Monday, February 06, 2006

On Being Knocked Down a Peg or Two

Ok, so I recently received notice that a proposal that I sent off for a conference this summer was rejected. I want to write about this, but I also feel like to do so is potentially a bad idea. Or at least to write about it in the way that I've been thinking about it would be. I suppose I'll limit my comments to the following:

If this rejection is any indication of the prevailing way that people consider this topic (which, of course, it may not be) then I should give up on the idea of revising my dissertation.

Of course, I'm not going to do so, but I do think that I'm going to make a vow to myself never to attempt to woo the people who organize this conference with my ideas again. The way that I think about this topic doesn't work for them - which, hey, probably explains why I've ignored this conference for like the past 7 years, but doesn't explain why I've felt guilty about ignoring it - and it's ok that it doesn't and there's no reason why it should. It just really bites (which is the only way I can think to describe it) that the ideas that I've spent the most intellectual time and energy on (i.e., those related to my dissertation/book manuscript) are deemed completely uninteresting while ideas that are entirely thrown together receive praise. It really makes me question the value of investing immense amounts of intellectual time and energy on anything.

8 comments:

Bored Dominatrix said...

Dr. Crazy writes:

"It just really bites (which is the only way I can think to describe it) that the ideas that I've spent the most intellectual time and energy on (i.e., those related to my dissertation/book manuscript) are deemed completely uninteresting while ideas that are entirely thrown together receive praise. It really makes me question the value of investing immense amounts of intellectual time and energy on anything."

Pretty much.

Kate said...

I wouldn't say you were knocked down a peg or two, nor that investing time on things that you love is not worth it.

I have yet to receive significant funding for any of my research; those with the purse strings never seem to find my work worthwhile at all. But I kept going and am finally finding an audience with my peers.

Sounds like that conference isn't worth your time. It's not a reflection of the quality of your ideas.

When are we academics going to stop being so hard on ourselves all the time? It's certainly something I could stand to learn.

~profgrrrrl~ said...

If your conferences are anything like my conferences, there were more proposals than they could accept, you had 2-3 reviewers, and if the reviewers didn't like the subject or weren't truly part of the peer group to whom you speak, they just didn't get it and thus the rejection letter comes. I've had something rejected from one conference one year and then essentially the same thing accepted there the next year. It's all a matter of who the reviewers are. I've also recevied reviewer comments that have just made me scratch my head because clearly they don't know thing A about what's going on within the subfield.

New Kid on the Hallway said...

I agree with profgrrrrl about reviewers. I worked in an office where I got to see readers' reports on mss., and I saw one classic one where the two reviewers split absolutely diametrically - one reviewer thought the collection was pure, utter, unmitigated crap, EXCEPT for essay X. The other reviewer thought that the collection was pure, utter, unmitigated brilliance EXCEPT - you guessed it - for essay X. But that's not much consolation on those times when it feels like no one gets what you're doing. I've definitely had that feeling (thank God I also have some good people who think my project is good, whose opinions I trust more than random outsiders!).

You should be a medievalist - I swear we never reject anyone's proposals!

Shaun Huston said...

I've probably had one really positive experience with peer review. Even circumstances that have worked out in my favor have been aggravating and made me question the system. All too often reviewers use the process to push their own agendas. To me, the best reviewers are the ones who ask themselves, first, what an author is trying to accomplish with their work, and, second, how well they've fulfilled that purpose. At some point, obviously, a reviewer needs to ask themselves whether a particular argument or research question is worth making or asking, but I think that the article or manuscript in question needs to frame the review. In my experience, most reviewers come at other peoples' work from external frames of reference. If your work matches what interests the reviewer, you're fine. If it doesn't, then the reviewer is likely to advise you to, essentially, write the paper they would write.

My advice: forget this conference. The organization at issue clearly wants to box the topic in a particular way, and their way doesn't have much room for yours. This is their problem, not yours. Once you get tenure, you can free yourself from these kinds of situations entirely. I find myself increasingly drifting towards projects and outlets that would be hard sells as "scholarship" in a traditional sense, but are more satisfying to me, both personally and intellectually.

Lina said...

Sorry about yor proposal. :(

Dr. Crazy said...

Thanks for the comments, all. Actually, I think a few factors are in play in the rejection here, most of which having little to do with the relative quality of my work/ideas.

1) The conference is in a desirable location this year, so competition was more fierce than, say, it would have been were it in an undesirable location.
2) As I said, I haven't been to this conference in a long time, and I suspect that might have lessened my chances of acceptance (though, of course, I've no way to know that).
3) I'm fairly certain that my paper probably didn't fit in easily with much of what was proposed and accepted - though not because I didn't pay attention to the theme, which I did.

In truth, any angst I feel related to this rejection comes more from the fact that this was the first academic conference I ever attended (when I was just a wee lass finishing my undergraduate degree), and I feel like the fact that I've matured as a scholar is actually a bad thing where this subfield is concerned. I may write an actual post about this sometime, but not this afternoon. This afternoon I am going to go and work out and then have a nice cup of tea and a nap. Because I just don't feel like doing anything other than those things (and, in truth, I don't feel like working out either, but I know that if I don't I'll be mad at myself).

Dr. Lisa said...

Ok, I'm late to this, but...POOP!!! On them.