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一个美国教授的生活(二)(中英对照) 精选

已有 19058 次阅读 2009-6-23 00:25 |系统分类:海外观察|关键词:终身教授 美国教授

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Life of an Academic in the US (2)        
(Notes added below 6/30/09 on getting research funding)
An article “也说美国的教授上课by blogger 朱金颖 talked about the general concerns of a professor in the US. I thought I add some more of my experience and observations since a large number of Chinese scholars are in the process of climbing the US academic ladders and more Chinese students aspire to such opportunities.
Tenure In Chinese this means 终身职 or 铁饭碗. In the US, this means unless your academic department is totally abolished or you have committed serious crimes, you have a job for life regardless of your political belief or social opinions. If you have modest goals and just want to be an average teacher for the rest of your life, then you can simply do your job adequately or more derogatorily “retire or go to sleep” after you get tenure. A minor but significant portion of professors in a significant fraction of US universities belong in the category. There is nothing particularly wrong with this. We cannot all be word famous. However, in a first tier university or a university aspires to be first tier, deans and/or department head will not tolerate such a mode of existence. You are given tenure because the school expects that in the next few decades, you will contribute beyond your regular teaching. You are expected to get outside research funding and support several graduate students, or publish papers/books that add luster to the department, or be an innovative teacher to large number of students in university wide courses, or do various administrative duties of a university with skill and devotion. If not, there are numerous informal ways by the academic administration to make your life uncomfortable so that you will resign your tenured job out of self-respect. Now let me explain further the alternatives mentioned above.
Getting research funding In my 40+ years of experience, compete for funding is a reasonably fair undertaking. Well known researchers can get rejected just as easily as less famous colleagues due to poor writing and planning. Great majority of funding are done through “peer review”. Program officers in agencies such as the
National Science Foundation are competent technocrats with advanced training , or academic scholars serving in temporary capacity during sabbatical leaves, or former academics who decided to do government service. Program officers from the Department of Defense have more latitude on awards but they still use peer review to help support their decisions. Their existence also helps to correct some of the shortcomings of “peer review”. The famed “Kalman filter (2008 Draper prize recipient, see http://www.sciencenet.cn/m/user_content.aspx?id=14253 )” probably would not have survived “peer review” in the late 1950s and was instead supported by an Air Force contract. For years afterwards, the US Air Force used this as an argument for more basic research dollars.
It is also possible to get large funding for more targeted and specific problem -oriented research involving large number of personnel. But this often creates conflict of interests with the academic and teaching purpose of a university. While an up-and-coming university may temporarily tolerate the involvement with a large project, most established institution will worry about the problem of “the tail wagging the dog”. They will typically spin off the project to a separate entity related but not integral part of the university. Professors can serve as consultant or part time researcher at such institutions but not as directors or part of the management. The prime example of this is the Lincoln Laboratory of MIT which started by handling many real defense problems of the Cool War.
Industrial funding of university researches are possible but represents smaller part of the whole picture. One reason is often the insistence by industry for secrecy or exclusiveness while university advocates openness and freedom to publish. Another problem universities frown upon is the mingling of financial interest between a researcher and private industry. While a professor can serve as consultant with pay to industry on one day per week basis, there are usually rules against professors serving as part of the management of a company. Generally speaking, at place like Harvard, a professor is expected to behave as “Caesar’s wife”, i.e., above reproach and without any appearance of possible conflict of interest. The integrity and reputation of a university is always of paramount importance. For that matter, so is the case for a scholar.
( Notes added 6/30/09. It is possible to influence the announcement of Call for Proposals (CFPs) by program officers of funding agency by giving well reasoned talk, presentations, and sometime sending him unsolicited position paper on important research topics. This way the CFP will be targeted to the special area of your expertise and you gain an advantage in the competition for funds. Of course, this process can be abused resulting in what is known as an “inside job” or “pre-wired research grant”. But such occurrences are rare in my experience and represent mostly complaints and imagined unfairness by unsuccessful applicants).
Supporting graduate students and department expense- At least in S&T, almost all graduate students in the US are supported by individual professors. The cost can total (with overhead) some 50 to 60 thousand dollars a year. University will sometimes help support a student with scholarship or teaching assistantship for the first couple of years. But a professor is expected to carry all the burden after the first two years. In addition, the overhead dollar the department/university collects from the professor pays for general office supplies, telephone, secretarial services, etc. Thus even if you do not have any research students, then indirectly you are carrying your share of the department burden in terms of general expenses (I know of cases where a professor has to buy his own chalk).
Service Teaching and textbook writing – You can survive in a first class university without research by being a great teacher and textbook writer (see. http://www.sciencenet.cn/m/user_content.aspx?id=1808 ). Paul Samuelson, the second Nobel Prize winner for economics, reputedly wrote the most popular introductory textbook ever in publishing history. Supposedly only the Bible has more copies in print. The book has gone through numerous editions and in fact successor co-authors when Samuelson himself is too old to bother updating it. In fact, he had to set up a trust to handle the royalty income for this text book for tax purposes. That is a successful author! At the risk of being immodest, I myself was the co-author (in 1969 after my tenure decision) of the best selling textbook and Science Citation Classic in my field. 40 years after publication and without a new edition it still sells a few hundred copies a year and un know number of Chinese and Russian translation copies.
Go into administration Although everyone is his/her own boss in a US university, an institution still needs administrators for smooth functioning. Unlike in commerce or government where authorities are clearly defined, university professor with tenure cannot be fired. Nor will they listen to an administrator not coming from their own ranks. Thus, another possible route for advancement in a university after tenure is the administration route where the ultimate job is the university presidency. Having been a professor and a published scholar yourself means you understand the “games professor play”. Your words carry more persuasive power. Finally, any institution is a collection of people. You still need people skill to get things done. Just like brain power such skill are always prized and rewarded.
In short, getting tenure is but the first step in a scholarly career. The pressure is always on until you finally retire and even afterwards. If nothing else but our self-respect will keep you striving. After all nobody wants to be labeled a “has been”. The joke is “you are only as good as your last paper” or “it is a greasy pole. You have to keep on climbing just to stay in place. Many others want to pull you down so that they can get ahead”. Life of a moderately successful scholar/professor is not a bed of roses "美国的教授日子没有那么舒服".
一个美国教授的生活(二)


