Tuesday, January 12, 2021

How to Count Public Philosophy in Faculty Evaluation Files: A Proposal to U.C. Riverside

The value of public philosophy is increasingly recognized by the profession. However, it's unclear how contributions to public philosophy should be evaluated in tenure, promotion, raises, and retentions. Current standards in most philosophy departments revolve around research, teaching, and service, traditionally construed. How does public philosophy fit in?

In consultation with a few other faculty at U.C. Riverside, I worked up a draft proposal, which I will present to my colleagues at tomorrow's faculty meeting, in hopes that the department will adopt it, perhaps with revisions.

I thought I'd share it here. Suggestions for revision welcome. I have crafted the proposal specifically for the situation at UCR, and I expect not all features of it will translate well to other departments.  However, please feel free to adapt any portion of it you find useful.

Please note: This proposal is not yet adopted and might never be. Myisha Cherry, John Fischer, Kim Frost, and Howard Wettstein also contributed to this document. As such documents ordinarily must, it represents a compromise among competing views.


Public Philosophy in Merit and Promotion Files

Public philosophy advances the university’s mission and can play an important role in Philosophy Department members’ cases for merit advances and promotions.

No philosophy department member is expected to have public philosophy contributions in their file.  However, department members with substantial contributions to public philosophy should earn appropriate recognition for those contributions.

Characterization of Public Philosophy

Public philosophy can include:

  • philosophical writings, oral presentations, and other communications of philosophical ideas aimed at non-academic audiences (e.g., an op-ed in the New York Times, a public talk at UCR Palm Desert, a blog or podcast with a broad audience, a presentation in a high school classroom or at a public “Night of Philosophy”, or a white paper shared with a regulatory body);
  • study of how the public engages with philosophy (e.g., examination of the role of Twitter in the uptake a philosophical ideas, discussion of how and why certain historical figures are or are not conceived of by the public as great philosophers);
  • application of philosophical ideas or approaches to issues of public interest (e.g., philosophical analysis of near-death experiences, Black Lives Matter, or the regulation of toxic substances).

Public philosophy need not be, and typically will not be, published in academic journals.

We note that historically influential philosophers, from Socrates through Dewey, have often directed much of their work toward a broad public.

Research, Service, and Teaching

Public philosophy can count as research or service, or occasionally as teaching.  Ideally, this should be by agreement between the faculty member and the department.

To count as research, public philosophy must constitute substantial knowledge creation and not just, for example, a summary of the work of others.  However, summaries of the work of others can count as public philosophy under the heading of service or teaching.

Given the nature of U.C. and faculty members’ expected roles in our PhD program, faculty members who contribute to public philosophy must also continue to regularly publish “technical/scholarly” work for academic audiences, advancing specialized knowledge in their subdiscipline.  For this reason, no more than half of the research expectations in a merit or promotion file can be satisfied by public philosophy aimed at non-academic rather than academic audiences.  For example, if the expectation for a two-year cycle is at least two substantial research articles, a faculty member with a strong public philosophy profile would still be expected to publish at least one substantial research article in addition to their public philosophy.

Some work aimed at policy makers or the general public can also constitute a substantial contribution to an academic subfield (for example Carl Cranor’s Legally Poisoned and Kate Manne’s Down Girl).  Such work (including some “trade” books and all “crossover” books) is not subject to the no-more-than-half rule.

If a faculty member’s specialized research for academic audiences already meets research expectations, the addition of a strong profile in public philosophy could potentially justify a claim of exceptional research accomplishment.


Evaluating Public Philosophy

Public philosophy contributions can vary enormously in quality, impact, form, substantial content, and time investment, and they are typically not peer reviewed.  Thus, they cannot be counted up in a simple way.  Department members’ contributions to public philosophy should normally be evaluated as an overall package.

For public philosophy counted as research, the following dimensions of the department member’s public philosophy profile should be considered:

  • quality of work (as evaluated by the department, possibly with reference to evaluations by others),
  • venue quality,
  • contribution to the advancement of knowledge,
  • reach (e.g., views, likes, engagement, citation),
  • impact (e.g., influence on policy, influence on the audience)

For public philosophy counted as service, it is sufficient to establish only that the contribution reflects substantial labor toward valuable service goals, such as communication and outreach.

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Thursday, January 07, 2021

Philosophy Through Science Fiction Stories: Book Launch and Flash Fiction Contest!

