Frequently Asked Questions: Project Scientist Titles

Preparation of the Dossier

  • As a Project Scientist, 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. Project Scientists should review the specific criteria for advancement outlined in APM 311.
  • 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-V and for full Project Scientist rank. Promotion to the Associate rank entails a career review of the period since appointment to the Assistant rank in the series. Promotion to full Project Scientist 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, Tables 37 and 38 for Project Scientists, linked 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 submit a dossier?
  • In the spring/early summer the dean's office prepares 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.
  • On what criteria will my work in the review period be evaluated?
  • As specified in APM 311-10, a candidate for appointment, reappointment, merit or promotion as a Project Scientist is evaluated on the following criteria:

    - Demonstrated significant, original and creative contributions to a research or creative program or project
    - Professional competence and activity
  • 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., creative contributions to research; professional competence and activity) 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 Voting 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, etc.), 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 also 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’s Disclosure Certificate, a position description, a list of contributions to jointly authored works, and a list of grants, honors and awards, if any. Refer to the checklist for Merits and Promotions for Project Scientist.
  • 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 it can consist of the following examples:

    Creative contributions to research/creative program or project:
    - Briefly describe the project (s) being working on (i.e. overall aims, recent results, etc.);
    - Briefly describe the candidate’s specific role and creative contributions (i.e. developed a new technique or improved a current one, developed a new instrument, improved data analysis, patent, etc.) in each project;
    - List all publications (peer-reviewed journals) for which the candidate is a co-author or his/her contributions to the project have been acknowledged. Use the standardized format described in UCD 220 Exhibit C: Guidelines for Preparation of Publication and Other Creative Efforts Lists.
    - List letters of acceptance of articles that are in press;
    - For each publication, discuss the specific role of the candidate in that project;
    - Additional evidence of research productivity could include: descriptions of contributions to on-going projects where publication has not yet occurred but is documented by presentations at conferences and/or letters from PIs or research associates.
    - If the candidate is named as a co-investigator on any of the grants supporting the research, list/describe the grants (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, the role in the project). If the candidate participated in writing part(s) of the grant, briefly describe the contribution.
    - Describe any awards or commendations received for contributions to the research/creative activity.

    Professional competence and activity:
    - If a Project Scientist uses his/her expertise to further the related goals of the University, a government agency, a public organization, consumer/agricultural group, etc., these activities constitute examples of professional competence. List/describe the activity, describe the aims of the agency/organization, the candidate’s role, and the outcome of the service.
     - If he/she attends workshops at another university/lab, or research society meetings to learn a new technique for use in the project, this constitutes an attempt to increase professional competence. List and describe these efforts, i.e. purpose, candidate’s role, and the outcome.
  • Are awards and commendations considered in the merit or promotion review?
  • Yes. They should be fully described by the chair in the department letter and by the candidate in 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 society, etc., while not included in the dossier, can be discussed as indicators of the impact of the candidate’s research or service. Prizes, commendations, and honors for research, should be described under the ‘Creative Contributions to Research’ category.
  • Once the candidate or the department assembles 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 (UCD 220-IV F.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 Department letter.

    Candidate’s Statement (UCD 220-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 performance during the period of review. Although optional, it is an 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:
    - 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 new techniques you have developed for the research program you are working on.

    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 department member) and reflects the department’s evaluation (not merely the chair’s) 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 accomplishments in the required areas, i.e., creative contributions to research and professional competence, the letter includes the views of the Peer Group reviewing the dossier, as well as the official vote (i.e., that of the approved Voting Group); including the number of yes, no, and abstention votes and any reasons expressed for the no or abstention votes.
  • When are extramural letters needed?
  • For promotions and merits to full Project Scientist VI 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 and the reasons for a “decline to write”. The confidential letters in response to the solicitation are added to the file by the Chair.
  • How many extramural letters are needed? What is meant by “arm’s length” reviewers?
  • Five are usually expected in the review dossier; the department may have to solicit more than five in order to ensure that there will be five in the dossier. Arm's length letters are not required for this series.  Arm’s length means reviewers who are qualified to evaluate the work, but have no personal connection with the candidate --e.g., they are not a recent (i.e. not in the last 5 years) mentor, collaborator, or advisor. This assures that reviewers do not have a conflict of interest.
  • What do reviewers look for in extramural referees?
  • Reviewers will look to see if the extramural referees:
    Are respected in their field;
    - If University employees, are at least of a rank comparable to the position being sought;
    - Discuss the impact of the candidate’s research or 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?
  • - Copies of all research publications in the review period, including articles, books, abstracts;
    - Other indications of creative activity, such as manuals, patents, etc.
  • Does the candidate see the Department Letter?
  • Yes. The candidate must be provided an opportunity to review the department 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.
  • 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 department Chair.
  • 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 error-free, 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 Project Scientist candidate can use the Checklist for Merit and Promotion on the Vice Provost-Academic Affairs web page to determine whether they have included all the necessary information in the dossier. The Candidate’s Disclosure Certificate is also on the Vice Provost’s website (Forms and Checklists).

