You need to get out there and cultivate connections with senior (read: powerful, famous, big names, recognizable names) scholars — ideally the kind of connection that makes Senior Scholar feel strongly invested in your future success — but not so close a connection that s/he becomes a good friend or a collaborator. That “just right” kind of connection which teeters on being unprofessional (Sr. Scholar needs to really like you, feel like s/he is involved in your career) but which doesn’t have any kind of professional paper trail (i.e., you never published anything together or anything else “official”).
She goes on to say that how to strike this balance and build this connection is a "mystery that is only revealed to individuals who already have tenure."
Okay, so here is what this tenured prof has to suggest:
- Meet people at professional conferences. Speak to presenters and co-presenters. Find the authors of articles you use and like and introduce yourself. Network with these folks at receptions. Give people your card, talk with them about your research and ask them about their own. Once you get talking with Dr. Mucky-Muck, ask if s/he will read your article before you submit it.
- Get involved in a national committee of some type in your discipline. I served on a committee in my area and got to meet a good number of people who were senior scholars. I helped organize panels and events and even managed a listserv at some point. I was able to learn who is doing what and to simultaneously get them to know me.
- Organize a panel at important disciplinary or research area conferences. Invite big name speaker to serve on the panel. (Serving on panels does not disallow someone from being a reader.) Try not to piss them off... I learned that the hard way.
- Get to know the friends of your co-authors. If you have famous co-authors or one of the folks above becomes a co-author and can no longer serve as an outside reader, ask they to introduce you to some people who might be good readers.
I would also advise that everyone check with friends about potential readers. Two of my potential readers had terrible reputations for slamming young scholars on tenure reviews, and I actually put them on my "no" list. Another of my actual readers would be someone I would tell others to avoid, because ze actually flaked out and never turned in a review. So, just because someone is famous and seems nice enough doesn't mean that they should serve as an outside reader. Be sure to investigate!
Another suggestion I would make is to avoid reviews from newbies who just got tenure. Their reviews don't mean as much to the committee, and these young scholars sometimes misunderstand their role as reviewer and can be very harsh in evaluating peers.
I am sure there are other ideas for recruiting outside scholars, but this blog entry represents one tenured lady's revelations of the mysteries I have uncovered. Any more suggestions?