Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Inside the AAA President's Studio with Agustin Fuentes

The American Anthropological Association's blog has a very cool podcast called Inside the President's Studio which highlights fascinating personal interviews of anthropologists by the AAA president Virginia R. Dominguez. The most recent entry is a conversation with Agustin Fuentes, a biological anthropologist who has been very active broadly within the AAA and more specificially within AAA's Biological Anthropology Section.

Thursday, October 21, 2010

Six months later and a world away...

Still in Chile and supposedly not posting, but today marks six months since the birth of the BANDIT blog. Celebrate good times, y'all! It's been a ton of fun for me and I hope that you have found something here that's interesting, edifying, and maybe even validating. My goal has been to foster a virtual community of early stage biological anthropology investigators and I hope this maybe has the effect of forging some real-life ties at meetings and as potential colleagues and collaborators.

All the best to all of you,

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Pollitzer travel awards for AAPA

If you are or have students who would like to attend the AAPA meetings in Minneapolis but funds are in short supply, please check out the announcement for the AAPA William Pollitzer Student Travel Awards. This is an award of $500 in honor of Dr. William S. Pollitzer. It is designed to help students defray the costs of attending the AAPA meetings. Student qualifications: This award is open to all AAPA student members (undergraduate and graduate). You do NOT have to be giving a paper to compete or receive an award.

Last year the awards committee gave out several of these, so please consider applying!

Outside the comfort zone

Heading into Day 2 at the International Federation of Placenta Associations meeting in Santiago, Chile. I presented yesterday and engaged in lots of great conversations about this project and the directions I want to take it. As much as I personally love the AAPA and primatology meetings, coming to the placenta meeting is like going to school. I love the challenge (and yes, the trepidation!) of presenting my placenta work and ideas to a bunch of people who are at the forefront of the field. In my anthropological world, what I do feels novel and innovative within my immediate context, but when I go to the IFPA meeting I'm surrounded by people who blow me away with the depth of their knowledge and the cutting edge approach they use to studying the placenta. And who can offer real critiques of what I do - for better and for worse. Yesterday I had one of my heroes describe one of my ongoing hypotheses as a "crazy idea." Sweet! I first "met" some of the big names in placentology during my dissertation when I emailed a couple of them for advice on how to process marmoset placentas for stereological investigation. They were so generous and encouraging, and excited that someone outside their world was interested in their work. It's been great to have that kind of reception.

The interdisciplinary nature of biological anthropology means that many of us have to make intellectual leaps beyond our background training to gain the knowledge and skills we need to do our work. I'd love to hear from others who move around in fields outside the bounds of anthropology - what's it like for you at the bone, genetics, DOHaD, anatomy, bioinformatics, ecology, animal behavior, psychology, neuroscience, etc., etc., etc., meetings you attend? Which ones are your favorites? Do you know a lot of people in that world or do you float around on the fringes? What do you like best about attending these extracurricular meetings? What are the biggest challenges? Is your work/identity as an anthropologist taken seriously? Please leave comments!

Friday, October 15, 2010

A brief hiatus....

I will be leaving the country on Monday for about two weeks and I don't anticipate posting while I'm gone. I'm presenting a poster on Fetoplacental growth dynamics in the vervet monkey (Chlorocebus aethiops) at the International Federation of Placenta Associations meeting in Santiago, Chile. This will be the second time I've attended this super fun (and very specific) meeting and I'm really looking forward to seeing old placenta friends and making new ones. After the meeting I'm taking advantage of the location and hiking up Cerro La Campana, the same mountain Darwin did back in 1834. Will there be Chilean malbecs in my future? Have you met me?

Biological Anthropology Section of AAA

Lots of cool biological anthropology business happening at the upcoming American Anthropological Association meeting. Note that today - October 15 - is the last day to preregister!

Yours truly will be presenting a paper in the Biocultural Acts, Biocultural Survival session, along with Robin Nelson of the University of California at Riverside, Laurie Kauffman of the University of Florida and DePaul University, and Jada Benn Torres of the University of Notre Dame. I know Robin and Laurie well and have heard wonderful things about Jada and her work so I'm jazzed up about this session. My paper - Biological Waste or Talisman of Childbirth: Shifting Concepts of the Placenta in the Philippines - is a departure from my usual work and I'm really excited to be presenting it at AAA. I'll be sharing and exploring some of my observations from my recent research trip to the Philippines during which I spent a lot of time at hospitals and talked to people from a variety of perspectives about how the placenta is handled as both powerful spiritual object and as waste material.

