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Tenure-Track Overview

The primary purpose of an NIH fellowship or clinical associateship is to provide time-limited research training and development opportunities to postdoctoral scientists. It is anticipated that, upon completion of their fellowship, the vast majority of all fellows will leave NIH to pursue careers at extramural institutions. The tenure track has been created to provide an opportunity for outstanding postdoctoral scientists trained inside and outside the NIH Intramural Research Program to prove themselves as independent scientists and to compete for permanent positions as tenured independent investigators.


The NIH tenure-track has been created to provide an unambiguous, uniform, and equitable mechanism for identifying and promoting outstanding scientists to the ranks of permanent intramural researchers. The goal of this system is to provide all necessary resources and encouragement to tenure-track scientists, thus giving them a fair opportunity to demonstrate their creativity and productivity as independent scientists.

Eligibility for Tenure-Track

Outstanding scientists engaged in clinical or laboratory research become eligible to enter tenure-track positions after completing postdoctoral training. This experience should have been sufficiently extensive to allow thorough evaluation of an individual's potential as a tenure-track scientist.

Advantages of the Tenure-Track

To Fellows:

  • Provides a period of stable support to maximize creative independence.
  • Facilitates recruitment of female, minority, and disabled scientists.
  • Creates possible fast track to tenure status through early access to independent resources.
  • Engenders realistic understanding of career prospects at NIH.
  • Improves evaluation of progress through outside reviews and provides feedback to tenure-track scientists.

To Lab Chiefs:

  • Establishes a recruitment and retention mechanism for the most outstanding young scientists.
  • Allows better planning for future staffing of lab/branch.
  • Provides a means to launch into new scientific opportunity areas.

To Scientific Directors and the NIH:

  • Assures fresh talent through recruitment of outside scientists and retention of the best NIH fellows.
  • Enhances scientific quality and stimulates creativity and collaboration.
  • Develops future scientific leaders for NIH or elsewhere.

Guidelines for Assuring Broad Scientific Input for New Tenure-Track Positions

The intent of these guidelines is to guarantee that the decision to dedicate resources to a tenure-track position is based on broad input from knowledgeable scientists within the Institute in which the appointment will be made. Because circumstances vary considerably among Institutes, Laboratories and Branches, the following guidelines are intended to provide several different possible mechanisms to be used singly or in combination to garner scientific input:

  • Discussion and endorsement by the senior (tenured and tenure-track) members of a Laboratory/Branch for the establishment of a new tenure-track position.
  • Discussion and endorsement by the Laboratory/Branch Chiefs of an Intramural Research Program (IRP).
  • Discussion and endorsement by a standing committee broadly representative of senior scientists within an IRP, or newly constituted to consider the establishment of a specific tenure-track position. One possibility would be to use the Search Committee, which would subsequently be charged to recommend a candidate after deciding that the position should be tenure-track.
  • Discussion and endorsement by the Promotion and Tenure Committee of an IRP.
  • The advice of the Board of Scientific Counselors may also be solicited on the creation of tenure-track positions. The criteria to be used by these groups include whether or not there is (a) programmatic or scientific need within the Institute, Laboratory or Branch for the tenure-track position, and (b) availability of resources to support the tenure-track scientist.

Additional Tenure-Track Resources

The page was last updated on Tuesday, March 17, 2015 - 8:31pm