T H E   N I H    C A T A L Y S T      M A R C H  –  A P R I L  2004


by Arlyn Garcia-Perez, Ph.D.
Assistant Director, OIR
Executive Secretary, Central Tenure Committee

"To ensure a strong tenure system that provides the intramural research program with creative and productive scientists, an NIH-wide Tenure Committee, advisory to the Deputy Director for Intramural Research . . . should be established to review and recommend for approval (or rejection) all potential appointments to tenure."

—NIH IRP Report of the External Advisory Committee, Director’s Advisory Committee, Nov. 17, 1994

On January 5, 2004, nearing the 10th anniversary of its inception, the NIH Central Tenure Committee (CTC) conducted its first-ever retreat for a look back and a future vision. Invitations to all past and present CTC members, scientific directors, and members of special panels advisory to the CTC were extended, and fully 70 percent gathered together enthusiastically for a meeting in Building 1, Wilson Hall.

Michael Gottesman, deputy director for intramural research (DDIR) and CTC chair, presented summary data on the tenure rate at NIH since 1994.

For the cohorts of investigators who started on the tenure track in 1994 and 1995, 56 percent and 58 percent, respectively, achieved tenure. Since more than 20 percent of investigators who started in 1996 and subsequent years are still on the tenure track, the overall tenure rate for those cohorts is still changing.

Review by the CTC is the last step in the review process for tenure, and nearly all candidates who reach that point are indeed approved for tenure: 90 percent of all tenure-track investigators reviewed by the CTC since 1994 received tenure (in the same period, 91 percent of all outside candidates reviewed by the CTC for tenure also received it). Thus, nearly all individuals who do not achieve tenure from the tenure track fail to do so before they are reviewed by the CTC.

After questions on the data, the DDIR introduced an outline of criteria for tenure that the CTC has traditionally valued as fundamental. The ensuing thoughtful exchange and lively dialogue produced a draft that ultimately resulted in the consensus document printed on this page.



High quality, originality, and impact of scientific contributions to a specific field and biomedical research more generally

quality of studies, including scientific rationale and methodological rigor

innovation and originality in the form of new ideas, approaches, discoveries and paradigms that open lines of further inquiry, including discovery and development of technological approaches, as well as design, development, and implementation of clinical trials and population studies

scientific, clinical, and/or public health impact of published work

upward trajectory expected following tenure


independent research as evidenced by primary and senior authorship on original research publications

for team research, clear evidence of distinct intellectual contribution to the research; members of research teams should demonstrate peer recognition of their specific contributions and some publications should highlight their distinctive research

Productivity relative to resources

quality and quantity of publications (e.g., an original paper in a high-impact journal is considered more consequential than several papers in specialty, lower-impact journals)

reputation of journals in which peer-reviewed papers are published, including specialty journals appropriate to the candidate’s field

patents and CRADAs

timely deposition of data (in particular, large data sets) in freely available public databases; recognition given to high-quality data made available electronically to the research community, in some cases not directly linked to conventional journal publication(s)


National/international recognition and leadership

peer recognition for developing an important body of work with a unifying theme, evidenced in letters of recommendation from the leaders in the field

invited lectures and publications

membership on editorial boards or as invited journal reviewer

participation in grant review panels for NIH or other funding organizations

ability to forge multidisciplinary partnerships, taking advantage of the breadth and depth of the NIH scientific and clinical environment

honors and awards

election to scientific societies

IC programmatic need that evidences distinct and important contributions to the mission of NIH may be considered

Mentorship abilities and activities

success in training and mentoring junior colleagues at all levels as evidenced by their professional progress, competitive funding, and/or publications

High ethical standards and integrity in directing and conducting research

NIH citizenship and collegiality

IC or NIH-wide activity or committee participation (e.g., Scientific Interest Group, IRB, ACUC, WSAs, Faculties, etc.), clinical service, and other activities that promote the scientific enterprise at NIH and more broadly


Updated and accurate C.V. and bibliography, including all necessary information that addresses the criteria for tenure

Letters of recommendation from the leaders in the field (at least six from noncollaborators)

BSC reports, with particular emphasis on the most recent one (must be within the past two years for the Central Tenure Committee)

Recommending memorandum from the Laboratory/Branch Chief or Scientific Director, through IC Director, specifically addressing the recommendation for tenure

Report of the IC Promotion & Tenure Committee (only for tenure-track candidates)

Report of the DDIR-approved Search Committee (only for outside candidates)

The five publications that the candidate considers most important

Description of future research plans by the candidate (no more than five pages)

Detailed description of the resources (budget, personnel, space, other) available to the candidate from the beginning of the tenure track to date, with a timeline of changes during the tenure track (only for tenure-track candidates)



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