At 7:30am midway through EC’14 there was scheduled an Open discussion about the CS job market for Ph.D.s for Econ/CS people. Even at 7:30am the room was packed! David Parkes led the discussion, which focused on how to improve the academic job market for EC people. While Econ/CS Ph.D.s benefit from fantastic opportunities at industrial research laboratories, this demand has not translated to steady availability of positions in the academic job market. If attendance and participation in this discussion are any indication of the importance of this issue, then it is one we should devote significant effort and resources to resolving. This blog post serves to summarize the context and suggestions from the EC discussion and suggested action by the SIGecom executive committee as well as to solicit additional feedback from the community.
Identity. When academic positions come tied to areas, identity is an important issue. While many in the Econ/CS community come from an AI/ML or Algorithms/Theory background, many consider Econ/CS, henceforth EC, their primary research community. Nonetheless, EC faculty applicants will typically be competing for AI or Theory positions. Only a few schools have chosen to specifically list EC as a target area for hiring (independent of AI or Theory persuasion). In comparison Computational Biology, in the last decade, and Data Science, contemporaneously, have become first-order subfields with respect to hiring. One recommendation for hiring discussions is to separate EC from AI and Theory hiring. It is not to EC’s advantage to be in a zero-sum game with either AI or Theory.
Public Relations. EC does not presently have a clearly articulated value proposition that engenders broad investment from within CS, broad support for hiring from the Economics academic community, or broad visibility by the general public. One concrete action to take is to be more public about successes of our field in terms of impact on practice and impact on science (in particular Economics) and about the big challenges our field is hoping to address in the medium and long term. A second concrete action to take is to prepare development pitches, both at the department level for including EC in the vision for the department, and at the donor level to provide a basis for deans to raise money for faculty lines in EC. A third action item is to encourage more outreach articles in general computer science venues and in popular science venues.
Web Resources. The SIGecom advisors have discussed the idea of creating a web resource that would facilitate the initiative described above. In particular:
- To aggregate survey articles, general CS articles, popular science articles, and teaching materials (cf. Interactions.org).
- To collect and disseminate development resources, e.g., for faculty to pitch their department for EC hiring, for deans to pitch their donors for EC hiring, for researchers to pitch funding agencies (cf. Theory Matters).
- To collect advice for EC applicants to faculty positions outside of EC, e.g., operations research, business schools, information science, etc. These academic markets have different timings, structure, and focus.
- To collect job posts and publicize job market outcomes (cf. the computational complexity blog).
- To survey research themes and success, impact on practice, and impact on science.
The SIG would contribute resources to make sure that the web resource is well designed and hosted, and we plan to do all of this with a view to making sure that whatever we do is maintainable going forward.
Coordination. Turing’s Invisible Hand coblogger Jason Hartline has agreed to serve as the SIGecom 2014-2015 Special Initiatives Chair for the Job Market and will be coordinating the effort to assemble this web resource, recruiting volunteers, and facilitating the initiatives proposed above. Please agree to help if asked, write Jason to volunteer, or provide discussion in the comments below.
Joint post with SIGecom Chair David Parkes.