Frequently Asked Questions: Professional Researcher Titles

Preparation of the Dossier

  • As a Professional Researcher, 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)UCD 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. Professional Researchers should review the specific criteria for advancement outlined in APM 310.
  • 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 1-3.5, and three years at Associate Step 4-5.5 and full Professional Researcher rank until Step 9 and Above Scale, which are four years. Promotion to the Associate rank entails a career review of the period since appointment to the Assistant rank in the series. Promotion to full Professional Researcher rank 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 13 or Table 14 for the Professional Research series from the Vice Provost-Academic Affairs web page.
  • When will I be notified that I am up for a merit or promotion review and that I am expected to prepare a dossier?
  • In the spring/early summer each 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 Chair (or his/her delegate) 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.
  • On what criteria will my work in the review period be evaluated?
  • As specified in APM 310-10, a Professional Researcher is evaluated on the following criteria:

    Research qualifications and accomplishments equivalent to those for the Professor series
    Professional competence and activity equivalent to those for the Professor series
    University and/or public service

    (An Assistant Professional Researcher is not required to participate in service activities. An Associate Professional Researcher and a full rank Professional Researcher are expected to engage in University and/or public service such as service on research review boards).

    An appointee in this series must demonstrate evidence of a productive and creative mind, through research activity of high quality and significance, equivalent to that expected of the Professor series. Proposed merit increases and promotions in the Professional Research series shall be reviewed with the same rigor accorded to proposed merit and promotions in the Professor series. See APM 210-1.
  • 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 criteria (e.g., research/creative activity; professional competence and activity, and university and public service) will be described by the candidate, either in an informal letter to the Chair or in a formal Candidate's Statement (UCD 220-IV F. 2) that can be included in the dossier. 

    The chair writes the department letter (UCD 220AF, Exhibit C) based on information on the candidate’s performance in the above categories as judged by information supplied by the candidate, the opinion of the approved Peer Group, and supporting documents (e.g. publications, etc.), The letter is a summary of the departmental evaluation of the candidate’s record, the results of the vote of the approved Voting Group, and a recommendation for or against the advancement. For promotions, a list of all of the external reviewers solicited is also included, with notation as to whether they were suggested by the candidate or the department, and whether they responded. This list is a confidential document and is therefore not reviewed by the candidate. Their confidential letters are part of the dossier voted on by the department voting group and submitted as part of the dossier going forward. Only redacted copies of these letters are shared with the candidate.

    The dossier also includes a signed Candidate's Disclosure Certificate, a position description, a list of service activity, a list of contributions of jointly authored works, and a list of grants, honors and awards, if any. Refer to the Checklist for Merits and Promotions for Professional Research on the Vice Provost-Academic Affairs Forms and Checklist web page.
  • How is the performance record documented and prepared for evaluation?
  • The performance record is assessed for each title series according to the candidate’s position description as incorporated in the criteria listed above. Documentation (supplied by the candidate or the department) is needed to support performance descriptions in each category, and it can consist of the following:

    Research Accomplishments:
    - List of publications in the standardized format (See UCD 220 Exhibit C: Guidelines for Preparation of Publication and Other Creative Efforts Lists) and letters of acceptance of articles that are in press;
    - Brief description of each publication which details the candidate’s specific role in each article (if multi-authored) along with the roles of the other authors.
    - List/describe research/creative activity presentations (i.e., talks/posters at meetings, exhibitions, etc.);
    - List of any reviews of the publications or presentations;
    - List/description of any grants supporting the research (i.e., name of Principal Investigator and all co-investigators, title of grant, amount of funding, inclusive dates, and a brief description of the purpose of the grant and the role of the candidate).
    - If you wrote a significant portion of a large ‘interdisciplinary’ grant (i.e. someone else is P.I.) and that segment of the grant supports a significant portion of your research, then describe your participation in both the grant writing and the research project and relate them to the whole project.

    Professional Competence and Activity:
    Participation in activities specifically related to one’s discipline/expertise: If the candidate uses his/her expertise to further the related goals of the University, a government agency, a public organization/association, consumer/agricultural group etc., these activities constitute examples of professional competence:
    - List any professional (discipline) society memberships you hold and describe any offices you hold in those organizations, or activities you have participated in, such as chairing a session at a research meeting or giving a plenary lecture, etc.;
    - List any service as an editor or editorial board member of a scholarly journal;
    - Describe other activities you have participated in for a research society or journal, such as writing an invited review article; organizing a research meeting/symposium, etc.

