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Additional Tenure-Track Policies

Timetable, Stop-the-Clock and Extend-the-Clock Provisions

Tenure at the NIH can be achieved in six years (eight years for anyone doing clinical or epidemiological research), or earlier by special exception, and funding is normally provided for that entire tenure-track period. In 2008, as part of an effort to make the IRP a more family-friendly place, an additional year was provided, with the option to opt out of the additional year. The tenure-track clock will not be stopped for accrued annual or sick leave. If a candidate should require that the clock be reset beyond seven (or nine) years, this request would require the Lab/Branch Chief's and Scientific Director's approval as well as approval in the Office of Intramural Research, OD.

At the candidate's request, and with the approval of the Laboratory/Branch Chief and the Scientific Director, the tenure clock may be adjusted to permit a candidate to work part-time to accommodate care for children or other family members. The adjustment in the tenure track will be proportionate with the reduction made in working hours and salary. Thus, for example, if a scientist arranges to hold a half-time appointment for his or her first two years as a tenure-track candidate, completing the tenure track with a full-time appointment, he or she would be evaluated for tenure 7 or 8 years after entering the tenure track but with 6 or 7 years cumulative time on the job. Adjustments in the tenure-track clock may not be made after-the-fact, and cannot be made to extend the candidate's time on tenure track for more than 10 years.

By written agreement between the Laboratory/Branch Chief and the Scientific Director, and with the candidate's consent, an exceptional candidate may be evaluated for tenure before six years (eight years for clinical and epidemiology investigators) have elapsed. Standards for granting early tenure will be identical to those applied to other candidates.

Evaluation of Tenure-Track Candidates

Tenure-track scientists will be evaluated continually by their Section- and Laboratory or Branch Chief and the Scientific Director. One of these individuals will meet annually with the tenure-track scientist to provide oral and written evaluation on performance. Copies of this evaluation, signed by the Laboratory/Branch Chief and the Scientific Director, shall be provided to the candidate and to the review team evaluating the candidate for tenure.

Formal reviews will be conducted within approximately three years by the Board of Scientific Counselors or by a working group of the BSC such as a formally constituted Site Visit review team established by the Scientific Director and approved by the IC Director and by the DDIR, followed by a recommendation by the BSC. The BSC will recommend that the candidate be: 1) continued in the tenure track, 2) dropped from the track, or 3) considered for early evaluation for tenure. The Board of Scientific Counselors shall identify particular areas of strength and weakness and suggest steps necessary to improve a candidate's chances of securing tenure. To be continued in the tenure track, a candidate must demonstrate continued research progress consistent with the programmatic and research goals defined in the Tenure-Track Agreement. The pace of this progress should be sufficient such that, if continued, the candidate would achieve considerable standing as an independent scientist in the research community after six/seven years (eight/nine years for clinical investigator). In order to give tenure-track investigators the full period, the final BSC review could be scheduled to coincide with the end of the last (sixth/seventh or eighth/ninth) year, give or take a couple of months. Shortly after the last BSC review, the SD or IC Promotion/Tenure Committee should arrange for 10-12 letters of evaluation, so that once the BSC review is completed, the IC Promotion/Tenure Committee could immediately complete its review and the case could be sent on to the Central Tenure Committee. If the SD agrees that the BSC review and letters do not support the possibility of tenure, the candidate would be notified at once and have an additional year to look for another job.

If a candidate is not continued in the tenure-track, or is denied tenure, he or she should be notified in writing and will be permitted at least one terminal year.

The Tenure Decision

Candidates for Tenure shall be reviewed by the IC's Promotion and Tenure Review Panel which shall notify the candidate in writing whether he or she will or will not be advanced for tenure consideration. The Committee shall solicit outside letters on behalf of the candidate, and, in concurrence with the Scientific Director and IC Director, shall make a recommendation to the NIH Central Tenure Committee that is chaired by the DDIR. Criteria used in the evaluation of candidates for tenure are listed in the Criteria for Tenure at the NIH. This evaluation will consider the scientific merit of the candidate's research evidenced by publications and the impact of those publications on the field , letters of recommendation from well recognized senior scientists, participation in and chairing of scientific conferences and symposia, development of innovative techniques or patentable products, overall contribution to intramural research at NIH, mentoring and other leadership within the laboratory, branch, or section, and adherence to the highest ethical standards in the conduct of science.

After reviewing the candidate, the NIH Central Tenure Committee makes its recommendation on tenure. The DDIR shall issue the final approval or disapproval for each conversion to tenure. The Scientific Director will notify candidates in writing of the DDIR's decision.

If a candidate is advanced for tenure consideration before seven years (nine years for clinical and epidemiology investigators) have elapsed, and is denied tenure, his or her Scientific Director, with approval of the IC Director, may re-submit the tenure application at a later date, but before the seven year maximum (nine years for clinical or epidemiology investigators).


The page was last updated on Thursday, January 20, 2022 - 10:00am