USFA e-letter: Publishing PhD Research

It has come to our attention that junior faculty have been counseled by some senior administrators not to publish results from their PhD thesis, as the various standards require that tenure candidates provide “compelling evidence that a body of high quality scholarly work has been completed beyond that demonstrated at appointment” (our emphasis).  Thus it would seem that publishing thesis results is a waste of time, as the tenure decision is based solely on research started since appointment.

 We consider this advice appalling.  Firstly, according to the standards themselves, scholarly work is publication in reputable peer-reviewed outlets.  If thesis work is published subsequent to appointment it does form part of the aforesaid body of high quality scholarly work completed beyond that demonstrated at appointment.  Moreover, the publication from a PhD thesis, whether published before or after appointment, demonstrates to Tri-Council and other granting agencies the candidates’ ability to publish in high quality venues, and could be critical for establishing a new faculty member’s research profile.

 Secondly, a PhD thesis may strike a rich vein of new knowledge that has the potential to generate interesting results for years to come.  Many scholars have spent a career around a problem that began in graduate school.

 The critical thing is that the junior faculty member has to demonstrate their scholarly independence and momentum.

 The USFA is pursuing this issue with the Employer.