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I've been thinking a bit lately about workloads in academia, what's counted and what's not, and why I think we should think seriously about outlining maximum expectations for research and service and not just minimums in workload negotiations and accounting
I'm writing particularly here about workload issues for academics on ongoing or reasonably long term contracts - we are a diminishing cohort and we are a privileged segment of the workforce. Much of this thread won't be directly relevant to the workloads of casuals/sessionals
but solidarity here is essential, and I think (?) that these issues are linked - overwork and hyper-productivity among tenured/FT staff has an impact on what it's reasonable to expect of people applying for jobs and grants, etc. So here goes
It's fairly common for teaching work to be measured and counted and capped/limited in some way. There might be, for instance, a set amount of teaching hours that an academic on a balanced profile is expected to do. This accounting is often cooked, but it usually exists
There are both minimum & maximum expectations in the accounting of teaching - a minimum and maximum number of hours, and/or consecutive weeks, of teaching that you are to do, perhaps averaged out over a number of years to account for fluctuating numbers & dep't needs (e.g. leave)
Arguably teaching is a bit easier to count - it's easier to count things like contact time and marking time than other parts of our jobs, but ultimately I would say this accounting largely reflects the undervaluing of teaching in universities and the way it is treated as
an inconvenience or distraction from the "real" work, and therefore must be capped. Ultimately, tho, if I'm teaching too much there is probably a way for that to be recorded and captured, and a means for me to discuss that overload with my supervisors (and, if need be, my union).
Research is not capped. There's no amount of publications I can produce, no amount of money I (or anyone) could bring in, that would be considered "overload". There are minimum expectations of income and outputs and h indexes and PhD students, but no maximums.
Say 40% of my job is teaching, and 40% is research. 40% of my job might come to, say, 700 hours of teaching in a year. Seems sensible, then, that I should be doing about 700 hours worth of research. There are limits to what I can achieve if I'm doing research ~2 days a week.
But those limits are totally unspoken - of course it's harder to count research hours than teaching hours, and what we can do in an hour will vary based on discipline and collaborations and experience and methodologies, etc. etc. But we don't even try to think about limits cos
we're expected to do far more than you could reasonably do reasonably well in roughly 2 days a week. This means many of us are working a LOT of overtime hours, and/or not doing our best work. Speaking for myself - my best papers aren't published in my most 'productive' years
I have years with quite a few pubs, and they're okay but I'm not super thrilled with them and/or they don't make a splash or even a ripple. I have years with only 1 or 2, but I'm happier with the work, and the work seems more useful to others.
Let's say I were to publish 15 papers this year - I won't, and there's no way *I* could unless I was working extremely long days and weekends, and if I half-arsed or outright neglected a bunch of my other responsibilities (in teaching, supervision, service, to my community)
Literally no one in charge of workload management at my university would tell me, "gee, Nat, that seems like too much". Or ask "how did you fit this in to your 2 research days a week". Or tell me that I was so overloaded this year that I won't be researching at all next year.
In fact, I'd probably be told "that's fine but how's your research income/h-index/number of overseas collaborations/journal quality" etc. etc.

No one will ever tell me, "enough".

No one will ever say, "that'll do".

No one will ever say, "slow down, this is too much".
And in this fashion, expectations creep. If I write 15 articles this year I'll be expected to beat that in the next couple of years. Meanwhile other Level B academics will be compared to me, and my overloaded productivity will influence benchmarking and standard setting.
This of course has a huge influence on people aiming for those academic entry level positions, and it's obvious that what was expected even say 5 years ago often won't cut it now.
Service is similar, especially "prestigious" service. Service should be about 1 day a week for someone on my profile.

We need to DO. LESS. Ecologically, intellectually, ethically. We need to DO. LESS. We need to work more slowly, and we need to do less.

I think we need to have a meaningful conversation about what is "too much" research productivity, what is "too much" service.
We're not only harming ourselves by working too much, we're quite possibly affecting the quality of our work, causing more ecological degradation, potentially neglecting our other responsibilities, and/or undermining working conditions for current/future colleagues
There is literally no way I could say any of this if I wasn't already in a tenured position.

Shout out and much love to my colleagues in academia striking right now. You're wonderful.
(and yeah, the specific numbers here are indicators only and me speaking from my own experience/skill level and discipline. This is less about the specific numbers and more about what it means to work in unis that count/cap some work and not others)
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