Frequently Asked Questions: Specialist Titles

Preparation of the Dossier

1. As a Specialist, where do I find information on the personnel review process for my series?

Academic Affairs procedures are outlined in the Academic Personnel Manual (APM 220 and UCD 220AF). The review process is summarized in the Delegation of Authority. For all academic titles, the Vice Provost-Academic Affairs sends an Annual Call to the deans which is updated and issued after the end of each academic year. It outlines information on changes in the APM and a timeline for submitting documentation for merit and promotion dossiers to the office of the Vice Provost--Academic Affairs. Since these actions must pass through the deans’ offices, each dean provides his/her deadlines for specific types of actions. The Annual Call, APM, and Delegation of Authority Chart are available on the Vice Provost-Academic Affairs webpage. Specialists should review the specific criteria for advancement outlined in APM 330 and UCD 330.

2. What is the normal time between merit and promotion reviews, i.e., how often will I be reviewed?
The normal period between merit reviews is two years at Assistant rank and Associate Steps I-III, and three years at Associate Step IV and at full rank. Promotion to the Associate rank entails a career review of the period since apopintment to the Assistant rank in the series. Promotion to full title (i.e., Specialist) entails a review of the whole period spent at the Associate rank. The specific salary range and years at rank/step are listed on the University-wide Academic Salary Scales, Table 24 for Specialists, linked from the Vice Provost-Academic Affairs web page.
3. When will I be notified that I am up for a merit or promotion review and that I am expected to submit a dossier?
In the spring/early summer the dean's office sends to department/program chairs a list of individuals who are eligible to be reviewed for merit and promotion during the next academic year. The list is sent to the Chair who then notifies each eligible individual. Due dates for dossiers span the period November to April, and the specific dates for file submission to the office of the Vice Provost-Academic Affairs are listed in the Annual Call. For redelegated actions, due dates are set by the deans.
4. On what criteria will my work in the review period be evaluated?
As specified in APM 330-10, a candidate for merit or promotion as a Specialist is evaluated on the following criteria:

• Performance in research in specialized areas
• Professional competence and activity
• University and public service

UCD 330-10 gives specifics on what is expected at UC Davis.

5. Specifically, what is in the dossier and who puts it together?

The dossier is a summary of the body of work during the period of review presented for review.  Departments often have a designated staff member who works with the Chair and the candidate in assembling the dossier. The candidate’s performance in each of the designated categories in question #4 (i.e., research in specialized areas, professional competence and activity, university and public service) will be described by the candidate, either in a Candidate's Statement (UCD 220-IV F. 2) to be optionally included in the dossier, or in a separate document that is not included in the dossier, but does go to the Chair and the approved Peer Group. The candidate’s Annual Report of Professional Activities can be very helpful in assembling information for the dossier.

From information on the candidate’s performance in the various categories supplied by the candidate, the department, supporting documents (e.g. publications), the approved Voting Group in the department votes and the Chair writes the department letter (UCD 220AF, exhibit C) which summarizes the departmental evaluation of the candidate’s record, the results of the vote, and a recommendation for or against advancement. In the case of promotions, a list of extramural reviewers who have been contacted (with notation as to whether they were suggested by the candidate or the department, and whether they responded) is included. Their confidential letters are part of the dossier, and only redacted copies of these letters are shared with the candidate. The dossier also includes a signed Candidate Disclosure Certificate, a position description, a list of contributions to jointly authored works, and a list of grants honors, awards, if any. Refer to the Checklist for Merits and Promotions for Specialists.

6. How is the performance record documented for evaluation?

The performance record is assessed according to the candidate’s position description and the criteria for review listed above (question #4). Documentation (supplied by the candidate or the department) is needed to support performance descriptions in each category, and can consist of the following:

Performance in research in specialized areas by the candidate:

• The record should include description(s) of the research/creative activity in the areas of specialized expertise (e.g., with instrumentation and research equipment) in the planning and execution of a research project or contributions to multiple projects.

• Evidence of research endeavors is expected through generation of publishable data and acknowledged as a contributing author in a publication or cited as a collaborator providing publishable research and/or via professional presentations or other forms of dissemination.

• List the publications in which you are named as co-author (or thanked for your participation in the project), if there are any during the review period. (See UCD 220, Exhibit C: Guidelines for Preparation of Publication and Other Creative Efforts Lists.