    University and/or Public Service:

    University Service: Participation in the governance of the university,
    maintenance of its facilities, provision of services to its faculty and students,
    such as:
    - Committee assignments (department, college, AF, Graduate Group, campus, systemwide) with inclusive dates and with candidate’s role
    - Chairing a committee
    - Overseeing a departmental facility
    - Managing a departmental website.

    Public Service: Participation in local/state/federal programs, review panels and committees where the candidate’s expertise is needed, or in public organizations related to the candidate’s discipline, such as:
    - Government committee (review panels, study sections, advisory committees, etc.);
    - Briefing legislative staff, etc.
    - Testifying at bill hearings, etc.
  • 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 honors, awards and prizes is also included as part of the dossier. Letters of thanks/appreciation for service to the University, the government, a research society, etc., while not included in the dossier, can be discussed in the department letter as indicators of the impact of the candidate’s service. Awards for teaching should be described under the Teaching category.
  • Once the candidate, or the department, assembles all of the above information, how is it presented in the dossier?
  • The candidate provides information for the dossier to the department. In addition, a Candidate's Statement may be prepared to be used by the Chair in writing the Department letter. If provided, the Candidate’s Statement would also be considered by the Peer Group and the Voting Group and is 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.

    Candidate’s Statement (UCD220-IV F.2): Each candidate has the option to 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, this is the opportunity for the candidate to describe: significant 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:
    - Research: Description of the significance of the research, any unusual problems which had to be overcome, or any breakthroughs which pushed the research forward; description of any new grants which have been obtained and whether they support the previous projects, or whether they are starting a new area of research;
    - 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; or, a description of any new committee assignment that could be considered a significant career asset.

    Peer Group Report: The Peer Group which was specifically selected according to the department plan, reviews the written materials, evaluates the candidate’s performance, and advises the department on the merits of the personnel action. Inclusion of the Peer Group Report is optional based on the department's Peer and Voting Group plan. 

    Department Letter: The letter is written by the Chair (or a designated senior faculty member) and reflects the department’s views (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 (i.e. research, professional competence, and university and public service), the letter may include the views of the departmental members reviewing the dossier, as well the official vote, i.e., that of the approved Voting Group; it includes the number of yes, no, and abstention votes, and any reasons expressed for the no or abstention votes. There are sample departmental letters at UCD 220AF Exhibit C.
  • When are extramural letters needed?
  • For promotions, for merit advancement to full Professional Researcher, Step 6, and for merit advancement to Above Scale, evaluation of the quality of the work or service is sought from extramural references that would have the expertise/knowledge to provide an objective evaluation of the candidate’s accomplishments during the period of review. Extramural letters must come from outside UC Davis. Such external reviewers could include administrators of government programs or agencies with whom the candidate has interacted, scientists or other experts in the field, faculty at other universities who have worked on similar programs, etc. Letters can be requested from faculty on other UC campuses, particularly from people holding comparable positions who are familiar with the candidate’s work. 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 included in the dossier with notation as to whether the names were suggested by the candidate or the department and a notation for a “decline to write”. The list of reviewers is considered confidential. All extramural letters received are redacted so as not to breach confidentiality of the references. 
  • How many extramural letters are needed? What is meant by “arm’s length” reviewers?
  • A minimum of six letters are expected to be included in the review dossier. Departments will solicit letters from more than six individuals to ensure they are able to receive six responses. “Arm’s length” means reviewers who are qualified to evaluate the work, but have no close connection with the candidate -- e.g., they are not a recent mentor, collaborator, or advisor. This assures that reviewers do not have a conflict of interest. Campus reviewers will look to see if the extramural referees:
    - Are well known/respected in their field;
    - Are at least of a rank comparable to the position being sought if they are university employees;
    - Discuss the impact of the candidate’s research, professional competence, and service;
    - Consider the candidate’s career to be on an upward trajectory;
    - Discuss the context in which they have known the candidate (below their signature line).
  • What supportive documentation is appended to the dossier?
  • The following types of documents in support of research efforts are to be included in the dossier:
    - Active links to all research publications in the review period, including articles, books, abstracts, reviews, critiques, etc. related to the candidate’s position description;
    - Other written evidence of activity related to the candidate’s position description, such as manuals, textbooks, etc. that cannot be linked to.
  • Does the candidate see the department letter?
  • Yes. The candidate must be provided an opportunity to review the materials before they are reviewed by the Voting Group. The department letter, which contains the departmental vote is also provided to the candidate before the file goes forward to the dean’s office for review. This gives the candidate an opportunity to alert the chair to any factual errors.
  • 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 Chair. 
  • What is the Candidate’s Disclosure Certificate?
  • This is a standard electronic form which the candidate signs after verifying that he/she has seen the non-confidential content of the dossier and that it is complete and free of factual error, and also that a summary or redacted copy of confidential materials has been provided.
  • In summary, what documents are in the dossier, or appended to it, when it leaves the department?
  • The Professional Researcher candidate can use the Checklist for Merit or Promotions form on the Vice Provost-Academic Affairs web site under ‘Forms and Checklists’ to determine whether they have included all the necessary information in the file. The Candidate’s Disclosure Certificate is also on the Vice Provost’s website (Forms and Checklists). The following is a list of the information that should be included in the dossier.

