More application materials blogging

So, maybe it’s a bit late in the season to be worrying about CV grooming, but I’m curious: what are people’s opinions on the talk list in one’s CV?

Obviously there’s some point where one wants to include every public talk one has ever given, and then clearly some point where one stops. Once one stops, then one has to decide which are worthy of inclusion, and it’s completely unclear to me how one decides this. How many is too many?  Does one slant toward recent talks? Toward a diversity of different talks? Toward particularly prestigious fora? This is the sort of point for which there seems to be no guidance online, so let’s create some.


18 thoughts on “More application materials blogging

  1. A suggestion related to this topic: even if one doesn’t include all invited talks on ones CV, I recommend keeping a list somewhere, because otherwise you can begin to forget what talks you have given, at what places, on what topic, and so on, and there are various reasons you might want to remember.

    Here are some reasons:

    (a) Many (most?) institutions engage in merit-based evaluations of their faculty on a regular basis, and for this, one needs to provide various
    information to the evaluators. Talks given is one standard such piece
    of information.

    (b) When evaluating proposals for the NSF, having received an honorarium from an institution within a certain timeframe is regarded as a conflict of interest with proposals from people at that institution.

    (c) Sometimes one’s coauthors might be planning to speak on joint work at a certain institution, and they might wonder whether you have also spoken on this work at that place some time in the last x years.

    (d) When going up for tenure, as a candidate you often present a more elaborate CV to the dean, tenure committee, etc., than you might present otherwise, and on this CV, it is sensible to list all the talks you have given. People outside of math will want to have some method for evaluating your importance as a mathematician. While they can read the letters and so on, seeing a large number of invited talks at institutions they have heard of can be a comfort: it gives them some
    objective sense that you and your work are of importance in the mathematical community.

    There are presumably additional reasons.

    As for what to keep when making a shortened list, departmental
    colloquia are normally regarded as more prestigious than seminars,
    so I would suggest keeping them in. (Indeed, a colloquium at a major department can be more significant than an invited talk at a highly specialized and technical conference.) I would also suggest
    that things like mini-courses given at summer schools are good to
    keep: they show the reader that others in the field have chosen you to
    be someone who should teach newcomers to the field, and there is certainly a prestige to that.

  2. I use a cutoff by date, and anything more recent than that date gets included, seminar talks, colloquia, invited conference talks, and all. But you’re right that no one ever told me what to keep in and what to leave out; I think whenever I first prepared a CV I looked at some other peoples’ and tried to do more or less what they did.

  3. Hmm, I have to admit I just list all the talks I’ve ever given on my CV, all 70 of them. I suppose I should trim it — Matt’s criteria seem reasonable — but it still takes up less than a page of my CV, so, ah well.

    I sometimes wonder why mathematicians rarely send 1-page resumes (in addition to the laundry-list CV) with their job applications; it can be tedious to go through a long CV and find the interesting bits. I’m pretty sure that most of them, certainly mine included, could be boiled down to something more compelling…

  4. I’m personally of the opinion that hard-and-fast rules aren’t such a good idea. Keeping colloquium talks and invited talks around is a good idea. But it’s also important for someone to be able to look at your CV and get some idea of how active you _currently_ are.

    (I must say that keeping a reminder somewhere of everywhere that you have been is also a very good idea, especially if you update it more often than your CV.)

    So far as the laundry-list CV, one of the goals of designing your CV or resume should always be to make the interesting bits the easiest to find. Laundry lists go at the end.

  5. I have been politely told that CV creep is a Bad Thing. Someone once (foolishly) request a “complete CV.” I gave them an annotated list, as best I could cut & paste it into a single Word document from what I had on hand electronically, of every publication, presentation, and broadcast I’d done. That was a decade ago, and the printout (single-spaced) was already 250+ pages. But only a small fraction had anything to do with a Math faculty position. Why should they care about my poetry (except maybe the one coauthored with Feynman), or the Science Fiction, or the Music Reviews… It would be hideously worse now. Of course I’d give the arXiv reprints of refereed conference papers. Should I list the 2,102 entries in the Online Encyclopedia of Integer Sequences, or 261 entries in Prime Curios? Of course not. Maybe on some hypertext appendix, linked-to.

    Remember (or google for) the discussion in Nature that scientific publications is asymptotic to the LPU: Least Publishable Unit. Everyone is writing papers sliced into shorter and shorter parts separately published, with larger and larger numbers of co-authors.

    The next issue had a letter (I paraphrase from memory): “Is a letter to the editor an LPU? p.s., if you like, I can make this letter shorter.”

  6. You know, I think including one’s poetry or listing entries in OEIS goes a bit beyond what a normal person would call “CV creep.” I’m not surprised you were told it was a Bad Thing, but that’s not really the problem I had in mind.

  7. Yes, Ben, I thought so. I was trying to give boundary conditions and an existence proof. Also the LRU lemma. But there’s some sort of hierarchy, from least useful on a CV to most:

    (0) Poetry, pseudoscience, political pamphlets, the sort of thing actually of negative value in an interview for a Math position;

    (1) Math on your own web site, or a blog, not edited by anyone else, but linked to if needed;

    (2) Math on a technically unedited open source, but sometimes edited and collaboratively extended legitimate site, such as the Online Encyclopedia of Integer Sequence, which is hosted by AT&T Research Labs, distinguished editor-in-chief Dr. Neil J. A. Sloane, and a staff of associate editors;

    (3) Math on a fully edited site, for which I gave the example of Prime Curios, which has an editor and a technical editor at the university that hosts it;

    (4) A Math paper as such as a reprint or preprint, that has been refereed; or (i think at the same level) an invited talk’s edited transcript;

    (5) an old-fashioned published paper in a refereed journal, or conference proceedings;

    (6) a Math Book, or chapter in such a book;

    (7) An award-winning paper or book.

