Wednesday, June 26, 2013

On playing the number game?

I recently read this article:

The article discussed why we should stop playing the number game and work on real stuff that counts. The main idea discussed in the article is to stop publishing least publishable units (LPU's) and work on hard questions. We as researchers and academics all know about these things.

The dark side of my mind interpreted the article in a different way. Since, the article discusses the way people rig the system; why not play the number game and win ? Quite frankly there were some things that I didn't knew people did to rig the game, and if I were to choose I can incorporate that as well in my agenda (to get a faculty position).

So what should one do? Try to play the game, go all ballistic on publishing LPU's and making your publication list long, or work on problems long & hard and publish significant results only. I assume, but not sure, that search committees, do look at some papers to assess the quality of work?

I am sure this topic has been discussed many times in the blogosphere and other places. But I am going to ask these questions anyway:

1) Did you play the number game when you were looking for a faculty/research position?
2) If yes, how did you balance quality vs. quantity (if any)
3) If no, why not? and how did it pan out for you.

(my dark side: Play the game, get very good at it, beat every one else, get a faculty position and then worry about working on hard problems that matter -- evil laugh :P)


  1. I think George Whitesides said something along the lines of "Hiring committees are stupid, but they sure can count."

    how did you balance quality vs. quantity

    That's the $64,000 question.
    You have to do both, you have to have the appropriate number of papers and you have to have some very meaty/hard stuff. Usually, for junior folks like students or postdocs, 1-2 main projects that are hard and long-term, plus several satellite projects that are short-term, quick payoff projects. And don't neglect those 2nd and 3rd author papers.