May 232022

As I mentioned at the beginning of my last post, I’m planning to write a whole series of these posts about being an academic linguist and the problems that the system, both within linguistics departments and outside of them, places in your path.

Since I’m working on several of the upcoming posts in parallel, I thought I’d give you a little preview of what’s to come in this space:

  • “the grantification of everything”
    • As we all know, over the decades the bottom has fallen out of state support for universities, so everything is increasingly grants-based. This encourages a race to the bottom in terms of the theoretical depth of funded work, since review panels – even when staffed by well-intentioned, talented people – cannot really engage with new theoretical ideas at any meaningful depth within the timeframes allotted.
  • “please submit Annual Scientific Progress Form 23.B.ii”
    • Related to but distinct from the previous item, this one is about how, as universities are increasingly run by people who don’t understand what fundamental science is, what it is for, and how it works, the illusion that fundamental science can be fit into bureaucratic rubrics creates positively Kafkaesque charades for anyone working on theory.
  • “the tenured bureaucracy-generator”
    • A post about how the university’s misunderstanding of tenure actively incentivizes people who are out of ideas to become bureaucracy-generators, creating paperwork and email activity that eats into the time and mental space that others have to try and have new ideas – a hard enough thing even without this hindrance, of course! (Let’s be honest: you’re lucky if you have one or two substantive, meaningful ideas in the course of an entire career.)
  • “the peer-review hackers”
    • On a particular genre of scholar we’re all familiar with: someone who pumps out a voluminous stream of decidedly subpar publications at major venues. Why this happens, and what can be done to mitigate it. (Hint: normalize editors rejecting reviews.)

This is no guarantee that all of these will actually be posted, under these titles or at all. I might run out of steam; I might have my mind changed about some of these issues between now & when I would have published the relevant posts (though if that happens, I’ll try to post about how I had my mind changed and why); or I might just become too busy with something else to dedicate the required time to writing. But in any event, this is what I have cooking at the moment.