Wednesday, July 15, 2009

Baby Gap

My husband is fond of noting that you can’t tell from my CV exactly when our daughter was born. That is, there isn’t a gap or a low publication year at or near the time of her birth. I suppose he’s right, though it’s not something that impresses me.

The lack of a baby gap on my CV is more owing to luck than to anything superhuman that I did:
  • I had some projects in the final writing/editing stages during times when I was somewhat to completely incapacitated before and after my daughter’s birth, and it was easy for me to move these along without being too lucid or energetic.
  • Despite a difficult pregnancy, I somehow got a daughter who was healthy at birth and remarkably easy to take care of in terms of eating/sleeping etc.
  • My husband helped a lot. Of course I was never far away from her for the first year, but I found ways to get things done in the few hours here and there when our daughter was sleeping or when my husband was taking care of her. Because we work in the same place, it was easy to bring her to work and share childcare.
  • I was able to work out my teaching schedule so that for most of the first year I was either in a flexible team-teaching arrangement or had a light teaching load. Summer also came at a convenient time relative to my daughter’s zeroeth birthday.
I was looking through a pile of CVs recently and thinking about CV gaps in general. If you do have a gap in your CV, should you explain it, and if so, is there any good way to explain it? This could apply whether the gap resulted from a slowdown in research owing to childbirth/childcare or from taking care of a sick relative or from having health problems yourself.

A gap of a year probably doesn't require an explanation, even at a major research university. If you have buckets of publications in every year except one or two, I doubt if anyone is going to look askance at that.

But what if you don't have a huge publication record before and after a gap to help swamp the gap? I have seen some CVs with footnotes, e.g.:

Scientist, J.X., publication info blah blah blah, 2004.

Scientist, J.X., publication info blah blah blah, 2002.*

* leave of absence for birth of child

I have not seen anything similar for illness or elder care, but I suppose it could be done. Does anyone think that it is inappropriate to include such personal information on a CV? Should gaps remain unexplained? Or would it be appropriate to mention a leave of absence, but not the reason for it? And is there a better way to provide gap-explaining information than the footnote method?

As I was staring at a CV gap recently and wondering about its cause, I must admit that this was my first thought:

Scientist, J.X., publication info blah blah blah, 2008.

Scientist, J.X., publication info blah blah blah, 2002.*

* I burned out in 2002, had a string of insane and unproductive students, got some vicious reviews on grant proposals, and took a break from research to explore a latent interest in surfing and breeding small hairless dogs.

61 comments:

Anonymous said...

I have never seen any such explicit explanation, but perhaps a formal leave of absence could be noted in the employment history section of the CV, rather than a defensive-seeming asterisk in the publications section.

BTW, I never once doubted that your CV is gap-free! You go girl!

estraven said...

I do have baby gaps in my cv. A small one for my firstborn and a large one for the twins. Note: one of the twins was a light eater and needed many feedings a day, the other was a whiner at night. And both refused to eat anything but breast milk directly from the breast.

Luckily, in my country there's mandatory, paid maternity leave. So maternity gets listed after my teaching duties (to explain the gaps in teaching) in between scientific leaves of absence to visit Impressive Research Institutes.

I must admit having my daughter only would have been easier. On the other hand, I'm not sure about having only my son (the one who whined all night every night until age 3). I think the thought of the other kids helped me not strangle him.

mlsurfs said...

I think your assumption of burnout is a pretty good one. the academic job market blows, even with a superior "pedigree". i wish i had taken a year off before college or grad school

Janka said...

If such a footnote really existed, would you consider taking that break year to explore a latent interest in surfing and breeding dogs against a candidate?

Anonymous said...

I'm just wondering why are you expected to invest "superhuman effort" and be proud of not having a gap when the baby comes around. Women are usually expected to work two shifts ("Real" job and housework) anyway. Childbirth is awfully straining physically and can also be mentally exhausting. Why should we (females) be expected to write papers and do research while sleeping three hours a day becasue the baby can't stop crying?! Personally I think that if we don't learn to take it "easy" and just take real maternity leaves, our bosses will never learn to respect the fact we have a right to a family life AND to a successful career.

Aurora said...

I didn't explain anything when I interviewed at my most recent appointment. I didn't even mention children. I've tried both ways and in my experience better not to say anything. Let them reach their own conclusions.

If a department wants to hire you they'll do it regardless of gaps. Otherwise they are looking for a reason to reject your application and gaps in the resume is a handy one. If you didn't have gaps they'll find some other reason.

I'm curious to hear what others have to say.

James said...

