November 29, 2006
Advice for the New Scholar
Posted by Lisa Fairfax
As we are in the midst of faculty recruitment, I am reminded of the quite conflicting advice I received regarding whether and to what extent, as an entering faculty member, I should show my scholarship to fellow faculty members.  On the one hand was the view that one should never show their work to other (particularly tenured) colleagues on his or her faculty, especially work in its early stages. This is because sharing the work exposes one to at least two dangers.  First is the danger that the colleague (no matter how well intentioned) will never be able to forget the missteps in your early draft and hence will hold it against you when reviewing your scholarship for tenure purposes.  Second is the danger that you will fail to appropriately account for the comments and concerns raised by the colleague, and the colleague will hold that failure against you.

On the other hand was the view that one should always show their work to fellow faculty members, for reasons that related both to scholarly and practical concerns.  First, showing your work—particularly in its early stages—allows you to benefit from the insights of your colleagues, who not only may have a different perspective, but also may have a greater level of knowledge than a new scholar.  Second, by showing your work to other faculty members, you get them to “buy-in” to your project, decreasing the potential that they will later attack it.

I realize that some may say that your scholarship is your own and thus, the decision about who and when to share it should be driven by scholarly and not practical concerns. I also realize that the decision may vary depending on the school.  However, I wonder if people are still being given the kind of conflicting advice I received as they navigate the recruitment process.

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