The always interesting Timothy Burke has a post on the economics of conference attendance, inspired by Brian Croxall’s essay about why he didn’t attend the MLA. The key problem for both of them is that the way the academic job market is structured inn the humanities forces job seekers to attend the MLA for “screening interviews,” used to cut a long list of applicants down to the three or so who will be invited to campus.
This is almost a two cultures moment, because this isn’t the situation in my part of academia. It’s not that the job market is any better, but there isn’t the same automatic “screening interview” step in physics. In the umpteen job searches we’ve done since I started here, we’ve done phone interviews once, and had a colleague informally talk with candidates at a national meeting once, maybe twice.
I’m curious as to how general this is, though– is physics an outlier, or is the interview-at-a-conference thing an odd quirk of the humanities? So, here’s a poll to try to make this quasi-quantitative:
While I haven’t had the experience of interviewing or being interviewed at a conference, I can’t say I feel deprived. The whole thing sounds horrible to me, and I’m more than happy to do without it. Of course, doing without it does put a lot more emphasis on the folder-reading stage of things, because you need to immediately cut the list down to the three-ish candidates who will visit campus. I’ll take that, though, over cattle-call interviews.