The “5 Tools” of Academics

So, I asked this question on Twitter earlier today, but I thought I’d make the discussion easier here on my personal (non-volcano) blog. Here’s the gist:

We are currently running a search for a tenure-track professor and it got me wondering how to evaluate candidates. In baseball, players are ranked (especially young players) based on the 5 tools:

1. Running speed
2. Hitting for contact
3. Hitting for power
4. Fielding ability
5. Arm strength

These are seen as the 5 most important, fundamental aspects to playing the game of baseball. Players are rated by scouts on a scale of 20-80, where 20 is poor and 80 is truly exceptional. For example, a player with a 80 rating for hitting for power will knock out the lights in the stadium like the “The Natural” while a 20 will barely hit it out of the infield.

So, I started thinking, can we define the 5 tools of academics – the 5 most fundamental pieces needed to succeed in academics, either at a big research school or a small liberal arts (or everything in between). What are you thoughts? What are the skills and what score would you give the best R1 or SLAC professors in each of the tools? Do you think this is an effective way to impartially assess candidates or is there no way to pull that off? Lots of things to ponder, hopefully some of you will join the discussion.


4 thoughts on “The “5 Tools” of Academics

  1. Hmmm … this is an interesting way to frame it. I suspect translating the ‘skills’ of an academic in this way will be very contentious.

    I’m not a true ‘academic’ but I’ll add my two cents here. In no particular order:

    – scholarship record
    – teaching record/experience
    – general communication skills
    – get along-ability (tough to evaluate on paper, but hugely important)
    – passion/work ethic

    That’s off the top of my head. If people disagree then at least that’ll get the discussion going.

  2. -respond thoughtfully to criticism and challenges- humility, ability to question assumptions
    -communication skills: written, oral, graphic
    -audience analysis, ability to tailor delivery to all at appropriate level
    -passion for subject
    -continuing engagement with subject, with depth in specialization, but broadly as well
    Notes: this is from the perspective first and foremost as an educator, rather than a science specialist. The last arises from a couple of profs who everyone knew hadn’t read a journal since tenure, 20+ years earlier.

  3. – speaking (comfortably and enthusiastically, especially to non-scientists/students)
    – recognizing an interesting and/or important question
    – designing research to address interesting/important questions
    – managing people (research students, students in classes, academic advisees, maybe department members in the future as a chair) – includes listening, recognizing problems, suggesting solutions to problems, encouraging student efforts, tact
    – learning new ideas, techniques, approaches from written literature
    – networking with people who have other strengths (to collaborate in research, to work with colleagues across campus at the institution)

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