Friday, November 30, 2018

my new academic home

Changing affiliation from one academic discipline to another can be challenging, if not a bit risky, but I've decided to take the plunge: in July 2019, I'm starting as faculty at Duke's Fuqua School of Business in the Marketing area.  My background is in computer science, but academic disciplines are not orthogonal, and I think that my research interests fit both disciplines nicely.  By making the switch to marketing, I'm going to pushing myself and my research in ways that, while difficult at times, will be very beneficial because of the exposure to new perspectives.  I still love computer science, and hope to still collaborate with students and faculty in computer science (and marketing, statistics, and other disciplines), but here are some reasons I'm very excited to start as faculty in marketing.

Motivation is essential in marketing publications.  I've reviewed computer science papers (specifically machine learning) that try to get away with a single sentence of motivation; such an approach would be unheard-of in marketing.   Researchers in marketing are focusing on big, messy systems, and carve out research problems within the context of these complicated markets.  I believe the potential for direct real-world impact is much higher as a result.

Substantive claims are highly valued.  Methodological contributions are king in computer science, and focusing on predictive accuracy is common for evaluating machine learning methods.  While I will certainly still be working on methods, I am looking forward to make substantive contributions as well.  For example, I hope to understand the impact of algorithms on the markets in which they are deployed.

Journal over conference publications.  In computer science, researchers are typically expected to publish lots of shorter papers in conference proceedings; this encourages faster innovation, but it comes with the downside of less thorough publications.  In marketing, however, journal publications are the norm and that matches my research style better—I prefer taking my projects more slowly and carefully.  I'm looking forward to publishing longer papers.

Smaller research teams.  Marketing professors typically only mentor a handful of students at a time, compared to large research labs in computer science.  I like that I'll be able to give my students and their projects plenty of attention.

A better funding model.  The funding mechanisms at business schools center on tuition paid by Master's students, which means that time spent teaching those students is valued.  This model (vs. a grant-based model) is better aligned with how I'd like to allocate my time: I'll be able to focus on research, teaching, and mentoring students, without devoting large chunks of time to applying for grants.  To be clear, grant-writing is valuable process for research and I still plan to apply for grants, but it won't be a source of stress.  I hope this means I'll also be able to work faster and take bigger risks than I would under a grant-centered funding model.

I'm certain I will face challenges, but I am very excited to start this new adventure!