Friday, June 03, 2022

Service Tennis, or how to put that ball right back across the net

 As new academics, we're taught (or do we just internalize?) the need to make things right.

Or maybe this: as women who are new academics, we're taught (or do we internalize?) the need to make things right. 

  • Draft of some report or document not right? Let me get right on that and rewrite it so that it sparkles, thinking through and addressing its conceptual problems as I do so.
  • Committee work? Sure, I can volunteer.
  • Take notes? No problem.
  • Write a book review? Let me at it.
  • Review an article or book manuscript? Sure, why not? 

But possibly inspired by some of the feelings that the article Maya recommended in the comments of the last post and also by rereading a few of my self-directed come to Jesus talks about doing too much service, this year has brought a change.

  • Draft of some report or document not right? Well, it's a collective draft. I fix what I can't live with and figure "many hands make light work" for correcting the rest. Could I make it better by spending more hours on it? Yes. Should I make it better by spending more hours on it? That's the real question.
  • Committee work? Is this a committee that has some actual use for what I bring to the table, or am I warming a chair? If the latter, bye.
  • Take notes? Yes, if no one else steps up. I've done enough volunteering to do this for an academic lifetime. Let's start acting as if this takes a village, which it does, and the same people don't have to do this always.
  • Write a book review? Never again, honestly. Marley's ghost is still haunting me, and this is probably the last one I will volunteer to do. I'd rather recommend a more junior scholar who can benefit from the experience, and it's better for them, too.
    • Also, what's with the new trend of sending ebooks or a link where you have to sign up for a site, etc., to get the book on a time-limited basis? Ninety percent of the value to you as a scholar doing a book review is that you get to read and have a copy of the actual book. The last thing I need is more hours of screen reading where it's tricky to mark up the copy with points you'd like to make.
  • Review an article or book manuscript? It depends. Is this helpful in terms of alerting me to new trends in research as well as being a service to the profession? A few years ago, an insidious voice started inserting itself whenever I reviewed something. You could be writing right now, it would say. You only have X number of productive hours in a day. Is this how you want to spend your time? This benefits others, which is laudable. Does it benefit you, as well? Isn't that also a laudable goal? 

I thought of this today when I received back a draft of something I'd sent to a committee, of which the point person mentioned that some changes would be good and that the other point person was on vacation. In the old days--and this was my first impulse--I'd have spent time making the changes and then sent it back.

Today, I lobbed it right back across the net and said "send it back to me once you've made the changes. Have a great day!"

 If you think of all this as your responsibility, it sounds selfish.

If you think of it as a collaborative game, you can hit that ball right back across the net and see it as a win for everyone.


Edited to add: see “Tips to Reclaim Your Time” by Leslie K. Wang over at IHE. https://www.insidehighered.com/blogs/university-venus/tips-reclaim-your-time

 

2 comments:

gasstationwithoutpumps said...

"Also, what's with the new trend of sending ebooks or a link where you have to sign up for a site, etc., to get the book on a time-limited basis?"

Speaking as a recent textbook author—sending e-books costs almost nothing, but sending paper books costs a lot (both the printing and the shipping). If someone was providing a real review in journal, it would be worth sending paper, but for advance copies to someone who might provide a blurb quote or an offhand mention on a blog or on Twitter, probably not. If the person is providing feedback to the author or publisher before publication, there probably isn't a paper copy to send.

I don't understand the reasoning behind limited-time access, though. That probably costs more than just emailing a PDF file.

What I do is send a coupon for a free copy of the PDF version of my textbook to anyone I want to have review it (including any instructor who is considering adopting it). The publisher of the paper version (now scheduled to come out in July 2022) has its own practices for reviews, and I know nothing about them.

undine said...

gasstationwithoutpumps--Your system of sending the coupon for the free copy of the .pdf of your textbook sounds sensible.

It's true that sending a .pdf doesn't cost much, but for a book review in a journal, it's not enough of a reward. I've also bought a few books when I've said I'd review it but then the .pdf copy never arrived.