Professional competence and activity (examples):

• Describe efforts to develop new approaches to solve problems in the area of your research expertise.

University and public service (examples):

• List/describe committees/activities in which you participated for the university;

• List/describe public service activities in which you have been able to use your specific expertise.

7. Are awards, prizes, and commendations considered in the merit or promotion review?

Yes. They should be fully described in the department letter and the Candidate’s Statement. A list of grants, honors and awards is also included with the dossier. Letters of thanks/appreciation for service to the University, the government, a research group, etc., while not included in the dossier, can be discussed in the department letter as indicators of the impact of the candidate’s service. Prizes, commendations, honors for research should be described under the Research category.

8. Once the candidate and the department assemble all of the above information, how is it presented in the dossier?

The candidate may send the above information described in questions #5, 6, and 7 to the Chair with/without further commentary; or, the candidate may include a Candidate’s Statement (UCD220-IVF.2) that would also be considered by the Peer Group and the Voting Group. It may also be included in the dossier that goes forward for review outside the department. The following examples describe the kinds of information which may be included in the Candidate’s Statement, the Peer Group Report, and the Departmental Letter.

Candidate’s Statement (UCD220-IV F.2): Each candidate may include a personal statement in the file (up to 5 pages), describing their perspective on any or all aspects of their accomplishments during the period of review. Although optional, it is an opportunity for the candidate to describe: significant research accomplishments during the review period; philosophy of service; and any unusual circumstances, both good and bad, that have affected performance in the various areas. For example:

• Description of the significance of the research, any unusual problems which had to be overcome, or any breakthroughs which pushed the research forward
• Explanation of the significance of any awards or honors received during the review period;
• Description of any difficult, time-consuming, or particularly noteworthy committee assignments.

Peer Group Report (Optional inclusion in dossier): The Peer Group which was specifically selected according to the department plan, evaluates the candidate’s performance, reviews the written materials and advises the department on the merits of the personnel action.

Department Letter: The letter is written by the chair (or a senior designate) and reflects the department’s evaluation (not merely the chair’s views) of the adequacy of performance of the candidate, i.e. whether he/she meets departmental expectations and goals in the various areas of responsibility. In addition to the analysis of work performance, professional competence, and university and public service, the letter includes the views of the Peer Group reviewing the dossier, as well the official vote including the number of yes, no, and abstention votes, and any reasons expressed for the no or abstention votes. There are APM Sample Departmental Letters.

9. When are intramural/extramural letters needed?

The candidate’s immediate supervisor writes an evaluation of his/her accomplishments during the review period. Other AF or AS appointees who have supervised or interacted with the candidate in an official capacity may also be asked to write letters. Candidates at full title are expected to demonstrate significant recognition for their research in specialized areas, professional competency and activity. For advancement to full Specialist, Step IV, candidates must demonstrate broad-based recognition (e.g., at the regional, state, or national level) for expertise in their area of specialization. At this level, letters from external reviewers are requested in order to gauge the impact of the candidate’s scientific contributions and activities.

For promotions and merits to Specialist, Step IV, and first merit to Above Scale, evaluation of the quality of the work or service is sought from extramural contacts who would have the expertise/knowledge to provide an objective evaluation of the candidate’s accomplishments during the period of review. Such external reviewers would likely include researchers in the same field at other research facilities or other UC campuses. The candidate provides the chair with a list of extramural reviewers and their qualifications to serve as reviewers. The Chair, sometimes after consultation with senior members of the department, generates another list that is not revealed to the candidate. The Chair then selects names from each list and solicits the letters. The combined list of reviewers who were contacted is confidential and included in the dossier, with notation as to whether the names were suggested by the candidate or the department. The confidential letters in response to the solicitation are added to the file by the Chair.

10. What supportive documentation is appended to the dossier?

• Publications in which the candidate is listed as a co-author, or letters in which the candidate is thanked for his/her participation in the project.
• Manuals, patent applications, etc. authored/co-authored by the candidate

11. Does the candidate see the department letter?

Yes. The candidate must be provided an opportunity to review the departmental letter before the departmental vote and before the file goes forward for review. This gives the candidate an opportunity to alert the chair to any factual errors.