Breeding breeding small, hairless dogs rather than small, hairless apes?

Anonymous said...

"but I found ways to get things done in the few hours here and there when our daughter was sleeping or when my husband was taking care of her"

This is a skill -- another one of the myriad that we can glean when looking at your description of your career. Being able to use small chunks of time effectively is one of the things that helps PIs, especially parent PIs, be successful.

The others (the timing of projects, for example, or the ease of a particular baby's schedule) are indeed luck. But, being able to get things done in the 1, 2, 3 hour segments when your kid is asleep (or between feedings) is a valuable skill.

DrDoyenne said...

As a mentor (harking back to the previous post), one of the things I routinely suggest to female (and male) mentees is to avoid CV gaps.

Even if you do not have a job, it's easy to fill a gap with specialized experience that can even sound like part of your career plan:

1. Volunteer work with the Forest Service, The Nature Conservancy, an environmental consulting company, etc.
2. Authored a book (or book chapter).
3. Compiled an annotated bibliography in your field and posted it on the Web.
4. Took additional courses in computer graphics, GIS, statistics, etc. to hone your skills.
5. Traveled to Kookamoonga (at your own expense) to gather preliminary data for a proposal.
6. Spent X months in Dr. Hotshot's lab learning new techniques (call it a visiting scientist position).

You get the idea. There's really no reason to have a CV gap (outside of a serious illness). Plan ahead, and you might turn a potential gap into a unique opportunity that sets your CV apart from everyone else.

One example: I had an undergraduate student worker in my lab for whom I gave an opportunity to assist me in field work in Belize (remote swamps). I could not pay her, but she went anyway and put it on her resume. She went on to law school and ultimately landed a plum internship with a prestigious law firm. The attorney who selected her told me later that it was her fieldwork with me in Belize that set her apart from other candidates. She's now a judge.

Anonymous said...

the one time I tried to explain my "gap year" (due to an one-off medical emergency) in a CV submitted for an internal review (pre-tenure), I was told it was inappropriate to do so and had to delete the explanatory comment.
I was then duly reprimanded by the committee for low publishing rate during that year and lack of an explanation for it.

Patchi said...

I have 2 gaps on my CV. These gaps are on the years of the birth of my 2 sons, so they could be considered "baby gaps". However, they also coincide with the fact that my postdoc positions at both times ran out of money and I had to change jobs on both years. I'm not sure I would call them baby gaps, but some of my references might...

Cloud said...

In my industry, its customary to explain large gaps in the cover letter if you weren't doing something you could put on your resume. You can also expect to be asked about them in the initial screening interview. Of course, since we aren't expected/able to publish as much due to confidentiality concerns, the gap only shows up if you have a space between jobs.

I've taken two unpaid leaves of absence: one for travel and one for the birth of my first child. I have another one, for the birth of my second child, coming up soon. So far, though, these are "hidden" in my resume since I went back to the same job after the leave, so it never comes up.

My daughter was incredibly difficult from a sleep perspective, but I still went back to work when she was 3 months old, albeit part time at first. This was only possible with full participation from my husband and a good deal of support from other family. I basically did nothing but work, care for the baby, and sleep for about 9-10 months, and I did a lot of napping on weekends.

a physicist said...

I'm surprised nobody has asked this yet: Does your husband have a baby gap on his CV?

female Science Professor said...

no gap for him either

Kevin said...

A CV or resume should only contain facts of record, not explanations for them. Thus a leave of absence can appear on a CV, but not reasons for low productivity.

For industrial resumes, the cover letter is used for explanations. For academics, a separate "personal statement" is usually recommended (we tell all the junior faculty that the "optional" statement is not really optional---part of the mentoring).

Incidentally, it *is* expected on a personal statement to explain any major gaps in publication. I had a pretty big one when I changed fields.

female Science Professor said...

Sometimes CVs are used for purposes that don't involve a cover letter. I have two stacks of CVs to look at for two different purposes right now, and neither involves a cover letter. In one case the people have been nominated for an award. If I am looking at two CVs and one has a gap and one doesn't and I have no other information, it's difficult not to give a preference to the gapless one. But perhaps there is a good reason for the gap, so it's not fair to hold it against someone.

Anonymous said...

Are scientists with linear careers better than those without? In other words, should one expect publication rate to be a constant? I tend to look at number and citation rate of publications (and yes, I go on and look them up). A large number of rarely cited publications tends not to impress me as much as fewer pubs, more highly cited.

ScienceWoman said...

