I seem to have reached the phase of my career where I receive regular requests to externally evaluate faculty: this means that I am evaluating the research program of tenure-track faculty (so far always at US institutions, so let’s concentrate on this case) and writing a letter to be used in some ways for the pre-tenure / tenure / promotion processes. If it makes any difference, I would be more interested in answers that apply to the field of mathematics.

Well, sometimes I have reasons that I might not want to do this. Here is a list of reasons that either have occurred to me or seem plausible that they might occur with others:

  1. I feel that I am too busy: either too busy to do a good job in the time allotted, or just so busy that it would make my life easier to decline.

  2. I don’t have much insight into the candidate’s work, and I feel that many other people could do a better job.

  3. In order to do a good job I would have to investigate certain things, e.g. whether and why a certain paper has not yet been published. It’s hard to investigate things in academia completely anonymously, and whether this type of investigation would be well-received or even appropriate is not completely clear.

  4. I feel that the candidate’s work is not very strong. (Note: not very strong compared to what is a key question here, but a sticky one. I have found that institutions which are more teaching focused often ask their candidates to be evaluated by standards which sound very rigorous and exacting to me, a faculty member at a major research university.)

Especially in the last case, it’s not so clear “what’s in it for me” to write an evaluation that says that a candidate’s work is not as good as that of many other people I know in the field. They are still working in my field, so I would rather have them there than not. I have no idea what the chance is that my letter would be taken seriously in a failure to hire/promote them. Either way, there are reasons for concern on my end.

My main question is: if I decline to write such an evaluation, is the act of declining likely to have implications for the candidate? (E.g. is it likely that the declination would appear on the candidate’s dossier?) The subsidiary question is: if I have reasons like the above that would make me prefer not to write an evaluation, is it nevertheless important to write one? Is it “the right thing to do”? (Of course one wants to do a certain amount of service to the academic community. On the other hand, many/most academics get offered so many service obligations that they have to turn some down. This question should be understood as relative to doing other service tasks, not doing less overall.)

One of my papers was accepted at a regional conference. The conference organizers wanted the presenters to register to the conference much more in advance than common. I wrote the organization chair and repeatedly expressed my sincerest intention to attend the conference. But with the conference being so far away and the registration being actually quite hefty, I asked the organizer about the cancellation policy, since there was none listed on their website. I also have a family situation that makes it hard for me to plan so far in advance, but for my career it would be important to present at conferences like this one.
As a response, I received an email in which the conference organization chair basically retracted my conference acceptance. I am a little bit shocked, since I really wanted to attend the conference and thought I had made that clear in my email.

What would be the professional way to react? Do I just accept the conference chair’s decision to retract my acceptance and walk away? Or do I email the chair, explain that I really want to attend and submit my registration fee?

As an academic, my papers (I assume) have been cited. But only once do I remember a publisher, on behalf of a writer, contacted me to ask if they could reused (or republish) a chart I had created in one of papers – for a textbook. I gave them my permission and that was the end of it.

Now I am about to publish my first (non academic) book. I still have footnotes with citations, maybe 5-10 per chapter, but it never occurred to me to ask permission, as long as the citation was proper. The only time I asked for permission was when I printed a comic strip by a popular author.

So – for the other citations – do I need to get permission to publish a quote, or a small excerpt? (for instance if a sentence with an industry fact or statistic).

I’d love to get an answer that applies to both an academic publication and commercial one.

So – as an academic, my papers (I assume) have been cited. But only once do I remember a publisher, on behalf of a writer, contacted me to ask if they could reused (or republish) a chart I had created in one of papers – for a textbook. I gave them my permission and that was the end of it.

Now I am about to publish my first (non academic) book. I still have footnotes with citations, maybe 5-10 per chapter, but it never occurred to me to ask permission, as long as the citation was proper. The only time I asked for permission was when I printed a comic strip by a popular author.

So – for the other citations – do I need to get permission to publish a quote, or a small excerpt? (for instance if a sentence with an industry fact or statistic).

Anyone know for sure?

I am wondering if I can get into a PhD program in mathematics with my background.

  • I graduated from high school in 2008 and began community college majoring in computer science.
  • I took most of my lower division math at this college (single and multi variable calculus, and linear analysis (a combined linear algebra/differential equations course)).
  • I ended up taking a couple more years at this college instead of transferring right away.
  • Here I completed my general education requirements as well as the lower division prerequisites for several engineering majors.
  • In fall 2011 I applied to UCSB, UCSC, and the two Cal Polys for computer science with math as a backup.
  • I got accepted to UCSB for math; accepted to Cal Poly Pomona and UCSC for computer science, and rejected by Cal Poly SLO.
  • In 2012 I was diagnosed with bipolar disorder and had two brief stints in a mental healthcare facility before we figured out a good fit with medications.
  • I ended up basically taking a year off to figure stuff out.
  • I reapplied to Cal Poly SLO (and nowhere else since I wanted to stay close to my family) for a math major, and was accepted. I enrolled in Sept 2013.
  • I graduated in December 2015 with an average record getting mostly Bs in my math classes, one or two Cs, and one or two As.

I don’t have any research experience. I am now working full-time as a software QA tester at a local tech company not really doing anything related to math.

I am quite bored in this current state, and would like to do something with my math background. One of my interests would be to enter into a graduate program and study more math and eventually become some sort of applied mathematician. I haven’t taken calculus for many years (since community college) and I understand that that’s a big part of the Math subject GRE, so I have been studying that subject out of the Princeton Review Math GRE book, as well as out of my Stewart Calculus textbook. Next I plan to review abstract algebra, some analysis, and learn something about Complex Analysis (which I never studied in school). I plan to take the Math GRE in October, and apply to some University of California PhD programs. If I don’t do well, I’ll take it again next April and hopefully do better, and then reapply to the UC programs again.

My question is, do you think my background would prevent me from getting into a PhD program? Should I apply to other schools, maybe even out-of-state, in order to increase my chances of acceptance? Is there more I can do with my free time to make myself a more viable candidate?

Thank you for reading, and let me know if you have any questions (I tried to be thorough).

In a published research paper, the author has cited a thesis/paper, which is not available online. The question is, when I’m writing my paper and I need to cite the corresponding unavailable paper/thesis, what should I do? Should I cite the original material even though I haven’t read it? Or the paper that cited the unavailable material, say in its literature review section?

There is an intern sharing the office with me. Once day his PI came to talk to him. Since there were only 3 of us in the office, although I didn’t pay attention, their conversation just automatically went into my mind.

The story is like this: the intern had worked for 2 months, and he was going to leave. However, he would not let the university know that he was leaving. Instead, the PI would tell the university that the intern would work for another month. When the intern received the paycheck of the last month, he would send it to the PI.

At first, I think this was not right, the PI was stealing project money for personal use, and I needed to do something. However, in second thought, I think he might be the best one to deserve that money.

After all, he is the sole PI of the project, and there is no co-PI. The funding of the project comes from a (very competitive) external grant that he has spent a lot of effort to write proposal etc.

I think it is not very fair for the intern, since he has worked really hard, even in the weekend, so that the project can be shorten. He is going to start his PhD, and has promised to continue to work on that project in his free time.

Although it is not very fair for him, he will not benefit at all if I take any action. In contrast, he may still really want to continue the collaboration that way. This PI is friend of my boss (PI), I haven’t talked much to him, but he appeared to be a nice guy. This is surely none of my business.

TL;DR: I know the PI cheats the system, but is it still right ethically given the fact that he has to fight really hard for this grant money? What should I do in this situation?