MAY 9TH, 2012

Sitting on the University’s Promotion and Tenure Committee is one of the most important roles that I can fulfill as VP for Research.  Most tenure/tenure track faculty appointments include a percentage of time dedicated to research activities.  The measures of performance in research are varied, and their relationship to scholarly productivity proves to be an important focus of discussion.

It doesn’t take long before some challenging questions emerge from individual curriculum vitae:

  • How much effort should be focused on hypothesis-driven research, versus more service-oriented productivity?
  • What constitutes a legitimate proportion of attention to “high-impact” journals?
  • How should one represent one’s contribution to publication activity (e.g. first authorship)?
  • Is there a best balance of students and post-docs?
  • How do we weigh the respective merits of intellectual property development (e.g. patent disclosures) to peer-reviewed publication?
  • What is the “community ” standard for rates of publication within a given discipline?

As an oceanographer, I bring my own “community” biases to the discussion of research impact.  For example, I’ll look at a publication in Nature (with its high impact factor) much differently from one in, say, Journal of Geophysical Research.  I also know what it means to have served as a Chief Scientist on a major research cruise, but I may not know what an equivalent activity might be in another field.  Those are metrics that may not be part of the culture in, say, plant pathology.  You should know the culture of your field.  If you don’t, speak with your mentors, ask your peers.  It is to your benefit to understand early in your career how you will be judged within your field so that you can reach your aspirations.

This year, alone, the P&T Committee read through nearly 10,000 pages of dossiers, and spent hundreds of cumulative hours in review, discussion and consideration.  And that doesn’t count the time and effort put in by the candidates, faculty committees, administrators and staff!  The time-honored traditions of P&T merit this investment, an investment that pays off to guide the careers of our university’s educators, researchers, administrators and service providers.

So, as we close out another academic year, let me be one of the first to congratulate those who’ve been promoted and/or attained tenure.  Your accomplishments are noteworthy and significant.  It’s a pleasure to recognize your success!


Rick Spinrad
Vice President for Research
Comments to this blog are welcome!


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