As an ex-academic who is now self-employed, I was struck by the fact that what you describe as “academic citizenship” is in fact merely “professional citizenship” (“Good works”, Features, 29 January). An engaged professional life in any sphere brings with it demands to contribute to the intellectual and organisational well-being of the profession, to mentor younger colleagues, to further best practice and to develop ourselves.
In a working life of almost 40 years, it is something that I have always done because it is the right thing to do, but when you are self-employed that cost is lost earnings: over the next month I shall be attending a meeting of an editorial board, serving on a working party and preparing a day-long seminar from scratch. Trading off loss of earnings or time against setting an example goes with the territory of being a good professional citizen.
It is interesting that an increase in “careerism” is suggested as the reason for why the important tasks of academic citizenship are being eschewed. Surely a careerist would be engaging in many of these activities to further their career by, for example, increasing esteem indicators and indirectly improving the quality of their own research proposals and publications.
What this really suggests is weak line management and a lack of proper development planning so that only performance metrics are focused on.
If there were more real engagement with the performance appraisal and personal development processes by academics, then these activities would be protected and carried out. Used properly, performance appraisals can ensure the recognition of staff who do this vital work and also ensure that people do their fair share. Maybe there is more work to do to highlight the benefits of undertaking these tasks and of proper career planning as a route to success.
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