Assorted issues for praticioners

A digest post of a few professional questions from the week:

1. Have you ever written a strongly positive R&R, gotten a responsive revision (meaning, one that responded effectively to all the reviewers’ comments), only to decide the revision has turned the paper’s contribution into one so modest it no longer suits the journal? If so, what did you do? If not, what would you suggest one do in this situation?

2. A colleague in a professional school confided in me their frustration at students using the internet during class. The course is quite large, so policing individual violations of the course’s stipulated “no internet” policy has proved difficult. However, continued violation of the policy annoys the professor and distracts other students. I (jokingly) recommended an “internet ghetto” in which the practice would be tolerated, and would only distract those with similar dispositions to use the internet during class. Today, the professor instituted an “internet ghetto”, and students were asked to opt-in via email. The consequence of violating the policy is now as follows: “If you do not request to be in the Internet Ghetto, and you use Internet during class time (this includes email, IM, games on your computer, and any other use of your computer that is not reading prepared notes or taking notes), then you will be banned from bringing your laptop to class, and may nevertheless be banished to the Internet Ghetto.” Astoundingly, several students have already written to opt-in. Is this a good or bad pedagogical technique, and could it ever be effective among undergraduate students?

3. Giving interviews to media continues to be a necessary evil of the work I do. I passed on a request this week to discuss “incivility”–the media request cited Kayne’s behavior at the VMAs, the South Carolina legislator during Obama’s speech and Serena Williams’s behavior during the women’s final match of the U.S. Open. My colleague Steven Tepper gave the interview, which you should watch. His opinion is misrepresented and a specious argument advanced that “technology” is to blame for this undocumented rise in “incivility.” I wonder, is it possible to avoid this kind of selective editing on behalf of news reporters (who clearly have a moral agenda)? [Also, notice the number of times the word “professor” is used. Anyone else expect Skipper and Mary Ann to appear?]

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11 Comments

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11 responses to “Assorted issues for praticioners

  1. 1. I’ve been on the writer end of that R&R before. Got a strong R&R, made the requested changes, then got rejected, based on the changes. Not fun. I don’t really have any advice on that, though.

    2. “Internet ghetto” just strikes me as all kinds of wrong. For one thing, calling it a “ghetto” makes me cringe a bit. Now, reserving the back row or two of class for people with wandering mouses seems perfectly suitable. But don’t call it a ghetto and why require email opt-in?

    3. I will never EVER give a live interview. Even a person with good verbal filters and are capable of phrasing their argument exactly like they want it get their words twisted. We don’t me out their, twisting my words before they ever even get ahold of them. If you can get Obama on tape calling Kanye a jackass, there’s no hope for any of us.

  2. #1 is a tricky issue. i think a big reason so many published articles are so hedged, modestly ambitious, more concerned with robustness than enlightenment, and generally boring is that peer reviewers demand that the paper demonstrate robustness to all sorts of potential (and often far-fetched) spuriousness, back off of unsupported claims, etc, and then having demanded these things accept the now convoluted and unambitious revised paper out of a sense of contractual obligation or hubristic pride (“of course the paper is better, the author took my suggestions”).

    lately in my peer reviews i’ve tried to mitigate this problem by being deferential, demanding fairly little of the author but giving a lot of suggestions that I explicitly describe as being at the author’s discretion.

    anyway, have you considered retracting some of the suggestions and saying, go ahead and do it the original way?

    on a similar set of issues, here’s a retirement essay by an econ editor who has been trying to reduce the number of R+Rs.

  3. I wonder, is it possible to avoid this kind of selective editing on behalf of news reporters

    Hostile, friendly, sober, pissed … Never Trust a Journalist.

  4. I just don’t allow laptops. It doesn’t kill them to write using a pen. I figure if they want to surf the internet, they can stay home… another reason I don’t require attendance.

  5. Peter

    This is my new cell/laptop policy, on the syllabus for my 2 undergrad courses:

    You can use computers for taking notes. Otherwise, cell phones and computers are
    disruptive to me and your classmates. So, here’s the rule. If I happen to see you texting
    or playing on your computer (i.e. solitaire or browsing, not notetaking), you get 1
    warning, and then a zero for the class. And if your phone goes off 3 times during the
    semester, you will get a zero for the class. Loose oversight, but decisive punishment – do it at your own leisure/risk.

    I’ll let you know if it makes any difference at all…

  6. Jenn Lena

    I have used a version of your policy, Peter. I wonder if your results will be better/different than mine.
    pitse1eh: I am using a no laptop rule in one class this semester and things are going well.
    Of course, the point of the story was that this professor’s unable to say “no laptops” because of the nature of the professional school, and unable to manage the class as-is (with a version of Peter’s policy) because of the size of the class.

  7. Jenn Lena

    Anomie–sorry your comment was caught in the filter until now. On #2: As I understand it, the “opt-in” is a one-time-only opportunity for students to self-segregate, but sends the message that a constant shifting in-and-out based on daily preparedness (or boyfriend problems, or whatever) is not an acceptable use of the space.

  8. I didn’t realize that professional schools required the use of laptops. So much I don’t know about other areas!

    I don’t think I’d be able to police the three strikes (or warning) systems. I have 90 students in two of my sections … and I have a really hard time remembering names. I wouldn’t be able to remember who I warned and who I didn’t. I also don’t have that much faith in my organizational capabilities to keep track of it (asking names when I catch them).

  9. My professional school doesn’t allow laptops in class, except for students sitting on the back row. I think that over time the school realized that having an open laptop was just too much of a temptation to surf the internet and so they’ve restricted it to only those students whose screens can’t be seen by everyone else in the room. It works really well. Students know the rule and so they don’t complain.

    Now, if only I could wean them of their stinkin’ slide handouts.

  10. Noah

    As far as the interviews go, a lot of these sound bites are cut pretty short even by local TV news standards. Jenn, I am going to guess that the reporter here did a longer interview with your colleague, probably starting with the camera off, pushed it in a narrower direction with the camera on, then went in a very specific direction with the final story. When reporters (especially in local TV) know the story they want to tell before starting the interviews, they are often just looking for sound bites to fill the holes. (This is even easier with all the random people in the segment – reporters can just keep approaching random people until someone says what the reporter wants.)

    The flip side of local TV stories like these is that many stories cannot exist without a specific source, so that source has a lot of power to say whatever they want without getting challenged much. Political stories need politicians, crime/accidents/other disorders need cops or other emergency personnel. They get treated with huge deference. Everyone else (including us academics) will probably get inserted into a storyline regardless of what we intend – or get ignored. If we get pissed off and refuse to talk to that journalist (or their station again), they don’t really lose anything.

  11. Jenn Lena

    Noah–As I was told the story, you have it about right. The one thing different is that the reporter said the camera was off and they were doing a “pre interview.” Shady.

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