The Hunger Games reminds me of academic work. Sure, we don’t kill one another for entertainment. And, academic life isn’t about life or death, but the stakes are high and at times people are quite petty. The Tributes, though, are the pre-tenure faculty who have to participate in the department’s arena. Some Tributes face an easier match than others, but ultimately the senior faculty and others watch and wait to see who wins. The odds are ever in your favor to: teach, write, and pay service to the department and university. But, most departments really expect you to write, keep your head down, and know your place.
Some of the departments are more favored and might even have a better market “value” and people from those departments (districts) are more privileged and have nicer offices, labs, and equipment. Some of the departments struggle for every little thing that they get and others are swimming in what looks like opulence. The favored districts also find that their students might have more opportunity and job prospects once they graduate. These students are thought of as lucky–they are most likely to have a better idea about what they will do after they graduate.
Meanwhile the Gamekeepers are really the book and journal publishers, who keep the Tributes on their toes trying to make sure that they publish enough to earn tenure. The Tributes do a cost-benefit analysis thinking about which journals are the highly ranked ones and have the fastest review and publication turn-around in order to meet the department requirements. There also is the possibility of sponsors, if you are lucky. You get the sponsors via courting the senior faculty members in the department. They might give you connections, publishing opportunities, and vote for you when your file is under review.
Admittedly I have taken some cheeky licenses here, but I am sure that some read this blog post and agreed. If not, hopefully readers merely enjoyed the post.