Evaluating success in a changing academic landscape

Schillereff, D., Clarke, L. ORCID: 0000-0002-8174-3839, Shuttleworth, E. and Alderson, D., 2023. Evaluating success in a changing academic landscape. Earth Surface Processes and Landforms, 48 (12), pp. 2387-2394. ISSN 0197-9337

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How one individual characterises another successful individual varies widely. At a time when work-life balance and the use of metrics are key concerns within the academic landscape, Early Career Academics (ECAs) are voicing particular worries about the opacity with which we discuss and define success in academia, which influences recruitment and progression in unseen ways. Drawing on the results of a survey of 92 geomorphologists, earth and environmental scientists (96% from Europe or North America) and textual analysis of 54 job advertisements for early career positions at UK institutions spanning 2010-2021, we posit that there is a divergence between the perceptions, expectations and realities of academic success and that this has widened over the last decade. We find limited evidence of gendered differences in how academics define success, in stark contrast to employment and promotion outcomes within universities. We also find notable differences in how individual, more senior academics value publications and grant capture, which is at odds with advice usually given to ECAs. This mismatch is reinforced by the steady rise in the total number of essential job criteria listed on job advertisements for early career positions. Strong applicants are expected to excel in more areas than a decade ago. We put forward a series of recommendations implementable at local levels (e.g., research groups, learned society committees, departments) to help ensure markers of success are defined, valued and implemented in more appropriate and consistent ways. These include: the necessity of establishing clear guidelines for recruitment, promotion and awards, and ensuring these are visible and accessible; greater transparency around the weightings given to different criteria in a job advert; and a call to the community to reflect on how our individual markers of success match our career advice and the decisions taken by hiring or promotion panels we sit on.

Item Type: Journal article
Publication Title: Earth Surface Processes and Landforms
Creators: Schillereff, D., Clarke, L., Shuttleworth, E. and Alderson, D.
Publisher: Wiley
Date: 30 September 2023
Volume: 48
Number: 12
ISSN: 0197-9337
Divisions: Schools > School of Animal, Rural and Environmental Sciences
Record created by: Jeremy Silvester
Date Added: 05 Oct 2023 15:16
Last Modified: 05 Oct 2023 15:16
URI: https://irep.ntu.ac.uk/id/eprint/49860

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