How to evaluate faculty?

…rate their departments.

The tenure guidelines for the Physical Sciences Division at UW-Madison include the following instructions (see section I-1 on page 11):

Provide a list of the five leading institutions for research (and outreach/extension activities) in the candidate’s discipline. The committee recognizes that the best work in the candidate’s specialty may not be carried out at the top ranked institutions in the broader discipline. However, it will look for a balance of evaluations from referees at the leading institutions who can evaluate the research and its impact on the broader field, and from the leaders in the subfield if they are at different institutions.

They use the ranking of a referee’s institution as an indication of his/her ability to evaluate the importance of a candidate’s work.

This disgusts me.

I like the analogy of measuring the importance of an academic paper by the “impact factor” of the journal in which it appeared, with measuring the quality of a researcher by the quality of his/her institution. I thought the absurdity of the latter would, by association, make plain the absurdity of the former. I hadn’t thought that the absurdity of the latter might be in question.

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One Response to “How to evaluate faculty?”

  1. Andrew Gelman Says:

    I used to work at a department where I think most (yes, more than half) the faculty were harmed by the department’s prestige. They seemed to think their lifetime’s accomplishment was to be professors at this top department. That’s sort of a sad goal, because once you’ve achieved it you have nothing to go for.

    Say what you want about money as a goal, at least it has the advantage that you can always motivate yourself by going for more.

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