This is mostly me chatting with a friend trying to find humor in all the suboptimal career decisions I've made. To my mind though, things have worked out pretty well, so here's a 🧵on building an academic research career without an elite pedigree (1/n)
If you get into PhD program a school that is movies-about-smart-people famous, go there. But despite some conventional wisdoms, science decidedly does not begin and end in 02138. So what should you do?
Tech up. Students at State U PhD with the tools to contribute become part of research. And that's the big secret of 95% of research: it's mostly a "learning by doing" endeavor. Books are invaluable references, but they rarely teach you how to do the actual work.
Pass the comps. It's all for not if you can't pass your first year exams. Just because you passed your exams, doesn't mean you are teched up though. Pick your next set of classes specifically to give you the theory to frame questions and metrics to answer them. Go to seminars.
Don't wait for professors to find you. Proactive students select themselves into joining projects. If you can't be bothered to email me, you probably can't be relied to work independently on a research task
Thesis: work on something different. **Do not** get involved in scientific races to answer hot questions or "big debates" that the discipline has been trying to answer for a century. You have neither the resources, the reputation, nor the risk tolerance (yet) for such projects.
Be clever, be interesting, be different, but don't be too cute. It's a fine line and I don't always get it right myself. But one of the major advantages of being outside the elite institution herd is the freedom to answer questions that you care about even if they don't (yet)
The hard part, of course, is making *them* care about it. And it can be done! Even if your question wasn't "hot" before, you can draw people in because academics are a) inherently curious, b) **love feeling clever**, and c) want the answers we find to matter.
Find mentors, plural. Get advice from a variety of sources. There's a lot of bad advice out there. Try to get yours from people who have the careers and lives that you want. Be wary of folks who seem bitter or disappointed, no matter their pedigree or citation count.
Persist. Marathon not a sprint, blah blah. But it's true! Your first job isn't your last, but each job does matter. Don't treat places like stepping stones, but don't treat them like crypts either. Be a part of every department you join. You are neither above nor beneath it.
Protect your time. Service, preps, mentoring - these are important, but they will all expand to fill the size of whatever container you place them in. Pull your weight, yes, but junior faculty should be a protected species in every department regardless of size or prestige.
Promote your work. I failed big time on this on for the first 8 years of my career. Go to conferences, email strangers working in your field, solicit thoughts on papers. You don't have to be extroverted, either. Charming is nice, helpful is better.
I'm going to tell you the worst and best thing about your likely career: smart people are everywhere. They're a dime a dozen. It matters very little who is smarter than you and who you are smarter than. What ends up mattering is whether or not you want to put in the work.
What matters most is how much you care about the research you are working on. Curiosity and passion are the only things that are going to get you through missteps, bad referees, dead ends, and rejection. Better to work hard on ?'s you like than half-assed on ?'s other people like
Academia is famously elitist, but you know what? It can be a shockingly meritocratic, even democratic, line of work too. Because there really is no substitute for wanting -really wanting- to know the answer to a hard question that you think can make the world slightly. /fin
<ahem>...better [actual /fin]

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More from @mikemakowsky

9 Feb
If you want to know more about how law enforcement has been transformed into a regressive revenue generation mechanism, here's a🧵of resources wrapped in an argument for why the problem runs deeper in our democracy than you might think (1/n)
Let's start with 1) the consequences for individuals caught in the system, so we can then better appreciate 2) why the political mechanisms behind them are not to be taken lightly, and then close out with 3) policy solutions
@planetmoney did an amazing job telling the story from the point of view of the people living the problem. Once you're caught in the system, you're in economic quicksand.…
Read 22 tweets
6 Jun 19
YouTube is interesting to me because I think you can make a good case that it is a, in many ways, unique regulatory target, and one that lends itself to bespoke policy solutions. So here's a thread no one asked for w/ a punchline I didn't expect [1/16]

YouTube is a network good w/ a high fixed costs, which means it's likely characterized by increasing returns to scale and decreasing avg costs. For those keeping score, that means it's a likely natural monopoly and the pro-regulation folks should be licking their chops [2]
But wait, there's more! You can also make a strong argument that it also enables significant amounts of "cultural pollution" i.e. hate speech, fear-mongering, conspiracy theories, etc. That's an externality! Even more reason for government to step in. [3]
Read 18 tweets
12 Sep 18
New (accepted!) paper and thread: “To Serve and Collect: The Fiscal and Racial Determinants of Law Enforcement” by myself, Thomas Stratmann, and @ATabarrok, forthcoming in the Journal of Legal Studies 1/17…
Punchline: when local governments are running budget deficits, black and Hispanic arrest rates increase, while white arrests remain (mostly) unchanged, *but only if* local police are legally able to retain forfeiture revenues in their budget 2/17
To better understand our results, I’d like to walk through two important *correlations* first, and then our discuss our strategy for identifying a *causal* relationship between fiscal incentives and arrests 3/17
Read 19 tweets

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