    Dossier Inclusions:
    Department Letter (including the vote)
    Candidate’s Disclosure Certificate
    List of Invited Extramural Reviewers (for promotions and merits to full Step VI and first Above Scale)
    Extramural Reviewer Letters (for promotion actions)
    Candidate’s Statement (optional)
    Position Description
    Publication List and
    List of candidate’s role in multi-authored articles
    List of grants, honors and awards, if any
    Peer Group Review (optional)

    Appended Materials (To be returned to the candidate):
    Publications/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

  • 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.
  • 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.
  • What personnel committee has responsibility for reviewing Project Scientists?
  • Project Scientists' 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 311). 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 311-10 a-b).

Original and Creative Contributions to a Research or Creative Program or Project

  • What does the APM mean by scientific ‘research/creative activity’?
  • ‘Research program’ usually refers to scholarly investigative endeavors which encompass many projects and have multiple aims or goals, while ‘creative activity’ usually describes activities that are supportive of the program, such as those which accomplish certain tasks, aims, or projects which are necessary for the successful accomplishment of the overall program.
  • What are the specific research criteria used by reviewers to evaluate the work of those in the Project Scientist series?
  • Project Scientists are expected to work independently, make significant research contributions to projects under the umbrella of a PI’s program. Project Scientists are expected to publish frequently in peer-reviewed journals or other peer-reviewed venues. They need not be the senior /corresponding author on the publications from a lab, but they need to make significant contributions to the program.
  • What might be considered ‘creative contributions’ to a research program/project?
  • As they move up in rank, Project Scientists should continue to expand their expertise and recognition in their field. This recognition is an indication of their independence/development/growth as scientists. They should be willing to try new techniques, develop new methodologies, go to workshops or other labs, research society meetings, seminars, etc. to develop new ideas which will help to accomplish the goals of the research program.
  • 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, generally separate items into published, in-press, submitted, and in preparation. Abstracts, reviews, and reports having limited distribution are listed separately. It also prescribes the format of the bibliographic entries. AF members 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 Although work that is submitted and in preparation may be listed, only work that is published or in-press is considered.
  • How do reviewers evaluate your contribution to a project when there are multiple authors on the papers?
  • The department letter should explain the details of the research, who participated in it, and the candidate's specific role. As stated above, the candidate should include a list with the publication list, explaining 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 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 often put the research into perspective with regard to a whole field.
  • 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 departmental 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 an increasing number of fields, online publication is as important as print journal publication and research societies are rapidly establishing competitive online journals. Whether or not it is peer-reviewed however, is the important factor for both print and online publication.


Professional Competence and Activities

  • What kinds of professional activities are usually engaged in by Project Scientists?
  • 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.

    Attempts to learn or develop new techniques by visiting other labs is one example of ‘progressiveness’. Examples of the types of professional activities that are common include reviewing articles, grant proposals, books, or works of art; membership on editorial boards and on research society committees; organizing symposia; and other such activities that give AF members opportunities to use their leadership skills. Invitations to consult with other professional groups may also indicate that one's research or creative work is recognized and valued nationally and/or internationally.


Special Review Considerations

For specific procedures see UCD 220 AF. In addition to normal merit and promotion actions, the Academic Personnel Attribute Chart summarizes other types of actions which apply to this series. Project Scientists are also 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 apply for accelerations, but the series, rank, and the number of steps to be skipped determines if the action is redelegated or not. See Delegation of Authority.

Appeal: A Project Scientist 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). Redelegated actions are sent by the dean to the JPC for review and recommendation, and back to the dean for final decision. If 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 Project Scientist series have term appointments.