What about a baby gap that doesn't correspond to the year of birth. I'll likely have a gap year this year, but it really reflects the fact that I had a child, quit a post-doc, and started a new job in 2007. Thus, no new projects got off the ground, and now two years later, I've got a gap. Is there any reasonable way of explaining this? Self-interestedly, I wonder how this will play out in my reappointment and tenure cases.

ScienceWoman said...

@ Dr Doyenne. The suggestions you offer are great for someone unexpectedly facing an employment gap, but they really don't help the person who is completely swamped fro 6 months or more because of childbirth, health problems, or other responsibilities. If that person is spending 18 hours per day taking care of herself or a family member, just how is she supposed to make the time to plug the gap by taking classes, going to Ukenzagapia, etc.?

Alex said...

I wonder if it makes sense to put months on papers. For instance, a year with no papers doesn't look good, but if there were 2 papers in 2006, with one in December, and 2 in 2008, with one in January, well, that is (for some careers and some career stages) a respectable pace. If an editor had scheduled things slightly differently, the person would have no gap in 2007 but would still have the same respectable pace.

John V said...

I like a CV that has some personal information - spouse, kids (with ages), hobbies, birthplace, any notable non-academic achievements. It can add perspective to the professional history, such as explaining gaps and transitions.

However, explaining is not excusing, the gaps still exist. So an asterisk explaining births is comforting to those seeking to ensure they are hiring someone with a traditional lifestyle, and someone who has already survived the challenges of pregnancy and child-rearing. It, however, also tends to predict someone (for recent births) who will still have to deal with an extra workload of child management for years to come.

Personally, I find families with children more stable than other living situations, and like kids, so the asterisk would help with me (aside from two-body complications).

But in the end, the publication record has to shine on its own.

Anonymous said...

I read these comments with interest following my earlier comment. I'd like to add that to the extent possible put something interesting sounding as DrDoyenne suggests.

I want to second Anonymous 4:46 am's comment. Why is it so important to women to have a gap free resume. One of the very few women in my field goes out of her way to publicise how having kids had no impact on her publicity. Congratulations. Now please keep your mouth shut. Some of us are weaklings who just can't meet those superhuman standards (I want to say it was because of difficult pregnancies and difficult kids) but you know what, it doesn't matter. Fact is I'm not a superwoman.

Comrade PhysioProf said...

I like a CV that has some personal information - spouse, kids (with ages), hobbies, birthplace, any notable non-academic achievements.

This kind of shit is totally inappropriate on an academic CV, and only makes you look like, at best, a rube or, at worst, like a tone-deaf clueless fuckwit.

American in Oxbridge said...

Gaps are hardest when you're trying to seek employment soon thereafter. If you manage a few years of productivity afterwards, the gaps become less pronounced.

And there are many reasons for gaps aside from childbirth. How about death of an immediate family member in a car crash? Does that merit an asterisk, or a mention on a cover letter? Or is it only childbirth that is worthy of the direct explanation? Without the explanation, children might be assumed. But life takes many on paths that are nonlinear for other reasons. It just adds to the complexities of trying to judge based on CVs only, especially in early-career situations.

Alex said...

Personal information: If you have some notable accomplishment outside of your profession, perhaps being a leader or organizer in some sort of club or volunteer activity, I see no harm in putting it at the end. Community service and involvement in campus activities are sometimes of interest to schools. I don't list every volunteer activity I've ever done, but I do list a few positions of responsibility, along with accomplishments, e.g. "Raised X dollars" or "Supervised a team of N people every week for 2 years" or something. If an institution is interested in seeing potential for service or involvement in student activities, that isn't such a bad thing to list.

I also list my one television appearance, because it gives me a Bacon Number. Which is not, in and of itself, something to put on a CV, but when you combine my Bacon Number with the Erdos Number from one of my papers I have a Bacon-Erdos Number.

John V said...

Comrade PhysioProf,

Thanks for the lesson in inappropriate prose.

Most readers of CVs can stumble across most formats of CVs and manage to grasp the scientific qualifications of the writer, particularly with the aid of a good cover letter.

Adherence to finely-nuanced implicit norms for CVs is not required for success in any field with which I'm familiar.

Further, I find straitlaced professional CVs an indicator of a lack of perspective, a strong negative.

I guess we're just looking for different sorts of people in our reviews of CVs,

John

"This kind of shit is totally inappropriate on an academic CV, and only makes you look like, at best, a rube or, at worst, like a tone-deaf clueless fuckwit."

Dr. Wannabeamom said...