科学网博主朱金颖在其博文《也说美国的教授上课》中谈到了美国教授普遍关注的几个问题(http://www.sciencenet.cn/blog/user_content.aspx?id=239198)。我想就我的经验和体会补充一些,因为很多中国学者正在努力攀登美国的学术金字塔,而更多的中国学生渴望得到这样的机会。

终身教授。在中国这意味着终身职位或者铁饭碗。在美国,这意味着无论你持何种政见,无论你对各种社会问题持何种态度,除非你所在的院系被解散,或者你犯下重罪,否则你将终身不会被解聘。如果你胸无大志,只想在余生(被评上终身教授后)当一个普通的老师,那么你也可以仅仅满足于完成工作任务,或者像被人轻蔑地说成的那样,“退休或者睡大觉了”。有相当一部分美国大学里的一小部分教授属于这一类。这样做也无可非议,因为毕竟不可能每个人都成为世界著名科学家。但是,在一流大学或者渴望进入一流行列的大学中,院长和(或)系主任是无法容忍这种现象存在的。你被评为终身教授的原因在于,学校希望在接下来的几十年里你所做的贡献远超过常规的教学工作。学校期待你能申请到外部科研经费资助几个研究生,或者发表论文、出版专著为系里增光,或者开设全校范围的通选课,成为一名极富创造力的教师,或者擅长并热爱大学的行政工作。如果这几点你全都做不到,那么教务处有许多非正式的手段让你的日子不好过,最后为了自尊你不得不辞职。

申请科研基金经费——以我40年的经验而言,申请基金的竞争是相当公平的。如果申请书写得不够吸引人,研究计划不够严谨,“大牛”与无名小卒一样会轻易地被拒掉。绝大多数项目评审都须经过“同行评议”。国家科学基金会(NSF)等机构里的项目官员要么是受过高级训练的出色的技术专家,要么是学术休假期间临时服务的科学家,或是决心加入政府的前科学家。国防部的项目官员对基金审批有更多的自主权,尽管如此,他们做决定时也会参考同行评议的意见。他们的存在同样也帮助纠正了同行评议的一些错误。如果不是他们,著名的“卡尔曼滤波器”(德雷珀奖获得者,见http://www.sciencenet.cn/m/user_content.aspx?id=14253)在1950年代末恐怕就会被“同行评议”毙掉了,最后它其实是受到美国空军的资助。在以后的很多年里,美国空军一直拿这个例子作为证据,要求获得更多经费支持基础研究。

