MTP Cases: Understanding Academic Advancement Policies

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Understanding Academic Advancement Policies

The following case scenarios show how challenges in academic advancement can be handled effectively. The cases provide useful tools for mentors and instructions on how to best pass on such knowledge to their mentees.

Understanding Academic Advancement Policies

Are the mentee's initial appointment and associated academic series appropriate?

Your mentee is a fellow who has been offered an academic appointment in the department. S/he asks your opinion regarding some sort of "checklist" that must be completed in association with the initial appointment. In addition, the department is offering your mentee an Assistant Adjunct Professor faculty position. S/he questions the pros and cons with respect to a position in the Adjunct series versus In Residence, Clinical X, or the Health Sciences Clinical Professor series. How would you clarify the role and importance of the checklist? How would you advise your mentee with respect to his/her discussion with the department chair with respect to the appointment checklist? And how would you advise your mentee with respect to his/her placement in the correct academic series?

Comment 1: The "checklist" of important points for discussion between department chairs and new appointees is a document through which the department chair and the faculty appointee review and mutually agree upon rank, series, funding status, resources, and overall expectations. See the Appendix 1 in A Faculty Handbook For Success. After signature by both department chair and appointee, the checklist is sent as part of the complete appointment packet to the school Dean who subsequently sends it to the Academic Affairs Office. The Academic Affairs Office either makes the decision to approve/disapprove/modify the appointment proposal or sends the appointment packet to the Academic Senate Committee on Academic Personnel (CAP). The decision to send to CAP depends upon rank, series and specifics of the individual case.

Comment 2: As a lead mentor and not in the same department, I would advise my mentee to talk with their departmental career mentor. What has been the path and requirements for success in that department for Clinical & Translational researchers with 50 percent or more research? Then review with the mentee if that fits with the overall campus wide assessment of series. I would also recommend they meet with the Associate Dean of Academic Affairs in the respective school.

Comment 3: I find it useful if mentees can review the CV's of several faculty at the Associate level (and in the same series) in their home department. Does this look like the type of career you'd like to have? Does the balance between teaching, research, and professional service fit with your career direction?

Comment 4: With respect to the appropriateness of the academic series, there are differences in requirements between Adjunct, In Residence, Ladder Rank (tenure track), Clinical X and Health Sciences Clinical series. All these series are evaluated in all 4 areas of review, including creativity, teaching, professional competence, and University and public service. However the expectations in each of these areas differ among series. The most important part of deciding on the appropriateness of a given series is to understand the talents and career goals of the mentee, then, matching those with a series that will optimize their opportunities for success. You must know your mentee well before you can truly "advise" them.

Comment 5: It is important to understand the major differences between series. Refer to Table 1 (page 6) of the Faculty Handbook for Success for a comparison of the characteristics among the various faculty series' at UCSF. The In Residence and Ladder Rank positions require substantial commitment and excellence in all areas of review and the creativity expectations center upon hypothesis-driven research. The Adjunct series differs from the latter two in that it is not an Academic Senate series and the expectations for performance are "unbalanced" generally in the favor of creativity (however, some times for teaching). In other words, there are some expectations in teaching, professional competence, and University and public service. However, in most cases, the activities in the adjunct series are unbalanced in the favor of creativity (research). As per the University of California Academic Personnel Manual, the research expectations for the Adjunct series are similar to that of In Residence and Ladder Rank series.

Comment 6: It is important to note that the faculty handbook for success is a very useful guide but it is not policy. We have found errors in the handbook that conflict with policy.

Comment 7: Clinical X requires achievement in all four major areas of review and is also an Academic Senate series. However, in contrast with Adjunct, In Residence, and Ladder Rank creativity in the Clinical X series is defined more broadly, including original research, but also critical reviews, case series', books, book chapters, and dissemination of innovative teaching methodologies or dissemination of improvements in professional practice to other institutions. Excellence in teaching is also required.

The Health Sciences Clinical Professor series, which was recently renamed from the previous "Clinical series" is not an Academic Senate series, is reviewed in the usual four areas, however, the expectations are less in the area of creativity when compared with the other series listed above. The amount or type of creativity that is required in this series is often defined at the department level. It is important to ask the Department Chair if there are specific guidelines for creative achievement in this series. Creative achievement is encouraged but not required by policy.