Philosophy through Science Fiction Stories: Exploring the Boundaries of the Possible

ed. Helen De Cruz, Johan De Smedt, and Eric Schwitzgebel

Bloomsbury 2021

We are happy to announce the approaching publication of the anthology Philosophy through Science Fiction Stories. This volume brings together short stories by award-winning contemporary science fiction authors and philosophers, and covers a wide range of philosophical ideas from ethics, philosophy of religion, political philosophy, and metaphysics.

The book launch will include an on-the-spot flash fiction writing contest with a $100 prize and an opportunity to jump to the final round of consideration for publication at Flash Fiction Online.

After a brief introduction by the editors, the following contributors to the volume will read teasers or standalone flash fiction stories

  • David John Baker
  • Aliette de Bodard
  • Frances Howard-Snyder
  • Wendy Nikel
  • Christopher Rose
  • Sofia Samatar
  • Lisa Schoenberg
  • Mark Silcox

After the readings, audience members will have 30 minutes to ask questions of the authors and editors.

The launch will conclude with the prompt and submission instructions for the on-the-spot writing contest.

When: January 18, 2021, 2 PM - 3:30 PM Central Time.

The corresponding times in various time zones are:

  • 12 noon - 1:30 PM Pacific Time
  • 3:00 - 4:30 PM Eastern Time
  • 8 PM - 9:30 PM Greenwich Meridian Time
  • 9 PM - 10:30 PM Central European Time

How to register:

Registration for this event is free of charge but needs to be done in advance. To register, please send an email with subject line "registration philosophy through science fiction stories" to Helen.DeCruz at slu.edu

You will receive a Zoom link to the email address you used to send your registration request.

Please register by January 17 2021. Any registration requests received after 18 January, 1:00 PM Central Time won't be considered anymore.

Details for the on-the-spot flash fiction contest:

Participants will have two hours to complete a flash fiction story of between 500 and 1000 words on the topic of the prompt, which will only be revealed at the end of the book launch event. Assuming the event concludes at 3:30 PM Central Time, contestants have until 5:30 PM (and equivalent times in their own time zone) to complete and submit the story. The two-hour submission window is a hard deadline. Registration for the book launch is also required for participation in this contest.

Though standard manuscript format (Shunn) is preferred, don't worry too much about formatting at this stage. You can send the story as an attachment in pdf, docx or doc format, so not in the body of the email. You need to send the story within 2 hours after the prompt has been given, to the email address we will reveal at the end of the book launch event.

We ask that there be only one entry per contestant (co-authorship counts as an entry) and no simultaneous entries (i.e., do not submit the story elsewhere while it is under consideration for the prize).

Award: The prize money is $100. Moreover, the winning story will jump to the final round of consideration for publication in Flash Fiction Online. We will announce a winner within 6 weeks of the date of the contest.

Friday, January 01, 2021

Writings of 2020

Every New Year's Day, I post a retrospect of the past year's writings. Here are the retrospects of 2012, 2013, 2014, 2015, 2016, 2017, 2018, and 2019.

The pandemic has slowed me down somewhat -- as you'll see from the paucity of new circulating drafts below. Keeping up with existing projects proved to be plenty to manage.


If you like this blog, you'll probably enjoy A Theory of Jerks, since it is composed of 58 of my favorite blog posts and op-eds (among over a thousand I've published since 2006), revised and updated.

I'm also working on two books under contract:

    The Weirdness of the World with Princeton UP.
    As co-editor with Helen De Cruz and Rich Horton, a yet-to-be-titled anthology with MIT Press containing great classics of philosophical SF.

Full-length non-fiction essays

Appearing in print in 2020:

Finished and forthcoming:

In draft and circulating:
    "Inflate and explode". (I'm trying to decide whether to trunk this one or continue revising it.)

Shorter non-fiction

    "The jerks of academe", Chronicle of Higher Education, (Jan. 31). [A Longreads pick for best longform stories on the web.]

Science fiction stories

Some favorite blog posts

Reprints and Translations

"Gaze of Robot, Gaze of Bird" (originally published in Clarkesworld in 2019) is probably my best received story so far. In 2020 it was podcasted a second time and also translated into Chinese:

    translated into Chinese for Science Fiction World (probably the highest circulation SF magazine in the world), Aug 2020, 58-68.
(Also in 2020, the story rose fairly high on the Nebula Awards recommended reading list, though it was not among the six finalists.)

Also newly translated:

    "Reinstalling Eden" (with R. Scott Bakker, originally published in Nature in 2013), translated into German as "Paradies 2.0", Spektrum der Wissenschaft 9:20, 88-89.