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My Ph.D. research is related to both computer-science and economics. I collaborate with researchers in both these disciplines, and naturally submit papers to journals of both disciplines. Now, while looking for an academic job, I find out that departments count only the publications published in journals of their own discipline. This is true both in the acceptance decision and in the tenure decision. So, whether I go to CS or to economics department, in expectation, I have only half the number of counted publications of a one-discipline researcher. What can I do about it?

  • One option is to choose one of the two disciplines and only send papers to its journals. But, this means I will have a hard time collaborating with researchers from the other discipline, since they will probably want to publish in "their" journals.
  • Another option is to work twice as hard and publish twice as many papers.

Is this true that an two-disciplinary researcher should work twice as hard to attain the same career status as a one-discipline one?

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    "Is this true?" No. Otherwise there would be 0 interdisciplinary researchers. – xLeitix Jan 12 '17 at 18:37
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    For Germany (a highly conservative academic job market), I can confirm that departments tend to count publications in their own discipline only. However, as for "In other words, a two-discipline researcher has to work twice as hard": this might be a fallacy, since there are better strategies to deal with the situation. For example, you can choose one of the areas as your focus area and make sure to submit all your first-author papers to the journals in that area. – lighthouse keeper Jan 12 '17 at 18:40
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    It's not a real question, is it? But if the situation is, as you describe, I see where the frustration comes from. Note that sometimes there are interdisciplinary positions where all papers in both areas should count, and having papers in one field only is a severe disadvantage. – Dirk Jan 12 '17 at 19:13
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    That is not true for all of Germany, in my case the criterium was peer reviewed, not the discipline. What may lead to problems is when you combine disciplines whit very different publication cultures, e.g. articles versus books, or do conference papers count as articles. – Maarten Buis Jan 12 '17 at 22:34
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    I am in an undegraduate course but this is to quote my textbook "Interdisciplinary students bear a heavier responsibility than disciplinary students do in their research because interdisciplinarians have to establish adequacy in two or more disciplines." – William Sep 29 '17 at 0:53
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I find out that departments count only the publications published in journals of their own discipline. This is true both in the acceptance decision and in the tenure decision.

While it's certainly possible that some departments would adopt a foolish policy of this sort, which is effectively tantamount to a decision not to have any interdisciplinary researchers, I think it's also possible that you are misunderstanding what the statement that "departments count only the publications published in journals of their own discipline" means. When interpreted in the right way, this statement may be a lot less troubling than you might think.

Specifically, the way promotion decisions typically work for researchers who have a joint appointment in two departments is that each of the departments does its own review of the researcher's work, and the input from both departments is then reviewed by a higher campus committee and taken into account to reach a final decision. Moreover, each of the departments doing the review knows full well that it has only partial "ownership" of the candidate's time. So, to take an example that I am familiar with, a researcher who has a 50% partial appointment in a math department and a 50% partial appointment in a biology department will have published some mixture of math papers, biology papers, and papers that are about both math and biology. Now, it is true that in its review, the math department will "count only the publications published in journals of its own discipline", in the sense that the math department doesn't have the expertise to evaluate work in disciplines other than math and will only be seriously looking at the math papers. But the math department also knows that the researcher only has a 50% appointment in math, so all its expectations regarding the amount of math research the researcher should have produced will be weighted accordingly. The biology department will apply similar reasoning. The end result would be that if the researcher is overall as productive as a typical single-discipline researcher, the promotion review will have a successful outcome. (In fact, because of the existence of papers that can be appreciated by both departments, there can even be some amount of double-counting that may lead each of the departments to conclude that you are producing more research than they were expecting you to produce -- this will probably be a weak effect, but note that it will work in your favor rather than against you!)

I would encourage you to ask at any department where you are considering applying for a job whether the above interpretation of the promotion process is a faithful description of their approach to evaluating the work of interdisciplinary researchers like yourself.

With that being said, I should add that from my observations I find it very true that interdisciplinary researchers have to work a little bit harder than everyone else. Being a member of two departments is a big headache: you have twice as many colleagues to get to know and to get along with; twice as many administrative processes to get used to, department-wide emails to receive and respond to, etc.; and, most importantly, when you come up for promotion you need to find a way to effectively communicate your research to two groups of people with very different backgrounds and research cultures. Perhaps there will indeed be times when you feel you need to work twice as hard as everyone else, but as a general rule saying that you need to work twice as hard all the time is a wild exaggeration -- as others have noted, this is both physically impossible and a highly illogical expectation, considering the fact that I strongly doubt you are paid twice as much as other researchers.

Finally, on the positive side, you should remember that working in two disciplines can often also be twice as much fun!

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I collaborate with, and work on projects, involving human health, animal health, ecology, and the occasional bit of applied math.

Should I work four times as hard?

The simple answer is no. Because it's both impossible, and rather unlikely that you're even capable of that.

Instead, the answer is unfortunately that if you wish to be doing interdisciplinary research you should not be looking at those departments.

Because not all departments do this. Right now, my unit is hiring people working in health economics, and we've been very mindful to put their work in the appropriate context, including asking field experts what "counts" for them. We're doing similar things with other people we are hiring - for example, right now, we have representatives from at least three departments sitting on a committee for interdisciplinary hires.

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    An added point to build on to "don't look at these departments": if you are being interviewed by a department, and they say this, you should be very suspicious. How did they decide to interview you, if they think half your papers don't count? What does that tell you about their decision-making process? – AJK Jan 13 '17 at 22:31

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