    If one has such data on one’s computer, then one can tailor that part of a CV to the specifications (explicit or implicit) of the intended reader(s).

    I’m also making the point that electronic publication has greatly complicated this CV aspect of an otherwise simplified and speeded-up process. It is simply not clear what constitutes a “publication.” anymore. It has been speculated that the 21st century will take us to “wikiscience” where huge ongoing collaborations will be visible online, without any permanent final “version” of a paper, unless those are extracted.

    Discussions on this are happening now at, for instance, the n-Category Cafe.

    I’m not trying to be difficult here. I just think that the problem is ill-posed, and I wanted the meta-problem exposed.

  8. Honestly, I don’t think there’s any question here: (0)-(3) do not belong on a CV; (4)-(7) do (and relatively few of us have enough of those that we would start leaving off the minor ones). The day may arrive soon where people do great mathematics research collaboratively online, and then agonize about how to put it on their CVs, but that day is not here.

  9. I list talks I gave at conferences or meetings, departmental colloquiae, and invited talks at seminars. I don’t list talks I gave at weekly seminars at an institution I was at because it’s CV stuffing, I think.
    So basically, I list what I think the reader would (should) care about reading… it’s like the way I buy gifts- I only buy what I would want. Such a strategy can certainly fail… but it’s the strategy I’m working with at the moment.
    I also don’t list non-mathematical stuff, even though I should and maybe am obligated to do so in some sense, because I think one has the right to keep one’s separate lives separate. I don’t want people hiring me because of non-mathematical achievements (or lack thereof).

  10. As a nominally retired academic, maybe I can add a bit of
    perspective to the sensible remarks already made. (My
    main qualification is that I never actually applied for a job.
    Well, those days are gone.)

    It’s good to keep a full diary of talks, conferences attended,
    etc. You never know when this will come in handy and be
    hard to remember. (I can no longer reconstruct such a
    list, which will no doubt upset my prospective biographers
    eager to document my exciting life in full.) But a CV for
    most purposes including jobs and grants should be more
    selective. Also, a full list tends to be repetitive looking,
    if for example you gave the same talk at 10 places.

    Having been on many personnel and search committees,
    I know that it’s annoying to digest dozens of lengthy
    CV’s looking for the essential bits. It’s also annoying to
    get a sense that people are inflating their credentials.
    Most mathematicians, though not all administrators,
    prefer quality over quantity in a CV.

  11. For professors of English or comparative literature, the question of whether to include published volumes of poetry in their CV is not utterly ridiculous.

    However, the consensus seems to be that it’s a Bad Thing. You’re supposed to be studying literature, not writing your own. Professors of evolutionary biology aren’t supposed to list their kids on their CV, either.

  12. You guys are all correct. Especially on “quality over quantity ” as Jim Humphreys. To cite another field, some years ago Harvard Medical School was getting on their average professorship application CV over 100 publications. So Harvard said: “send me you BEST 5 only to review…”

    John Baez emailed a point about Poetry Books for English Lit orifessors, which I didn’t ask to quote here, but I’d comment as someone who has also applied for English Lit professorships the dirty little secret: American poets publish more poetry than they read. Is it even possible to publish more Math than you read? Descartes was slammed for that; he was too original, too radical (more ways than one), and little understood in depth (in modern terms algebraic curves versus transcendental curves) than any but Mersenne partly grasped at the time.

  13. Marvin Minsky had a developmental psychologist visit him at home, and the visitor got very excited that Marvin had twins. Perfect for experiments. The twins kicked the psychologist’s butt at Spacewar (arguably the first video game) circa 1962. MInsky praised my use, which was to have been coauthored with Ulam per videocon from Bell Labs, of Krohn-Rhodes decomposition of the semigroup of differential operators of a continuous-time model of non-steady-state metabolisms as the first good continuum use of Krohn-Rhodes (one of whom was MInsky’s Ph.D. student). So this is not entirely unrelated to Math.

    As to editor Andy Magid’s editorial [Not. AMS., 55(Jan 2008)1, p.5] about Facebook and informal Doctoral Math, should we presume that Selection Committees look at our “irrelevant” profiles on Facebook, LinkedIn, and other on-line communities?

  14. What about non-research mathematical talks like a talk given to the math club at your university or an overview of a general subfield of mathematics presented to a general grad student math seminar like MCF? As a postdoc looking for a tenure-track job, I include those, but I think of it as an “interesting, short-term teaching I’ve done” section.

  15. Re John Baez’s comment: Presumably for professors of English whose specialty is creative writing, including published volumes of poetry on the CV is a Good Thing.

    Re Johanna’s question: I think your solution is a good one. It’s worth advertising that you’re interested in doing those kinds of things that straddle the teaching and research worlds, but they belong in a separate section from research talks. (Otherwise you run the risk of looking liking you’re trying to pad your list of talks.)

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