Saturday, December 09, 2006

Rumor mills: don't trust 'em.

Since I'm heavily involved in our faculty search, I can't really talk too much about it online. However, I do want to point out something about rumor mill sites. These have existed for about a decade in the high energy and astrophysics communities, and for the last three years or so there has been a condensed matter/AMO rumor mill site as well. The idea is that this is a way for the candidates (primarily) to keep track of who is interviewing for the various jobs, and who is getting offers. The problem is, these sites are only as good as their sources of information. Now that just about every department puts their seminar calendars online, it's not hard to go through the schedules and try to figure out who is giving job talks. Of course, you have to use a bit of common sense, too. As a cautionary example: yesterday the CM/AMO rumor mill listed two candidates allegedly on the short list for our position. However, (a) both are theorists, (b) one is an AMO person, and (c) our search committee hasn't even had its first meeting yet. Doh! The lesson: don't take the rumor mills very seriously. They can be very wrong, have no fact-checking, and in principle can be manipulated via disinformation.

8 comments:

Anonymous said...

Hmm... Who are these two people, i wonder? I just checked the cm/amo job rumor website and there is noone in the shortlist for rice university as of now. Maybe they withdrew the names after you posted this :-)

Doug Natelson said...

The two guys are our CM and AMO seminar speakers for the week, and can be found at events.rice.edu if you really care. They happen to be postdocs rather than faculty - that may be why someone looking at that schedule thought they were interviewing. The speakers know they're not - they (correctly) haven't applied, since they're not in the area of the search. Also, I think the rumor mill took down the names when I used the web form to tell the rumor mill that they were wrong.

Anonymous said...

First, everyone knows that no school has any shortlist at this time of the year unless a few of the applicants are in the national academy of sciences. Second, you would be surprised how accurate cm/amo job rumor mill website can get. Last time rice carried out a faculty search in CM theory, they posted to whom job was offered before APS march meeting and I verified it by asking one of the search committee members. They also posted correctly who accepted the job in april so I suggest that you wait until april before judging its accuracy. You never know who is the spy inside the search committee, do you??

Anonymous said...

Doug, but overall rumor mill seems to work fine - someone reported erroneous info, and then *someone* with better inside knowledge corrected it. At least we now know to trust Rice information. :)

I actually caught that moment of error and was wondering why the names where later withdrawn. I suspect that the error came because someone tried to guess at the short list while looking up Rice seminar listings or similar publicly available information. Which makes me wonder what percentage of rumor mill reporting comes from inside the committee (I suspect very little - aside from corrections), what %% comes from applicants themselves, and what %% comes from those surrounding the applicants. From looking at last years, it's pretty clear that a large percentage comes from candidates themselves (if leaks come from inside the committee, the full short list for that university would become available, however if leaks come from applicants - their names appear on multiple short lists simultaneously, but no other information about other people at the same schools is available).

Finally, some schools are trying to beat others and snatch people early - I think Wyoming and New Mexico did this last year, when they started interviewing people well before their advertised deadlines. A friend who applied just before the deadline (early Dec) at some school was told they already have a candidate in mind who interviewed in November and accepted shortly afterwards. So you never know!

Dan M said...

This seems an appropriate place to start a rumor. I hear that some guy named Natelson has been offered the UN ambassadorship....

Doug Natelson said...

Hey - I'm well aware that rumor mills can be good, and that often their information comes from candidates themselves. I was on that theory search mentioned above, and I remember what went on. I also remember that during that same search, there was a person out there on the market who, according to the rumor mill, had three offers, and I know for certain that at least one of those didn't really exist. Your mileage may vary, as the saying goes.

To make this perfectly clear: I will not be posting about our shortlist, nor will I be sending out correcting mail to the rumor mill. I only did it this time because their report was patently ridiculous.

Lastly, I can neither confirm nor deny that I have been approached about a UN post. Similarly, I can neither confirm nor deny that Dan has been visiting Iowa and New Hampshire in a possible exploratory bid for the US Presidency in 2008.

Anonymous said...

Congrats on your nomination to the UN. We are going to miss you seeing around at Rice.

Maybe someone can convince the CM/AMO rumor mill to list you moving from Rice to NY?

Rachel said...

I originally found this blog after googling Henrick Schon after watching "The Dark Secret". I am not a physicist, but do executive search in higher ed and foundations, for Presidents, Provosts, etc. The rumor mill around searches at that level, in my experience, is way off.