they got the sense that the applicant knew what the SLAC experience was all about. This all came through in the cover letters, primarily by explaining why you want to work at place that focuses more on teaching, and how you're going to include students in the work that you do. Here, research breadth was seen as a benefit, instead of simply having one line of work that you're really invested in - you may need to work with students on things like their own honors projects, instead of simply having them be research assistants for your own stuff, and that breadth can give you expertise in several different areas. If you went to a smaller school for your own undergraduate degree, you could mention that as well (since I heard several people mention that as a positive of applicant's CVs).
In general, from what I saw, the committees wanted to know that you actually knew what you'd be getting into at a SLAC, and weren't just firing out applications to every single place with an opening.
I think that SLAC will be more concerned with whether you also continued to develop your skills as a teacher when you were working on those publications. If you stop teaching when you become a post-doc, you increasingly don't look like the ideal candidate by a SLAC, who will prefer someone with fewer publications and more teaching experience if given those options. However, if the amount of teaching experience between candidates is equal (say if you start to or continue to adjunct), then the additional publications should only help you. Also consider how you can frame those publications as evidence of mentoring experience.
Totally agree w/ the others here. I was fortunate to land a job at a strong SLAC this year (after several years of looking!). I came from another, 100% research-focused position but had sought out undergraduate teaching opportunities whenever I could along the way b/c I really do like to teach, I wanted to keep those skills sharp, and I wanted to show in my application materials that this was important to me. As an applicant, I had 15 pubs, 4 or 5 others under review, and grant success. This is typical of others at the Assistant level in my new department, and is even true of many at the Associate level. The department has a 2/3 teaching load and definitely expects consistent and quality research productivity from its faculty. These positions do exist, but I do also have the sense that they are becoming less commonplace.
It probably depends on who is in the department and whether or not they have a clue. I was hired a few years ago with 13 or so pubs in cognitive (don't remember the exact number). My research record was definitely not strong enough for any R1 or, as it turned out, the 3 or so elite SLACs that I applied to that year (I'm at a 3:3 SLAC). But after the fact some people in my dept told me that they were a little worried I was going to leave them for an R1 because I was such an accomplished researcher. But they said they were more or less convinced by the way I talked about my goals/interests and the mission of the school in my cover letter and teaching statement, and sold once they met me for the interview. (I'm SUPER undergrad- and teaching-focused; if I were to ever leave this school, and I probably will not, it would ONLY be for another SLAC!) So…those who had a clue about the market and what's realistic these days hired me enthusiastically. Those who have no idea of the competition thought my pubs were a bit much, even though they liked what I had to say about teaching.
15 pubs is NOT too many, and for the elite SLACs you will definitely be up against more accomplished researchers. Just be smart in how you talk about your goals with regard to undergrads. Hopefully your record can support this in some way as well. And you need to have SOME classroom experience. From my standpoint, if I were on a search committee, I'd want evidence of research with undergrads and plans to continue it. If your research accomplishments are solo or collaborative with your supervisors or fellow grad students/faculty only, then I won't want to hire you. I only care about your scholarship as a function of pedagogy.
To echo what others said — 15 is nowhere close to being too much. However, to echo others again, you *MUST* rock out on your cover letter and in your teaching statement. Make it clear that you understand SLACs, and also that you understand *that particular school*. I was given terrible advice — to not customize my cover letters — which, thankfully, I ignored for the SLACs. If you really want to teach at a particular school, I would suggest that you make it a priority to learn a lot about it — how the program is structured, what classes are there, etc…. and engage with those ideas in your cover letter.
Also, SLACs will be wondering whether you can actually conduct your research given the resources available. If you have 15 pubs, but all required an fMRI, some SLACs won't even look at your app.