Academic productivity

2019-05-23

in PhD thesis, Psychology, Writing

Productivity in the context of academic research is an unusual phenomenon. While elements like data entry may have a pretty direct and straightforward relationship between effort and outcomes, coming up with new ideas and writing can both involve a lot of unpredictability and spontaneity. Academic productivity is also social, or at least networked. The extent to which your ideas will influence others does depend on their creativity and the success of their expression, but it also depends on fads within the discipline, including vogues among funding bodies and journals, and the willingness of senior scholars, the university, and the media to promote it.

It’s one of those cases where effort and results can be totally out of scale. You may produce something in an afternoon (it’s as true of an essay as for a song or a poem) which ends up promoting widespread discussion and being one of the things most commonly associated with you. Alternatively, you can “devote weeks of most intense application” to a project that never gets any attention or has any consequences. It’s a nice demonstration of how the products of our labour can often have little relation to how effortful the labour is, and how moments of insight which are both surprising and comprehensible to others can be the unpredictable products of random circumstances and unpredictable chains of inference.

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