    Dossier Inclusions:
    Department Letter (including: the vote)
    Candidate’s Disclosure Certificate
    Candidate’s Statement (optional)
    Position Description
    List of service activity (for Associate and full Professional Researchers)
    Complete list of publications and explanation of candidate’s role in multi-authored articles
    List of grants, honors, and awards
    List of invited extramural reviewers (for promotions)
    Extramural reviewer letters (for promotions)
    Peer Group Report (optional)

    Appended Materials (To be returned to the candidate):
    Publications (provided in hard copy)

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


Review of the Dossier

  • 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 non-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 dossier. The dossier is forwarded for review and recommendation by the JPC and then forwarded to the Vice Provost-Academic Affairs for final decision.
  • 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. In addition, the chair is encouraged to append all comments from the Peer Group review. The complete dossier is then forwarded to the dean.

    Dean/Associate Dean for Academic Personnel: If the advancement is a redelegated action, the Dean’s Office sends the dossier 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, the dossier is forwarded 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: The dossier and any supporting materials are sent to JPC, which evaluates the materials and provides a recommendation. The dossier along with the JPC recommendation are then forwarded to and reviewed by the Vice Provost, who makes the final decision.

    Process/Time Frame: The length of time necessary for the whole process varies with the complexity of the review. Staff may check the dossier 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.
  • What personnel committee has responsibility for reviewing Professional Researchers?
  • Professional Researchers’ dossiers are reviewed by the Joint Academic Federation/Senate Personnel Committee (JPC).


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 310). 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 310 a-c).

Research/Creative Activity

  • What is meant by 'research or creative activity'?
  • In the APM, 'research' usually refers to scholarly investigative endeavors, while ‘creative activity’ usually describes activities in areas of the humanities and the arts, such as music composition/performance, theater and dance, creative writing, etc. Evidence submitted to document achievements in the ‘research’ category is usually publication of the results in peer-reviewed articles or books. Documentation of ‘creative activity’ may include publications, as well as recordings, works of art, videos, etc.
  • Does the publication list have to be arranged in any particular format?
  • Yes. See UCD 220 Exhibit C: Guidelines for Preparation of Publication and Other Creative Efforts Lists. The categories of the bibliography are prescribed in the APM, and it generally separates items into published and in-press. Abstracts, reviews, and reports having limited distribution are listed separately. It also prescribes the format of the bibliographic entries. Researchers who co-author publications are required to describe their role in each publication (idea, development, bench-work, data analysis, writing, etc.) as well as give a description of co-authors -- i.e., are they undergraduate, or graduate students, postdoctoral fellows, staff, faculty colleagues. The list of publications must also indicate which articles were peer-reviewed. Although work that is submitted or in preparation may be listed, only work that is published or in-press by December 31st is considered, unless the action is a promotion in the 8th year of service.
  • How do reviewers evaluate your contribution to a project when there are multiple authors on the papers?
  • The department letter should evaluate the candidate’s research with respect to its quality, its impact on the field, who participated in it, and the candidate's specific role. As stated above, the candidate should include a list of statements with the publication list that explains his/her role in each study, who the co-authors are, and who the primary (or corresponding) author is on each paper, if it is not the first author.
  • How do reviewers evaluate the research/creativity category? Are both quality and quantity (i.e., productivity) evaluated?
  • All reviewers consider both quality and quantity to be important. Quantity during the review period, i.e., productivity, is evaluated, but the minimum level of productivity expected will vary by department and discipline, and the department letter should discuss if productivity meets the departmental norm. Quality is judged by the importance and the impact of the work. Some of the factors used to judge impact are: 