Looking forward to seeing fellow BANDITs at AAA!

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

I have a book chapter in print!

I mentioned in a previous post that I had a book chapter in press but I'm very happy to say the book - Hormones and Reproduction of Vertebrates - Vol 5: Mammals - is now published and available directly from the publisher (Elsevier) as well as Amazon. In addition to throwing myself and my co-authors Wendy Saltzman and Suzette Tardif a little shout out (check out lucky 13 below!), I think the series, and this volume in particular, might be of interest to several BANDITs who explore comparative aspects of reproductive endocrinology in their work.


1. Sexual Differentiation of the Mammalian Brain

Desiree L. Krebs-Kraft and Margaret M. Mc McCarthy

2. Neuroendocrine Control of Gonadotropins in Mammals

Toni R. Pak and Wilson C.J. Chung

3. Endocrine and Paracrine Regulation of Mammalian Spermatogenesis

Zirkin, B.R., Brown, T.R., Jarow, J.P. and Wright, W.W.

4. Hormonal Regulation of the Ovary in Mammals

5. Hormones and Pregnancy in Eutherian Mammals

Fuller W. Bazer and Thomas E. Spencer

6. The Comparative Physiology of Parturition in Mammals: Hormones and Parturition in Mammals

Ross Young, Marilyn B Renfree, Sam Mesiano, Geoff Shaw, Graham Jenkin and Roger Smith

7. Stress and Reproduction in Mammals

Lynda Uphouse

8. Behavioral Neuroendocrinology of Reproduction: Mammals

Jin Ho Park and Emilie F. Rissman

9. Pheromones and Reproduction in Mammals

Aras Petrulis

10. Hormones and Reproductive Cycles in Prototherians and Metatherians

Bronwyn M. McAllan

11. Hormones and reproductive cycles in rodents

Karen L. Bales and Caroline M. Hostetler

12. Hormones and Reproductive Cycles in Bats

Amitabh Krishna and Kunwar P. Bhatnagar

13. Hormones and Reproductive Cycles in Primates

Wendy Saltzman, Suzette D. Tardif, and Julienne N. Rutherford

14. Endocrine Disruption of Reproduction in Mammals

Katherine E. Pelch, Joseph M. Beeman, Bridget A. Niebruegge, Stacey R. Winkeler, and

Susan C. Nagel

Wednesday, October 6, 2010

A vanity press by any other name is still a vanity press

Have you heard of VDM Verlag? If you're like me, you've received an email "inviting" you to publish your dissertation with them. It sounds pretty gratifying, because hey, isn't Verlag a subsidiary Springer, the really well-respected publisher of lots and lots anthropology and primatology titles? Um, no. This is a different Verlag altogether, and one that carries with it real risks to your scholarly reputation. Thanks to Stacey Tecot for sharing with me the warning the University of Arizona is circulating to its faculty:

Beware "Vanity" Publishing Houses
We have recently become aware of a situation where some of our junior academics are publishing "books" with VDM Verlag, a German publishing house known for publishing the theses of PhD students in that country where it is sometimes necessary to complete the degree.

VDM solicits theses from academics and publishes them in a very poor quality format to keep costs low, and returns minor royalties if at all to the author.

Interestingly, VDM encourages the academic to purchase copies of their own text, much like the three Belbo, Diotallevi and Casaubon in Umberto Eco's Foucault's Pendulum encouraging authors to buy their own books of occult nonsense their vanity publishing house have printed. Just as with that story, VDM appears to cover its costs from the author's purchases.

The problem?

Other than simply ripping off the author (the royalties are abysmal and the terms are worse), the near scam is becoming very well known amongst researchers, reducing the perceived quality of VDM Verlag:

Writer Beware Blogs
Chronicle Forums
PhD Comics

Further, the books published by VDM Verlag are NOT independently peer reviewed or even proofread or copy-edited!! ...

and should not therefore appear as such in the ERAMIS system.

Unfortunately, we have several researchers who have fallen into the trap, written VDM-published books, and are now citing these books in promotion applications, apparently with the genuine belief VDM Verlag is a respected publisher, not the vanity press it appears to be. This jeopardises the quality of our institution through association with such a press; our academics risk looking like fools in citing these books as significant publications.

