Study shows extent of hiring bias in academia: 20% of schools produce 80% of tenure-track profs

Not sure where you’re coming up with this. Advisors and mentors are primarily for funding and methods. Candidates can have their degrees denied for failing to deviate enough from their faculty sponsor’s work. They have to come up with something at least a little original, or why bother? I mean, just doing whatever the prof is doing is undergraduate research level, not PhD candidate level.

ETA: and when I said “fundamental research” I meant literature review (of course) not freakin’ particle physics. Sheesh.


Many PhD students are exactly that. They give you the degree when you finish the dissertation, not when you get the skills to do research. Personally, my advisor (and committee) had no idea what I was working on until reading my dissertation. Absentee advisors are pretty common.

Some of us don’t want to start everyday by having to kick our own ass


A PhD is the degree you get to prove you can produce publishable work. It is the degree that shows you have the skills to do original work. That is literally the point of it.

I say this as someone who is currently dating two people with PhDs and who has spent years as a trailing spouse in the Academic world.

I haven’t gone through the process myself but have supported multiple friends and lovers getting that degree. I’ve been to tons of research conferences and have been a sounding board for both course work and several published works.

It’s very weird to insist that a PhD candidate is not a researcher, that is literally what the final step in the process is.

And then in the liberal arts you just go on to publish further while teaching if you don’t leave for industry, in the sciences you attach yourself to a project, possibly teach, or leave for industry. Yes in the sciences you aren’t likely to immediately head up your own projects but you are still a researcher at that point.


There’s just a crazy amount of misunderstandings being bandied around in this thread … which is okay, that’s how comment threads work. But maybe I can address a few.

“Original work” seems to be confusing. Of course PhD students produce some new take on a research question in their dissertation work. That’s how academics talk to each other … by arguing about a new take on things that already exist in the literature. But some commentors here seem to think “original” only means “research that my PhD advisor doesn’t do” which is not the case at all. Again, the whole point of the apprenticeship aspect of the PhD is to work on a project within your advisors research expertise to be able to use their knowledge and skills to learn from. The PhD student uses that research base to build a new spin on some academic topic. “Original” here is “new spin,” not something completely different. This is generally how the vast majority of academic subjects are discussed among academics – by conversations about things that modify what we think we know as a discipline.

Secondly, there seems to be a lot of misunderstanding around “researcher.” I’ve been talking about researcher as a term of expertise; a person with the skills of data collection, analysis, and subsequent write up for a wider audience. In that definition, “researcher” is what you become at the end of the PhD degree. The degree says “this person has demonstrated the ability to do all things necessary as a successful researcher.” Of course, you DO research as a PhD student, but it’s really getting the degree that says this person has all the skills and has proven it.

Personally, I think there are a lot of things that can be improved about this process, but on the whole the PhD is probably one of the best models of learning that exist in western education. It’s head and heels above most of the education levels below it. Certainly, it blows the passive sitting-in-a-classroom-listening-to-someone model of the majority of K-16 education out of the water. But to get more of the intimate education of the PhD process, we’d have to admit that education is extremely expensive and that a much smaller ratio of student/teacher is necessary.

I’m working on my PhD on condescension. May I have permission to use this statement for my dissertation?


So far, we agree.

My friend who is a professor in a highly technical area won’t consider taking PhD candidates who are content with doing research that’s already been started in his lab. His expectation is that PhD candidates come up with an area of study that might complement, but does not overlap, the work his lab is already doing. He is not the only one who does this.

That, and it’s often very expensive. That’s why the primary things faculty provide for their grad students is methodology and funding. It is assumed that grad students already have an excellent grasp of the subject of study or the learning skills to fill any gaps they may have quickly.

No way. That’s exactly the kind of grad student several professors I know look for. They have undergrads for basic data collection and masters students to run the expensive equipment. PhD candidates (again, for the profs I know and who I’ve worked with) better be running their own research, including coming up with original experiments and ideas for examination.

That’s OK. You’ll find that most of the BBS posters are very patient with misunderstandings. Less patient with bad attitudes, though, as you may have noticed.

You might want to look at the current practice, then. Most undergraduates meet that definition; at least ones who are serious about pursuing graduate degrees. It’s a prerequisite for most grad programs now.

It’s a shame that you are dismissing the numerous people who you are talking down to on this thread. There is a diversity of background here that might actually advance your understanding of the field beyond your n=1 experience.


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