Never Miss Another Deadline: Getting and Staying in the Academic Loop
Missed Deadlines and Missed Opportunities
Any graduate student or instructor can tell you just how incredibly frustrating it is to have found the perfect conference to present their work, only to find that the call for papers closed a week ago. Or to have been searching for the right journal to submit a paper to, only to find that their last issue was a special issue devoted to your pet research subject. Or, worst of all, to be searching for funding and find that the deadline for a perfect scholarship was tomorrow: not yet safely out of reach, but lacking a sufficient window to pull together letters of recommendation, a statement of purpose, and a transcript.
All of this frustration stems from just two major sources: disorganization on the part of the struggling student or instructor and the simple fact that she's out of the loop. Fortunately enough, with a smidge of foresight and some well-placed requests for information, these issues are not too difficult to address.
First Things First: Prioritize
Although the 'publish or perish' warning is bandied about with charming frequency, it's not necessarily true for everyone. The warning needs to be taken seriously if your ultimate goal is to score a tenure track position, if you are planning to apply to PhD programs, or if you're about to go on the job market. In these cases, a good publishing record will absolutely strengthen your candidacy. However, if you're happy where you are and teaching is your priority, then publishing is rather less important.
Regardless of where you fall, this article will provide suggestions and resources to help you make the most of your career in academia. Considering the poor economy and limited prospects for tenure in almost all fields, if you've found a teaching position that you're happy with, the next step for you will be to settle in while maintaining your energy and enthusiasm by continuing to be reasonably active in your field. And if you are still intent on living (or currently forced to live) in the 'publish or perish' world, well then by golly you'd better have your finger in a whole ton of pies.
Depending on your current priority, you will either be more interested in getting published or in meeting people. Often these overlap (as in conference participation), but just as often they don't. And in any case, unless the conference is especially high-profile, it's best to avoid accepting offers of publication through conference proceedings or edited volumes. These can be postponed for ages, and often have a very limited audience.
Making the most of Mentors and Advisers
Don't forget that 'academic networking' begins as close to home as your very own graduate or undergraduate program. Choose your thesis adviser wisely, and remember that the professors you're working with now could very well be writing you letters of recommendation as you take the next step in your academic career. Don't be shy about asking for advice, from which programs might be suited to your interests to possible funding opportunities.
And never forget to say thank you. With any luck, the relationships you forge with current professors will last a good long time.
So we'll start with Academic Networking
Ug. Time to turn this field full of strangers into a room full of friends. Right? Kind of.
If you're a little shy, or just want to develop more of an online presence, you can start by creating a profile for yourself on academia.edu. On this platform you can provide pdfs of any papers you care to share, and citations for anything in print that's either too long or for copyright reasons can't be just posted all willy-nilly. You can also 'follow' researchers whose work interests you, not to mention journals and organizations. It's a bit like an electronic CV, but with a messaging function.
For students and prospective job-seekers especially it is an excellent idea to work on distilling your research interests and current work into two or three sentences, ready to be spouted to anyone who asks. Seeing as I've only been able to do this in the period directly following the completion of my thesis, I recommend writing it down somewhere and looking it over before heading out to department mixers, talks, or conferences. Nothing says 'doh' like being tongue-tied when asked about your own work.
Treat everyone as a prospective advisor or colleague, and don't be afraid to ask for business cards. Even most PhD students have them now. If you can manage it, write a contextual note or two on the back after you've left - especially if you've promised to send them something.
The Middle of the Ven Diagram: Conferences
If you're already affiliated with a university, there is a good chance that your department has a special fund to help offset the cost of conference registration and travel. You lucky duck. Ask around and figure out a.) how to apply and b.) how much is usually awarded per conference.
If you're an independent researcher or are otherwise ineligible for external funds, don't worry. There are sometimes early bird specials for registration, or partial fee waivers for those who can demonstrate need. It's worth asking. There are, of course, also any number of conferences that are free of charge, so there you go.
Always seem to miss them? Sign up for free daily or weekly mailings from any of the following:
- Humanities and Social Sciences online
You can also sign up for alerts listing all recent calls for papers in your field or subfield, an excellent way to stay on top of such opportunities to present your work for public(ish) critique.
Any conference you attend or participate in is an excellent place to meet people, of course, but larger ones are also great places to meet journal editors or others who might be good to know when it comes to looking for a publishing venue. Although I do caution against throwing your article at the first conference publisher who comes along, a reputable organization will be more likely to be worth your time, and many people who work on editorial boards are researchers in their own rights and just as likely to be at a relevant conference as the next Dr. Joe. Be a sleuth, but not a sleazy sleuth.
Getting Published: in print and online
There are countless ways to locate journals (reputable and less-so) that represent your academic interests, and if you don't have a paper ready for them, some will have a 'call for papers' section outlining what they're looking to include in the upcoming issues. You can usually submit a 400-600 word abstract (/proposal) to the editor, who will then let you know if they'd be interested in reading the finished product. You've got yourself a deadline, baby, and you'd darn well better keep it. If you can't, let your editor know early and ask eversopolitely for an extension. They're used to it, but don't you be. It's a bad bad habit to fall into, and the better you comport yourself throughout the writing, reviewing, and revising process, the better - and the more likely that you'll be able to submit to that journal again in the future. Burn No Bridges. Say thank you early and often. If you have questions or concerns, voice them early and politely. If your proposal is turned down or your paper rejected, thank them for their time and say that it's been a pleasure, and you are looking forward to submitting again in the future.
Editors, and especially copy-editors (let me tell you) remember everyone who was ever rude to them. I have a horrible - just horrible - memory for names, and yet I can rattle off a black list of people I will refuse point-blank because of earlier indiscretions and bad experiences. Even the most amateur of copy-editor will at some point start to get picky, and that point is always after having to deal with a rude or inconsiderate author. Remember the golden rule: Burn No Bridges.
Where to find journals? Well, google is as good a place as any to start. Jstor is excellent, if you have access. You can also try the following:
- The Directory of Open Access Journals
And hopefully, all that will help you get where you want to go
It's all a lot more fun once deadlines are presented well in advance and you don't feel like you're struggling against a cruel clickety-clock, clickity-clicking away the seconds before you're no longer eligible to apply for this or that scholarship, panel, or summer program.
Just in case the lack of deadline frenzy means you need someone to light a little fire under you, keep in mind that many professional academics recommend adding a line to your CV every month or so. Git git git!