    - Venue where work is published; i.e., high quality, peer-reviewed journals, and highly respected presses for books; 
    - Citations, i.e., where and how many. Whereas citations in journal articles are important indicators of the timeliness and impact of a work, citations in reviews, monographs and textbooks are important indicators of a candidate's national or international reputation and they often put the research into perspective with regard to a whole field;
    - Critiques of the work;
    - Invitations to present the work at prestigious meetings
  • What are the specific research criteria used by reviewers to evaluate the work of those in the Professional Research series?
  • The Professional Research series is used for appointees who engage in research equivalent to that required for the Professorial series. Thus, the standard used by reviewers for Professional Research appointees is the same as that used for evaluating the research of Professorial appointees (APM 220).
  • How do reviewers evaluate the quality of the journals in which you publish? Are online publications acceptable?
  • Journal quality is important, and it is definitely considered by reviewers. In some departments, the department letter lists the most important journals in their field ('top tier') or discusses the relative qualities of the most common journals in their field. There are also rating services which assign “impact factors” to journals, which some reviewers’ use (however, impact factors refer to the journals, not specific articles, and hence have limited value). Publications like Citation Index determine the frequency of reference to the candidate's work. 

    In a number of fields, online publication is as important as print journal publication and some research societies have established competitive online journals. Whether or not it is peer-reviewed however, is the important factor for both print and online publication.
  • Does it matter if you have national funding (e.g., NIH, DOD, NASA, NSF, NEA, AHA, etc.) as opposed to campus or local funding? Can you be promoted if you have no grant funding? Do you have to be PI (i.e., Principal Investigator) on a grant to get promoted?
  • The first priority is to have the funding you need to support the studies you propose to carry out, regardless of whether it comes from campus, regional, or national sources. Funding, regardless of source, buys the goods and services you need to do the experiments, gather the data, or create the artwork. With regard to national vs. local funding, reviewers look on national funding as not only providing the money to do the studies, but also providing some assurance that a national standard of review has been met; i.e., when a federal grant application undergoes review it is usually by a national panel of experts. The same can be said about being PI. Although you may have more than enough money as a co-investigator on grants, being PI implies that you have the stature and ability to oversee the whole project and its quality; i.e., you have leadership skills and have established an independent research program. 

    If you need grant money to carry out the studies and you have none, you are not likely to be promoted. If you don't need money to carry out your program of research/creative activity (i.e., you can be productive without grants), then grantsmanship should not be an issue in the promotion review. Many departments, however, view grant/fellowship money not only as support for the research and validation that the candidate has a national audience, but also as support for graduate students. Some departments look on the lack of grants as a serious failing - - i.e., a lack of concern for the department and its ability to attract and support graduate students. Since this opinion about grant funding varies across the campus, new AF members with research responsibilities should be sure they understand the expectations of their own department and school/college with regard to grant funds by discussing this with the department chair or a senior faculty member.


Professional Competence and Activities

  • What kinds of professional activities are usually engaged in by Professional Researchers?
  • The candidate's professional activities should be evaluated 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. Examples of the types of professional activities that are common include reviewing articles, grant proposals, books; membership on editorial boards and on professional society committees; organizing symposia; and other such activities that give Professional Researchers opportunities to use their research expertise and leadership skills. Invitations to work with professional groups may also indicate that one's research or creative work is recognized and valued nationally and/or internationally.

    See:  Academic Federation Research Titles Comparison Chart for comparison of criteria for Professional Research, Project Scientist and Specialist series.


Service: University and Public

  • What are typical examples of university service expectations for Professional Researchers?
  • Service is assessed in two categories: that performed for the university and that for the public sector.

    University service includes participation in Academic Federation, department, college, graduate group, campus, and systemwide committees. In addition to committees, other service activities include: mentoring junior AF members, managing a departmental web site, overseeing/sponsoring department activities, overseeing departmental equipment or facilities, using one's expertise to solve a problem for the department or college, etc.
  • 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/public service organizations, acting as an expert witness, editing a journal, representing the university, organizing a scientific congress, giving invited lectures or keynote addresses, advising federal, state, or foreign governments, advising other colleges, universities, or foundations, 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:

Appeal: A Professional Researcher 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). The dean has final decision authority for redelegated appeals whereas the Vice Provost-Academic Affairs has final decision authority for non-redelegated appeals.

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 Professional Researcher series have term appointments.