I agree that the overall publication record should be important when looking at a CV. Also, what about gaps due to starting a new project? Sometimes a new project takes awhile to get off the ground, but once it takes off many pubs may come from it. Would those gaps looks bad on a CV? Anyways, I'm a grad student and by no means an expert!

One of the reasons I decided not to stay in academia is because it is not a very family friendly career. I think it is one of the reasons women with PhDs do not go on as much as their male peers to do postdocs and apply for faculty positions. I'm not the only one who thinks this way either.

family v. career

Of course I don't know how it is at other places, but in my department very few tenured women have children (or even spouses). Some men as well do not have a family. I love research and science, but I do not want to choose it as my only life. I know it is possible to do both, but women with families are not looked upon in this best way in this field. I'm not trying to say other people shouldn't do it, but for me the cons outweigh the pros. I have friends with children in other careers (medicine, law, and even buisness) where this is hardly a concern for them.

Anonymous said...

I have a big gap in my CV (publication-wise), and now I am working in a reserach lab part time (I did my PhD and post doc before having 2 kids). My feeling is that this is the choice I have made (to take some work time "off" while my kids are young), and if a potential employer is unimpressed by that, then I don't want to work for them. There are many different ways to raise a family/child, and different things work for different people. I agree, that as women we should be allowed to take time off for our kids and still be entitled to a stellar career, no matter if your time off is 6 weeks or 2 years. Where is it written that you must work solidly from Kindergarten through post doc in order to be a good professor/researcher? I admit, it took a little "ramping up" time to get back into research after 3 years off but it wasn't more than a few months. I plan to have a proud asterik that says I took some time off!

Anonymous said...

I'm with CPP on this one.

I have gaps a plenty due primarily to my two kids. But I cannot imagine noting that on a CV. In my dysfunctional (but probably not atypical) department, it has been made very clear to me that having kids is no fucking excuse for gaps. In fact, I suspect that the fact that I have kids makes some of my colleagues devalue what I have accomplished. And don't get me started on maternity leave! What, you get out of teaching for a semester? You should have published twice as many papers!

Anon at 1:18, it's possible that your superwoman colleague has gaps but is just bluffing. I have no doubt, however, that FSP is a true superwoman.

Shay said...

* leave of absence for birth of child

If it's on a male scientist's CD, it will be taken as evidence that he is a caring and well-rounded person.

If it's on a female scientists' CD, what are the odds it will be taken as further evidence women shouldn't be hired for research positions?

(ok, I'm tracking the Sotomayor hearings and feeling all feminist and cynical right now).

DrDoyenne said...

ScienceWoman:

The idea is to be creative within your particular situation and to plan ahead for potential CV gaps as well as you can.

I'm not being unsympathetic to those juggling a job and family issues--just offering some ideas to help readers see the opportunities. It's up to the individual to figure out what might work for them.

Even if you are confined to your home/bed, there are still options open to you (unless you are in a coma, then you may have a pretty good excuse for a CV gap). Imagine the following exchange:

Interviewer: "What's this 6-month gap in your work history?"

You: "Oh, I was in a coma caused by a brain parasite I picked up doing fieldwork in Kookamoonga. But I'm fine now.... Really."

Interviewer: "So you did not accomplish anything during this period?"

You: "On the contrary. I ultimately co-authored a paper with my doctors about the diagnosis and treatment of H. kookamoongii (the brain parasite)."

Kevin said...

Hobbies do not belong on a CV, but service (university, professional, and community) does, though after the more critical research and teaching records. Non-professional awards may be put on a CV if they have any relevance (such as establishing teaching ability or documenting outreach service).

Occasionally, a hobby is worth mentioning in a job application, if it establishes that you would be more likely to accept and stay on the job (an interest in hiking and skiing for Boulder or surfing for Santa Cruz, for example), but not in the CV.

I don't know of any awards that use raw CVs as the sole input for deciding the award---there is nearly always a nomination letter or personal statement that can and should contain explanatory information.

Anonymous said...

@John "Most readers of CVs can stumble across most formats of CVs and manage to grasp the scientific qualifications of the writer, particularly with the aid of a good cover letter."

Most readers are straight white upperclass males who possess wives and kids at home. When I see a fuckwit list family as a part of his professional activities, I think about how little he would have "scientifically accomplished" if he didn't have a wife at home making him dinner every night and doing his damn laundry in addition to her full-time outside the home job and/or full-time raising kids at home job. If a woman lists "married with 4 kids" on her CV, she's seen as not committed to her job when those same male readers evaluate her with their sexist bias. jc

Comrade PhysioProf said...

