Issues in Publishing Research. Your Timeline. Like most schools, KU has a six year tenure clock. This means that assistant professors begin to put together their promotion materials in the summer before their sixth year.
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Like most schools, KU has a six year tenure clock.
This means that assistant professors begin to put together their promotion materials in the summer before their sixth year.
If you have a six year clock, this means that you actually have about five years ‘on the job’ to make your research case. You only have about four years to submit papers that will be accepted in time.
How to get more time?
There are various ways to extend the clock, depending on the specific university. Not everyone can (or will want to) take advantage of these.
Here is an approach everyone can use:
Begin your tenure push while in your doctoral program. I will return to this theme shortly.
Most schools will want you to have about five or six publications for promotion. The journal quality required will depend on the school.
It is difficult to publish in most refereed journals these days.
Let’s say your goal is to have six papers accepted for publication by research journals by the end of your fifth year as an assistant professor.
Let’s suppose that the probability you will get a project accepted by a journal of the quality you desire is 0.5.
That might be an optimistic scenario since many journals reject about 90% of papers submitted.
However, let’s say the 0.5 hit rate reflects opportunities to resubmit at other journals.
You want six papers accepted by the end of five years. Your hit rate is 0.5, and we will assume that it takes about three years from initial conception to acceptance.
You could start 12 projects during your first three years on the job. That would give you a fighting chance.
Could you actually identify 12 good ideas and complete 12 projects, almost simultaneously, over a four year period?
It seems unlikely.
Even if you started in your first semester on the job, it would be very difficult to complete 12 good papers in four years.
(Remember, papers that you complete in your fifth year are unlikely to be accepted in time to help your case.)
The best solution I know of for this problem is to ‘borrow time’ from your doctoral program.
Suppose you can begin and even complete some projects in the last two years of your PhD program – or even before.
Actually you must do so (i.e. your dissertation).
In my view, the key question regarding the strategy of ‘borrowing time’ from your PhD program is: How many high quality projects can you complete during your program in addition to your dissertation?
Let’s go back and spread those hypothetical 12 projects over your first four years on the job, and the last two years of your PhD program.
Now your task is to begin two good projects a year, each year, for six years, and push them through to submission.
The plan discussed above implies a minimum of four projects begun during your PhD program. This includes your dissertation.
Start four good projects during your PhD program, including your dissertation – it sounds feasible and will give you a decent chance for promotion.
In addition it will help make you competitive in the job market.
KU and other schools now focus on the pipelines of the people we recruit. We hope to hire people who have been very good at ‘borrowing time’. What are we looking for on your CV?
Ideally we would like to see you have a decent publication. In addition, a couple of papers under review.
We would like to see another two or three working papers being prepared for submission.
We would like to see two or three projects in early stages. These would not be just vague concepts, but real projects underway.
Let’s summarize the previous slide. We would like:
2 papers under review (or one plus one published).
2 working papers being prepared for submission.
2 projects in early stages.
We are talking about six or more good quality projects initiated while in your PhD program. That is half of the goal of 12 for promotion.
That is what a highly competitive CV looks like these days. It’s scary, right?
If you want to have a couple of papers under review in the fourth year of your PhD program, and if it takes a couple of years to complete a project, you will need to begin two good research projects in your second year.
Here are some ideas that might help.
One idea is to leverage your effort by working with coauthors. Be aggressive. Contact your professors, your fellow PhD students, assistant professors who graduated from your PhD program.
Talk to PhD students and professors from other schools whom you meet at AAA sessions.
If you become a coauthor, always do your share of the work, or more. Be willing to work on projects that are outside your primary area of interest.
Another strategy is to compress the research cycle. Instead of taking two years from idea to submission, try to do it in one year.
This only works if you can maintain high quality. There is no point to completing projects faster if they will all be rejected.
A side benefit of working faster (but with high quality) is that it gives you a better chance of not being pre-empted by another research team.
The foregoing ideas for research strategy are based on a presumption that you will be able to come up with some publishable topics.
That is one of the most difficult problems you face. More than 50% of papers rejected at TAR are rejected because of ‘insufficient contribution’.
Too many researchers, especially novices, invest time and effort in projects that lack contribution.
Here are some thoughts about how to generate research ideas. My examples relate to one of my research areas, archival audit research.
I want you to imagine a spreadsheet. The left-most column is a list of what I will call ‘the usual suspects’.
These are topics that are frequently addressed in research. For example:
Audit signing lag
Going concern opinions
Client discretionary accruals
You can use prior literature to develop an extensive list of ‘usual suspects’.
Of course, you need not restrict yourself to topics that have been investigated previously.
If you can invent, identify or develop a new topic that is likely to become a ‘usual suspect’ in subsequent research projects, your chances of getting a good publication, and lots of cites, are improved.
Absent that, how can the list of ‘usual suspects’ help?
Now imagine the top row of the spreadsheet. I will refer to this row as ‘new developments’.
A new development is anything that occurs that causes you to think about the effect of that event on auditing.
New developments provide a ready supply of research ideas. Here are some possible sources of ‘new developments.’
Changes in regulation or regulatory issues. (Examples: concerns expressed by the PCAOB, the SEC, the FASB/IASB. New GAAP or GAAS.)
Changes in the economic climate. (Examples: the Internet Bubble and the Internet Bust, the financial crisis of 2007-2009.)
Issues in the business press or audit firms’ publications. (Examples: frauds, M&A issues, executive compensation.)
Now let’s put the columns and the rows together. For example, consider the issuance of SOX 404(b), which requires auditors to assess the internal controls over financial reporting of large clients.
SOX 404(b) is a new development column in the spreadsheet. Next we consider the effects of SOX 404(b) on the usual suspects. This generates a list of possible research ideas:
What is the likely effect of SOX 404(b) on:
Audit signing lag
Going concern opinions
Client discretionary accruals
Of course, not all of the ‘cells’ in the resulting column will contain good research ideas, or even sensible ones.
For example, it seems likely that SOX 404(b) would affect audit fees and auditor signing lags. It seems less likely that it would have an effect on auditor industry specialization.
Even one good idea is enough for a project!
I have tried to provide some thoughts about the problems you face in publishing enough to (1) get a job, and (2) achieve promotion.
I have suggested several ways in which you can address those problems, including ‘borrowing time’ from your doctoral program and working with co-authors.
I concluded with some ideas about generating research topics.
Others might have different views about what is desirable or possible to do in a doctoral program, or how the research, publication, and promotion processes operate (or should operate).
My observations and ideas are based on almost 30 years of academic experience. I hope that they will be helpful to you.
University of Kansas