Reward collaborative work that is not recognized by traditional evaluation metrics.

Olson, J. S., Stokols, D., Salazar, M., & Olson, G.

Because contemporary research is often team-based and cross-disciplinary, unless that collaboration is recognized in promotion and tenure, junior faculty will avoid participating and the research will suffer.  At UCI, we are working to create a process by which the important contributions in collaboration are recognized.

First, the participating faculty have to state the ways in which they have contributed to the team research using an agreed-upon vocabulary.  Second, the letter-writers have to know the collaborative activities in which the faculty member contributed and write something about those that are of high value. Third, the faculty in the candidate’s department have to value critical collaborative work and the department or school letters which summarize the case have to recognize the high value collaborative activities.  And fourth (in the UC structure at least) the University-wide Committee on Academic Personnel (CAP) has to widen their judgement of what counts for promotion and tenure to take into account some highly valued collaborative activities.

To that end, we have created what we believe is the first step: Creating a vocabulary with which to describe the variety of ways people contribute to a collaboration.  This list is a blend of the kinds of contributions people make to a publication and additional activities unique to establishing the collaboration and being instrumental in disseminating the work beyond publication. We do not think all of these are of high enough value to count towards promotion and tenure, but certainly some do.  We are in the throes of soliciting from our campus the perceived values of each of these activities, recognizing that some of them are nuanced on how important that particular contribution was to the collaboration under review. For example, if one contributes relevant literature from another field and that literature spurs a breakthrough in thinking or conceptualizing the research, then that would certainly count at least in some part towards that person’s tenure or promotion.  If it is a simple literature review without the breakthrough insights, then it would not.

Here is the list, called the:

Collaborative Contributions List:

Conceptual Contributions

Contribute the key idea behind the work

Have critical insight that breaks a conceptual logjam

Create theoretical ideas or frameworks

Contribute relevant literature

Methodological Contributions

Bring expertise in a particular research approach

Develop or share relevant software for modeling or analysis

Bring statistical expertise

Create visualizations that help create understanding during analysis

Provide data curation

Resource Contributions

Help obtain grant funding

Contribute funds from an existing source

Possess relevant specialized skills (either self or staff)

Build or provide access to specialized equipment or facilities

Provide critical materials (e.g., cell lines)

Provide existing data sets

Recruit research participants

Especially if special populations are required

Establishing relations to organizations that link to relevant populations

Project Level Contributions

Provide overall project administration, leadership

Especially important for geographically distributed projects

Especially important for cross-disciplinary collaborations

Be a liaison to a key community or organization

Introduce or refer important people to team members

Support team building, getting researchers to speak the same language, trust each other, mentor.

Disseminate the Research

Take leadership in creating the papers

Do significant work in editing papers for clarification and transparency

Create and give presentations

Translate the research to practitioners and the public

Create useful visualizations of data or the models for others to understand

Commercialize the technologies, acquire patents

As our results come in, we will update this page, noting for which departments and schools or colleges each of the above activities is important enough to count towards promotion and tenure.