Investigator Track (Basic Science/Physician Scientist)

The Basic Science Investigator/Physician Scientist Investigator Track (tenure track and tenured) is intended for faculty with major efforts in research or scholarship and teaching. These are faculty who are dedicated to the creation and dissemination of knowledge based upon original research related to basic investigations of normal biologic processes or diseases, or translational or clinical research, and are engaged in graduate biomedical or medical education.

Tenure may be awarded to faculty members who meet the criteria identified below for promotion to associate professor and for whom there is evidence that continuing and sustainable resources will be available to support their future scholarly efforts. The nature of this funding may vary from discipline to discipline. It will be the responsibility of the department chair recommending tenure to provide evidence of a consistent pattern of support for the candidate's research and scholarly efforts and additionally to provide assurance that continuing and sustainable resources will be available to support the candidate's future scholarly efforts.

Appointment and promotion to associate professor without tenure on the tenure track
Appointment or promotion to the rank of Associate Professor on the tenure track will in most instances be accompanied by the awarding of tenure. There are instances, however, in which faculty members have established a national reputation based on significant, original, and creative contributions to their discipline, but have not yet established a pattern of program development that gives assurance that continuing and sustainable resources will be available to support their future scholarly activities. Under such circumstances, faculty members may be recommended for appointment or promotion to the rank of associate professor, with the recommendation and decision on tenure deferred until the needed evidence for continuing and sustainable resources is available. Such an action does not influence the application of the stated tenure probationary period

(Approved by VUSM Executive Faculty 12/17/03)

Criteria for Appointment to the Tenured Rank of Associate Professor
Promotion to Associate Professor on the Basic Science Investigator/Physician Scientist Investigator Track, requires: 1) excellence in research, scholarship, or creative expression in one's discipline of sufficiently high quality to gain favorable recognition within one's discipline at the national level; 2) a high level of effectiveness in teaching. Vanderbilt expects the quality of achievement in research, scholarship, or creative expression and in teaching to be equivalent to that required for tenure at other major research universities. In addition, Vanderbilt expects satisfactory performance in the area of (3) service for the award of tenure.

1. Research, Scholarship or Creative Expression
Research or scholarship is a sine qua non of all tenured academic appointments. The conduct of research of high quality or other evidence of scholarship or creative expression is a necessary requirement for advancement. Research and/or scholarship includes the discovery, development, and dissemination of new knowledge or understanding regardless of whether this takes place in a laboratory, clinical or teaching setting. Scholarly activity may also consist of innovative conceptualizations or novel solutions to health care problems that receive national recognition. Candidates considered for tenure have already achieved and show promise of continuing to achieve a high level of excellence in their contributions to their discipline or profession. By the time of tenure review, they must have completed and made available research, scholarship, or other original contributions of such high quality as to gain favorable recognition within their discipline at the national level. Such recognition will usually be based on the unique and creative nature of the candidate's contributions.

Certain types of activities are generally recognized as demonstrative of an individual's stature in research or scholarship:

A. The conduct of meritorious, independent and original research and/or scholarship in a sustained fashion that makes a significant contribution to new knowledge. This activity may be assessed in a number of ways.

  • Identification and evaluation by leaders in the field of the specific contribution of the individual, the importance of the contributions, and an assessment of the investigator's stature within the scientific community.
  • Sustained publication of independent research and/or scholarly writings in the leading peer-reviewed journals of the individual's area of endeavor. Quality rather than quantity of publications is important. Vanderbilt recognizes the critical importance of collaboration ("team science") in research and scholarly activity and that the contributions of middle authors in multi-authored publications are often seminal and of the highest quality. When the research and/or scholarship is pursued in a collaborative fashion and results in multi-authored publications, the specific contributions of the candidate must be clear and significant. The candidate 's role can be described via the Critical Reference Form (PDF or MSWord) that must be included in the promotion dossier. In addition, the chair, the manuscript's senior author, and external correspondents can make an assessment of the quality and impact of a middle author's contribution.
  • Peer recognition demonstrated by invited participation in major scientific meetings; invited authorship of books, monographs, book chapters and critical reviews; the receipt of honors for scientific achievements; and election or selection to membership and/or leadership positions in professional organizations.

B. The recognition by peers of the quality of research or scholarship as indicated by the receipt of funding from such organizations as the National Institutes of Health, Veterans Administration, national scientific organizations, and other peer-reviewed funding agencies.

C. The attraction and training of graduate students and postdoctoral fellows in the scientific field of interest of the investigator.

D. Membership on scientific and professional advisory committees at the national and international levels, e.g., NIH study sections, National Research Council, national professional societies, and national commissions and task forces.

E. Editorial activities and regular reviewing for a learned or scientific journal.

F.  The performance of patient care related activities in a manner that extends beyond routine management and is characteristic of the scholarly, creative clinician. Evidence of such a scholarly approach to clinical practice would include:

  • Publication of major papers, chapters and books that integrate, synthesize, and summarize the clinical literature for other clinicians.
  • Publication of case reports and other clinical articles.
  • Introduction of innovative advances to clinical medicine, documented by appropriate publications and reflecting the individual's status as being on the "cutting edge" of issues in clinical management.
  • Evaluation by peers from within the institution, the local community, regionally, and nationally that provides evidence of the individual's influence on clinical practice.
  • Invited participation in clinical conferences, rounds, seminars, and similar activities outside the institution in regional, national, or international settings.

2. Teaching
Teaching has a central role within the University, and all candidates for promotion are required to have participated and demonstrated a high level of effectiveness in this activity. Teaching takes numerous forms. It occurs in lecture rooms, small discussion groups and seminars; in the supervision of medical and graduate students and postdoctoral trainees, including residents and other professionals on the campus and in the community; in the laboratory research setting; and in the clinical care setting, within the hospital and ambulatory care clinics, in exam rooms, at the bedside, and during clinical rounds. To meet tenure standards in teaching, candidates must demonstrate a high level of effectiveness in at least one of the numerous forms that teaching takes in our School of Medicine.

The degree of documentation should be sufficient to demonstrate a high level of effectiveness in teaching. While it is recognized that documentation of the level and degree of involvement of faculty in teaching does not necessarily indicate the effectiveness of performance, such information when collected over a period of time is a useful index of the interest, involvement, and competence of the individual as a teacher. (See the Documentation of Teaching/VUSM electronic Educator PortfolioSome of the more common information used in the assessment of teaching activities and effectiveness are:

A. A record of courses taught over the past several years with information about the individual's contact time, specific contributions in multi-instructor courses, the number and type of students enrolled, and the level of subject matter covered. Included in this category is participation in lectures, laboratories, seminars, conferences, tutorials and other similar activities.

B. Documentation of the extent of non-classroom teaching over the preceding years, such as supervising and advising medical and graduate students, residents, and postdoctoral fellows; presentations at various clinical rounds; and bedside teaching.

C. Description of special contributions made toward achieving the teaching goals of the department and the school.

D. The individual's role in the development and planning of current and new courses, or new and effective approaches to teaching as exemplified by manuals, textbooks, audiovisual aids, curriculum development, and other special accomplishments.

E. Evaluations of the individual's effectiveness as a teacher, as assessed formally and informally by students, graduates, house staff and peers. Such evaluations might address:

  • Command of and enthusiasm for the subject, including the continuous inclusion of new knowledge;
  • Effectiveness in organizing and clarity in presenting material;
  • Ability to guide and evaluate student learning, to arouse student curiosity, to stimulate student creativity; and,
  • Sensitivity to the needs of students. Testimonials should be representative and balanced, and should reflect a consistent pattern over a period of time. Care must also be taken to distinguish teaching effectiveness from popularity.

F. Invited participation in extramural teaching activities at the regional, national, and international levels, as exemplified by major involvement in selected workshops and symposia and by the presentation of honorary lectures and visiting professorships.

G. The receipt of individual awards and honors specifically recognizing teaching skills.

3. Service
Faculty members have obligations in such areas as internal governance, university outreach, patient care and other professional services to the department, School, University and community, and contributions to professional and learned societies. Vanderbilt expects its tenure track faculty to assume a fair share of such service and to perform it satisfactorily.

Appointment and Promotion to Tenured Professor
The standards applicable for promotion to full Professor on the Basic Science Investigator/Physician Scientist Investigator Track are the same as those specified above for consideration for the award of tenure at the rank of associate professor except that the indicators of excellence in scholarship shall be substantial and more completely developed. The expectation is that full Professors at Vanderbilt are regarded nationally or internationally as leading figures in their field. Time in position is not sufficient justification for promotion to Professor, and a record of enhanced productivity subsequent to the previous promotion is required. Promotion to the position of Professor with tenure can occur from either the tenure track or the Basic Science Educator/Clinician Educator Track. The same criteria are used to judge the suitability for promotion to tenure from both tracks.

Supporting Documentation

1. Standardized Form of the Curriculum Vitae
The Committee on Faculty Appointments and Promotions has developed a standard form of the curriculum vitae that must be used by faculty and departments in supporting recommendations for promotions and tenure. Use of the standard form will assure that all information needed by the committee is present and will expedite the review of recommendations.

2. Documentation of Teaching Effectiveness
It is required that the Documentation of Teaching Form/ VUSM electronic Educator Portfolio be used to specify the teaching activities of the candidate on the Basic Science Investigator/Physician Scientist Investigator (tenure track). Specific assessments of the candidate's teaching effectiveness should be submitted in reference to the candidate's primary mode of teaching. Such assessments might include peer assessments by colleagues who have observed the teaching, or trainee assessments including student assessments as compiled by the Student Curriculum Committee, or those provided by individual trainees who have worked in a more direct relationship with the candidate (e.g. graduate students, residents, fellows).

3. Critical References
For candidates whose promotion on the tenure track is based on their research accomplishments, up to five references to publications representing the candidate's most significant contributions should be identified. If the candidate is not first or last author, the specific contribution of the candidate to the referenced work should be described. The Faculty Appointments and Promotion Committee developed the Critical Reference Form (PDF or MSWord) on which to provide this information. It is helpful to the committee if copies of these key papers are submitted as part of the candidate's dossier.

4. Letters of Evaluation
Guidelines for Letters of Evaluation