I've got to write a letter in support of a colleague for the annual review. We split the writing tasks on these letters, and this time I'm writing about their research. But here's the thing: the work seems smart, but holy cow did I find it... boring. I can't decide if it's because I don't know the subject area well (or even at all) or what, but I'm disappointed. Often enough, when I write these review letters and read my colleague's work, I find it interesting and challenging. This time, I didn't.
That's not going to stop me writing a really positive letter, because it's a smart piece and doing important work, I think. And the other stuff was smart and interesting. And this colleague is amazing.
(The crappy job market is crappy indeed, but it means even regional schools in the middle of the Northwoods get truly super faculty.)
I worry that the bar seems to constantly be raised for these folks in the aftermath of the horrid job market. What I mean is, these folks come out of grad school with a number of publications, often a book MS in progress. And then with our teaching load and a brutal work ethic, they do a great job teaching and publish and publish and publish. Except a few don't, they only publish and publish. That would have been perfectly reasonable, heck, really good just an academic generation ago. But now they don't look as amazing in comparison to the publishX3 folks.
I don't think we're putting pressure on our TT colleagues for the large numbers of publications, but the pressure's definitely there. (I see our responses in meetings and such, and we don't expect publishX3 instead of publishX1 or publishX2. I hope that makes sense.)
Back to the boring problem. I make an effort to read my colleague's research when I write these letters. But I think many of my colleagues don't. Am I overthinking, or just being appropriately responsible?