Thursday, January 22, 2009

How Many Papers for Tenure?

The title of this entry comes from a Google search a recent visitor to my blog used.

Good question.

I can't answer it.

The only people who can give you some kind of answer to this are senior faculty in your department (and possibly college), and yourself.

But you absolutely must know the answer very early in the tenure-track process. Preferably before you officially start your position. At the very latest six months in.

So how do you find out how many papers you need? You need to do two things:

1) Ask. Ask early and often. Ask the senior faculty in your department. If you've met some, ask senior faculty in related departments within your college (e.g. within medicine, or within arts and sciences). You may not get a straight answer. You may get several different answers. Hopefully you will get some kind of answer.

2) Look it up. Find out how many publications the last few people who made tenure in your department had. No one tenured in the last few years? Look up the publication totals of recently tenured people in related departments within your college.

Once you've done both of the above, take the largest of the answers you've found (they may not match up).

That's the absolute minimum number of publications you are aiming for.

Absolute minimum. You want more. You may need more.

The answer to the question "how many papers needed for tenure?" is not set in stone.

[UPDATE] Do apply some common sense to the above. Let's say your senior colleagues provide you with a consensus estimate of X publications, and the last three people to get tenure in your department had (X+1), (X+2), and (X+10) publications. Take (X+2) as your minimum goal.


Dr. No said...

Funny, whoever made that search clicked on my blog too...glad they found you- your advice is much better!

Odyssey said...

Dr. No,
Thanks! Hopefully whoever it was came back and saw my post. And hopefully they found it useful.

Anonymous said...

So, what do those numbers work out to in your institution?

(i.e. when one of your junior untenured colleagues asks you?)

Odyssey said...

Five or six first and/or senior authorships in reasonable journals. Reasonable journals would range from society level upwards. Papers with collaborators, but not as first or senior author are good, but are not counted.

Personally I'd aim for at least eight.

Anonymous said...

These are good guidelines, but if I apply it, this means that I have to have 33 publications the year I apply for tenure - that's what the last person who got tenured has. That's too much in any university. I am already very productive (3-4 papers a year), but even at this rate there is no way I could top the last case...

Odyssey said...

You're right - 33 is far too many. But I did say the last few who made tenure. What did the 3 or 4 before the last person have?

Anonymous said...

Right, the last few who got tenure have all left, but I think they were all in the 20's range, which is doable.
So my anxiety is based not so much on getting the "number", but on the fact that there is so much room for subjective interpretation at the different assessment levels. I don't think that there is such thing as a bullet proof tenure case and it drives me crazy, hehe.

Anonymous said...

25 papers to get tenure?

I wish it was that easy... 25 and I'm still a postdoc.

Odyssey said...

Twenty-five papers for tenure does seem excessive, but then it all depends on the field you're in. I assume Anon@2:07 means 25 generated while TT, not total including those generated as a grad student and postdoc.

Anonymous said...

Universities have different policies. Some will only consider papers produced while employed at that university (which is an incredibly stupid for so many reasons), others will consider the cumulative production.

The only way I'm going to make 25 is to also count for my postdoc papers. The excessive emphasis on sustained high production has undesireable side effects. Of my papers (14 so far), only 3-4 I would consider "good" papers. Everything else is incremental stuff that is published just for the sake of getting it out. Ideally, i'd spend my time in high-reward, high-risk projects, but you can't afford it unless you're tenured, because if anything goes wrong, you're out of a job.
My field is political science, by the way.

Odyssey said...

Universities have different policies. Some will only consider papers produced while employed at that university (which is an incredibly stupid for so many reasons), others will consider the cumulative production.

In my field (basic biomedical sciences) papers generated as a grad student and postdoc never count. It's assumed (generally correctly) that those papers don't represent independent work. Since tenure and promotion is given, in part, as recognition for the development of a truly independent research program, such papers should not count. I do understand however that in some fields students and postdocs work far more independently than is the case in mine.

Being forced to publish incremental stuff sucks.

Anonymous said...

Impact Factor and Citations are far more important. Quality over quantity. But quantity doesn't hurt.

Anonymous said...

There is no answer to this question - it depends on your field, the journals you publish in, the department, the school, the external review letters, the dean, the academic climate, the weather, the position of Venus, and whether or not you're a jack ass.

Odyssey said...

I've moved. For more on this subject head on over to my Scientopia blog post.

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