If you have some notable accomplishment outside of your profession, perhaps being a leader or organizer in some sort of club or volunteer activity, I see no harm in putting it at the end. Community service and involvement in campus activities are sometimes of interest to schools. I don't list every volunteer activity I've ever done, but I do list a few positions of responsibility, along with accomplishments, e.g. "Raised X dollars" or "Supervised a team of N people every week for 2 years" or something. If an institution is interested in seeing potential for service or involvement in student activities, that isn't such a bad thing to list.

I also list my one television appearance, because it gives me a Bacon Number.

As I already said, listing this kind of shit on an *academic* CV makles you look like a clueless fuckwit, who has no idea what being a successful academic scientist is all about. NO ONE GIVES A SINGLE FLYING FUCK ABOUT YOUR FUCKING HOBBIES OR WHETHER YOU WERE TREASURER OF YOUR LOCAL EUCHRE CLUB OR WHETHER YOU WERE ON TEEVEE.

When experienced academics read that kind of absurdity on an academic CV, they LAUGH AT YOU, for being so fucking delusional that you would actually think that anyone gives a shit.

The ONLY things that belong on an academic CV are ACADEMIC accomplishments. PERIOD.

Anne said...

One of the most respected and well known professors in my field is a woman who took 8 years off to have children before becoming a professor. Evidently it's possible to step away from the professional sphere and still have an immensely successful career. I haven't the faintest clue how on earth she pulled it off. I've already decided not to stay in academia (I'm currently a grad student) for exactly the same reason as Dr. Wannabeamom. I love science and research, but it's just not a battle I'm interested in fighting.

John V said...

JC - Most readers are straight white upperclass males who possess wives and kids at home. When I see a fuckwit list family as a part of his professional activities, I think about how little he would have "scientifically accomplished" if he didn't have a wife at home ... . If a woman lists "married with 4 kids" on her CV, she's seen as not committed to her job when those same male readers evaluate her with their sexist bias.

I know few colleagues anymore with stay-at-home wives, I do not have one. Why do you assume all families mentioned must include stay-at-home wives and men who can't cook or do the wash?

An applicant with an impressive publication list and four kids at home is doubly impressive, although I also know almost no one, man or woman, with four kids anymore. Why do you automatically assume "straight, white, upperclass" men think otherwise?

Some of us try NOT to stereotype by orientation, gender, and class.

John V said...

Comrade PhysioProf,

The ONLY things that belong on an academic CV are ACADEMIC accomplishments. PERIOD.

NO ONE GIVES A SINGLE FLYING FUCK ABOUT YOUR FUCKING HOBBIES OR WHETHER YOU WERE TREASURER OF YOUR LOCAL EUCHRE CLUB OR WHETHER YOU WERE ON TEEVEE.



So everyone shares your view? Surprising and counterintuitive.

MattPatt said...

@John V, and responders to him -- isn't it actually *illegal* to use information about marital status, number of children, etc., in a hiring decision? Of course I'm not naive enough to think that this doesn't happen anyway, but why in the world would you want to give a hiring committee this information front and center? And any committee whose members ask for such information, formally or otherwise, isn't one I'd be really comfortable having my name in front of.

Comrade PhysioProf said...

So everyone shares your view? Surprising and counterintuitive.

Dude, your're starting to crack me the fuck up. Do you get that we're talking about CVs of academic scientists applying for academic positions at research universities? Maybe if you're applying to be some kind of low-level administrative flunky at Apex Tech, somebody might be impressed by your stint as audiovisual coordinator of the local model railroad club.

Anonymous said...

The point is that there is no harm in providing this information if you are male, because the perception is that it will not interfere with your productivity. And the assumption is that it will interfere with a woman's productivity.

Every time a man includes this warm and fuzzy information, it highlights our inability to do so without having to consider potential consequences.

Male privilege 101.

MattPatt, you're right that it would be illegal to use this information to make a hiring decision, but unless someone said something stupid in front of the wrong person, it would be very difficult to prove.

CPP, personal info on a CV may be laughable at your highfalutin MRU, but my experience is that they eat this shit up at undergrad institutions and second-rate research schools. Ah ha! Finally we have found a faculty sponsor for the douchenozzle club!

EliRabett said...

Is no one else here a binge publisher? Ten or more publications over two years, one or none for the next two.

Oh yeah Comrade, shove the attitude where the sun don't shine.

John V said...

Comrade,

... Do you get that we're talking about CVs of academic scientists applying for academic positions at research universities? Maybe if you're applying to be some kind of low-level administrative flunky at Apex Tech, somebody might be impressed by your stint as audiovisual coordinator of the local model railroad club.

