Faculty Promotion and Attrition: The Importance of Coauthor Network Reach at an Academic Medical Center

J Gen Intern Med. 2016 Jan;31(1):60-7. doi: 10.1007/s11606-015-3463-7.


Background: Business literature has demonstrated the importance of networking and connections in career advancement. This is a little-studied area in academic medicine.

Objective: To examine predictors of intra-organizational connections, as measured by network reach (the number of first- and second-degree coauthors), and their association with probability of promotion and attrition.

Design: Prospective cohort study between 2008 and 2012.

Setting: Academic medical center.

Participants: A total of 5787 Harvard Medical School (HMS) faculty with a rank of assistant professor or full-time instructor as of January 1, 2008.

Main measures: Using negative binomial models, multivariable-adjusted predictors of continuous network reach were assessed according to rank. Poisson regression was used to compute relative risk (RR) and 95 % confidence intervals (CI) for the association between network reach (in four categories) and two outcomes: promotion or attrition. Models were adjusted for demographic, professional and productivity metrics.

Key results: Network reach was positively associated with number of first-, last- and middle-author publications and h-index. Among assistant professors, men and whites had greater network reach than women and underrepresented minorities (p < 0.001). Compared to those in the lowest category of network reach in 2008, instructors in the highest category were three times as likely to have been promoted to assistant professor by 2012 (RR: 3.16, 95 % CI: 2.60, 3.86; p-trend <0.001) after adjustment for covariates. Network reach was positively associated with promotion from assistant to associate professor (RR: 1.82, 95 % CI: 1.32, 2.50; p-trend <0.001). Those in the highest category of network reach in 2008 were 17 % less likely to have left HMS by 2012 (RR: 0.83, 95 % CI 0.70, 0.98) compared to those in the lowest category.

Conclusions: These results demonstrate that coauthor network metrics can provide useful information for understanding faculty advancement and retention in academic medicine. They can and should be investigated at other institutions.

Keywords: careers; faculty development; promotion; retention.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Academic Medical Centers / statistics & numerical data*
  • Adult
  • Career Mobility*
  • Educational Status
  • Faculty, Medical / statistics & numerical data*
  • Female
  • Follow-Up Studies
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Periodicals as Topic*
  • Prospective Studies
  • Surveys and Questionnaires
  • United States