USFA e-letter: When to go for tenure or promotion – Fifth in a series

The various University, College, and Department Standards contain language to the effect that your research must have made a “significant achievement”, that your contribution is “recognized as substantial” by authorities here and abroad, and there must be “evidence of leadership in the establishment and execution of a clearly defined program of research”.

There is considerable latitude as regards the interpretation of these phrases and we make the following observations, based on discussions with colleagues.

With the present proliferation of publication venues, committee members often use h-indices and impact factors to judge the quality of your venues or the recognition of your work. If your work is such that you do not publish in venues with high impact factors, or your work is not widely cited, you need to provide a positive case that your work is nonetheless significant. Your venues might be extremely recognized in other ways. You may be a highly sought invited speaker, you may have had success in technology transfer, or your work may have received other honours not contemplated at the time the standards were written.

Sometimes committee members express concerns as to whether a candidate’s work has not broken new ground since appointment. One example is continuing to publish with one’s supervisor. It can be the case that a continuing publishing relationship with a supervisor indicates an inability to publish independently. It can also mean that the candidate has bested the supervisor, and now is carrying the former supervisor along. Be sure that your case file clarifies your contribution.

If possible, “diversify your portfolio.” That is, publish in a variety of venues, with a variety of people. Produce singly authored papers if possible. Explain your contribution to the work.

Note also that the various standards are written by YOU – the members of the academic units, and are not negotiated at the bargaining table. If there are problems with your standards, fix them.

If you have questions about tenure and promotion, simply let us know in a reply to this email and someone will get back to you. You can also reach the USFA office at 306-966-5609.