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January 20, 2011

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James Grimmelmann

This post could also have been titled: "Rewarding the faculty who actually do their jobs: one school's experiment."

Orin Kerr

"our tiered summer research grant program does some -- but not all-- of that work"

Just curious -- how?

anon

The University of Wisconsin has just implemented a similar system. We are currently on a 10-credit-per-year "2-1" for untenured faculty, while the standard teaching expectation for tenured faculty is a 12-credit "2-2". However, under the new system, tenured faculty can apply to join the "2-1" track, and are expected to write (and publish??) one article per year. At UW we have lots of (relatively highly paid) non-productive, old tenured faculty, so in theory this reform might spur some of them to perform a bit of research. But probably not. Notice how the incentives work: since there are no penalties (apart from not receiving "merit" raises, of which we, like most public law schools, don't really have), and there are no penalties for producing _no_ scholarship whatsoever (besides not getting summer money, which itself is relatively scarce and ungenerous). So if you publish zero articles per year you still are teaching a 12-credit load -- the same as you'd be teaching if you were much more productive and publishing one article every other year. On the other hand, to get out of a relatively measly 2 credits of teaching (down to the 10-credit load), you undertake the pressure and stress of being continuously productive. Depending on how often your research productivity is assessed (the details at my school are still unclear, but I believe that we are assessed every two years to see if we still deserve to be on the 10-credit track), that means that there is little chance to take a "pause" from the grind of pushing out articles in order to think about big ideas, take article-writing risks, etc. It is also unclear if one might be able to "bank" especially productive years. For example, if you write three articles over a two-year period, can you "carry over" the "extra" article into the next review cycle?

Put somewhat differently, the "price" of getting out of two credits of teaching, at least at my school, is really the price of writing one article per year versus _never writing an article_. I would caution other schools thinking of going down this track to make sure that there are ways of distinguishing zero performance from partial performance from full performance of scholarly duties, and to think carefully about setting a fair and effective "price" for the article vs. teaching tradeoff.

Jacqueline Lipton

Bridget: On a slightly different tack, doesn't your school also have an inhouse scholarship competition/award to recognize/promote good scholarship? Or do I have my wires crossed? I'd be interested in your thoughts on how effective that is.

Jeff Yates

In pol sci, some depts have tried things the opposite way -- increasing the 2-2 load at a research school to a 3-3 or more for faculty who don't meet certain production goals. I imagine that such a system would be problematic for law schools, given ABA guidelines. I also wonder if there is any problem in law school reduced teaching load programs with people 'gaming' the system in some way. I'm guessing that this could be handled informally and on a case-by-case basis. On a related note - does this create a penalty for writing books or engaging in peer reviewed scholarship (given the aggravatingly long time to publication when engaging in peer review)?

Jonathan H. Adler

anon --

If someone's work truly qualifies as "zero performance," and they are not compensating in some other way, why wouldn't this be a basis for revoking their tenure on grounds of non-performance?

JHA

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