还有些研究项目需大量人员集体协作,针对性和导向性都很强,这样的研究有可能获得大笔基金资助。但是这经常会引发与大学的教学研究宗旨之间的冲突。尽管一个正在发展中的大学可能会暂时容忍与大项目的冲突,但是大部分名校则会担心这样一来本末倒置了。他们的典型做法是,另外成立相关但是单独的实体专做这个项目,而不让其成为学校整体的一部分。大学里的教授们可以担任该研究所的顾问或者兼职研究员,但不能担任所长或者进入管理层。麻省理工学院的林肯实验室就是这方面最好的例子,它是冷战时期为了应对跟国防有关的需求而设立的。

大学教授的学术研究也可能获得工业界的资助,但是这类资助仅占大学经费的一小部分。原因之一是工业界非常重视保守研究机密,排他性较强,而大学则提倡学术开放和出版自由。令大学头疼的另一个问题就是研究者和私有企业之间经济利益的纠葛。因此,尽管教授可以有偿担任企业顾问,按照每周一天的标准为企业工作,然而,学校通常规定教授不能担任企业管理层的职位。大体上来说,在像哈佛这样的大学,教授的行为应该像“凯撒的妻子”一样,无懈可击,远离任何可能的利益纠纷。清白的名声和声誉对于一所大学而言是至关重要的,对教授也是如此。


(2009年6月30日加注:大学教授有可能通过游说学术资助机构的项目官员、出色的学术讲座以及主动提供关于重要研究课题的意见书等方式影响项目指南(CFPs)的内容。通过这种办法,项目指南有可能向你所在的专业领域倾斜,从而使你在经费申请中享有先发优势。当然,这个途径可能被滥用,导致所谓的“内线”或者“内定的”项目审批。但是就我的经验而言,这种现象发生的概率极小,大多只是申请人失败后抱怨和想象的结果。)

支付研究生和院系开支的费用——美国几乎所有研究生的费用都是教授们支付的,至少科技领域是如此。每个研究生每年至少要花费大约5万到6万美元,有时在学生入学头两年,学校会设立奖学金或者助教岗位来资助学生。但是两年之后,教授需要挑起所有的担子。此外,院系还另外向教授们征收人头费来支付一般办公用品、电话费、秘书工资等等。因此,即使你没有带研究生,你也需要间接承担系里的一般费用(我知道一些教授必须自己买粉笔的例子) 。

教学工作和教科书的编写——如果你极擅长教学,又能写出优秀的教科书,那么即使不做研究,你也能在一所一流的大学生存下去(见 http://www.sciencenet.cn/m/user_content.aspx?id=1808 )。保罗•萨缪尔森,诺贝尔经济学奖的第二位获得者,以撰写了出版史上最受欢迎的教科书而闻名,据称该书的印刷量仅次于《圣经》。该书历经无数次再版,事实上,当萨缪尔森已经老得懒得再更新的时候,就由继任者更新再版。为了交所得税,萨缪尔森还得专门成立一个信托机构来处理这本教科书带来的版税,多么成功的作者啊!冒着自吹自擂的风险,我想说其实我也是系统控制科学领域最佳畅销书的合著者(1969年我拿到终身教授职位后)。40年来,尽管该书没有再版,仍然每年都能卖掉几百册,中文版和俄文版的销售量则不详。

担任行政职位——美国大学里尽管每个人都是她/他自己的老板,但是研究机构仍然需要行政管理以保证平稳运行。与职权明晰的商业及政府机构的不同之处在于,大学教授都是终身制的,不会被开除。他们也不听不是教授出身的行政领导的指挥。因而,在大学里被聘为终身教授之后的另一条升迁之路就是走向行政岗位,这条道路的尽头是最终成为大学校长。出身是教授,发表过论文,就意味着你懂得“教授的游戏规则”。你的话会更有说服力。最后,任何组织都是由人组成的,良好的社交能有助于做成事情。跟拥有聪明的头脑一样,擅长这类管理技能的人也很受欢迎,会受到学校鼓励。

简而言之,得到终身教授的职位仅仅是学者生涯的第一步。而压力则会一直与你相伴,直到退休,甚至退休之后。即使没有别的压力,仅仅你的自尊心就足以鞭策你奋斗不止。毕竟,没有人想被贴上“好汉不提当年勇”的标签。学术界流行的笑话是这么说的,“你的最高水平就是最近一篇论文”, “像爬抹了油的竹竿一样,为了待在原位你必须不停地往上爬,许多人都想拉你下来,因为他们都想要超过你。”普通大学教授的日子绝对不是玫瑰花铺就的。美国教授的日子没有想象中的那么舒坦。 (科学网 陈丹译 何姣校)



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