Another aspect of a recent Careers Discussion with my research group involved talking about the elements of a Professorial Trading Card from PhD comics. The "trading card" was very useful for illustrating important topics that most of us somehow learn at some point, typically on a need-to-know basis at different stages of an academic career.
I thought it would be good to discuss these issues head-on with the group, even though the card is focused on statistics mostly relevant to a research-focused career at a university. For those not interested in this career path, the "trading card" can at least help demystify some of the aspects of the professional lives of grad advisors. The card shows:
Prof. X (photo of bearded guy, but you can download a template and put in your own photo)
team: "His own." (the only part of the professorial trading card I didn't like, maybe because I am in a field that is highly collaborative)
T (= tenured)
Research buck$ in: Grad students, do you have any idea how much grant $ your advisor has? Do you want to know? If you do and you don't want to ask, you can look it up on many major funding agency websites.
Papers written: Although of course quality is more important than quantity blah blah blah, we do count these. Many (most?) academics can tell you exactly how many papers they have published. If you want to know someone else's paper count, this is easy to find via Web of Science, Google Scholar etc., keeping in mind that the total is not typically exactly correct.
h-index: This glorious concept was news to some in my research group, but now they all know what it is. Important?!
PhD students graduated: Our group maintains a director of alumni/ae, so this information is accessible.
PhD students dropped out: This information is not accessible in any systematic way, but I suppose a grad student could ask around and at least get a sense for whether the "drop out" rate was high for a particular advisor or research group.
Awards: Who cares? Professors and administrators do!
Invited lectures: a measure of the level of interest of a professor's research and/or the level of interest of a professor in traveling around and giving talks when invited.
Then there are some miscellaneous statistics on the "trading card", mostly to maintain the analogy with a baseball trading card: doubles = two papers on same topic; triples = three papers using the same dataset; stolen postdocs (?).
Despite some odd aspects of the Professorial Trading Card, I found it a useful focus for discussing some key issues of academic jobs, at least at a big research university: the focus on grants, papers, citation index, PhD students graduated, and so on. These seem obvious to those of us who have been living in this world for a long time, but it can be interesting and useful (and perhaps alarming) to discuss them with students and postdocs.
Although the trading card lists many key aspects of the professorial job at a university, is there anything important missing from the trading card? How about:
Number of postdocs?
Number of grants (not just the $ amount)?
Number of graduate students and postdocs employed in PhD-relevant jobs?
Number of courses taught? (at different levels?)
6 months ago