Monday, October 4, 2010

Jumping from the Adjunct Track to Tenure Track - can it be done?

Given that many anthropology ABD's and newly-minted PhD's will be hired as adjuncts and visiting assistant professors (some even at their PhD institution) but have a tenure track position set as their primary goal, it seems worth exploring whether/how this transition occurs. This recent thread in the Chronicle of Higher Ed forum is a good place to start since it is largely first-person. A great variety of experiences and opinions abound, but there seems to be general agreement that those adjuncts hoping or assuming that at some point they will be offered a tenure-track position in their current department (or hell, even just an interview!) may be hoping in vain:

"I fear that a lot of adjuncts think that there is some sort of implicit understanding that they are on the track to get on the tenure track at the institution where they are teaching. Fairly or not, the opposite is more often the case."

"Community colleges, I understand, are more flexible. We're simply not. At our R-1, there is a handbook clause forbidding "inbreeding," i. e., hiring (tenure track) our own graduates. We can't do it. Further, since we're a research uni, we can't hire on the tenure track anyone who won't get tenure--i. e., anyone who hasn't published. We hire with nationwide ads, and we sometimes hire on the TT people who already have published books (yes, the humanities job market is horrendous)."

"By the way, we shouldn't just blame adjuncts about this. All too often, they get vague suggestions and hints that there is the possibility they'd get hired to TT jobs. Sometimes "promises," which are subsequently broken. So deans, chairs, and TT faculty share some of the blame. I actually had a higher level admin say something like, "Wouldn't it be nice to hire some of our own doctoral grads?" I disappointed that admin when I suggested it would be scandalous. And I wouldn't be at all surprised if said admin had dropped a few vague hints to a past grad or two."

What is considered one of the biggest obstacles (barring not yet finishing the PhD) is that the job requirements for adjuncting are quite different from those for TT faculty. The service and research requirements, even at teaching-focused colleges, are significantly greater for TT faculty than for adjuncts. And departments hire folks for TT jobs because they've decided the odds for tenure are high enough to take the risk. They make that determination on the basis of a number of things, including research productivity, grants, and publications, areas that are tough - though absolutely not impossible - to beef up as an adjunct. And even if you are able to do this as an adjunct, it may not make it easier for you to lobby for a pay increase as long as you remain an adjunct. I think this sums that calculus up well:

"While it makes sense for adjuncts to continue research and publishing in order to remain competitive for tenure-track positions, it is important to remember that research is not part of the expectations or responsibilities of an adjunct, and as such they will not be paid for such activities while they remain adjuncts...
In the same way, simply being overqualified for your current job is not an adequate reason to advocate for more pay, it simply provides you with the opportunity to move into a job with a higher rate of pay for which you are qualified.
In other words, it doesn't matter one bit to your university if you do research and are capable of performing service while an adjunct if that is not part of the job description, since the university is not asking you to do this as a condition for your continued employment."

Several posters on the thread have made that transition from adjunct to TT in their current department, so it's not something that NEVER happens, but it seems reasonable to temper expectations by focusing on productivity outside the classroom as much as is humanly possible to beef up the CV as though you were only applying to external positions. Perhaps if you can demonstrate to your current institution that in addition to being the stellar instructor you've been as an adjunct, you have published, organized symposia, published, achieved external funding, acted as mentor for a PhD candidate elsewhere, um, published - all the things they look for as hallmarks of tenureability - you can be that person who makes the transition. The reality is that for most R1 and liberal arts programs (even the ones who seem happy with your adjuncting self), those criteria will matter more than simply having great teaching evaluations and an impressive roster of classes you can teach.*

*I do not intend to trivialize excellence in teaching - we all know how much work and passion and time go into that. This is about what is valued by the programs looking to add to their tenure track rosters.

Friday, October 1, 2010

Primatology graduate student Noah Snyder-Mackler has NY Times science blog

Noah Snyder-Mackler is a graduate student in Psychology at the University of Pennsylvania who is studying social behavior in baboons. He also collects poop and has a recurring blog at the NY Times as part of the Scientist at Work series. Very cool!

Asst. Professor Jacinta Beehner in the NY Times

The NY Times ran a very nice piece on the work Dr. Jacinta Beehner, Asst. Professor of Anthropology & Psychology at the University of Michigan, and Dr. Thore Bergman, Asst. Professor of Evolutionary Biology are doing in Ethiopia to study personality, temperament, and stress in gelada baboons.