0

I serve on a Promotion and Tenure committee for an assistant professor who has (in my opinion) a lack of professional courtesy and collaborative attitude. This professor will collaborate and publish with graduate students or faculty at other institutions.

However, has conducted at least 5 small research projects, that have been published in regional or national research conferences, where faculty in our own department who are experts in the field were not included and even their previous published research not referenced (I think there's a clear issue with reviewers, but).

Only after it is clearly and sometimes loudly pointed out "you did this whole project and didn't even reference any of XXX's work or ask them to be part of the study in his/her area" will this faculty member ask people to review the article for journal submission.

Further, there are a few faculty across the country, who could be external reviewers for this individual. They have also witnessed this lack of collaboration and professionalism.

While collaboration is not a measure of success in the P&T process, the quality of the research conducted and published should be.

My questions are:

How do I guide, mentor this young faculty member through the promotion and tenure process, so that they understand the importance of collaborating with the experts within the department?

How do I address this issue during the P&T meeting with the rest of the committee?

  • 14
    Everything about what you seem to want to do seems improper to me. Why would you want to impose your own standards of "collaboration" on someone else. It sounds un-collegial in the extreme. – Buffy Jul 12 at 23:07
  • 20
    No, they collaborate with others. Perhaps they have a reason. Perhaps "pointed out loudly" is one of those reasons. Why should you impose "in house" collaboration? It sounds like you have a dysfunctional department, sorry. – Buffy Jul 12 at 23:49
  • 25
    Actually, it sounds like a domination game, not a collaborative one. You want to impose your will and your view. I think you are the one with the issue. Collaboration requires trust. Trust is earned, not demanded. – Buffy Jul 12 at 23:55
  • 15
    Do the more senior faculty members in the assistant professor's field regularly reach out to the assistant professor with collaboration opportunities? Do they have regular mentoring meetings, where the more senior mentors ask the assistant prof what they're working on, and suggest similar projects/directions of mutual interest, or at least point out other relevant work to reference (including their own)? Do you have regular seminars, where faculty present their ongoing work? Or do you only find out what the assistant professor is doing by reading the journals? – JeffE Jul 13 at 1:16
  • 19
    I agree with @Buffy: It sounds like the assistant prof has no trouble collaborating, and is indeed focusing on their existing and clearly successful collaborations to optimize their publication output, as assistant profs everywhere are urged to do. – JeffE Jul 13 at 1:17
47

You seem to think that an assistant professor should collaborate within your department. However, a more common view is that an assistant professor should be an independent researcher. An assistant professor should clearly distinguish their research from that of other faculty at the same institution. Assistant professors do not want to be asked, "Why should we grant you tenure when we already have a tenured professor who can do the same research?"

Without more detail added to the question, it sounds like the assistant professor's collaboration strategy is okay.

  • 7
    I agree with this answer. Adding a senior colleague to a project usually leads to others thinking you luck independence and implicitly assume they are leading the project. – electrique Jul 13 at 13:20
35

While collaboration is not a measure of success in the P&T process, the quality of the research conducted and published should be.

How do I guide, mentor this young faculty member through the promotion and tenure process, so that they understand the importance of collaborating with the experts within the department?

You seem to be contradicting yourself here. If collaboration is “not a measure of success in the P&T process”, then you can’t expect the faculty member to “understand the importance of collaborating with the experts within the department”. Either collaboration is an official criterion or not: if it is, explain this to the tenure candidate. If it isn’t, you have no business viewing it as a weakness of their tenure case, and neither do the other faculty members you mention who are “mad about the lack of inclusion”. Quite simply, there is nothing to “understand”.

How do I address this issue during the P&T meeting with the rest of the committee?

You say you are concerned about the tenure candidate’s “lack of collaboration and professionalism”. Perhaps a way to address it is to give some thought to your own professionalism in advance of the meeting. Part of professionalism is following the policies and procedures of your institution without allowing your judgment to be clouded by irrelevant factors. Since you said that collaboration is not an official criterion, I suggest that you focus only on the factors that are official criteria, and be prepared to remind your committee colleagues of what those factors are and steer the discussion back to them in case any of them attempt to bring up other, irrelevant factors.

Another aspect of professionalism is not tolerating your department functioning as a kind of mafia in which senior faculty members exploit more junior ones by pressuring them into entering collaborations and into citing the senior members’ works, and trying to make the junior members “understand” that such collaborations are “for their own good”. I understand that I may be reading a bit too much into your description and maybe that’s not what’s really happening here, but it does sound like such a coercive/exploitative environment is a possible interpretation of what you wrote.

Since you say that the quality of the candidate’s research is important in the P&T evaluation, what would be a good idea is for you to counsel the junior faculty member about ways in which they could improve the quality (and quantity) of their published research. If you truly believe in good faith that collaborating with senior faculty members in your department would be a good way to achieve that goal, it would certainly be reasonable of you to explain that to your mentee. It would also be reasonable to discuss with them academic standards involving citation of relevant literature. If there is a real issue of them not including citations to clearly relevant earlier work in their publications, definitely this can be an important issue that you can and should discuss with them. However, it should not matter whether the literature they are not citing is by someone from your department or outside of it. The only relevant issue is whether your colleague is living up to the high standards of conduct and scholarship expected from a tenured professor at your university.

  • Thanks all. I appreciate the feedback. Counseling the jr. faculty member on ways to improve the quality of research would be beneficial. Encouraging the jr. faculty member to independently research another positive and is encouraged. It's not an exploitative environment...what it boils down to is jr. member wants to crank out as much as possible, without really doing a thorough job reviewing literature. I guess, I framed it as a lack of collaboration, when it really boils down to taking short cuts to get published. – Anonymous3444 Jul 16 at 0:52
  • This was a great exercise for me to see all sides and perspectives. I'm not and our department is not as dysfunctional as some of you seem to think - just another faculty member trying to learn. – Anonymous3444 Jul 16 at 0:55

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service, privacy policy and cookie policy

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.