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Helen De Cruz

Hi Eric: Thank you for this. It's a difficult balancing exercise, I agree. It is exacerbated by the fact that the grant model in Belgium is too much modeled on the sciences. When my sister did her PhD in medium-energy nuclear physics, her lab director's name was on all her publications, although his contribution was usually not creative (he did of course check the work of his PhD students, and actively mentored them in how to present their research using the practices of the profession, and where to submit to etc). Other lab members who had little creative input, but, for instance, just ran some analyses, were also on her first-authored papers. However, in physics, it is generally understood that this is how it works. The first author gets the credit, but there is an understanding that this is the result of teamwork. So it is totally unproblematic in physics to have all your papers co-authored with your lab colleagues and promotor.
The problem is that this model cannot be emulated in the humanities. As you know, I like to co-author and have co-authored a lot [although never with my advisor] but I think the situation of a humanities PhD who has nothing but co-authored articles with his or her advisor is undesirable. I once heard an advisor say to his PhD student that she should write more papers with him, because that way he could write grants at which she could be employed, he would need to make a case for why he was writing this project (she wasn't eligible for one of the personal postdoc grants anymore). But this makes it more difficult for the former student to find employment elsewhere and makes her too dependent on the goodwill and ability of her former advisor to win funding. She will not be perceived as someone who has her own philosophical voice, regardless of her own contribution.
One problem - specific for Flemish academia - is that professors can't have course release based on their grants. I've found this situation incomprehensible: how can you do enough work on the grant without course release? In such a situation, putting one's name under papers where one's contribution is perhaps not as big as to merit co-authorship becomes the way to get enough publications on one's CV, which is necessary to win new grants. So one could counter the situation by providing profs with course release so they can work more on their own research, perhaps also by putting some more weight on their first-authored publications than on those in which they are not first author (which presumably are a better measure of their output, for in stance in the social sciences, where almost everything is co-authored).

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Here's a link to my past blogging (and discussions involving me) at: New APPS.


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