Comment 8: It is important to note that there can be substantial interdepartmental differences regarding merit and promotion. In some instances, these department-specific criteria may "exceed" the campus and university-wide criteria for merit and promotion. The precedent is that departmental criteria can be greater than that expected at the campus level. The departmental criteria can never be less than that expected at the campus level. These differences between a department and the campus can be a source of confusion and stress for the faculty member. Mentors must be aware of these differences to minimize roadblocks to merit and promotion.

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Your mentee is currently in his/her third year as an Assistant Professor In Residence. What is the role of an appraisal with respect to promotion to Associate? Which faculty is eligible for an appraisal? How would you advise your mentee toward preparation of the appraisal packet? What review processes are available for those assistant professors who are not in Academic Senate Series?

Comment 1: According the University of California Academic Personnel Manual any Assistant Professor in the Academic Senate series (ladder rank, in residence, Clinical X) must receive an appraisal "at least two and 1/2 years before the anticipated effective date of the promotion." The UCSF Faculty Handbook for Success states the review should be "midway through the eight years of service at that rank (typically during your fourth year as Assistant Professor". At UCSF, it is customary to conduct an appraisal early in the 4th year of service. These formal appraisals of Assistant Professors are made to arrive at preliminary assessment regarding candidates' potential promotion to Associate. Similar to promotion from Assistant to Associate, an appraisal packet is created including the candidate's curriculum vitae, letters of support and other documents. This packet is then forwarded to the Academic Senate Committee on Academic Personnel (via the Dean's Office, and the Vice-Provost's office). Depending upon the individual case, CAP additionally may create an Ad Hoc Committee to assist in the appraisal. After review, an opinion will be provided by CAP to the Academic Affairs office regarding the strength of the packet toward eventual promotion. The recommendation following an appraisal is usually one of the following four outcomes: Favorable; Favorable, but qualified; Unfavorable, substantial improvement necessary; or, Unfavorable, recommend terminal appointment. Areas of both strength and weakness are noted in a written review to the department chair who discusses the appraisal directly with the candidate.

Comment 2: Take it very seriously, and prepare far in advance.

Comment 3: Any faculty member may request an appraisal.

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The need to become an independent researcher

Your mentee is on target with respect to the number and quality of manuscripts for their department and has a number of grants resulting in 50 percent or more support for research. S/he wants to perform a large multi-center trial to expand on a previous successful Randomized Controlled Trials (RCT) which has been funded by a mix of intramural, foundation, and an NIH R21. S/he plans to apply for a multi-center R01 but it is clear that without a prior R01 that it is unlikely the mentee would be awarded the grant as PI. One of the mentee's co-mentors has successfully overseen multi-center trials and has agreed to serve as PI. Once the mentee is trained in performing a multi-center trial, the plan is to transfer the grant to the mentee as PI. What is the impact of the above practice upon development of an independent researcher? From an academic review process, what is considered "independence" and how is it evaluated?

Comment 1: It would be important for the mentee to discuss with their Chair how this would be viewed—and if the Chair does not see this as "independence" the mentee should re-think the plan. And/or with or without the mentee present, the lead mentor of the mentee could meet with the Chair and discuss this.

Comment 2: I think it's useful to discuss the difference between "research independence" and "independent contributions to collaborative original research". My sense is that there is more value placed on the latter than was common 5 to 10 years ago. But, I agree that it is wise to address this with the Dept Chair—departments can differ on what constitutes research independence.

Comment 3: Agree with the above statement. "Research independence" and "independent contributions to collaborative original research" are very different. There is more value placed upon the latter than was the case 5 to10 years ago. In order to demonstrate the independent contributions to collaborative original research, it is the responsibility of the department chair to clarify this contribution in the letter recommending merit/promotion. In some instances, the "independent contributions" are clear (e.g. PI funding of RO1-like grants, first-authored peer-reviewed papers), however in other instances, these independent contributions are not as clearly identified by reviewing agencies.

Comment 4: While primary and senior authorship are commonly used measures of independence, collaborative multidisciplinary research often does not allow for clear delineation of each investigator's independent contributions. This issue is particularly relevant considering the current emphasis upon multidisciplinary, The Academic Personnel Manual (APM) states, "When published work in joint authorship (or other product of joint effort) is presented as evidence, it is the responsibility of the department chair to establish as clearly as possible the role of the candidate in the joint effort."

Comment 5: The candidate should be proactive in making her/his case for "essential, creative contribution to collaborative research".

