Tagged: grad life

Zoe Williams

Links: The Postdoc Edition

I don’t remember when I first realized there was something else I might have to do after  my PhD, but before I got an actual job academic job. And though I now know what a postdoc is, and that I might have to do one, a lot about postdocs remains shrouded in mystery.  As one on the topic notes – being a postdoc is like existing in “some kind of institutional purgatory” and numerous Google searches haven’t been terribly illuminating. One common element to many of the blog posts and articles on postdocs that I’ve read, however, is a certain negativity that is common to disenchanted academics. Some titles I’ve come across include: “The Postdoc: A Special Kind of Hell” , “Before Professor Comes Postdoc: Lower Career Rung, Just as Much Job Stress” and “The Postdoc Experience: High Expectations, Grounded in Reality”

What I have gleaned substantively is that there is no set definition for what a post-doctoral position actually is, and the importance varies from discipline to discipline as well as country to country. Moreover, what you do in the postdoc may be somewhat dependent on what you did during your PhD – for example, if you did not produce enough publications, you may spend some time publishing work from your dissertation. Another important distinction is if your postdoc position is part of a larger research project, or essentially just funding for you to do your own research (and perhaps a bit of teaching).

However, a survey of postdoc positions identified some common characteristics: the recent completion of a PhD prior to the postdoc position; the position is temporary; the appointment involves substantial research, with a goal towards further training; there is an expectation that work will be published; and the postdoc works under the supervision of a senior scholar.

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Mathis Lohaus

Links: Grad School Pros and Cons; Job Search; Understanding Putin

He studied law, but seems interested in IR. (Source: Kremlin.ru via Wikimedia)
He studied law, but seems interested in IR. (Source: Kremlin.ru via Wikimedia)

In an article from 2011, Karen Kelsky (who works as a consultant to graduate students) criticizes academic supervisors. According to her, professors often fail to advise their grad students on planning publications and their career choices.

Another more recent piece introduces a new approach for university career centers. Basically, the idea is to break up the division between the job markets inside and outside of academia: “If graduate students are to maximize their efforts, then academic departments and career services need to pool theirs and work together”.

But should you even be working towards a PhD? Foreign Policy just published a very interesting discussion with people from American IR departments and foreign policy schools. The subtitle: “Do policymakers listen? Should you get a Ph.D.? And where are all the women?” It also has a fascinating graph on which IR scholars are valued by foreign policy practitioners, which reminded me of last year’s discussion about IR and the public sphere.

Dan Drezner wrote about whether to go to grad school in 2012. His piece focuses on women in academia, but also has a couple of interesting links to the discussion in the American blogosphere.

OK, so (against a lot of good advice) you have decided to pursue an academic career. The bad news is: from now on, your writing style will be terrible. The good news is: nobody will notice, since most papers are hardly read after publication. [Note that the article implies that the number of citations equals the number of readers, which is not fully convincing.]

Now, to something completely different. I enjoyed these two pieces about Vladimir Putin: First, Tyler Cowen offers four different ways to “model” Putin’s behavior, pointing out that “[a]ssumptions about Putin’s rationality will shape prediction”.

Second, Eric Posner analyzes the claims made in the Russian president’s speech to the Duma: “Vladimir Putin, international lawyer”. The crucial bit of analysis: Putin has signaled that “the United States claims for itself as a great power a license to disregard international law that binds everyone else, and Russia will do the same in its sphere of influence where the United States cannot compete with it”.

Zoe Williams and Étienne Brown

A North American Perspective on doing a PhD in Europe

europe
Whether we like it or not, the world academic language is English, and if you are a North American aspiring academic, it would make sense to stay close to the ivy-covered centre of the universe. Some of us, however, do not make that choice. We are two Canadians (one Anglophone and one Francophone) who decided to study in Europe instead of staying in Canada or going to the US. Much is made of the differences between Anglo-American and European approaches to both of our disciplines (IR and philosophy respectively) and leaving North America to study in Europe may raise a few eyebrows.

So, what is it like to leave the hegemonic academic culture to study in Europe? We asked ourselves a few questions about it, and the following is our take on doing a PhD across the pond…

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