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Guidance for Supporting the Career Autonomy of Junior Faculty To Promote Scholarship

For a department to thrive, faculty at all levels need to feel that their contributions to acknowledged and valued. This document focuses on supporting the career autonomy of junior faculty to promote scholarship. There are other documents related to this process vis-à-vis education and service. 

For junior faculty to advance and be promoted, they need to be effectively mentored and have their growing professional autonomy supported. Senior faculty who mentor their junior colleagues also need to have their contributions to the work recognized. In many senior faculty-junior faculty pairs, there is a comfortable process in which junior faculty feel supported and that their growing autonomy is acknowledged in terms of authorship status on papers, roles on grants, committee appointments, etc. Most research mentors and lab directors are very generous and foster a good environment for their junior faculty, encouraging their growth and development and helping them begin independent careers. However, there can be other dyads where this process could be done more effectively.

A series of meetings were held with faculty at all levels of professional development to develop informal guidance for faculty members with regard to supporting the career autonomy of junior faculty related to scholarship, while simultaneously acknowledging the contributions of senior faculty. This guidance is not meant to be proscriptive, but rather to serve as a guiding framework. 

This document begins with a description of an optimal culture within the department aimed at fostering faculty autonomy and acknowledging appropriately the contributions of all parties. What follows is a discussion of expectations for mentoring relationships. Then we offer recommended best practices for authorship, grant processes, and navigation of the transition from mentee to mentor. 

Culture

  • All members of the faculty value and support developmentally-appropriate levels of career autonomy in their colleagues and convey an appreciation for the fact that as individuals move forward in their careers they need more independence and power.
  • Junior faculty are responsible for initiating their own growth and independence, albeit with the support of their more senior colleagues.
  • Both independence of scholarship and team science should be promoted.
  • Senior faculty and mentors openly convey pride in their junior colleagues’ accomplishments.
  • Junior faculty actively recognize their mentors/senior colleagues’ contributions to their scholarly, educational, and service endeavors (e.g., ideas, guidance, materials).
  • Open dialogues occur with regard to career autonomy, during which the parties acknowledge and attempt to address different perspectives on this matter and agree to seek consultation when needed.
  • Differences about authorship status and roles on grants are most effectively resolved within the specific dyad/team/group itself, but when this is not possible, then consultation should be sought from appropriate senior faculty or the Department Executive Committee.
  • Annual faculty review sessions serve as a medium to address these issues as well.
  • Regular outside “audits” of all mentoring relationships are a standard within the department.
  • To optimally support the career development of junior faculty researchers, the Department will strive to offer them appropriate start-up funds, independent space, and leadership roles/responsibilities, etc., which will help empower junior faculty.

Expectations

  • From the outset of the mentoring relationship, junior faculty member, with guidance from their mentors, lay out a trajectory for an independent field of inquiry that emerges from or is related to the mentor’s area of expertise, with acknowledgement that this trajectory may be revised as the junior faculty member’s interests evolve.
  • Discussions are held at the outset of a mentoring relationship or relationship between a senior and a junior faculty member with regard to expectations for career autonomy and appropriate credit for both parties and efforts should be made to ensure a collaborative matching of such expectations.
  • Discussions are held at regular intervals for mentoring relationships and senior-junior colleague relationships with regard to changes in expectations related to career autonomy and appropriate credit for both parties and efforts should be made to ensure collaborative matching of such expectations as they shift.
  • It is appropriate for one or both parties to consult with another colleague (e.g., Vice Chair for Faculty Development, Vice Chair for Research) in order to seek guidance and assistance with resolution and there should be no retribution for seeking such consultation.