Oh, finally I see. You think you've seen more CVs for more serious positions and honors than I have.

Hard to be sure with just an avatar, but between proposal committees, honors committees, and job search committees working at the two MRU at which I've been full Prof and Directors of various institutes, as you can easily verify as I'm not anonymous, I doubt it.

I'm sure you have excellent judgment as demonstrated by your wide-ranging and perceptive opinions, and I'm less ethically sensitive, but you can't convince me that you have seen and passed judgment on more CVs than me without some evidence.

MattP

Good point. That's the law, and I don't understand it well.

We (faculty, Chair, and Dean) want to hire the best person for the future of the candidate, dept, and school (not in that order). We're not supposed to ask about nor listen if told about gender, age, race, orientation, health(?), family situation, and who knows what else.

Yet between fiscal constraints, two-body problems, big donors prejudices, demands for gender and ethnic distribution, extra resources for such minority hires, and most's penchant to hire people culturally similar to themselves, it is difficult not to consider and discuss just those factors.

I try to look at the whole picture - how else can one do it, just compute the h-index vs years since degree?

Anonymous said...

Sign me up, EliRabett. I find that when a project comes together, it is suddenly very easy to generate a lot of interesting data and ideas that create a publication clump (not sure I'd go so far as a binge!).

And, regarding the personal (non-academic) information on a CV: why is this such a major issue? Why is a surprise to find that scientists are quirky, and like to do what makes them happy? I don't do it myself, but it doesn't inspire the extensive mockery in me that your comments seem to suggest. Move on, folks.

MattPatt said...

Also, I meant to mention this in my earlier reply, but I was in a rush to get somewhere -- John V, I'm gay. If I'm married, it's going to be to another man, legally or otherwise. In quite a lot of places, it's perfectly legal to toss my CV into the shredder the moment someone on the committee sees that, if they choose. And it would be legal to fire me on that basis alone, too, after the fact. (Of course, this is ignoring the strength of the university's diversity policy, which of course may vary.) Once again, why in the world would I want to put that front and center when it has nothing to do with the job I'm applying for? In what universe are details about my family relevant to my application for an academic job? If this is how hiring decisions are made at your institution, please do us all a favor and tell us where you work, so we can avoid the place.

John V said...

MattP

please do us all a favor and tell us where you work, so we can avoid the place.

While I'm sure they exist, I've never been at a school that would ding applicants for being gay. Nor one that would ask an applicant what is their orientation.

However, when the wife and kids (or the boyfriend) come for the visit, it doesn't take M8 to know the background, and I expect that is generally the case.

I'm in Seattle, and my dept, university, and city are unusually tolerant and supportive of all lifestyles, thankfully.

Sorry for the plague of comments today, it was too many.

Alex said...

Well, CPP, I got 3 faculty interviews and a job at a good school, plus a visiting appointment at a world class research institute, while circulating a CV that lists (at the very end) service accomplishments in my community, as well as my Bacon-Erdos Number. In fact, my annual evaluation has a specific item (at the very end) for community service. So my CV is lists item in the order in which they would appear on my performance evaluation.

I might also note that a quick google search for one of the top people in my field turned up a CV that includes a list of community service activities, most of which involve coaching athletics or involvement in public schools.

Interestingly, a lot of universities are looking at community service (by students) as a mechanism for learning if properly structured. So listing significant community service on an academic CV seems appropriate.

As to the Bacon-Erdos number, among physics and math geeks it's considered cool to have one. Once you understand that, it only makes sense to list (at the very end) the event that resulted in your Bacon-Erdos number. And if you look at the Wikipedia entry for Bacon-Erdos numbers, you'll see a number of people who have them.

Anonymous said...

JohnV:However, explaining is not excusing, the gaps still exist. So an asterisk explaining births is comforting to those seeking to ensure they are hiring someone with a traditional lifestyle, and someone who has already survived the challenges of pregnancy and child-rearing. It, however, also tends to predict someone (for recent births) who will still have to deal with an extra workload of child management for years to come.

Personally, I find families with children more stable than other living situations, and like kids, so the asterisk would help with me (aside from two-body complications).


I hope you're not on any of my hiring or promotion committees cos I'm divorced and without kids so I guess I don't fit your mold of what a successful scientist should be.

I also wonder how you conclude that families with kids are the most stable living situations - according to national statistics nearly half of all marriages in this country are on the verge of divorce...I just think that your criteria for evaluating academic job candidates is unsound.

Anonymous said...

