Posts Tagged ‘promotion’

Rankling Ranks

Thursday, March 22nd, 2012

We talk about global economies and global science, but when it comes to how we run our universities, higher education in the United States rarely looks outside. A joint project between the Higher School for Economics in Moscow, Russia and the Boston College Center for International Higher Education has collected data on universities in 28 countries.

Although the project’s focus is on comparisons of  compensation, I found another result more provocative. t1m_tnThe investigators asked how many ranks are used in universities across 28 countries. It turns out that only India and Italy join the United States in designating three rungs of academic promotion.

The most common systems is to have four ranks, but several countries used systems with five or six steps. Because number of ranks was not the focus of the study, the researchers did not make conclusions about the benefits of different systems, but it does raise the question of what promotion would be like if the choices were not simply assistant, associate, or full.

The Pace of Promotion

Friday, February 11th, 2011

Every medical school has a different set of policies for promotion, but one thing they tend to have in common is time. Under ideal circumstances, a promotion can go through all the steps in six months. When it comes to full professor cases, the scrutiny is more intense and the process even longer.

Harvard Medical School has over 8,000 faculty members, by far the largest faculty of any medical college. Promotions to full professor there took at least two years with the home departments, hospitals, medical school administrators, and the university provost weighing in.

A new policy streamlines the process to one year. One of the biggest sources of time savings will come with a centralized digital repository for documents like external letters of recommendation. It's encouraging when institutions can identify redundancies and eliminate them. Transparency is also helpful. It would be ideal to use the online system to let faculty members know where their candidacy stands in the process much like journals alert manuscript authors to their place in the editorial queue.

Women and Search Committees

Tuesday, January 4th, 2011

Studies of faculty development initiatives often fail to match the rigorous standards of randomized trials. In Spain, however,  two economists took advantage of a natural experiment to measure the impact of gender on promotion committees.

Spanish candidates for academic promotion compete against a national pool. Review panels are selected by lottery. So, over the course of thousands of decisions from 2002 to 2006, panels formed that consisted of all men and different combinations of men and women.

The study found that for promotion to associate professor, the gender composition of the reviewers did not make a difference in whether female candidates received promotion. When it came to promotions to full professor, though, having a female member of the committee increases a female candidate's chance of success by 14 percent.

Their conclusions point to the need for review committees to reflect the diversity of the institution. They do not mention whether the data also show the same effect for underrepresented minority candidates, but the logic may work the same way. Curiously, the authors found in another paper that female-majority committees are less likely to promote women than ones where just a few women participate.

Reviewing the Performance Review

Wednesday, July 28th, 2010

UCLA professor of management Samuel Culbert has become a one-person army battling the annual performance review. The first salvo came in a Wall Street Journal op-ed in 2008.

In it, he argued that the reviews enact power plays between a boss and subordinate. They intimidate and subvert without having any impact on pay. Culbert has now expanded his diatribe into a book.

Instead of performance reviews, he recommends performance previews. These conversations would be more balanced and focused on what resources a worker needs to complete his or her tasks.

Culbert is thinking of for-profit institutions when he talks about performance reviews, but such corporate ideas have found a place in academia. In the Department of Medicine, section chiefs this month will be sitting down with faculty for their annual reviews. In the best cases, supervisors will use the opportunity to project ahead more than to dwell on the past.


Thursday, May 27th, 2010

The Association of American Medical Colleges released its latest Analysis in Brief. These two-page reports synthesize large data sets into legible snapshots. In this case, the picture is of promotion rates for medical school faculty.

The results are discouraging. First-time assistant professors between 1967 and 1976 took 5.2 years to get promoted. In each subsequent decade, the average time to promotion has increased until the most recent cohort, which averages 6.2 years to reach promotion.

Men are more likely to be promoted than women and white faculty are more likely to be promoted than minorities. We're still compiling statistics at Boston University's Department of Medicine to see how we stack up with these national numbers.

Still, the trend is undeniable. A smaller proportion of the faculty are getting promoted, and it's taking longer for them to do it.