Sunday, June 30, 2013

Low Grades, Rejected Papers, Tenure Denials--Moving Forward

You have produced a class paper or a scholarly paper which you expect to get you a good grade and will  be published, resp. For whatever reason the paper gets low grade, the solid journals seem uninterested in publishing the paper.

It does you little good to impugn the judgment of your instructor or the editor and referees of the journal, or the quality of the course. It does not help to find that they did not follow the rules, or were prejudiced against you (it may hurt them, but that won't get the article published, or your grade raised)--legally and administratively you may have many legs to stand on, but I am concerned here with your research career. You may win, but you will find that five years down the people will still be wary of working with you, even if they were on you side. I don't like saying this, and I'd rather believe there are no risks here.

What you want to do is to figure out the strongest case for your work, figure out how to acknowledge and deal with reasons for your low grade or rejection--seriously, and with no rancor. If you threaten the editor, the referee, or the instructor--however subtly--you are likely to discover that your weaknesses as a writer/researcher will become more clearly indicated when people evaluate your career so far.  Throwing sand in their eyes will lead to blowback that is likely to disable you.

On the other hand: You could launch a political, bureaucratic, and discipline-wide campaign. You were unfairly dealt with, and others agree with you. But you will surely need legal advice, and and campaign guidance. Stick with the facts you can ascertain. Any speculation needs to be well supported and carefully argued, Usually, this is a long haul. If there is to be bile and insult, find a surrogate to do that work, and stay above the fray.

Do you really want to be a professor in a research university? If so, you must do your research, disseminate it, and train students.

In an earlier post (Academic Dogs), it was pointed out how a large fraction of doctoral recipients never publish anything. If you include just one article in any journal, it must hit 4/5th or more.

If a dissertation is worthy of a PhD, it surely should be worth publishing an article from it, or at least lead to articles from subsequent work.  Now, large research universities produce hundreds of recipients of doctoral degrees that are focused on research (usually, PhDs).

My impression is that the main decent journals in each field would be overwhelmed if every PhD had to be accompanied by one published research article drawn from the research. Perhaps I am wrong.

[I am leaving out professional doctorates, MD, DDS, JD, DSW, EdD, ... , which are not in general serious research degrees.]

If you do not see yourself as contributing to the research literature, for the next 15-30 years, but you need the kind of training provided by the PhD, don't take a job that then requires you to do research and publish. 

Analogy is Destiny

What you want to have in your back pocket are enough relevant examples, so that each time you encounter something novel, you can see it as like something else.An example may be like another example, or exemplary of a theoretical model. So, in general, you know some general theory, and you know a range of examples and models, and you try to find a fit between what you are confronted with and your explanatory methods and your analogous situations.

What's crucial is that nothing is unique, unheard of, new, etc. That does not mean there is no novelty, no inventions, no creativity, etc. Rather, whatever it is, it is like something else.

[In physics, the story of electricity and magnetism, due to Maxwell, is the model for theories of the nuclear and weak forces, and gravity too. In physics the account of the empty universe is the same as the account given of a crystalline lattice.]

You may not realize just what is the analogy, and just how something is analogous to something else, but eventually you figure it out.

Saturday, June 29, 2013


With a devolved system of government within the UK, there has been increasing interest in the role of SMEs as engines for developing prosperity and growth at a regional level. In Scotland and Northern Ireland, the devolved administrations have commissioned two reports that have specifically examined the financial environment within each nation.

In its study, the Scottish Government  focused specifically on how to develop a strategy to set out the key principles of a “sustainable, responsible and healthy banking sector in Scotland, including providing access to finance for SMEs.

In contrast, the Northern Ireland report  focused more specifically on the availability of finance to SMEs in order to establish the support currently available, the level of uptake and the potential reasons for any deficiencies in the market.

To date, there has been no detailed review undertaken on access to finance for SMEs in Wales. Following representations from various small businesses on the problems in accessing funding from the banks, the Minister for Economy, Science and Transport announced an independent review of the availability of funding for SMEs in Wales on 16th January 2013.

