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Acad Med. 2004 Mar;79(3):205-13.

Tenure in transition: trends in basic science faculty appointment policies at U.S. medical schools.

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Association of American Medical Colleges, Washington, DC 20037-1127, USA.


This article-based on a 2002 survey of 125 U.S. allopathic medical schools, reviews of institutional policy documents, and interviews with medical school leaders-explores and analyzes three trends in appointment and tenure policies for basic science faculty at U.S. medical schools. First, the percentage of full-time, nontenure track basic science faculty has increased, from 12% in 1980 to 20% in 2000. More dramatically, by the late 1990s, the percentage of new basic science faculty hired on a nontenure track surpassed the percentage hired on a traditional tenure-track line. This development stems from the tendency of some schools to appoint faculty to nontenure-eligible "research scientists" faculty tracks, to hire junior faculty on 100% grant funding, and to allow nontenure-track faculty to switch to the tenure track as their research career progresses. The second trend is an alteration to the tenure financial guarantee. Historically, at most medical schools, it was assumed that tenure guaranteed total institutional salary for basic scientists. Schools have begun to redefine that commitment to less than full salary to protect against financial vulnerabilities and to provide a means to reduce faculty salaries, if warranted. The third trend is increased flexibility to pretenure policies. Schools have lengthened probationary periods, revised up-or-out provisions, instituted stopping-the-tenure-clock policies and less-than-full-time appointments, and permitted faculty to switch between the tenure and nontenure tracks. These policy modifications recognize the increased professional and personal demands on faculty time.

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