@John V:

Here is the problem:

"...an asterisk explaining births is comforting to those seeking to ensure they are hiring someone with a traditional lifestyle"

and

"I find families with children more stable than other living situations..."

No one on a hiring committe should EVER be "comforted" by the idea they are hiring someone based on any lifestyle choice. In fact, this is both discriminatory and illegal. So what if I'm single, gay w/ partner, married w/o kids, or a polygamist with 10 dogs. This information should neither be provided nor asked for, and it clearly should not be used in the hiring decision.

Being biased in favor of married people with kids (as you have stated you are), means you are in fact biased against those without them.

Although my "lifestyle" is actually fairly traditional, I worry very much for people like MattP when they apply to your department.

John V said...

On further consideration, with the help of some comments above, I'd like to disown my statement above: "I find families with children more stable than other living situations".

I meant it as an example of one of thousands of ways to view a situation, not as a major factor. Of course it is at best only statistically true (or perhaps even false - I suspect a careful inspection of sociological literature would produce results interpretable either way).

The general intention of virtue in being able to count on stably productive hires not just for a couple of years but for decades remains the goal, but my errant statement has little relevance and does harm to more proper factors in hiring.

MattPatt said...

John V:

You say, While I'm sure they exist, I've never been at a school that would ding applicants for being gay. Nor one that would ask an applicant what is their orientation.

With all due respect, you need to consider these issues a bit more carefully. I'm currently at a university in the Deep South. Without engaging in too much unwarranted stereotyping, I can assure you that there *is* a significant difference in how my institution views these matters, versus how you seem to think yours operates. If you've never had to think seriously about this yourself when applying for a job, well, I can't really blame you; if it's not an issue for you, it's not an issue. But... that's privilege in action, right there.

John V said...

MattP

I wasn't being facetious, I am confident outdated prejudices persist many, perhaps most, places, and probably are present but less visible even in progressive Seattle.

Then we all have our own more or less justified stereotypes through which we view the world, and need to be aware of.

Forums such as this serve to raise my awareness.

Ms.PhD said...

Wow. I think everyone said most of what I wanted to say, except maybe this: sometimes there is a publishing gap for scientific, political reasons. If you are, as one of my colleagues said about my work, "A bit too far ahead of the curve". Then you end up with more years between publishing- but it's not like you weren't WORKING YOUR ASS OFF.

I somehow doubt that most readers of my CV would note all the "service" things I accomplished in the meantime. I suspect that instead they assume, as one of my critics did, that I was spending too much time on service and not enough time at the bench.

Of course, this has been more of a problem for me because my "mentors" were more trouble than help, and our current hierarchical system that demands you have the name of someone "higher up" on your papers.

I might try to imply that this is different for faculty than for postdocs/grad students, but I know that it's not... one junior FSP I know of had a horrible time getting her work published when she first started her own lab, for the same reason that it was "too far ahead of the curve".

Now she's HHMI so I guess it all worked out okay in her case. But I wonder if she got passed over for awards or funding during that time because of the obvious gap in publishing? I guess you don't always know, especially if you self-select and just don't apply for anything because you know it will be a waste of time (like I've been doing).

Cath@VWXYNot? said...

I don't know about CVs used for job applications, since I've never been involved in an academic job search. But I do know that the CV format for grant applications to the CIHR (Canadian equivalent of the NIH) has a specific section that is used to explain any "Interruption(s) and Delay(s)" to the scientist's productivity. I've only worked on a couple of federal US grant applications, but don't recall seeing such a section in the forms.

(Of course different agencies use different criteria to assess the strength of the applicant - the CIHR places much more emphasis on training students and postdocs than does the NIH, for instance).

Anonymous said...

There is a wonderful book "Mothers in Science" which you can download from the internet. Some of the women profiled have very large gaps in their work record and have gone on to highly successful careers.

pLang said...

@JohnV and MattPatt -- I got my PhD at Oregon State and spent 7 years there, but I am from the same Deep South pit that MattPatt hails from and I'm there now. John, with all due respect, this may as well be a different country. If hiring committees down here are looking for personal stats about your family structure in relation to gaps, your interests, or other personal details, then they are looking for a very specific pattern that includes "traditional family structure", church activities, and who your relatives are. Having also lived in the PacNW, I know that it's easy to expect these progressive things but to many of us, that trend of extra info on the CV is damning. Hell, if they catch wind that you're GAY? May as well put in an app at Burger King, where more than 1 page of CV is too much. While he may sound like a Douche, Comrade is right - my CV has academic achievements and community service (as it is usually a requirement for tenure round these parts).