12. What can the candidate do if he/she doesn’t agree with the department letter?

Although the content of the letter is not negotiable, the candidate should alert the chair to factual errors. After these errors are corrected, the candidate can write a rebuttal if he/she still disagrees with the department’s recommendation or wants to clarify statements made in the letter. Any rebuttal letter must be submitted within 10 calendar days from the candidate’s receipt of the departmental letter and his/her signature on the disclosure form (indicating that he/she has read the file and certifies that it is complete and factually correct). A rebuttal may be sent directly to the dean or Vice Provost-Academic Affairs if the candidate does not want to submit it via the departmental chair.

13. What is the Candidate’s Disclosure Certificate?

This is a standard form which the candidate reviews and signs, verifying that he/she has seen the non-confidential content of the file and that it is complete and free of factual errors, and also that a summary or redacted copy of confidential materials has been provided, if applicable.

14. In summary, what documents are in the dossier, or appended to it, when it leaves the department?

The Specialist candidate can use the Checklist for Merits and Promotions, to determine whether they have included all the necessary information in the dossier. The Candidate’s Disclosure Certificate is on the Vice Provost’s web site (Resources tab, Forms and Checklists).

Dossier Inclusions:

Department Letter (including the vote)
Candidate’s Disclosure Certificate
Letters of Evaluation from Supervisors
Extramural Letters (for Step III+ actions)
Position Description
Candidate’s Statement (optional)
Publication List (if there is one)
List of Service
Peer Group Review (optional)
List of Contributions to jointly-authored works
List of grants, honors and awards

Appended Materials (To be returned to the candidate):

Copies of Publications
Other Evidence of Creative Activity

The use of the MyInfoVault (MIV) program for all merits or promotions is highly encouraged.  Please contact your department MSO for further information.

Review of the Dossier

1. What is the dean’s letter?
After the dossier leaves the department, it goes to the dean’s office. For actions that are redelegated to the dean for final decision, the Joint Academic Federation/Senate Personnel Committee (JPC) evaluates the dossier and appended materials, then writes comments regarding their evaluation of the candidate’s performance and makes a recommendation on the action. This recommendation then goes to the dean for approval or denial. In general, the dean writes comments only if he/she disagrees with the recommendation of the JPC.

If the action is not redelegated, the dean (or Associate Dean for Academic Affairs/Personnel) reviews the entire documentation and indicates concurrence or does not concur with the recommended action. If the dean does not concur with the recommendation, he/she writes a letter of support or non-support that becomes part of the file that is forwarded for  review by the JPC and returned to the Vice Provost-Academic Affairs for a final decision.

2. What is the process by which dossiers are reviewed, how long does it take, and who does it?

The process is summarized in the Delegation of Authority for each title series.

Department: Once the dossier has been assembled, it is reviewed within the department by a Peer Group that will provide evaluative comments to the voting members of the department (i.e., the Voting Group). The latter will review the entire file, including the Peer Group comments and vote on the action. For those candidates with teaching responsibilities: AF and AS votes are tallied separately and reported in two separate department letters (However, only one letter needs to include a detailed evaluation /discussion about the candidate’s performance unless the views of the AS and AF voters differ). In addition, the chair may include comments from the Peer Group review. The complete dossier is then forwarded to the dean.

Dean/Associate Dean for Personnel: If advancement is a redelegated action, the Dean’s Office sends all of the materials to the JPC for review and recommendation. The Dean makes the final decision after reviewing all of the information, including the recommendation of the JPC.

In the case of non-redelegated actions, the Dean reviews the materials after receipt from the department and evaluates the record. If the dean concurs with the recommendation and has no further comment, he/she forwards the file for review to the Vice Provost-Academic Affairs office. The dean only writes a letter if he/she has additional comment in support of the action, or does not concur with the proposed action. This letter would be included in the file.

Vice Provost-Academic Affairs: All materials are sent to JPC, the members of which evaluate the materials and adds their written recommendation to the file. All of these materials are then reviewed by the Vice Provost, who makes the final decision based on all the information in the file.