Supported by a voluntary advisory panel  from academia and business, the aim of the review is to examine how effectively SMEs in Wales are served by existing sources of funding, identify areas of particular challenge and provide recommendations for action. This would include the following areas:

  • Whether Welsh businesses are less successful in accessing bank funding compared to SMEs operating in other areas of the UK;
  • What particular characteristics of Wales might explain any discrepancies identified;
  • How UK Government initiatives can benefit Welsh businesses’ ability to access finance;
  • The role culture plays in Welsh business’ appetite for growth and risk;
  • How to ensure Welsh businesses maximise their chances of securing funding from existing sources;
  • How to address any barriers that exist to UK and international investors funding more businesses in Wales;
  • What international best practice solutions might be considered for Wales.

During the last four months, an extensive consultation with over 90 representatives of the banking sector and other financial institutions, the Welsh and the UK Government, intermediaries, academia and businesses has been carried out. More detailed discussions have also been held with members of the Institute of Directors (IOD), Confederation of British Industry (CBI) and the Institute of Chartered Accountants for England and Wales (ICAEW). The Welsh Government also conducted an online consultation on its website and over 30 responses were received including a detailed response from the Federation of Small Businesses (FSB). The consultation exercise has been supported by a substantial amount of data collated from various sources including Welsh Government, Finance Wales, individual high street banks, the Bank of England, British Bankers’ Association (BBA), Department for Business, Innovation and Skills (BIS), FSB, IOD, HM Revenue and Customs (HMRC), the Office of National Statistics (ONS), NESTA, the British Private Equity and Venture Capital Association (BVCA) and various universities within the UK and abroad.

This first report therefore analyses the current situation regarding the access to finance of SMEs in Wales, focusing specifically on the role of banks. It also presents information on other forms of finance that are available to SMEs. As part of the review, a number of preliminary recommendations regarding access to finance in Wales, a number of which the Welsh Government should implement immediately to improve the current situation and others that need further consideration as part of the second stage of the review. These are as follows:


1. Welsh Government needs to ensure that Wales, and Welsh businesses, gets a fair share of funding from the new Business Bank given concerns that the funding will not be distributed regionally across the UK and may be concentrated in the more prosperous areas of the UK.

2. For both loans and overdrafts, smaller and younger SMEs remain less likely to have been successful in securing funding from their bank. If banks continue to have difficulties in fulfilling the lending role for this part of the business community in the future, other forms of funding will need to be considered for smaller firms, especially micro-businesses. The Welsh Government therefore needs to consider whether mechanisms such as micro-lending or community-based lending to smaller local businesses should be encouraged and supported.

3. Security against the loan and affordability of repayment, rather than the cost of borrowing, have been cited in the interviews with banks, intermediaries and small businesses as being one of the main obstacles to accessing bank finance. To date, the Enterprise Finance Guarantee Scheme (EFG) has done little to address either issue especially for smaller businesses. Therefore any intervention by the Welsh Government should focus on these two critical obstacles.

4. Local decision-making by banks is seen by many businesses as critical in ensuring that their business case is considered fairly. Yet there is very little evidence of this happening with higher-level credit decisions being made outside of Wales. Given this, Welsh Government is encouraged to open up discussions with the main banks to ensure that Welsh regional managers make the final credit decisions for all Welsh businesses.

5. There needs to be greater transparency in the lending process. This is to ensure that SMEs, especially those without any formal financial support internally, know exactly what is required in terms of preparing an application to the bank (business plan, cash forecasts, support from an intermediary). In exchange for the provision of this information, banks would then agree to examine each potential funding request in more detail as opposed to basing their decision using the credit-scoring software that is normally applied to the majority of applications.  Such “a banking covenant” could ensure greater transparency and accountability within the lending process and Welsh Government could work with the BBA to pilot such a scheme in Wales.

6. Welsh Government should examine the disconnect between the business support programmes it offers and the funding supplied by the banking community in Wales.  It needs to consider how it can work more closely with banks to ensure that they recognise the support available to Welsh firms and by promoting its take-up, improve the quality of business proposals and information supplied to the banking sector. This could be achieved in a number of simple ways such as having regular meetings between the banks and Welsh Government officials and encouraging the development of specialist managers and support providers in the key sectors identified by the Welsh Government.

7. Welsh Government should raise the issue of the detrimental effect of Basel III rules on SME lending directly with the UK Treasury and BIS. This will enable the UK Government to make representations directly to the Basel Committee on Banking Supervision to recommend that SME lending should be excluded from consideration in terms of determining suitable capital and liquidity within the banking system.

Other forms of funding

8. Welsh Government should examine how it can help facilitate better access to the wide range of commercial lending opportunities that are available to SMEs through non-bank lending channels. This could be achieved through partnership with organisations such as the NACFB and the development of a specific commercial portal on lending for SMEs.

