Monday, March 21, 2011

High r strategy in a high k regime

I have thus far received 39 post-doctoral applications. Of these 29 were immediately rejectable on the criteria that the application did not include the documents requested. Most of the 29 I couldn’t even tell which position the applicant was applying for, or that they had read the ad. About half of these also contain a similar mix of muddled excessive politeness and jumbled frilly clauses, as though they are cut and pasted at random from the same absurdist form letter. I have no doubt that these are smart, competent people, and perhaps this broadcast spawning strategy of application works in some fields or some countries, but my experience suggests no circumstance under which it would be effective.

Whenever I am hiring, or reviewing applications, I ask myself if I am expressing any unintended biases. I was warned by a friend to expect a large number of irrelevant applications out of India and China (where indeed most of the applications have come from) and so now I force myself to consider in detail whether each of these applications may be more relevant than it at first appears. So far if there is any doubt I have refrained from putting them in my reject folder, meaning that the 10 applications I haven’t yet rejected outright contain a few that I probably should. They also contain a few well worth consideration.

We listed April 30th as the application deadline, so I hope most of the people particularly interested in our positions here are simply taking their time to prepare a high quality application.


jte said...

For the uninitiated, what are r and k?

Dan Levitis said...

r is the rate of reproduction (number of offspring per time unit) k is the per oofspring investment. IN some niches (e.g., that of a pelagic fish) it is more important to maximize r, so k is compromised. In others, (large mammals) it is more advantagoues to invest heavily in each offspring (maximixing k) than to produce lots of cheap ones.