"In many disciplines, for the majority of graduates, the Ph.D. indicates the logical conclusion of an academic career." Marc Bousquet

Tuesday, January 18, 2011


*Updated below

Dear Fancy Press Editor:

I’m sorry my peer-review of that manuscript YOU invited me to review was two weeks and two days later than the date we INFORMALLY agreed upon.

You see, my life has been somewhat crazy lately, since we first communicated back in November. I know you don’t really care about my excuses, but what can I say? In just this short while, I have quit a job, turned my back on a career I’ve spent the last decade working towards, and stared down the abyss of financial freefall while desperately searching for a new job, finally finding a new job a lifeworld away from where I imagined I’d be right now even just a year ago.

Much as I wanted to do the review for you, it just wasn’t a priority, nor – in spite of my financial difficulties – was the $150 honorarium much of an incentive, given the amount of time it took me to read the manuscript carefully and write a detailed response. Recall, this was my first time doing this, and I wanted to do it well. I didn’t want to rush it if I didn’t have to.

So, I e-mailed you respectfully and asked for a little more time, and your reply indicated a little more time wouldn’t be a problem. We didn’t talk about what exactly “a little more time” meant. A few days? A few weeks? How could I know what your expectations were if you didn’t tell me? This past Friday, two weeks after that last exchange, you wrote asking how my review was progressing, still not saying anything about a deadline. I said I’d have it by end-of-the-day Monday (i.e. yesterday). But you never replied. I sensed you were displeased and losing patience with me, which is perhaps understandable, but couldn’t you have communicated this? I finally got the review finished and sent it off to you yesterday, as promised, but, again, you never replied.

Did you receive it? Was it acceptable? Was my feedback constructive enough to be useful to the author?

Despite my tardiness, I do actually care about whether I did a good job, and I’d appreciate some acknowledgement. Was two extra days too much to ask? If so, you should have told me, so that I didn’t waste the weekend making the effort to finish it. And what happens to the honorarium? I know I said it wasn’t much of an incentive, but, having finally completed the task, I would like my reward. Are you planning to stiff me? If there was some sort of explicit deadline, after which you would no longer be willing to acknowledge my effort, you should have stated that clearly in one of our earlier conversations.

Civility, you know, it goes a long way, especially for those of us still trying to figure out the rules of the academic playground, even as we are leaving.

If I ever do revise my dissertation into a book, I won’t be submitting the manuscript to you.

recent Ph.D.

*Update: As it turns out, things are all good on this front. The editor doesn't think I'm an idiot at all and wasn't even too pissed off about the lateness of my review. I'm leaving the post up, though, as an expression of how anxiety-producing academic life can be.

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