9. There are currently low levels of informal investment in Wales that could be addressed by (a) raising awareness of equity investment by angels as a viable form of funding amongst growing SMEs and (b) developing an equity guarantee scheme to attract further investment by private individuals into Welsh businesses. These potential interventions, and the role of Welsh Government in supporting them, will be explored in further detail during the second half of the review.

10. Finance Wales has had a positive impact on formal equity investment within the Welsh business community. However, the Welsh Government will need to consider how it builds on this success, especially in terms of having a specific vehicle for equity funding in the future. It also needs to develop programmes that create demand for venture capital not only for new start-up businesses but also growth firms where equity investment is key for further development.

11. The lack of availability of trade credit is an issue that leads to many smaller businesses seeking short term funding for working capital from banks.  The Welsh Government should explore how it can use its power as the biggest purchaser in Wales to encourage its own suppliers to adopt supply chain finance or similar schemes to support their suppliers. In addition, it could set an example by ensuring that all contractors operating within the public sector in Wales have to pay their suppliers within a maximum 30-day period (and ensuring that it adheres to such a policy itself). With over £4.3 billion being procured via the public sector, this could have a major effect on the cashflow of a significant number of smaller businesses. The Welsh Government could also build in such conditions into other programmes that it currently manages.

12. Further discussions will take place with building societies in Wales to assess their potential role in supporting SMEs to access finance, especially in terms of commercial property lending.

13. The Welsh Government should examine how UK Government funds can be used more effectively to support businesses in Wales, potentially through the provision of matched funding through its own resources. In particular, as it currently does not provide any loans to those start-ups that create the vast majority of jobs in the economy, the Welsh Government needs to develop an appropriate mechanism for this type of support, based on the Start-Up Loans programme operating in England, although this should be applicable to all new businesses and not only those started by 18-30 year olds.

14. There is a major opportunity for Welsh Government to take the lead in supporting alternative sources of funding such as peer-to-peer lending and crowdfunding, either through partnership or direct funding. It could also raise awareness of both types of funding through its various business support programmes.

Finance Wales

15. As the sole shareholder, Welsh Government needs to determine the future strategic direction of Finance Wales and, more importantly, the role it should play in the future financial landscape for Welsh business alongside other providers.

Data Collection

16. This review has shown that there is a lack of regional data, especially for Wales, as a devolved nation. If policymaking within the Welsh Government is to be based on evidence, then it is critical that UK organisations in both the public and private sector are made fully aware of the implications of devolution and the need for accurate data being collected at a regional level.

Friday, June 28, 2013

Article on "Academic Dogs" from

Academic dogs

by Kurt SchulerJune 27th, 2013  10:35 pm
A link from Marginal Revolution took me to a paper called "An Empirical Guide to Hiring Assistant Professors in Economics." It is as interesting for what it doesn't say as for what it does. It concludes that "top 30" Ph.D. programs in economics, which accept a bunch of quite bright college graduates every year, do a terrible job in making those who graduate capable of publishing work that academic economists find sufficiently worthwhile to accept for publication in academic journals. From all the top 30 programs combined, the average number of economics Ph.D.s in the period the authors studied was 460. Only 143 (31 percent) had at least one publication in any academic journal ranked by the authors six years after graduating. Even at Harvard, Chicago, or Berkeley, the bottom half of the class essentially published nothing. The paper is talking about graduates, and is excluding students who didn't complete their degrees. Another finding: for graduates who were not at the top of their Ph.D. cohort, Princeton, Rochester, and the University of California-San Diego seem to have provided the best preparation for writing publishable academic papers.. . .

Another interesting thing the paper leaves unsaid is what Ph.D.s who don't write academic journal articles do. The Dutch economist Arjo Klamer once wrote an essay called "Academic Dogs." (It is in David Colander and Reuven Brenner, editors, Educating Economists, Ann Arbor: University of Michigan Press, 1992; I haven't found it online to give a link.) He compared academic publishing to a dog show. Owners spend a lot of time training their dogs to run through some paces to impress the judges at the dog show, but how useful is that outside the arena? Klamer decided that both he and his dog would be happier by staying out of dog shows. It is implausible to me that more than 300 Ph.D.s a year from the top 30 programs have nothing to say. Rather, I strongly suspect many of them have decided that the dog show of academic publishing does not interest them. Some prefer teaching students to publishing. Others go work in nonacademic settings--consulting firms, central banks, government agencies, banks, think tanks, international organizations, etc.--and write for audiences other than the dozen people in the world who care about some narrow academic topic and are unable to make anything come of it in the world.
For recent or future Ph.D.'s who like the academic dog show, fine: you will probably do well at it. A few of you will even do work that is truly important, that changes the world a little bit or at least changes what teachers of economics teach their students about the world. For those who don't like the dog show, take heart: you were wise to have studied for your Ph.D. in economics, not English, and you have many ways of using your knowledge in a worthwhile way outside of academia, at a good salary.
From the Vanderbilt paper:

"Going further down this table, we see that one would be better off hiring a 95th percentile graduate of a typical non-top 30 department than the 70th percentile graduate of Harvard, Chicago, U. Penn,
Stanford or Yale, or an 80th percentile graduate of Berkeley, Michigan, NYU UCLA or Columbia."

From the Vanderbilt data, average rankings plus minus standard deviation:

Department Rankings based on Graduating Cohorts' Publication Performance (1986-2000) Red is 1-4th, Green is 5-10th, Yellow is 11-15

DepartmentCoupe RnkRankingatPercentile:
Percentile99th95th90th85th80th75th70th65th60th55th50th45th40thAv Rank     Stdev

Wednesday, June 26, 2013


The first report of the "Access to Finance for SMEs" review has now been published and the full version now is available now on the Welsh Government website.

In the review, I have provided a number of recommendations on how high street banks can better meet the funding needs of Welsh SMEs.

These recommendations include:

  • Ensuring Welsh businesses get a fair share of funding from the new Business Bank;
  • Welsh Government using its purchasing power in Wales to encourage its suppliers to pay their own supply chain promptly;
  • The banks allowing their Welsh regional managers to make final credit decisions for Welsh businesses;
  • Ensuring better links between business support programmes in Wales and the banking sector.
  • The banks establishing a covenant with their customers, moving away from decision-making based on simple credit scoring when a business provides a complete and robust application.

I will now be working on stage two of the review looking at other sources of financing available to SMEs. This will include looking at micro-lending, government sources, equity investment, availability of trade credit and alternative sources of funding such as peer-to-peer lending and crowd-funding.

I hope a number of the initial recommendations will enable the Welsh Government to work with and encourage the high street banks to break down some of these barriers. I look forward to working on the second stage and find some of the solutions needed to get capital flowing into Welsh businesses.

There will be more on this on Saturday in the Western Mail and next week on this blog but for those of you who can't wait, this is what Assembly members said yesterday on the report and its findings.

Monday, June 24, 2013


Earlier this week, I was reviewing the Entrepreneurship Action Plan that Dr Caryl Cresswell and I put together in 2000 for the Welsh Development Agency (WDA) back when we were both working at the University of Glamorgan.

It is a fascinating document, mainly because this was the first attempt, anywhere in the world, to put together a regional strategy to boost entrepreneurship at all levels of society.

It was created because, at the time, it was considered that there was an urgent need to raise the understanding of entrepreneurship and to foster a culture of creativity, opportunity and enterprise as being a positive life-option within Welsh society.

And to a large extent, it succeeded in doing this, although other influences outside of Wales also undoubtedly helped in this respect.

In all, we proposed forty-one different projects clustered around the three themes of recognising the opportunity, creating enterprises and going for growth.

And whilst the majority were implemented by the WDA, including an Enterprise Development Fund (which became Finance Wales), there were a number of projects which didn’t, although it is worth revisiting some of those to see if they can still make a difference to entrepreneurship in Wales.

The role of mentoring has now become regarded as a critical factor in supporting businesses to start and grow. In 2000, we proposed a business service whereby SMEs can access the business talent of people who have been in business (or are currently in business) and have the knowledge, skills or experience relevant to the needs of the SME. This talent can then be harnessed for short or medium term projects.

This “Business Talent Bank” could provide new businesses in particular with short or medium term opportunities to complement or supplement their staff at a cost-effective level. It would also provide opportunities for those people within a community who are otherwise unemployed, employed part-time and early retired to utilise their skills and talents, retain an interest and contact within the business community and to be employed (not necessarily on a full-time basis).

My own experiences suggest that there is still an enormous pool of talent out there that is not being used and such a programme could help in ensuring that this talent is not going to waste as well as, at the same time, helping to develop our entrepreneurial businesses.

