This answer is technically correct.

However, it suggests to the author that they adopt practices that are harmful to acadaemia as a whole purely for their own career advancement.

This doesn't sit right with me. Should we allow answers like this?

3 Answers 3


I think we should be realistic. Certain practices, whether one likes it or not, are common across many fields and actively encouraged by certain selection criteria, and by not recognizing and accepting them in answers, we would just promote an idealistic view of academia that doesn't exist in practice, possibly damaging young researchers.

And I'd like to stress further the last point: for a well-funded tenured researcher, it's easy to promote the best ideals, but this should not be done at the expenses of younger untenured researchers, who typically have to face and advance in a much less-than-ideal world.

So, yes, I think we should allow answers like that one because they're anchored to reality.

  • Personally, I think that just serves to perpetuate these behaviours though, when we should be doing our best to stamp them out Nov 30, 2022 at 12:32
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    @ScottishTapWater If one is in a certain position, they should fight certain behaviours from that position first, without affecting those who are at the beginning of their career. Nov 30, 2022 at 12:39
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    For instance, in my country hard publication parameters are quite significant in the hiring process, to the point that promotions are linked to reaching certain thresholds (see e.g. this answer of mine). Should I sugar coat the reality by telling a young researcher to not carefully planning their publication record? I'd do quite a disservice to them. Nov 30, 2022 at 12:43
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    @ScottishTapWater: Adding to this: This site is about how academia is not about how it should be. Our contribution to perpetuating these behaviours is negligible to that of the mechanisms that reward them. E.g., it’s not like we are advising hiring committees to overly focus on publication count.
    – Wrzlprmft Mod
    Nov 30, 2022 at 13:08
  • The question was about suggesting adoption of harmful practices; I do not see how this answer addresses that. Nov 30, 2022 at 23:44

First, we don't moderate like this. We don't delete answers for being wrong, that's what voting is for. Each user gets a lot of leeway in how they use their votes, as long as they vote for content rather than users. Your judge of content is your own; if you want to downvote answers that suggest doing things that you think are bad, that's your prerogative. The tooltip on the downvote button for answers states "This answer is not useful" - you decide what "useful" means.

For this particular case:

However, it suggests to the author that they adopt practices that are harmful to acadaemia as a whole purely for their own career advancement.

I disagree; this answer tells the question asker how their applications will likely be evaluated, and makes clear that this is not an ideal state of things.

I expect the same user would give a very different answer if instead of a postdoc asking how to make their job applications competitive it was a hiring committee member asking how they should evaluate job applications.

  • I'm not sure I agree that "we don't moderate like this" is necessarily applicable here. If I was over on DIY SE and I suggested someone wire up their house in a way that might cause a fire, it would be flagged and removed. I don't see this as being any different to the profession. Clearly, people don't seem to agree with me though Nov 30, 2022 at 20:35
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    @ScottishTapWater I think there's a pretty clear difference between an answer that puts personal safety at risk and one that gives a job applicant advice for navigating a hiring process that creates perverse incentives. I'm also a moderator at Biology, Psychology&Neuroscience, and Medical Science, and all three of those sites have variations on a policy against questions requesting personal medical advice, because answers to those questions are likely to present personal safety risks and it's not reasonable to have volunteer moderators with unknown credentials decide which are okay.
    – Bryan Krause Mod
    Nov 30, 2022 at 20:56
  • I understand where you're coming from, but I'd argue that the increasing businessisation (couldn't think of a better word but I'm sure you know what I mean) of academic research is far more dangerous to the future of humanity than one person's house getting burned down Nov 30, 2022 at 22:31
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    @ScottishTapWater Probably the future of humanity would be made best by about 90% of peoples houses getting burned down with them inside, with an assumption that human-caused calamities like long-term climate impacts or nuclear war are most likely with a large population, but it wouldn't be appropriate to start that process by giving dangerous electrical advice on StackExchange.
    – Bryan Krause Mod
    Nov 30, 2022 at 22:47

it suggests to the author that they adopt practices

You are mistaken. The answer does not advocate for any particular course of action.

An answer that did suggest adoption of bad practices should be down voted. Deletion would only be appropriate if there was a possibility of immediate harm.

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