Docent or Adjunct Professor?
Professor Kaarle Hämeri would have done better to ensure that he had properly defined his English terminology first, before permitting his professorial hackles to be raised quite so thoroughly and then defending the professorial corner as vigorously as he does in “Docent is not a Professor” in Acatiimi 5/2013.
Inevitably, as a result of the differences in the academic vocabulary in British and American English(es), BrE and AmE, he has run up against conflicting terminological customs in the two cultures. For example, an yliopistonlehtori would generally be regarded, I think, as a Lecturer or Senior Lecturer in BrE, but as an Assistant Professor in AmE. Similarly, the title of apulaisprofessori (which I assume was largely, if not entirely, converted upwards to full professori quite some years ago) would in many instances be rendered as Reader in BrE, while its equivalent in AmE usage is undoubtedly Associate Professor. Meanwhile, professori is unproblematic (if such a concept as an unproblematic professor can be envisaged).
In addition, a real cultural difference also exists in that, whereas British and American students are frequently cognizant of their teachers’ formal academic titles and their use and significance, their egalitarian- to-a-fault Finnish confrères (and consoeurs) often remain ignorant to a fault of what each label signifies. It is also worth remembering that in many cultures, both within Europe and further afield, the term Docent signifies a university instructor with only the lowest academic qualifications, whilst in many countries, some as close as, say, Estonia, there is no equivalent at all of the title of dosentti.
Given such basic conflicts in BrE and AmE usage and custom, it is perhaps inevitable that we Finns have found it impossible to agree on the best rendering into English of the term dosentti. Given that the intrinsic significance of the title may have changed since 2010 (if so, how and why?), when it was suggested in 2001 that I apply for a dosenttuuri at Oulu University, a common idea in circulation was that the title would grant recognition of academic ability at a level “equivalent to” that of apulaisprofessori. On that basis, I was persuaded to apply precisely because the Finnish academic hierarchy was perceived as so rigid – with no room for personal within-post advancement based on publication and performance – that the award of this title would give me a degree of “Associate Professorial” equivalence and responsibility – although, inevitably, given the rigidity of those times, with no change in salary or, more importantly, actual status.
That the Korkeakoulusanasto and, more particularly, the Suomen Dosenttiliitto have chosen to regard the older rendering, Adjunct Professor, as still valid may or may not be defensible, dependent in part of the present perception of the role played by the dosentti and in part on the variety of English preferred. Nevertheless, after 38 years at the University of Joensuu and the University of Eastern Finland, what I still consider indefensible is the cocksure attitude of some Professors within the academic hierarchy who continue to defend their own corner so vociferously, rather than attempting to ensure a fairer crack of the whip for even the humblest of their colleagues.
John A Stotesbury,
Editorial comment: Discussion surrounding the title of Docent has been vigorous and now spans columns in three issues of this publication. For now, this discussion is at an end. Should fresh perspectives emerge, the discussion can be revived.
‘Style-sheet? What’s a stylesheet?’
In the course of twenty-something years in Helsinki revising the English of doctoral theses, this is a response to my question about citation style and documentation I’ve heard depressingly often. Of course the matter is not all that simple any more, since there is a bewildering array of such things available, adapted to the variety of requirements imposed by an increasing array of scholarly disciplines. CBE, MLA, APA, MHRA, LSA, CSS — the list goes on and on. Citation styles in law bear little relation to those in sociology; theology and history are different again, and the harder sciences have still other requirements. Publishing houses and journal editors have their own, sometimes quirky variants on well-known styles. And so on.
My off-the-cuff estimate is that at least four out of five PhD candidates come to me with a completed doctorate for language revision and not the slightest idea what a style-sheet is. They have simply been slavishly copying what they conceive is appropriate in their subject. This matter should in my view have been settled by the supervisor at an early stage in the candidature, or, better, by an undergraduate course in academic writing. It is a dereliction of duty by supervisors to allow a candidate to submit to language revision after many years of unremitting and dedicated work, only to be told by a reviser that the documentation style is a dog’s breakfast and needs to be fixed. A few basic points should be made clear.
The very first point is that a candidate cannot expect a thesis written in English to be acceptable if it is presented in a style of documentationused by Finnish or some other language. There are a multitude of large and small differences which need to be understood and incorporated. Once again, making this clear at the outset is the supervisor’s business. The supervisor knows what is required, and should pass that knowledge on — if he or she does not know, it’s a failure of duty to the candidate.
Next, a style sheet must not be short. The typical journal style sheet of two to five pages is no more than an initial guide. At least a sizeable monograph is required if most problems are to be resolved. Potential problems are endless — how to do titles in series, online publications of various sorts, newspapers, interviews, older printed material, sentence capitalization or full capitalization, how to resolve the inevitable inconsistencies, what constitutes a correct place reference, whether to omit legal identifiers from the publisher, the many well-known but not necessarily transparent conventions, how to abbreviate, and so on and so forth.
A further point is that the advice to ‘do what soand- so did, because that was a good thesis’ is irresponsible. So-and-so was, like the rest of us, fallible and human, and hence made mistakes, created inconsistencies, and inadvertently changed the rules. If he or she was given the same advice, the previous model’s errors were both compounded and added to. The end result of such a process can only be chaos and confusion.
Lastly, while online styles are useful up to a point, they do not teach the candidate the underlying principles, so that when the guide fails, the student is left rudderless. Simple distinctions such as those between styles sused for academic purposes, for bibliography and library science, and for the book trade are often very unclear.
The whole point of using a style sheet is that the readers of the thesis know exactly what means what in the in-text references, footnotes, and references. This should not be a source of head-scratching and puzzlement, but simply a seamless and perfectly clear guide to what the writer has done, consulted, and referred to. Since many of the detailed rules in style sheets are necessarily arbitrary, following them to the letter is crucial. Documentation style should aid the act of communication which a thesis is, not impede it with obscurity and inconsistency. It should also remain inconspicuous, an apparatus that is hardly noticed because it works well.
Standards here need to be raised meet the best international norms. Pestiferous though style sheets may be, they exist for a reason — unambiguous and reliable scholarly communication. Superviors ignore them at their peril.
R. W. McConchie