Tuesday, January 20, 2009

Dear Future Applicant for Tenure and Promotion

Your time on the tenure track is thundering its way towards the big decision. Soon you are going to have to put together that thick wad of documents known as your tenure packet/dossier/file. All of the documents in that packet are important, but some are more important than others. None are more important than your curriculum vitae. This document, your c.v., is a summary of almost everything needed to evaluate you for tenure and promotion. The other documents just provide the details.

So, dear applicant, please take the time and spend the effort to make your c.v. a document that will help those evaluating you come to the right decision. Because we really do want to see you be promoted with tenure. (Unless of course one of us is an obnoxious dickwad.)

You can ease our task by making all the information we need easy to find and read. Put the important stuff up front, and leave out the truly unnecessary.

And please don't use your c.v. to demonstrate your artistic nature. Please. Don't.

Do have a neat, logically organized c.v. And spell check it. A sloppy, disorganized c.v. makes you look... well, sloppy and disorganized. Not really what I want in a colleague.

Here are some further thoughts on some (not all) of the basics:

My personal preference is for this to be in reverse chronological order, going from your current position back to your undergraduate schooling. Leave out where you went to high school* - really, we don't give a rat's rear end. And those perfect SAT/GPA/GRE scores you're so proud of?* Not of any interest to us when it comes to tenure decision time.

Reverse chronological order please. That Journal of Biological Chemistry paper you published while in elementary school? Very impressive, but not going to count towards tenure. Put the papers you've generated as an independent PI first. Those are the only ones that count. And do us a favor. Make it very clear what papers came out of which positions - I personally like subheadings denoting "Papers arising from my postdoctoral work", "Papers arising from my graduate work" etc. It's important to include these because they establish your history. But they won't count towards tenure.

And those manuscripts on your postdoctoral work you published while on tenure track? Sorry, they don't count towards tenure. They belong in the "Papers arising from my postdoctoral work" group. No, really, they don't count. Ever.**

What about papers "in preparation"? Not going to count. Don't bother with them.

Okay, if you really, really must. One "in preparation". Two at the very most. They still won't count. Three or four "in preparation"? That's asking for trouble. Unless you've published a gazillion papers while on tenure track - but they still won't count. If you're a little short on published papers and list three or four "in preparation"?* You've just given me the impression you have trouble finishing things, even with the tenure guillotine hanging over your head.

Ten "in preparation"?* You're a delusional fool. Granted, I've met some tenured delusional fools, but to a person they hid their delusional foolishness until after they got tenure.

Start with current/active funding. That's the most important by far. Actually it's really all that counts. Then list pending. If you have a revised grant pending that got a good score the last time it was reviewed, give us the score. Expired/previous funding comes last. Within each subgroup, reverse chronological order please.

You won a trophy for badminton at high school? How nice. Doesn't count. Please just list the relevant stuff. Preferably in reverse chronological order.

Professional Society Membership
Listing this doesn't count for much, but not listing it looks... odd.* It suggests that you're not involved in your field outside of your own research program.

Internal Service
Please indicate what level each committee is. A Graduate Curriculum Committee at the University level is a very different beast to one at the Department level. President of your undergraduate chemistry club? Doesn't count.

External Service
You do have some, right? List the journals you reviewed manuscripts for and the agencies you reviewed proposals for. Editorial boards. Professional society activities. These are important. To get tenure and promotion you need to demonstrate that you have national standing. Recent national standing.

Bottom line: Put the stuff that counts up front. You do know what counts at your institution, right?

* Yes, I have seen this in a c.v. within a tenure packet.
** This topic deserves a post all of it's own.


Professor in Training said...

So I shouldn't list my Brutal Contact Sport National Championship in my CV? Bugger.

Odyssey said...

Only if your aim is to intimidate. :-)

JLK said...

If I ever get to this point I am totally going to refer back to this post.

But Odyssey, do you have any thoughts on the CV for grad school admissions? I'm pretty proud of mine, but obviously can't post it.

Odyssey said...

I don't have much to add for grad school applicants. Obviously they will have much less to list. High school achievements (other than academic awards) are still irrelevant. Any evidence that you have done some kind of research should be front and center. Do list any work experience you have, even if it's not related to the area you want admission to. And do keep your c.v. well organized and logical.

Anonymous said...

Most institutions have an explicit format that they demand that tenure/promotion CVs conform to, including such matters as the use of chronological and/or reverse chronological order for particular sections.

Odyssey said...

If most institutions have a prescribed format that's not something I'm aware of. My own institution does not. And I've reviewed a couple of outside packets where the c.v. was very disorganized (e.g. publication dates all over the place) - those institutions may have had a set format, but it clearly wasn't followed.