Comment 6: It may be interesting that each department has their own guidelines for advancement & promotion of clinical and translational researchers. However, few departments have written guidelines.

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The eight year rule

Your mentee is completing a Masters in Clinical Research at UCSF as a fellow. She was a stellar fellow with publications and an excellent chance of receiving a career development award. She wants to be a >= 50% researcher WHO eventually is promoted in the In Residence series to Associate. She has negotiated her professional needs (protected time, space, admin support) but wonders with a new baby if she should start in the in residence series step 1. She is concerned whether pregnancy leave will count against the 8 year rule. What is the 8 year rule? Does the 8 year rule apply to all series? Does pregnancy leave "count" against the 8 year rule?

Comment 1: In any academic senate series (ladder rank, In Residence, Clinical X), an Assistant Professor is provided 8 years to be promoted to the Associate rank. Specifically, Academic Personnel Manual (APM) 133-0 states "An Assistant Professor has completed 8 years of service in that title, or in that title in combination with other titles as established by the President, shall not be continued after the eighth year unless promoted to Associate Professor or Professor".

Comment 2: The San Francisco campus differs from other UC campuses in that it does not currently (as of June 2007) apply the 8 year rule to either the Adjunct or Health Sciences Clinical Professor series. However, note that other UC campuses do apply the 8 year rule to these series, which would be relevant for faculty transferring from UCSF to one of the other UC campuses.

Comment 3: With the exception of childbearing and parental leave, time off, with or without salary, counts toward the 8 year rule. However, for childbearing leave or prenatal leave, up to one year is excluded from time counted toward the 8 year rule. However, the faculty member can also elect to inform the department chair that it should not be excluded, i.e. that the clock not be stopped. Arrangements for a full year leave and extension of time to nine years must be formulated in advance and with the agreement of the Department Chair and the School Dean. Note that the clock may be stopped for up to one year for each event of birth or placement; provided that all time off the clock totals no more than two years in the probationary period.

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Mentoring as part of your promotion package

As a Associate Professor or Professor, you have established your research group, feel grounded in your area of expertise, have been an active co-mentor of numerous clinical translational researchers. You are being considered for a merit and wonder how your many hours of mentoring will be translated into your promotion package.

Comment 1: I ask mentees while I am mentoring to write me letters, send them to the Academic Personnel person in my department, the chair, and I have them when it is time for a Merit in addition to other letters.

Comment 2: The University of California considers mentoring to be a form of teaching. Consequently, the quality and quantity of mentoring should be evaluated under a faculty member's teaching activities. Note that some faculty is not active with traditional forms of teaching (lecturing, preceptorship, conference leaders). However, provide extensive time toward mentoring of fellows, postdocs, junior faculty with respect to research.

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Accelerated promotion

You observe that certain faculty members are receiving accelerated merits or promotions. When you compare their accomplishments to those of others, it is not clear why one member receives acceleration and another does not. What are the criteria for an accelerated merit or promotion? To what degree does the Academic Personnel Manual (APM) restrict the ability to be accelerated?

Comment 1: In reviewing the academic personnel manual, comment is made regarding excellent performance and associated accelerated merit or promotion. However, no criteria exist at this time at either the system-wide or campus level. While criteria do not exist at the campus level, some departments have established criteria for acceleration that can be used as a guide for departmental peer review/merit and promotion committees. The Faculty Handbook for Success at UCSF states, "Accelerated advancement is an important form of recognition that rewards faculty who perform at an exceptional level over a sustained period. If you believe you warrant an accelerated advancement, you should discuss this with your Department Chair. During times of exceptional productivity, your School Dean can request from the Chancellor that you accelerate advancement by one year without a formal review by the Academic Senate Committee on Academic Personnel."

Comment 2: Although UCSF does not have formal policies regarding accelerated advancement (beyond those in the systemwide academic personnel manual), we do have campus “guidelines” on accelerated advancement that can be useful to review with your mentee. The guidelines are available at: Academic Affairs Web Site. In general, exceptional performance in one or more areas of review is required AND this exceptional performance should be adequately identified and explained in the department chair’s letter (i.e., a general statement that Professor X is “outstanding in all areas of review” is usually not sufficient). For those mentees that are active in University service, it is also good to know that 3 or more years of service to a “major campus committee” (e.g., CAP, CHR, Animal Research) can also be used as justification for a one-time acceleration.

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