What to include in review statements or letters of support for promotion or tenure of early career interdisciplinary researchers

"Possible criteria to include for reviewing an interdisciplinary researcher:

  1. Clearly describe the researcher’s role in driving the project(s) forward
  2. What is the major effort that she/he is leading or to which she/he is making scholarly contributions?
  3. Is the contribution essential for the overall success of the project?
  4. How did the contribution influence the overall outcome/direction of the project?
  5. Was the contribution original rather than a reproduction of the work of others (e.g. was the software developed with novel, original features that will be used by others in the field, or did the scholar merely modify existing software to make it compatible with the workflow of the project)?
  6. What accomplishments/achievements can be attributed to the PI in the context of the larger team?
  7. For PIs whose research is mainly collaborative, how is the contribution of the individual PI regarded in the PIs field of research?  What is the significance of the contributions?
  8. What agreements were put in place to decide how authorship, data, and presentations would be shared?  What processes were put in place in case of disagreement?”

Quoted from page 136 in Bennett, L. M., Gadlin, H., Marchand, C. (2018). Collaboration and Team Science Field Guide. 2nd edn., National Institutes of Health Publication No. 18-7660, National Cancer Institute, Bethesda, United States of America.

This material was written in the context of team science.  Our emphasis is broader.  Therefore we substituted "scholarship" or "research" for "science" in the text.  We left the title of the manuscript quoted as Team Science so it can be found.

The following language is a depiction of how people contribute to collaborations.  Whether the contribution “counts” for promotion and tenure depends on how original, significant, essential or game-changing the contributions were for the project.  The following is written for faculty at the University of California Irvine, but could be applicable in other universities to bring collaborative contributions to the fore and give credit where credit is due:

Identifying Faculty Contributions to Team Scholarship

Guidelines for UCI Faculty as They Prepare Their Reflective Research Statement and
Publications Summary for Merit and Promotion Reviews

An increasingly prominent feature of 21st Century research is faculty members’ participation in team scholarship. The term, team scholarship, is used broadly to refer to collaborative (and increasingly cross-disciplinary) scholarship and translational efforts to develop evidence-based solutions to complex societal and global problems.  Another term sometimes used to refer to deep integration across multiple fields driven by compelling societal problems is convergent science. The forms of collaborative scholarship vary across different fields including the natural and physical sciences, biomedicine, engineering, social and behavioral sciences, and the arts and humanities.

Not all faculty members at UCI are engaged in team-based scholarship and this is certainly not a requirement for successful merit and promotion reviews. At the same time, because team-based cross-disciplinary research (sometimes involving partnerships between university faculty and community-based partners) is becoming an increasingly salient feature of contemporary research, UCI is strongly committed to creating an academic climate that facilitates and rewards faculty contributions to collaborative scholarship.  Toward that goal, we encourage candidates for merit and promotion reviews to identify their specific contributions to collaborative scholarship and/or translation to community practice and public policy.

Attached is a listing of some of the ways that faculty can contribute to team-based discovery and translation to practice.  The suggested list of collaborative contributions is not exhaustive, and the ways that faculty contribute to team-based research may be field-specific.  In any case, if you are participating in team research at UCI as well as projects in which you are collaborating with scholars from other universities and/or with community partners, please describe those contributions in your reflective research statement for merit and promotion review.

Also, as you complete the AP-10 summary of your major publications for the current review period, please note your collaborative contributions when summarizing those publications that resulted from team-based projects.

Collaborative Contributions List (CCL)

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

Developed by Martiza Salazar, Dan Stokols, Judy Olson and Gary Olson as part of their work at the University of California Irvine for the Vice Chancellor for Research, Pramod Khargonekar.  April, 2019. Team Scholarship Acceleration Lab.