Guideline Criteria for Promotion from Staff to Faculty


The promotion of a biostatistician from a staff to a faculty position is a major step. To qualify, a staff member has to demonstrate a great ability to operate independently as well as mastery of a wide variety of statistical methodologies and study designs. The staff member must have demonstrated the ability to be the lead statistician on a collaborative team. This includes making good decisions without supervision and effectively communicating with authority in person and in writing. The staff member should have demonstrated supervisory/mentoring skills. In addition, the staff member should demonstrate expertise in a particular area of statistics or medical research. The staff member should be displaying the maturity, professionalism, and departmental participation that is expected of a Department of Biostatistics faculty member. The staff member should have three strong letters of recommendation, documentation of accomplishments in their CV, three strong samples of work (papers), and one or more strong presentations.

The faculty track is not for everyone. It requires substantial effort beyond the already high expectations for a Biostatistician III. There is no specific duration of being a Biostatistician III before a person qualifies for promotion. Such promotions are based on accomplishments and commitment as judged by the promotions committee. Someone cannot get to the faculty just through accumulating years on the job. Instead it has to be a qualitative change in how that person thinks, which is something that cannot be captured by purely quantitative measures like number of papers, projects, and years experience. As with any promotion, extremely impressive accomplishments in some areas can mitigate lack of demonstrated excellence in other areas. However, true mastery of biostatistical principles, related to measurement, study design, analysis, interpretation, and foundations of inference, is required.

Activities that help in demonstrating and achieving expectations for promotion to a faculty level position

The following is not a list of requirements for promotion to faculty. Rather, it is a list of activities and accomplishments that will be helpful in developing the skills expected of a faculty member and in demonstrating those skills.
  • publishing methodology papers, tutorials, medical research papers, and other work
  • presentations at Vanderbilt and statistical meetings
  • teaching
  • leading clinics
  • leadership roles and active participation in professional organizations
  • department service, CQI projects
  • demonstrating proficiency in statistical inference, parametric and nonparametric, maximum likelihood estimation or Bayesian modeling, multivariable modeling, dealing with messy data or strangely distributed data, study design, experimental design or causal inference, NIH grant process, survival analysis, longitudinal data analysis, adaptive design, experimental design, causal inference from observational data), survival analysis, longitudinal data analysis, categorical response modeling, bootstrapping, missing data methods
  • taking short courses
  • attending medical, surgical, and basic science presentations
  • displaying mastery of statistical programming and a mastery of good programming practices
The last bullet point is more important than it appears, for the typical path to high-level positions. Although biostatisticians can be truly effective in many ways, most are expected to be expert in statistical computing. This entails, among other things, the ability to analyze how you work, to recognize repetitive analysis tasks, to be able to factor these out and to think and code generically. Often it means that you should start a given analysis task more slowly, making absolutely certain that you understand the fundamentals of a programming language, operating system commands, graphical models, etc. Time taken up front to master these areas will make the latter stages of analysis much more efficient and re-usable for other projects.

The Special Roles of Professionalism and Leadership

Promotion to the faculty requires obvious demonstrations of professionalism and leadership. How you dress, act, communicate, ask questions, write, and the stage you set for how you expect to be treated by collaborators outside our department are all important. Continually striving for improvements in written and oral communication are not optional, and neither is service to the department. Showing leadership in collaborative areas, by having your collaborators think differently about their research, by proactively solving their problems, and by creating opportunities within other departments and divisions (e.g., study groups, workshops, journal clubs, office hours for critical reviews of manuscripts, etc.). In terms of professionalism, how you work under stress, how you treat others at all levels, and how good you are at pouring water on fires instead of pouring gasoline are all important components. In addition, the most successful biostatistical collaborators are excellent teachers in the small classroom setting of one-on-one collaboration.

Additional Criteria

Promotion to the faculty requires a level of maturity. This includes a positive attitude and being solution oriented. Those who complain excessively or are overly negative are not ready for this promotion. Maturity must also be displaying in how one communicates. During meetings and at Biostatistics Clinics it is important to balance one's speaking and listening. While it is essential to speak up when you have something important to contribute, it is equally important to stop speaking and allow others to contribute.

The level of skill in analyzing data and presenting results in manuscripts is an important factor in promotion to faculty. Biostatisticians who fail to learn about the subject matter or fail to use the appropriate statistical methods are not ready for promotion. Complaining that collaborators are not experienced in medical research is not appropriate. An effective biostatistician takes charge, provides training, and helps collaborates become successful.

Those looking for promotion to the faculty should be aggressive in their self-education. This includes spending one hour per weekday learning new skills. For example, a typical week might look like this: Mon - Biostatistics Clinic, Tue - Epi Lecture , Wed - Department Seminar, Thur - R Clinic & Medicine Grand Rounds (8-9 208 LH), Fri - CRC Workshop. The self-education should also include reading at least one work-related book per week and one article from a medical journal per day.

Promotion to the faculty also requires taking the lead in a CQI project.

Page Preferences:

Edit | Attach | Print version | History: r7 < r6 < r5 < r4 | Backlinks | View wiki text | Edit WikiText | More topic actions...
Topic revision: r6 - 13 Nov 2009, DanielByrne

This site is powered by FoswikiCopyright © 2013-2022 by the contributing authors. All material on this collaboration platform is the property of the contributing authors.
Ideas, requests, problems regarding Vanderbilt Biostatistics Wiki? Send feedback