A full house for the APPAM PDW
© Ben H. Rome
A Look at the APPAM PDW
November 14, 2013 03:37 PM
By Sarah Cordes, New York University
The Professional Development Workshop opened with panelists providing advice and experience from a variety of fields including government, consulting, and academia. The Finding Jobs session included panelists from government, consulting, and academia, who offered a mixture of advice about pursuing careers in these different fields and thoughts about the pros and cons of their jobs.
One piece of advice almost all panelists gave was that if you are on the fence about going into academia or government, you should go into academia first. This is because there are certain skills from academia that transfer over into government, but the reverse is not necessarily true. Ruth Nield, of National Center for Education Evaluation and Regional Analysis, also explained that a lot of what she does in her current role is give advice about research to researchers, so that her previous experience in academia helps her to do that better.
When trying to make the decision about what career path or job to take, Colleen Shogan advised students to “go with your gut” and also to ask yourself “when you turn down the job, will you be angry with yourself?” She said this is how she made her choice to stay in government and that she does not regret it—she loves what she does and stays involved with academia by writing an article and teaching a graduate seminar every year.
One of the pluses of going into government highlighted by the panelists is the opportunity to do things on the cutting edge that no other researchers are able to do—for example forecasting the effects of policies ten plus years into the future, as is done at the Congressional Budget Office. Government panelists also emphasized the ability to call up top people in the field and always have them answer the phone, something that may not always be true in academia.
In the consulting arena, Neil Garasky from IMPAQ International spoke about how the pace in consulting is much faster than in academia and that no day is really “routine.” He also explained that consulting involves a lot of team work, so that it is a good choice for those who like working in a team environment but perhaps not good for people who like to work independently. Due to this team aspect, Garasky emphasized the importance of both technical and people skills.
In the academic realm, students heard from Cecilia Rouse, Dean of the Woodrow Wilson School. Dean Rouse provided guidance on the three main parts of the academic process (job market paper, recommendations, and interview) and also told students that in the current market, there is definitely an advantage of having one or two publications before going on the market. In terms of the interview process, Rouse advised that you should worry most about the people NOT in your field and pitch to them. She also suggested that preparing a couple of “generic” questions to ask the hiring committee—not so specific that it would presume that you got the job but not so generic that it looks like you did not do your homework.
This panel consisted of both editors and academics with successful publication records. One common theme from all presenters was that getting a “revise and resubmit” decision is really good news; you should always try to resubmit to the same journal instead of just taking your paper and submitting to a lesser journal. Both editors emphasized the importance of having a good topic, a strong design, and clear writing. Maureen Pirog, editor of the Journal of Policy Analysis and Management, also emphasized the importance of being strategic and citing everyone who has published in that journal on your topic, because those authors will probably be the referees for the submission.
Laura Peck, Associate Editor of American Journal of Evaluation offered a series of eight tips. Among these, she stressed the importance of developing good relationships with editors, having two things under review at a given time, and the benefit of doing reviews. She said that volunteering to do reviews helps you to better understand the review process and also helps you to develop relationships with the leadership at the journal.
From the academic perspective, students heard from Stephanie Cellini of George Washington, University, John MacDonald of the University of Pennsylvania, and Peter Ward of the University of Texas. Cellini advised that publishing can take years, so it is important to be patient. She also suggested being strategic about submissions—she recommended aiming high because you will get good referees and comments. Specifically, her advice was to submit to the second-highest journal, assuming that you will be rejected, and to then make revisions based on comments from those reviewers and submit your paper to the highest journal. She also recommended having at least one paper you are working on independently that you can control completely.
MacDonald said it was important to publish at least a few papers in a specific discipline because at least one person in a discipline will be reviewing you. Like the journal editors, he also emphasized the importance of having a convincing research design, which should not be mistaken as data mining for a clever IV. He told students to keep in mind that nobody remembers your batting average, they remember your hits, and to always play to your strengths.
Ward spoke not only about publishing in journals, but also about publishing books. In terms of where to focus your energy, he said that there are different modalities in different disciplines regarding books versus journal articles. When working on a book manuscript, however, he said you should still be thinking about articles because it can take a long time for a book to get published, and having journal articles in the interim will help your tenure case. Ward said that co-authoring with faculty is crucial because they know what a good idea looks like, but that when doing so it is important to discuss expectations at the outset—who will be first author, etc. He concluded by discussing some things NOT to do in the publishing process. He said that you should never send the same article out to multiple journals at the same time and that you should also avoid self-plagiarization.
In this session, students heard advice from both program officers and successful grant applicants. Katina Stapleton, program officer for the Institute for Education Sciences, provided some basic tips. Stapleton recommended having a clear goal in mind rather than applying for everything and stressed the importance of getting applications and submission plans organized. She highlighted some common mistakes, including applying for grants you are not eligible for, using poor grammar or spelling, writing a boring application, turning in an incomplete application, and missing the deadline.
Next, Maria Dunn, program officer for the Social Science Research Council dissertation proposal development fellowship, provided some tips for writing a successful application. She emphasized the importance of knowing the goals of your funder. Dunn told students that a successful application sells your research and uses language that is accessible to non-experts. She said that unsuccessful applications often use jargon and talk about “gap-filling” rather than trying to match the language of the organization that is funding the grant or fellowship. Other problems she pinpointed included lack of feasibility and vague description of what the applicant plans to do. Finally, Dunn recommended that students ask for feedback on their applications, even if they are rejected, so that they can improve the application and potentially re-apply in the future.
From the applicant perspective, students heard from Dylan Conger of George Washington University and Amy Ellen Schwartz of New York University. Conger recommended that when searching for funding opportunities, students look at CVs of researchers working on similar topics and to also look at the acknowledgements sections of manuscripts. She recommended that students prioritize opportunities for junior scholars because these opportunities will be unavailable later in their careers. Echoing some of the advice from the program officers, Conger recommended that students refine their topics to fit with funders’ priorities. She also suggested that students try to get a copy of a winning proposal as well as a sample budget from senior scholar or the university grants office. Finally, she emphasized that grant applications are an opportunity to demonstrate real enthusiasm for pursuing a particular project.
Schwartz began by telling students successful grant writing is a learnable skill. She explained that getting grants is a process and recommended thinking about projects in the broadest possible terms because once a proposal is written, you can write a variation on it to submit elsewhere. She also explained that there is no reason to “go it alone.” Schwartz urged students to think about working in teams and partnerships because this can help make the proposal stronger, but cautioned students about working with non-academic organizations because they often have different goals. Schwartz also recommended that students become familiar with the people who work in the Office of Sponsored Research, as they are an invaluable resource in the grant process. She also discussed the fact that the “small stuff matters” because s full proposal is “one part great idea and nine parts scavenger hunt” to provide all of the supporting materials.