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

It is surprising how often we evaluate a colleague’s research career by metrics like publication counts, page counts, or order of authorship, which border on numerology, rather than considering the actual contribution.

Although time is the true test of research, the reason we do this is that the practicalities of our processes force us to judge a colleague on her or his most recent contributions.

Thus, when presenting your research contributions in a promotion or tenure case (or salary review, for that matter), explain the publishing culture in your discipline – is it a book every two or three years, or is it several shorter papers annually? Explain the nature of your contribution, and quantify it if possible. Where teams are involved, explain your contribution – do not assume it is the same in every discipline. If any of your co-authors are members of your department, ensure that your stories jive – it can be embarrassing if the total contribution sums to 250%.

Research forums are proliferating. Provide rationales for your choice of venue. When possible, consider justifying the actual result and the response it obtained!

Some units distinguish “research” from “scholarly work” in their standards, where the former refers to traditional peer-reviewed publications, and the latter may include textbooks, reports for government, or case files. Some disciplines do not consider scholarly work to be research. Be sure you understand how your unit has defined these concepts.

If you have questions or comments about tenure or promotion case, simply reply to this email, and someone will get in touch with you.