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The Work of the Professional Scholar 10: Editorial Work (Books)

In addition to serving as editors and editorial board members for academic journals, many scholars also serve in the same capacity for scholarly book series published by academic presses. Over the years – again, just taking myself as a not particularly unusual example – I have been on the editoral boards for a number of scholarly monographs series: Studies and Documents (published by Eerdmans Press); Early Christianity in Context (T & T Clark), and Vigiliae Christianae Supplements (E. J. Brill). Scholars serving in this capacity perform a similar service to those on editorial boards for journals, but now, rather than evaluating academic articles for publication, they are evaluating books, to be published in a series that is usually devoted to a certain kind of book written, broadly, on a certain kind of subject in the field. Serving as the referee for a book is obviously a good deal more demanding than for an article. Books are much longer, more thoroughly researched, and (far) more important for the academic career of the author. And so a [...]

The Life of a Professional Scholar 9: Editorial Work, Journals (2)

In addition to serving on an editorial board and participating, chiefly, in reading and evaluating journal submissions for publication, there is the task – a far more onerous, time consuming, and significant task – of editing a journal.   I have never had the desire to be the chief editor of a major journal; like a lot of my colleagues, I see my contributions to the field coming in from other directions.   But I have been an associate editor and have seen what editing a journal involves first hand.  It involves a lot. The editor has numerous jobs and responsibilities.  All submissions comes to the editor, who decides on which established scholar(s) should evaluate them for possible publication (the peer-review process).   The editor normally has the final say, based on a careful reading of the article and of the readers’ reports.   The editor is responsible for putting together each issue of the journal, deciding what can fit in and when each article should appear.   (Normally, from the time an article is accepted for publication until it [...]

The Life of a Professional Scholar 8: Editorial Work, Journals (1)

    One aspect of the life of a professional scholar, which may not be well known to the general public, involves editorial work.   For some scholars, this kind of work takes an enormous expenditure of time and effort, although much of the work, and many of the hours, are not transparent or evident to outsiders.  I have done a lot of editorial work over the years, but I do not think that my case is at all exceptional.  A lot of my colleagues have done less, but some have done a good deal more.  Many scholars see editorial work as a major component of “service” to the discipline.  Which means that, for the most part, it is really important but normally thankless! As is my wont I will use my own experience as a guideline for describing this kind of work, since it is really the only experience I know much about in excruciating detail.   I will devote three posts to the matter, two (including this one) dealing with editorial work involving academic / [...]

2020-04-03T19:42:34-04:00May 25th, 2012|Bart's Critics, History of Biblical Scholarship|

The Work of a Professional Scholar 4: Undergraduate Courses

The principal work of a professor, of course, is to teach! Different colleges and universities have different requirements and expectations for their faculty. At many small colleges, professors teach four or even five courses a semester. Rarely can a person teach that much and still produce substantial (or much of any!) research, so that professors in those contexts are usually handicapped when it comes to publishing scholarship in the form of books and articles. Research universities, on the other hand, expect their professors to be at the cutting edge of scholarship, and so the teaching requirements are lighter (since the research demands are so much heavier). Faculty in research schools can never get tenure or promotion (or raises!) if they do not regularly and extensively publish in their fields of expertise. (That is becoming increasingly true in all colleges and universities, even ones with heavier teaching requirements, which scarcely seems fair, and is probably not good for scholarship or teaching). The University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill is a “Research 1” university, which [...]

2020-04-03T19:44:05-04:00May 5th, 2012|Bart's Critics, Teaching Christianity|

The Work of a Professional Scholar 3: Undergraduate Theses

In addition to my regular teaching, I often get asked to direct Independent studies – where an undergraduate student will pursue a research project of his or her own choosing, something that normally is not taught in a regular class that we offer – and senior honors theses. I rarely am able to do an Independent Study, I’m sorry to say, as I have so many other demands on my time. But some of my colleagues are able to do several a year. I do occasionally direct honors theses, though, especially when a student looks especially promising as someone who may be able to go on and do graduate work in the field. The honors thesis is done by a graduating senior who has a certain (rather high) GPA who wants to have some experience doing original research on any topic of his or her choosing. I direct ones, of course, that have to do with the New Testament or the history of Christianity during the first three centuries. The thesis takes two semesters to [...]

2020-04-03T19:45:00-04:00May 3rd, 2012|Bart's Critics, Teaching Christianity|

The Work of a Professional Scholar 2: Supervising PhD Dissertations

In describing what professional scholars in the academy do – at least those who teach in the Humanities, the one area I know something about – the first thing that comes to my mind is probably not what would come to yours.  It comes to mind because I have just now been traveling across country (I’m now in an airline lounge in Chicago) and in the plane I have been reading a (very fine) doctoral dissertation, whose author will be “defending” (that is, being subject to interrogation by the five faculty members on her committee) tomorrow. It’s a very good dissertation, I think.  Like all dissertations it is book-length (will be turned into a published monograph, I should think), highly technical in places, very learned, the result of something like three years of full time labor.   This particular student is not one that I am directing (each student has one faculty member directly responsible for supervision of the dissertation); I am just one of the other committee members. One of the things I like best [...]

2020-04-03T19:45:08-04:00May 3rd, 2012|Bart's Critics, Teaching Christianity|

The Work of the Professional Scholar 1: Introduction

                In some of the back and forth that I have been involved with over the past few weeks there have been questions raised about whether “experts” in a field have any privileged standing when it comes to making judgments about the acceptability or force of evidence that is adduced for one position or another.   I am not going to go into that question here, but a related topic did occur to me as I was thinking about it:   My hunch is that there are a lot of people outside the academy who do not know what it is professional scholars actually do.   That’s not surprising.  I, frankly, don’t really know (or understand) what a hedge fund manager does, or a state lieutenant governor, or an industrial chemist.      And so, with that in mind, I thought maybe I should describe what it is that someone like me – a senior professor at a major research university – what a person like me actually does with his time (one quick answer: NOT watch a lot [...]

2017-12-14T23:35:27-05:00May 3rd, 2012|Bart's Critics, Public Forum|
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