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Secret Handshakes

May 7, 2012

I think I do a reasonable job of pursuing career development opportunities. Workshops, summer schools, etc. Not too long a go I became aware of two interesting opportunities. An APA solicitation for reviewers from “underrepresented groups” for any of their many journals, and the NIH Early Career Reviewer program.

I heard about both through “official” channels. The APA program was just a solicitation in a journal that I stumbled on. The NIH-ECR program information was forward to me by an NIH official. In both cases I (perhaps naively) assumed that the best way to purse each opportunity was to go though the process as written by the organization. Get your CV together and just apply as per the instructions.

Not sure that was a smart move.

The APA has yet to respond in well over a year. I resubmitted my application after 6 months of silence and even asked if the program was still ongoing. Nothing. Eventually I called them up to ask what the deal was. Long story short, the “program” amounts to them just forwarding your CV to a few editors. It is entirely possible (likley in my opinion) that my information was just ignored by the relevant editors, who I’m sure are overworked tenured folks. I can imagine that a “diversity reviewers” email might get a pretty low priority score behind their own pubs, grants, articles to review, grad students, etc etc. I asked if I’d get a better response by just contacting editors directly (“possibly”). Ok, then what’s the point of this whole thing? Not to make this post too long, but this is a wonderful illustration of the gap between meaning to nice things with regard to diversity and actually doing something.  This APA solicitation seems more “hey wouldn’t it be nice” than a serious attempt. I wonder if they keep track of how effective this solicitation is. Based on my experience I’d say, not very.

As for the NIH-ECR, I am still waiting a response (it hasn’t been that long), though I am not hopeful. I’m going to go ahead and contact an SRO directly. I have little faith that going though the application process will result in any sort of consideration or acknowledgement of my app. I think it’s interesting that others I’ve talked to on the science-internets think that talking directly to an SRO IS the standard procedure for this.

Both of these struck me as somewhat secret-handshake-ish. In both cases I took information from the organization about the opportunity at face value, only to later learn I was barking up the wrong tree. The real way to pursue these opportunities was something different, that I should have just known. Smart folks go through the side door, what you didn’t know about that, I thought everybody did. It’s exactly the kind of thing that can be bad for underrepresented folks. It’s kind of an odd possibility that both of these programs may be the least effective way of pursuing these opportunities.

Perhaps I just had a spell of naiveté. I am slightly annoyed at myself for not suspecting that there was a more direct approach available. Perhaps these sort of situations are unavoidable as organizations need flexibility  (e.g “letting SROs out into the wild). Still something about these two situations strikes me as slightly off.

2 Comments leave one →
  1. DrugMonkey permalink
    May 11, 2012 5:06 pm

    I’m concerned about the first point- looking busy while not actually doing anything useful. A sadly typical tradition in Academia. Then you start getting the “but we tried! And I didn’t work” kind of excuse

  2. DrugMonkey permalink
    May 11, 2012 5:08 pm

    ECR is for faculty-level, not sure if you qualify on that. And I’m pretty sure *my* post on the topic said to contact SROs directly. At least the DM blog is googleable

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