Process/Time Frame: The length of time necessary for the whole process varies with the complexity of the review. Staff check the file at all stages (Department, Dean’s Office, and Vice Provost’s Office) to ensure that all necessary documents are included and that the correct processes have been followed; every effort is made to expedite the file through the process. While redelegated merit actions may need only a few months to reach the dean for a final decision, non-redelegated promotion actions, which have to be reviewed by the dean, a personnel committee, and the Vice Provost, may take several months longer. Most final decisions are made by the end of the academic year (June), but any that are not completed and had met the deadline leaving the department, will be completed during the summer or early fall and are made effective retroactive to July 1st.

3. What personnel committee has responsibility for reviewing Specialists?

Specialists’ dossiers are reviewed by the Joint Academic Federation/Senate Personnel Committee (JPC).



The following topics are typical of the concerns of the various reviewers (Peer Group, Department Chair, Voting Group, Dean, Personnel Committee, and Vice Provost-Academic Affairs) who will evaluate the file.

Reviewer's Concerns

The following topics are typical of the concerns of the various reviewers (Peer Group, Department Chair, Voting Group, Dean, Personnel Committee, and Vice Provost-Academic Affairs) who will evaluate the file. (See: APM 330-10 and UCD-330-10). A candidate’s performance will be judged on the quality of the specific areas of responsibility as identified in the position description and criteria for the position (APM 330-10 a-c).


1. What are the specific research criteria used by reviewers to evaluate the work of those in the Specialist series?
Using specialized skills, Specialists are expected to work independently under the general supervision of a Principal Investigator (PI), department, or administrator. They are expected to contribute to scientific research papers and reports.
2. What type of documentation is expected for Specialists research?

Specialists’ contributions may be as co-authors or acknowledgement by authors of papers and reports. Letters of evidence from PIs, departments or administrators may also be included in the dossier. Being an author or co-author is not required. Evidence of contribution to research program(s)/publishable research is needed.


1. What kinds of professional activities are usually engaged in by Specialists?
The candidate's professional activities should be scrutinized for evidence of achievement and leadership in the field and of demonstrated progressiveness in the development or utilization of new approaches and techniques for the solution of professional problems in the area of specialization.
2. What are the expectations with regard to professional service activities for Specialists in the Assistant rank?
For AF members in entry level positions, participation in department, campus and/or, AF committees is expected.


1. What are the typical kinds of university service expectations for Specialists?

Service is assessed in two categories: that performed for the university and that for the public sector.

University service includes participation in the activities of the Academic Federation and department, college, campus committees. In addition to committees, other service activities include: managing a departmental website, overseeing departmental equipment or facilities, using one's expertise to solve a problem for the department or college, etc.

2. Are some activities more important than others, i.e., do reviewers give more weight to some activities?
Yes. Reviewers recognize that there are hierarchies of activities and that the most important assignments are those requiring lots of time, effort, and/or expertise. Specific credit is given for extraordinary activities like chairing committees/panels/societies, acting as an expert witness, etc.

Special Review Considerations

The review considerations that apply are summarized in the Academic Personnel Attribute Chart. For specific procedures see UCD 220AF Academic Federation Review and Advancement. In addition to normal merit and promotion actions, Academic Administrators are eligible to be considered for the following:

Acceleration: Acceleration is a merit or promotion action that occurs prior to eligibility for normal advancement; i.e., the candidate can be considered for review if the record of performance has been exceptionally strong in at least one major aspect of the candidate’s position description since the last advancement and there was at least normal progress (i.e., very good to excellent) in all other categories. Accelerations are not granted if any component of the record is below expectation. All AF series are eligible to be considered for accelerations. See Delegation of Authority.

Appeal: A Specialist has the right to appeal his/her denied personnel action within 30 calendar days of notification of denial by submitting an appeal letter via the chair, to the dean, addressing each of the specific criticisms which led to the denial recommendation by the reviewer(s). Since the action is non-redelegated, the dean evaluates the appeal, writes a recommendation, and forwards all of the material to the office of the Vice Provost-Academic Affairs. These materials are then referred to the JPC for review and recommendation. The Vice Provost-Academic Affairs makes the final decision after reviewing all materials including the recommendation from JPC.

Term Appointment: A term appointment is an appointment for a specific period that ends on a specified date. An appointment with an established ending date is self-terminating subject to the notice requirements of APM 137-32. The University has the discretion to appoint and reappoint non-Senate academic appointees with term appointments; reappointment is not automatic. All appointees in the Specialist series have term appointments.