Monday, December 22, 2008

Dear Dr. No:

Excerpted below are comments from five external reviewers in your tenure and promotion case. These reviewers all hold tenured positions at doctoral institutions more prestigious than ours, and all are considered to be far more respected than you. I have edited the letters to eliminate identifying information, although I have included just enough personal information that you will spend an inordinate amount of time limiting their identity to a small cadre of suspects. You should refer to these comments in your self-assessment and should consider spending a significant portion of the next few weeks plotting fantastic revenge against them.

Reader 1
I am very impressed with the candidate’s publication record. In fact, of the articles I actually read and could comprehend, I would consider the candidate a brilliant thinker and writer. While I myself have not made a significant contribution to the field in 12 years, I am an authority on their work. Admittedly, I am a bit dismayed at the candidate’s sparse publication record in regional journals and the associated excess of publications in national and international venues. Their absence from such premier journals as Square State Science, Annual Review of Descriptive Reports, and Meaningless Tables of Measurements is unfortunate. While new fangled outlets such as the International Journal of Quality Science may carry some significance among the newer generation of practitioners, they lack the hallmarks of a prestigious and longstanding journal of high esteem (primarily they lack staples in their bindings and home-basement offices). However, the candidate tackles some very important and complex issues for which they should be applauded. I should know, since I essentially solved all of the issues they write about in my 1978a ASC (Awesome Science Conference) presentation (widely available).

I have personally attended numerous conferences at which the candidate was present. As I sipped wine at various hotel venues surrounded by my small elite group of fellow authorities, I did notice the candidate was present in the room. Further, on some occasions I took the time to explain to the candidate that their ideas were clearly drawn from my 1978b presentation at the ASC’s (widely available). Clearly the candidate deserves tenure, they would certainly be awarded tenure at my own institution (although I would personally have seen to it that they were never hired because the candidate would end up making me look bad).

Reader 2
Wow. The candidate is truly a major contributor to our field. Sure, prior to receiving their materials in the mail I had never read any of their work. But, after reading their impressive array of publications and realizing that their PhD advisor was my graduate school roommate, I have a newfound awareness of their impact on our field. I have since added the candidates name to the small list of authors whose work I am willing to read and will allow my students to read. As the candidates’ views are consistent with my own theoretical leanings, I wholeheartedly support their tenure case. In fact, all researchers trained by my old roomie and myself deserve tenure and big fat raises. We are the only true heirs to the illustrious theoretical perspective developed by Dr. Blah (may he rest in peace) and his wife Dr. Miss-Blah (what did he ever see in her?). As such, as long as the candidate continues to flatteringly cite Dr. Blah (Blah 1985, 1985a, 1985b; Blah & Miss-Blah 1988) their reputation in the field will continue to grow. Further, the candidates participation in service to their University and Community is outstanding. While I have absolutely no means of assessing their service record, I am confident this is the case.

Reader 3 (hand-written comments transcribed by Department Office Assistant)
What mean this shiny disk? I have received by parcel post a letter requesting my assay of the candidate, yet included was only a shiny circular disk. Consequently, I have insufficient materials to adequately address the topic. Back in my day a professor’s work could be evaluated by the cut of his jib. Just because I am 97 years old it doesn’t mean jib-cutting is out of fashion. P.S. I would like to note that the candidate appears to have a lady name, is the candidate’s wife up for tenure?

Reader 4
I have carefully read and evaluated all the materials sent to me. I take my job as an outside evaluator very seriously because I take everything very, very, seriously. I am a very serious scholar you see, I like to talk about work ALL the time. I am not the type of person to evaluate anything succinctly and intelligently, I like to go on and on about minute and irrelevant details. I think it makes me sound very, very, serious and very, very, scholarly. Perhaps you have been subject to one of my grant or publication reviews? Surely you have, I accept all offers to review anything and everything. They are very long. At first glance you think “look at all that commentary, this review might be insightful”…but then you realize I spend half the time pondering your font choice in Table 3.4. But really, did you mean to invoke the hegemonic influence of Helvetica? I read a paper about the influence of font choice (I didn’t actually read it per se, but I overhead a very, very, smart person talking about it once), and I thought since I didn’t really understand the data, your methods, or conclusions I’d bring it up. I will now discuss each publication in chronological order and in nauseatingly irrelevant detail.

In Proceedings of Arcane Topics the candidate analyzes 239 data points and reaches (I think) the conclusion that a previous study (that I didn’t understand either) that looked at 25 data points is incorrect. That’s important I guess, but let’s talk about data point number 42. Is that accurate? Surely it is too high. It really looks a bit inflated. In fact, I have duplicated Figure 2.1 below, and if you move data point number 42 down, say 1 cm into its proper location, it completely changes the picture. A darker shade of grey would also convey the distributive properties of the scatter more accurately. Also, you reference Blah 1985b for data point 42. I am sure there must be a more recent citation; in fact didn’t I hear that someone gave a conference presentation about old number 42 just last week? Just because you wrote the manuscript 6 years ago is no reason not to cite the most recent literature.

******************edited for length******************

The most recent article in International Journal of Quality Science is intriguing. I question the discussion section beginning on page 12, paragraph 3. While the author clearly responded to my suggestions provided in my initial 8 page review of the submitted manuscript, I am still dissatisfied with the published version. I made numerous utterly tangential and gratuitous suggestions for how the “Discussion” section could veer completely off-topic. My suggestions would have made clear the imaginary links I see between the authors work and those of the little known but highly influential scholar Friar Læhenschtaģë. As I so painfully documented in my initial review, the works of this eminent theologian, wheel-smithy, and barber are sorely missing. In sum ******************edited for length****************** I believe the candidate has met the criteria for tenure.

Reader 5
Uh, yeah. I vote for tenure. Sorry this review is so late. I am really busy. Looks good. Thanks for all of those reminder emails, I usually get things like this done on time. But you know, I am just so busy this semester. I had my GAs look over the articles and they said they were good, which is good enough for me (I mean I have them teach my classes, run my lab, and write papers for me— so I can trust their opinion).

1 comment: