Professor Promotion: Scholarship in Research

National and international recognition for research at the professor level entails clear evidence of independent research with a focused body of publications, national and international visibility of the research findings, and evidence of continuing extramural support for the research.


National and international recognition for scholarship in research is primarily judged by impact on the field. Generally, impact is documented by dissemination of one’s research through publication in peer-reviewed journals. Publication is the most important avenue for achieving national and international recognition in one’s field. To document national and international recognition as an outstanding investigator in the faculty member’s field, candidates for appointment or promotion to the rank of professor must have accomplished a body of novel research and published this research in high-quality first-authored and/or last-authored, peer-reviewed scientific papers. Such publications may include reports of original basic, clinical or translational research and/or important clinical applications of basic science. Case reports and reviews are weighted significantly less than original peer-reviewed publications. The impact of the publications and role of the faculty member in the publication (e.g., as first or last author versus co-author) are more important than the number of publications. However, usually a substantial number of publications will be necessary to be considered for appointment or promotion to professor.

Assessment of how well the publication record demonstrates national and international recognition in one’s field will include consideration of the following factors:

  • Quality of the work: Publications should be based on outstanding, original and innovative research findings, and/or important and novel clinical applications of basic research.
  • Authorship: Papers on which the faculty member is the first or senior author carry the greatest weight. Co-authored papers may be reflective of national and international recognition if there is evidence of the individual’s pivotal role in the study.
  • Quality of the journal: It is essential that publications are in journals of the highest quality and impact in the candidate’s area of research. Quality of the journals in which the candidate’s research is published reflects peer recognition and importance of the work for the field.
  • Citation index: Highly cited original research papers may also demonstrate national and international recognition in one’s field. It is recognized that more recently published articles have lower numbers of citations.

In addition to publications, editorship of a high-profile journal or textbook or the development and dissemination of intellectual properties may also be considerations in the promotional process.

Examples of Accomplishments That Support the Scholarly Achievement in Research

National and international recognition for research may be documented by acquiring funding of investigator-initiated research through grants and contracts through peer review by investigators engaged in the same domain of research. Successful funding generally reflects recognition of the importance or innovation of the primary investigator’s research. The faculty member’s role as principal investigator on grants or projects of program project grants is an important consideration in assessing how well the funding demonstrates national and international recognition of that faculty member. In addition, when a co-investigator’s contribution is critical to the research as reflected by significant commitment of effort and specific expertise, funding also reflects recognition of co-investigator’s scholarship.

Some examples of peer-reviewed awards that support the candidate’s creative scholarship include:

  • RO1, R21 or PO1 grants from NIH
  • Independent investigator awards from the National Science Foundation
  • Training grants that support predoctoral or postdoctoral trainees
  • Awards or grants from private foundations (e.g., American Heart Association)