Intended for healthcare professionals


Criteria for academic promotion in medicine

BMJ 2020; 369 doi: (Published 25 June 2020) Cite this as: BMJ 2020;369:m2253

Linked Research

Academic criteria for promotion and tenure in biomedical sciences faculties

  1. Harold C Sox, director of peer review1 2*,
  2. Mark A Schuster, founding dean and CEO3*
  1. 1The Patient-Centered Outcomes Research Institute, Washington, DC, USA
  2. 2Geisel School of Medicine at Dartmouth, Hanover, NH, USA
  3. 3Kaiser Permanente Bernard J Tyson School of Medicine, Pasadena, CA, USA
  4. *Both authors contributed equally
  1. Correspondence to H C Sox hsox{at}

Can and should good citizenship in the research community be a criterion for promotion?

Job promotion in academia is meant to reflect the quality of previous work and an expectation of continued success. With promotion come prestige, institutional responsibilities, and, in some schools, the promise of continued employment. In academic medicine, the journey from instructor to full professor and beyond affords the opportunity to educate generations of physicians and biomedical scientists. Rewards tend to influence behaviors. Given that, Rice and colleagues describe in a linked study (doi:10.1136/bmj.l5214) the promotion criteria used by medical schools and recommend broadening the criteria to encourage behaviors they believe will enhance the quality of science.1

Although accomplishment in research has long been the principal standard for promotion, medical schools have recently developed promotion criteria to reward excellence in medical education,2 clinical innovation,3 and other areas.4 We will focus on the promotion of faculty whose primary activity is research, although most also have responsibilities for teaching, clinical care if a clinician, and other academic service.

Rice and colleagues investigated criteria for promotion in an international sample of 170 institutions; 146 had faculties of biomedical sciences, with 92 having accessible criteria. They created two categories of criteria: “traditional” (importance of research as measured by number of publications, journal impact factors, place in …

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