Meeting of Tenure and Promotion Committee

Yesterday I was in several hour long meetings with junior faculty to review their documents for promotion and tenure. We are a committee with no legal force, we advice the candidates and the chair. It is a once a year affair, but I offered a mid-year assessment opportunity, and everyone took it (more to do today).

All of these folks know Maria. They are all scared. They don’t have to be, as they are not Maria, nor in her position. The fact that they are scared shows that they are not Maria. She never doubted she would get tenure, she would win her appeal, and now, that she will get a good job.

Here are what I perceive as advice that was given to everyone.

  • Publish
  • Publish
  • Publish some more
  • Plan your publishing – be writing one paper (and if two, have them at different stages), have one in review. All your ships coming home to roost at one time is not a good strategy.
  • We can help you more if you give us the forms in the way they need to be submitted for tenure.
  • Add tables of stuff, even if not requested. A table showing how your time/effort allocation has changed is very useful. If you are in a dept where you teach different courses, or have different clinical duties (in-patient service vs. clinics) break out the hours for each of those as a sub-category.
  • As an asst prof, papers without any of your mentors are far more important than ones with. You need to show independence. You can call yourself a fire hydrant, but that won’t make you one. A coda to this: you may have a glittering data set from your thesis/postdoc/undergrad research that needs “just a little work”. Save it for later. Get a paper with data you have collected in your current job out first. second. third.
  • There is a delicate balance between working on your just funded R01 vs getting the less exciting preliminary data published. Actually according to one of my co-committee members, when you are 24-30 months to tenure, its not delicate at all. Put off the R01 and get that preliminary data/early data published. You need more papers. (If you are 6-18 months till tenure, its not even a question).
  • Every asst prof asks “how many papers do I need to get tenure?”. Every committee says “we can’t tell you”. We can’t tell you not because we are keeping a secret, but because we don’t know. First it depends on quality (and yes, 3 papers in 2nd tier journal are far far better than one glamour pub, at least at my MRU. I know others won’t believe, but it is so). Then it depends on the paper – big? little? review (try to avoid these)? How does it fit into your story of scientific growth? Is a scattershot pattern, or is it a critical piece in your intellectual development?
  • If you have students and trainees listed, indicate their status in parentheses (passed quals, MS student applying to PhD program?). If they’ve won an award, put it in.
  • Format is not so important (although we have a relatively rigid one). Do not obsess about reverse or forward chronological. It doesn’t matter as long as you are clear.

2 thoughts on “Meeting of Tenure and Promotion Committee

  1. Thanks for posting this! Very timely, since I have to turn in my 3rd year review packet in a few weeks. We have a very strict template we have to follow for everything. It’s been interesting putting it together…pretty amazing how much can happen in just a couple of years!

  2. Pingback: Links 2/17/17 | Mike the Mad Biologist

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