You have to have two publications, minimum, to get a job in academia. It’s just how it is.
The above came at the end of a graduate workshop I attended on writing and publishing research in the philosophy of education. The statement took me back, not just for the gusto with which the speaker oriented herself alongside problematic measures for student performance but that this was spoken, without irony, to an audience of emerging educational philosophers.
That education and indeed higher education has become ever more centred around measures of student attainment, performance and standards, is known to many of us writing in this field. That philosophers of education spend increasing amounts of time voicing our concerns over that same performative culture is also noticeable. How disheartening, then, to hear that a regrettable consequence of engaging in precisely this kind of educational research is to spend increasing amounts of time trying to meet these kinds of arbitary targets.
Please don’t think me naive here. I am not advocating for the right of the researcher to remain in her ivory tower, her mad scribbles read by no one except her supervisors, nearest and dearest. Even without the pressure of impact – ‘the demonstrable contribution that excellent research makes to society and the economy’ – it is incredibly important that my work has purchase amongst the community that it is aimed towards. It needs to be heard and as such, publishing in a peer-review journal or turning my thesis into a monograph might well be one way in which I make my ‘impact’.
Indeed, having a certain number of publications under our belt isn’t the only box-ticking exercise academics face. There are many of us that find ourselves, through necessity, agreeing to fulfil certain professional criteria. Perhaps by undertaking an uninspiring research project that shows interdisciplinary working, sitting on a time-suck committee or taking up a teaching module we’re not crazy about. All in order to carry on doing the work we deem most important to us. Admitting that the fulfilment of these tasks makes room for us to be able to reflect on the purpose of education, so as to challenge the culture of over-doing and over-measuring, is itself an exercise in professional integrity . We must remain careful to strike a balance between pursuing goods for ourselves and supporting others in their pursuit.
MacIntyre argues that it is through the process of thinking for oneself, questioning the dominant paradigms, that one learns to act for the common good. My concern is that the relatively new focus, that is being placed on emerging researchers, to publish early and frequently leaves no room for this kind of reflection. Instead we have an unhelpful surplus of thinking – to write, to research, to publish, to produce more, that inhibits criticality and holds us captive to accepted social orders.
By all means, ease us into the expected norms of academic life. Instruct us in the importance of obtaining our degrees and publishing our research. I’m all for it. However, as philosophers of education, for goodness sake, encourage us to think beyond only ourselves. To let our ‘outputs’ be based on more than a fixation with productivity. Instead, teach us to ask, as MacIntyre does: what good would I have achieved, if I achieved this?