Friday, January 21, 2011

Alignment of Incentives

Professor in Training has a post on selfishness in Academia:

I’m at the point where I’m jumping up and down in frustration because I can’t get what I want when I want it (which is always yesterday or last week or last year). My resources are limited and dwindling at an alarming rate. My students are swamped with classes and assistantship responsibilities. And yet I’m expected to push out papers. I’m expecting them to push out the papers. And data. Let’s not forget the new data.

I think that the incentives are more aligned here than it appears on first glance. Students will benefit from having a successful professor as a mentor. They benefit from being involved in a lot of successful research projects.

What I suspect the core problem is that academia is set up to make a lot of things urgent (the class you need to teach today, the faculty meeting, the memo you need to write) but they are not especially important. In the long run, success in a biomedical tenure track role requires research output. Other things matter, but this one is key. Students are just as susceptible as professors to getting caught up in things that do have the potential to consume all of ones time. Participating in student goverence, for example, rarely is worth the time that is removes from the student. As a result, everybody feels overwhlemed and tempers fray.

I think the secret here is to realize what are the things that will matter in the long run and what needs to be done adequetely but is not worth a lot of time.

No comments:

Post a Comment