At the time, we also felt that the insular nature of the Welsh economy and the lack of exposure of many small businesses to international opportunities was holding the economy back.

We therefore proposed a “Return to Wales” entrepreneurial programme that would attract entrepreneurs and businesspeople back to Wales to establish new businesses. It was based on the then Millennium Entrepreneur Fund run in Ireland which aimed to provide early stage seed capital funding (up to £100,000) to highly skilled individuals or teams involving a key Irish national who is willing to relocate to Ireland. The aim was to not only increase in the interest in enterprise development by businesses outside Wales but also the awareness of Wales as a nation that supports entrepreneurs.

Interestingly, the Irish have resurrected this idea with the creation of “the Gathering” which is intended to bring expatriates back to the country to help stimulate economic growth and development.

It was not only the attraction of entrepreneurs back into Wales that we considered important but how we could get our own entrepreneurs based here to interact more with international businesses.

We therefore suggested the creation of an international network structure involving Welsh entrepreneurs and those based in other countries with the aim of facilitating exposure to new experiences which would benefit their businesses.

The aim was to encourage direct contact with other enterprises (especially overseas) to widen the horizons of Welsh entrepreneurs, raise aspirations, and demonstrate examples of best practice that could be implemented at a local level. Certainly, from my own experiences of visiting hotspots such as Silicon Valley, your whole perception of your business changes significantly when one meets entrepreneurs working in such an environment.

And whilst trade missions are a useful way to build up business links, the development of ‘experience’ missions to find out what is going on in the more dynamic regions of the world could have a far larger long-term effect. Certainly, it might be something that the Welsh Government could consider as part of their overseas offering in the future.

However, the one project that I really regret never saw the light of day was the establishment of a National Business Plan Competition with local stages leading up to a final event. This would have provided a stimulus to convert interest in enterprise into action, celebrate entrepreneurship at a Wales-wide level gaining recognition, fostering the development of new business ideas, develop a “can-do” attitude and attracting potential investors for new businesses. Why it never became a runner is beyond me given the success of similar competitions elsewhere around the world but it may be an idea that could be resurrected fairly easily.

Therefore, there are still various options available from that original plan to help to boost entrepreneurship within the Welsh economy. Thirteen years later, with entrepreneurship having become more embedded in our national psyche, perhaps the time has come to revisit some of them and help to celebrate and support those entrepreneurs that create the majority of new jobs in the economy.

Sunday, June 23, 2013

Living Well is the Best Revenge: Tenure Denial, Avoiding and Dealing With

Some immediate remedies for those of you coming up soon. 

1. If you have done joint work, be sure your personal statement says just what you contribution was, and encourage your department to get additional letters from the collaborators to that effect (but not as independent referees). Joint authorship is now the norm in much of social science and departments have to figure out a fair way of dealing with it.

2. As for significance, again in your personal statement, make clear what is the significance of the findings. No need to brag. Just tell it. From what I have seen, departments have definite ideas about significant work, and may well not tenure people whose work is significant but not by their lights.  

3. You do need to publish in well regarded journals. But as important is the importance and seriousness of your work. Everyone can point to articles in the best journals, and wonder how they got through the review process.

4. If you are writing a letter of reference, and want to be influential, you must be fair, you cannot cast aspersions. Otherwise, you will be ignored unless someone wants to use your letter to do a hatchet job, a job that won't hold up on administrative review.

5. Whatever happens, living well is the best revenge. (This seems to come from George Herbert, but may well have been in common usage. Moreover, many point out that revenge is not a good idea, and you are better off looking forward or forgiving. In any case, living well will surely be good for you)
  In other words, go off to another institution (whatever you may do legally about your tenure case), be productive, and realize that your success is what really counts.  Don't worry about prestige--just ask whether the institution will allow you to do your work and support you. In the scholarly world, the connections you have with those people--throughout the country and the world--working in your area and who think well of your work is what counts--this is David Riesman and Christopher Jencks of 40+ years ago.

6. As for departments that deny tenure to an apparently worthy candidate--make sure all your future appointments and promotions are much stronger than that of the candidate you denied.  Otherwise, you set yourself up for legal problems, and it is likely your provost will not be happy discovering that you have left the university open to liability.  

My other blog, This Week's Find in Planning, and the new book out this Fall, has much more on tenure.