Saturday, April 26, 2014
1. I believe that the popularity of the three-article equivalent in economics has to do with the nature of the research most economists do. The articles do not need to be published, but the advisor needs to be sure they are "publishable." In that field, there is a sense that they know this, and also that they can say if the article would be in an A, B, or whatever journal.
2. Planning is much more diverse a field. Public policy, too. It would be good if all articles that were submitted to journals represented at least one person-year of full-time work. I am not sure that is the case now. Maybe it should be two person-years.
(Note that in some fields, such as biology and medicine, it would seem that there are many more articles published/person, often they are smaller contributions, and the number of authors is likely more than three. On the other hand, in mathematics, the articles are fewer, they are more extensive, and have one or two authors, and this is for the strongest people.)
3. My point here is that research in our field would benefit from more depth, more long term case-studies, more ... In other words, the problem with the three-article dissertation is that it encourages a practice by our colleagues (junior and tenured) that does not produce the work that will transform knowledge and practice.
4. The issue is not whether the dissertation is a book or an article, or even its actual length. It's a matter of learning how to do serious deep research. What it also means is that getting a PhD would be a matter of total devotion to one's research project for perhaps two or three years. It's not a part-time job, or one that is balanced by doing lots of other stuff.
Now this goal may be impossible, given the level of support we can provide, the limited teaching and research assistantships we have, etc. I went to graduate school in a time, the 1960s, when students were supported throughout their studies, but this was in a field where there was such support. And support was much weaker in earlier decades, and perhaps subsequently.
It may be that we are giving people training in doing research, and only later do they have a chance to do serious work.