A tenure decision is made prior to the completion of the four-year term of an Associate Scientist, and for all appointments from outside the Institution's Scientific Staff at the tenured Associate Scientist or Senior Scientist level. The tenure process is initiated by the Department Chair or Center Director in response to applications from outside the Institution selected for an advertised position or for promotion, at any time during the Associate Scientist's term (although almost always near its completion). A tenure decision involves a four-step review process: Department deliberations followed by recommendations to the President and Director by the Appointments and Promotions Council, which (usually) is followed by a meeting between the President and Director, the Director for Research and the candidate's Department Chair with an External Ad Hoc Review Committee of prominent scientists familiar with the field of the candidate's research, and then by presentation of the case to the Executive Committee of the Board of Trustees.
The transition from a term appointment to tenure implies a significant commitment by the Institution to support the candidate's position and his/her research. Tenure assures a continual appointment on the Resident Scientific Staff until retirement, except in limited situations as determined by the Institution (e.g., serious personal misconduct, serious disregard of duties or serious Institution financial exigency). Tenure symbolizes the Institution's confidence in the person's professional qualities, scientific judgment and ability to sustain a research program, and thus the appointment and promotion process is commensurately rigorous.
The process starts with consultation between the Chair and tenured members of the Department; normally this should occur at least 12 months before the completion of an Associate Scientist's term. The Chair will discuss the results of the Department's deliberations with the candidate. If the Department or the candidate desires to proceed with preparation of the file, the candidate is asked to provide names of individuals familiar with his or her research, and to consent to the solicitation of confidential opinions about his or her work.
The Department Chair then assembles the candidate's updated curriculum vitae, research statement (usually five page maximum) and copies of approximately five recent papers, and obtains written opinions from at least six outside national and international scientists expert in the candidate's field. The Chair circulates the file (not including the outside letters) to, and obtains written evaluations of the candidate's research from, the tenured members of the Department, and/or other WHOI Departments who have worked closely with the candidate. Written comments on the candidate's participation in education from the Associate Director for Education are also obtained. The outside letters, which weigh heavily in the evaluation, should address the importance of the research questions the candidate is addressing, the quality of his or her research and its impact on the field, the candidates ranking with peers and national standing, external impact of participation in education, and qualification for tenure at the reviewer's institution. The Department Chair meets with the tenured staff to review the complete file (including the outside letters). The Department Chair then prepares a written memorandum to the Appointments and Promotions Council summarizing the case and recommending for or against tenure, stating the reasons for both majority and dissenting opinions.
If at any point in the promotion to tenure process, the Department determines it should not proceed, the Chair, in consultation with the Director for Research, will discuss the reasons with the candidate. The candidate may then elect either to withdraw the file or to have the process completed.
Based upon the discussions and vote at the Appointments and Promotions Council, the President and Director will decide whether or not to proceed with an external Ad Hoc Review Committee. This Committee consists of four to five scientists from other institutions, who have not written tenure recommendation letters about the candidate. They will review the file and meet as a group with the President and Director, Director for Research, and Department Chair to discuss in depth the candidate's contributions and qualifications. At the conclusion of the discussion, the committee members are asked whether they would vote for or against tenure for the candidate at their institution, and whether they would recommend for or against tenure at WHOI. The Department Chair, with input from the President and Director and Director for Research, prepares a detailed written summary of these deliberations and adds it to the file. If new information has been brought forward at the external Ad Hoc Review Committee meeting, the Chair, in exceptional circumstances, may elect to review the information with tenured members of the Department, preserving the confidentiality of the names of committee members. The Chair may then add an additional memorandum to the file summarizing the Department's response to the new evidence introduced at the external Ad Hoc meeting.
The President and Director then reviews the entire file, and presents it and his or her recommendation to the Executive Committee for its decision, which is binding.