Thursday, March 24, 2011

Zombies and the Political Science Profession

Last week, the obvious highlight of the International Studies Association meeting in Montreal was the panel lionizing/pimping/mocking Dan Drezner's Theory of International Politics and Zombies.  I missed the panel because I was thinking about me and my needs--publishing--rather than the profession's.  Good thing that Dan Nexon has posted a podcast of the presentations (but not the Q&A).  The panel was, indeed, quite entertaining (and Charlie Carpenter will be posting her presentation's video, which apparently needs to be seen to be believed.Update: here it is).

I was one of the folks who engaged with Dan early in his Z-journey as he pondered the role of Zack in IR theory and vice versa, and served as one of the reviewers of the book for the press.  I was glad not to be asked to serve on this panel, as the folks who did so set a very, very high standard.  However, I cannot help but note that there is a gap in the discussion of the "Zombie Gap."  Specifically, what does a Zombie Outbreak mean for me?  And for my profession?  Given that narcissism is a running theme here, and my navel-gazing skills were recently sharpened by my service on a panel dedicated to obsessive study of our profession, I feel well suited to bridge this gap.

The first question is, of course, what does a zombie outbreak mean for the political science job market?  Would there be more positions available as scholars succumb to the virus?  As usual, the answer is: it depends.
  • Pre-zombie tenured folks will certainly fight to keep tenure in place even for those struck by the zombie virus.  While the risk of tenured folks biting students would be significant, I would expect universities to have to find various ways to keep the students somewhat safe since profs will argue that the freedom of speech that comes with tenure also covers moaning and perhaps even snarling.  
  • Just as we have been long expecting lots of jobs as the old folks retire, we ought not expect professors with tenure to retire just because they have turned into zombies.  Indeed, they will be far more reluctant as zombie full professors can only be more stubborn than the unbitten kind.  Profs nearing retirement often do not respond to early retirement packages. Zombie profs would be even less likely to do so, unless better access to brains are included.
  • On the other hand, junior faculty may find the zombie virus to be yet another obstacle to tenure.  Departments may end up discriminating against the infected, as they may not want to expose themselves to the virus or give tenure to those with, shall we say, problematic trajectories. This may open up more positions for newly-minted PhDs.
  • Another advantage newly-minted PhDs will have is less exposure to plague-carrying undergrads.  This should alter the usual new vs advanced assistant professor calculations in favor of the new folks.
How will a Zombie epidemic affect the actual process of hiring?
  • Political Science Jobs Rumor site will be just as scathing and unhelpful.
  • More phone interviews, especially skype, to minimize job talks that do worse than bomb--that infect.
  • More hostile questions during the job talk--departments may even trot out zombies to see how well the candidate thinks on their feet.  And then some.
  • The best job offers will include funding for protective devices, even less face time with potentially infected grad students, and brains for those who are already infected but otherwise have great potential.
How will a Zombie outbreak influence department politics?
  • Not much change really.  Those departments that have been unable to contain their less functional colleagues will fail here, too.
  • Shorter meetings.  In each department, there are long-winded folks who are like to talk at every meeting.  My bet is that they are the first to be bitten, perhaps by non-infected who use the epidemic for cover.
  • One exception to the shorter meetings--long debates prolonged by those who see Zombies as discriminating minorities emerging majorities deserving of rights.  Drezner was right about the emergence of those who over-identify with the post-humans.
How will a Zombie outbreak affect publishing?
  • Expect the review process to take even more time.  The unbitten will have even more things on their plate.  And the undead make lousy reviewers--their limited vocab usually means that they just ask for their work to be cited.
  • Citation counts will still be used to measure productivity, although this measure loses validity as zombies tend to quote other zombies.  Their pack behavior is unbelievable.  Will distort citation counts, network analyses (not to mention word clouds), and rankings for years.
  • My guess is that Zombies will publish more in articles than books as they tend to have less patience.  
What am I omitting?

1 comment:

Erin Jenne said...

since i wasn't able to attend the panel, and haven't yet read the book, i don't know if the reference has been made. But so far I haven't heard any talk of Ugly Americans, which is all about socialization of zombies and other undesirables.