Assessing scientists for hiring, promotion, and tenure

PLoS Biol. 2018 Mar 29;16(3):e2004089. doi: 10.1371/journal.pbio.2004089. eCollection 2018 Mar.


Assessment of researchers is necessary for decisions of hiring, promotion, and tenure. A burgeoning number of scientific leaders believe the current system of faculty incentives and rewards is misaligned with the needs of society and disconnected from the evidence about the causes of the reproducibility crisis and suboptimal quality of the scientific publication record. To address this issue, particularly for the clinical and life sciences, we convened a 22-member expert panel workshop in Washington, DC, in January 2017. Twenty-two academic leaders, funders, and scientists participated in the meeting. As background for the meeting, we completed a selective literature review of 22 key documents critiquing the current incentive system. From each document, we extracted how the authors perceived the problems of assessing science and scientists, the unintended consequences of maintaining the status quo for assessing scientists, and details of their proposed solutions. The resulting table was used as a seed for participant discussion. This resulted in six principles for assessing scientists and associated research and policy implications. We hope the content of this paper will serve as a basis for establishing best practices and redesigning the current approaches to assessing scientists by the many players involved in that process.

MeSH terms

  • Employee Incentive Plans
  • Faculty / standards*
  • Humans
  • Laboratory Personnel / standards*
  • Reproducibility of Results
  • Research / standards*

Grants and funding

The authors received no specific funding for this work.