Anonymous said...

My publication gaps correspond to my funding gaps. Or rather there was a phase lag between them. My gaps are due to my advisor running out of funding and bouncing me from one project to another until he had absolutely no more money left and I then bounced to another lab altogether.

So yeah I would put an asterisk on my CV to explain my publication gaps because it's not that I wasn't working effectively (which is the initial judgment) and it's not my fault I kept starting but not finishing projects, but because I kept getting bounced around due to unstable funding situations.

(but my advisor doesn't have publication gaps since he had other postdocs on fellowship to still put out papers with his name even when he was in between funding)

My explanation for my gaps is directly relevant to academic/professional situations, has nothing to do with personal life choices like choosing to have a baby, choosing to get married, whatever. So that's why I feel comfortable putting such explanations for my publication gaps up front in my CV. But if I had publication gaps due to having kids, I wouldn't give that personal info out unless directly questioned.

Anonymous said...

I am curious about FSP's comment about bringing young children to work and sharing care with her husband. It is my experience that academia, with many two-body families and a somewhat independent work style also seems to promote the idea that one can somehow work and keep a child out of daycare by keeping a toddler around at work, to be cared for by a rotating cast of parents and unfortunate bystanders, such as students and admins.

One person (PI) I know brought her baby to a conference and brought a grad student along to help care for it, under the rationalization that the grad student wouldn't have normally been able to go to the conference, so it was a win-win in her opinion.

When I was a graduate student, my Saturday lab work often included long days shared with the 2 small children of the PI, who let them roam free.

I have two kids, do an insane amount of juggling to co-op in their schools, etc., but think that at some point, if everyone wants to work full-time, you need reliable, professional, paid for childcare.

Any other opinions on this?

Kevin said...

@Anonymous 7/18/2009 12:54:00 AM

I agree that young kids need supervision, and that it is often best to hire a professional to do it if you can't do it yourself.

There are times when the on-campus daycare here shuts down (since they are primarily geared to a student schedule, not a faculty one), and times when the local schools are closed. I see nothing wrong with faculty or grad students bringing students in to work for a week during such a hiatus in normal care, as long as the environment is not dangerous to the child. (Having a kid play with computers and markers in an office is fine, but bringing them into a wet lab is not.)

Personally, I'm pleased to see (reasonably well-behaved) kids on campus and in faculty offices. I am generally pleased to meet the children of my colleagues and students---they're a good bunch of kids.

I did not bring my kid to work often, both because I had on-campus daycare and because at that time my wife was not working outside the home. When he was 11, I did arrange for him to spend 2 weeks working in the wet lab of a colleague, learning PCR, ligation, and transfection. The safety permissions took several weeks to arrange.

He did not pick up a love of wet lab work, but he was much better at it than I'll ever be. The experience was somewhat unrealistic though, as everything he did worked first time (except one electrophoresis, where the lab PI hooked up the electrodes backward).

Kate said...

I'm curious about "the bad old days." About 20 years ago, as a teenager, I was horrified to see that my mother's CV had the phrase "turned by attention to home and family" on it.

Now she does has about an 11 year gap on her CV. She's a medical librarian with an MS in genetics who discovered she didn't really like working in a research lab, had babies and followed her sociologist husband around the country in search of his perfect job. She decided to go back to school when baby number 2 was in first grade and baby number 1 (me) was in middle school.

I know that an 11 year gap is kind of hard to ignore, but would anyone still use a phrase like that today?

I haven't seen her CV since and I've never asked if she changed it. It's kind of a subject she gets a bit defensive about with me. I figured out what I wanted to do an college and have been zipping along ever since, although I still haven't acquired a much wanted husband and babies.

Anonymous said...

Kevin said:

Personally, I'm pleased to see (reasonably well-behaved) kids on campus and in faculty offices. I am generally pleased to meet the children of my colleagues and students---they're a good bunch of kids.
------------------------

I totally agree. I just think that sometimes, there is a subtle abuse of the PI-student power structure where the students have to absorb some of the childcare difficulties of the PI.

Anonymous said...

Okay. We're too unkind to breeders. We desperately need to fix that. And fix that so male academic breeders *also* take responsibility for the full responsibility of parenting.

But. We're also too unkind to non-breeders or non-responsible breeders who stuff up.

The question is: If you have a four year research gap, should you still be able to make tenured "full" professor, or whatever the terminal position of skill is in your academic ranking system.

Should we increase the *esteem* for people with broken research careers, reorganise their teaching role, and recognise a greater variety of tertiary roles with security of employment?