An Inside Higher Ed report on the latest John Siegfried analysis of the economics Ph.D. suggests the intuition is more important than the mathematics.
The surveys of new Ph.D.s also asked them about the doctoral education they received. Among the findings:
  • Most said that the overall emphasis in their programs was “about right.”
  • Most also reported too little emphasis on “applying economic theory to real-world problems,” “understanding economic institutions and history” and “the history of economic ideas.”
  • Mathematics was viewed by most as more important in graduate school than in their careers.
  • Skills in application, instruction and communication were more important in their careers than in graduate school.
A self-study of political science suggests that doing the job well matters.
[Miami of Ohio political scientist John Rothgeb] said he was most surprised by the data on publishing, which showed that more is not necessarily better. A one-unit increase in the number of articles demanded from tenure candidates (from one to two, for example) increases the probability of reported incompetence by 8 percent, while a one-unit increase in the “prestigious” article variable (such a publication in a top journal) decreased the probability of reported incompetence by 16 percent.

“If you’re publishing in lower-ranking journals to rack up a big total, and the chair looks at you later on down the road and says, ‘You know, you’re really not that good,’ that may be because they weren’t very prestigious publications,” he said.
The study also noted the corrosive effect of "collegiality" in tenure evaluations, as well as the obligation of tenure committees to screen for future assiduousness.
Rothgeb agreed that there are limitations to his work, including that it assumes post-tenure competence is based on the institution making the right choice at the point of tenure. (He argued, however, that competence “gets in your blood" and compared post-tenure professors to professional athletes who typically don’t stop performing once they win that big contract.) He said that his study is an attempt to add some hard data to public debates about tenure, and that more research is needed – preferably institutional-level case studies. Such research is resource-intensive but could further inform the debate, he said.
Most academicians are in the craft for the challenges. That tenure secures procedural rights against arbitrary discharge is incidental. The sports cross-reference intrigues in light of an analysis of Green Bay Packers who become free agents.
One question that has to be answered is whether the money would spoil [cornerback Sam] Shields. He has worked his tail off to go from long-shot, undrafted free agent to starter but will he be satisfied once he gets the money?
Tenure: not the only narcotic?

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