Follow up question to How does research funding work in determining academic promotions? since it was too broad.

Take two equally talented researchers, Alice & Bob. To what extent will it matter if Alice has a large amount of grant funding, compared Bob who has little or no grant funding? Can Bob compensate for his lack of grant funding by, e.g., having better teaching evaluations or supervising more undergraduate students?

  • My Uni's promotion criteria is available online, in detail, for all to see. It has to be. Depending on where you are located, this might be the case for you. Perhaps spend some time reviewing the promotion criteria and schedule a meeting with the admin of whatever office deals with promotions to have them walk you through the criteria. Much more useful to you than asking context specific questions here. Commented Sep 20, 2019 at 19:02
  • @GrotesqueSI if your university's promotion criteria is publicly available, can you link the document?
    – Allure
    Commented Sep 23, 2019 at 7:15

2 Answers 2


Like your other recent questions, this depends on many things, but most especially on the mission of a given institution. In some places good research would vastly outweigh good funding. In others, just the opposite. In teaching institutions, as opposed to primarily research universities, teach might outweigh everything else by a large margin.

But there are certainly institutions where the only viable path to tenure goes through the funding institutions and a successful and continuing record of attracting money. I some of these, the research is actually primarily carried out by the students, not the PI, though under the direction of the PI who is able to fund the lab and its student researchers.

So, first look to the stated mission of the place before making any assumptions. Then make sure that the actual mission is consistent with the stated mission. Sometimes they are at odds for various reasons.


This is highly variable. Each university has its own set of rules and regulations involving promotion and tenure. There can be a range of requirements related to teaching evaluations, research output, service requirements, and community outreach in addition to external funding.

For example, at my institution it is standard to apply for tenure in the 6th year. It is possible to apply early (though I think this means in the fifth year, and not at any time; I would have to read the fine print). Hypothetically, a big grant would look very nice if I were applying for early tenure. But I still have to meet requirements in all of the other areas. No matter how big the grant was, I would still need to meet the requirements in the other areas to be granted tenure.

Also, if Bob was bringing in less grant money than I was, it is likely that there is not much that he would need to compensate for. If he is applying to grants and bringing in SOME grant money, and meeting the requirements in the other areas, we are both likely to be promoted on the same schedule. Although yes, in the case of early tenure, Bob might have better luck if he has stellar teaching reviews, this will show he is exceeding expectations in at least some areas to justify being granted tenure early.

This is of course specific to my institution, which is a public institution focused primarily on teaching. There are quite possibly institutions where external funding is the #1 thing they look at when dealing with promotion.

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