Friday, December 17, 2010

Being busy

Professor Balaram writes on being busy.


 How often  have  we  all  heard  the  familiar,  ‘I  am  too  busy’  excuse,  when  something,  however  minor,  needs  to  be done.  As  an  administrator,  of  sorts,  I  have  often  had  to recruit  colleagues  to  the  task  of  carrying  out  the  many (and sometimes tiresome) chores that are so necessary in academic   institutions.  Not   infrequently,   accomplished and  capable  colleagues  tell  me,  ‘I  am  too  busy.  Find someone else’. 

In major institutions across India, one can classify faculty as those who do research and  (a) serve on institutional committees (b) do not serve on institutional committees but serve on national committees (c) those who do not serve on any committees. Besides, there are a few faculty who do administrative work but no research and some who do neither research nor administrative work and, yet, constantly complain that they are busy.

12 comments:

Anonymous said...

Prof. Balram is an excellent writer, I was glued to the screen while reading the article. I wish I could write like him.

The topic is extremely relevant. I wonder where sports lies in the "gin and social fabric" discussion. I remember that in the India I grew up, there was no television and kids used to play a lot more sports. Today, kids play a lot of video or online games and most playgrounds are gone. Obesity is an international problem. Was the "gin" from a few decades ago (sports) better than the "gin" of today?

Anonymous said...

I totally agree with Prof Giridhar. In fact, the same is true for the students also. Whereas some students can be found working all the time and yet enthusiastic to extend the help of all sorts, other ‘busy’ students can always be found accomplishing their research in coffee boards. Since Prof Giridhar seems to be a great fan of Pareto’s 80-20 principle, I would like to know if this is applicable to the research groups also that 80% of the work comes from 20% of the students. He might have some experience from his own group.

Anonymous said...

Prof. Giridhar:

Did you really write the blog post at 3:02 am? It shows that you have insomnia or that you are really busy

NB

Anonymous said...

Actually, he presented data on this to his project funding agency a few years back. He showed that nearly 25% of the faculty contributed to 75% of IISc's publications. He was asked whether this applies to students also. He showed the data that showed this statistics was applicable to students also.

Then, he commented that it is more dangerous for students not to perform because, after all, faculty have government jobs but students do not. Of course, he might have been joking with this comment.

So, we ask you, are/were you serious?

Giri@iisc said...

No, I do not suffer from insomnia. Today is Vaikuntha Ekadashi, so I got up at 2:30 am.


Giridhar

Giri@iisc said...

December 17, 2010 4:30 PM:

Which meeting are you talking about? In any case, I have always emphasized the importance of data interpretation and not take the raw data at face value.

For example, in the faculty, the first four years and the last four years are spent in setting up and closing down, respectively. One has to reduce these number of faculty from the total number of faculty to calculate percentages.

In case of ME students, publications are a rarity. In case of Ph.D students, the first 2 years are usually spent on courses and setting up the equipment. Considering these set of students constitute 40% of the student population, we should remove them from the total number of students to calculate percentages.

Even otherwise, you may see 30-70 or whatever; so what? After all, there is no big monetary incentive or career growth for faculty to work or not work. If faculty are interested, they will work, else they will not.

In case of students, it is different. A student who graduates with a Ph.D with 0/1 publication (and there are quite a few) is differently viewed from a student who have a few patents/publications etc. and their career growth MAY be different.

Thanks

Giridhar

Anonymous said...

asking students to publish is an easy comment to make for a professor.

i have known many profs who take 1 year or more to 'read' or 'go through' the research work done by the student.

the power of publishing lies in the hands of the prof, not the student

Giri@iisc said...

Last anon,

I agree with you but there are also several cases where the faculty has repeatedly requested the student to write up the work so that it can be published. The student constantly postpones it and writes it up only when the thesis is due. The work, by then, is sometimes outdated and in some cases, it comes back after review after the student has left and it is never revised. All I meant to say was that it is in the best interest of the student to publish because it affects the career of the student more than that of the faculty.

Regarding your comment, "i have known many profs who take 1 year or more to 'read'...", I do not know whether this is really true in places like IISc.

Thanks

Giridhar

Anonymous said...

Dear Anon@December 18, 2010 10:05 PM:

Isn't it surprising that the blame always lies with the professor but the credit is always to the student?

I have seen students from productive research group claim that their work is all theirs and their professor only played a minor role. In the same group, if the student does not perform, the blame is always placed on the professor.

Why do even productive research groups have students who do not work and publish? Certainly, some blame has to be on the student.

It is hard for me to believe that professors take 1 year to correct a paper. If this is so, why do students join him/her?

SRK

balaji said...

I think in every institution there are groups which publish a lot and groups which hardly publish. I did my phd in a top 25 US school and there were advisors who would not care about quality and keep sending out papers. If it gets rejected, they would send it a to different journal. The attitude seemed to be "if the reviewers dont care why should you". I knew a student who had 18 papers in his Phd. And again there are advisor, who would take 6 months to get to a paper. Dr.Giridhar is right. Publications impact the student more than the advisor.

Skeptic said...

Why this blame game? If there are incentives, then both Profs and students will publish. If publication gives job satisfaction or promotion or reputation then faculty will publish. If publication helps in getting jobs (i.e. if the student is interested in academia) then the students will publish. No point in forcing or blaming one or the other.

Anonymous said...

@prof giri

you are right in saying that there are some students who are lazy and keep postponing the work till the thesis is due.

so there are bad seeds on both the sides(prof side as well as student side)


re:"i have known many profs who take 1 year or more to 'read'..."I do not know whether this is really true in places like IISc.


oh yes sir, this is most definitely true in iisc. although the number of such kind of profs maybe small(around 10-20%), they definitely exist.