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One of our lab directors, on tenure track, has been active in the mainstream, e.g. doing science interviews on radio, tv, newpapers, and another researcher (post-doc, I think) has published in the "trade press" rather than in an academic journal.

Does promoting your work in the mainstream help one's career in academia? Will a tenure / promotion committee look favorably at one's popularity in the mainstream?

I'm asking particularly about large research universities in the United States.

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  • In which field? Jun 20, 2018 at 18:41
  • @henning in the mathematical sciences; I also have a friend who's an assistant prof. in sociology and has also promoted himself a bit in the mainstream recently too (and seems pretty happy doing so).
    – user93132
    Jun 20, 2018 at 18:45
  • Without any concrete data at hand, I would speculate that it would be a double edged sword; on one hand publicity is certainly good to distinguish yourself from the rest. But it's also easier to mess up somehow, and if people want to find some dirt on you it would be much easier if you have a "strong" social media presence.
    – posdef
    Jun 28, 2018 at 9:44

2 Answers 2

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In fact, in the absence of a large body of work published in quality academic journals and attracting loads of grant money, the strategy you mention will probably hurt your chances for tenure in large research universities in the US and probably elsewhere.

Tenure is granted in such places by committees of peers, who are mostly grant funded researchers who also teach. But it isn't your external reputation that will be examined in the meetings of the tenure committee but the quality of your research and the number of times it is cited in scholarly journals.

The above is not a universal and there may be exceptions, but not many. Your reputation outside academia is of little value in tenure discussions. However, once you are tenured (and funded), your visibility might be considered useful when it comes to salary negotiations and some expectations put on you (teaching, committees, ...).

Visibility within the community of scholars within your field via presentation of work at scholarly conferences is a bit different, but it is backed by the research, of course.

But if you want to be tenured at any research university, do a lot of research and get it funded outside the institution. The funding helps pay for graduate students who aid in the research, of course, and pay for labs, etc.

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Mainstream media probably is easier to get published in than academic media.

A good public image certainly may help raise your standing with positive repercussions professionally.

Though it is best to seek peer approval and review in scientific media if tenure and career development is ones goal.

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    "Mainstream media probably is easier to get published in than academic media." - do you have anything to back that claim up? I publish in both places, and find it equally hard. The hardships are just different.
    – nabla
    Jun 28, 2018 at 9:19
  • Isn't academic media more critical (and knowledgable) about auditing the paper based on its scientific foundation and merit?...It is more an assumption, hence the word "probably" in my answer (; Jun 28, 2018 at 10:02
  • Yes, well... sometimes. It depends highly on the journal you are publishing in. In mainstream media you are vetted against requirements of traditional news criteria, as well as your ability to popularize in an understandable way.
    – nabla
    Jun 28, 2018 at 10:05

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