Best Practices

Authorship

  • Background – Authorship is way of both assigning responsibility and giving credit for intellectual contributions. Agreeing upon authorship requires upfront and ongoing conversation about who should be included and in what order based upon contributions - Decisions about authorship should reflect honestly the actual contributions to the final product. Consistent with current publication standards, each author’s contributions related to a paper should be clearly articulated in writing. Individuals only have their names on papers if they have performed the work or made a substantial, direct intellectual contribution to the work The International Committee of Medical Journal Editors (ICMJE) defines authorship by the following criterion: (1) substantial contributions to conception and design, acquisition of data, or analysis and interpretation of data; (2) drafting the article or revising it critically for important intellectual content; and (3) final approval of the version to be published. The American Psychological Association considers someone an author who is involved with initial research design, data collection and analysis, manuscript drafting, and final approval. However, the following do not necessarily qualify for authorship: providing funding or resources, mentorship, or contributing research but not helping with the publication itself. 
  • In practice, a variety of factors have led to authorship practices that are not consistent with the aforementioned standards. For example, junior faculty may believe that including senior faculty members on the publication will enhance the chances of successful publication, regardless of whether or not these individuals actually substantively contributed to the work. In addition, junior faculty may be reluctant to not include their senior colleagues, because of the power they hold over them vis-à-vis their employment, funding, and other professional opportunities. Further, senior faculty may feel pressured to have their name on more publications so that they are seen as productive scholars, even if they do not directly contribute to the work. Sometimes senior faculty believe that they should be listed as authors because of the logistical, financial, or administrative support they provided for the work, even if they did not contribute intellectually. Sometimes, disagreements or disputes arise in terms of authorship credit and order. These differences often reflect misconceptions about what grants authorship and/or communication problems between or among colleagues, which may either be prevented or addressed by open discussions and agreements about standards for authorship.
  • The research team reviews the Collaboration and Team Science Field Guide (http://teamscience.nih.gov) and may craft a Prenuptial Agreement for Scientists (http://ori.hhs.gov/education/preempt_discord.shtml) based on standards in the field (e.g. journals).
  • In collaborative research endeavors, publication credit and order is discussed up front and frankly and in an ongoing fashion, with differences of opinion acknowledged and addressed.
  • Everyone who makes a substantial intellectual contribution to the work is an author.
  • While there are a variety of ways to determine authorship order, authorship order accurately reflects the scientific or professional contributions of the individuals involved, regardless of their relative status, and such order is decided by the authors collectively.
  • People who make other substantial contributions to the work (e.g., provision of funding or services, such as patients or materials), without an intellectual contribution, are acknowledged in an acknowledgment section, but not included as an author. Providing funding or services may not be sufficient for authorship credit.
  • No one is too junior to be first or last author.
  • Everyone who is listed as an author shares in the preparation of the manuscript by either writing it or reviewing drafts and approving the final document.
  • Differences about authorship status are most effectively resolved within the research team itself, but when this is not possible, then consultation should be sought from appropriate senior faculty or the Department Executive Committee.
  • Manuscripts are reviewed by co-authors within a reasonable time frame (i.e., approximately one month) and if a co-author cannot complete his/her review within a reasonable time frame, the other authors may choose to remove him/her from the publication after giving a warning.

Grant Processes

  • There are many similarities related to investigator status with the authorship issues noted above under Authorship Guidelines. Currently, Emory guidelines suggest that each investigator who applies for tenure should serve as principal investigator on at least 2 major grants (R01 or equivalent).  It is in the best interest of senior faculty to have their mentees succeed at Emory, and it is in the best interest of junior faculty to participate in grants as early as possible.
  • There is a discussion up front regarding who should be the Principal Investigator and who should be included as an Investigator. This discussion also should include who is the Contact Principal Investigator.
  • If a junior faculty member contributes to the scholarship that laid the foundation for the grant proposal, that person is included as an Investigator on the grant.
  • If a junior faculty member is an expert on the work associated with the grant, he/she is given the opportunity to serve as the Principal Investigator, especially for non-center grant applications which often require senior faculty for success.
  • The roles and responsibilities of all parties are discussed at the outset and as needed in an ongoing fashion over the course of the project and it may be helpful to have this in writing.
  • There is some dialogue up front about authorship related to publications that will emerge from the grant and this will differ depending on the nature of the grant (R, K, etc.).

Navigation of the Transition From Mentee to Mentor

  • As junior faculty begin mentoring students or trainees, the traditional arrangement with their mentors may need to change.  For example, if a junior faculty member begins supervising a graduate student or postdoctoral fellow, it may be appropriate for the student to be first author with the junior faculty being senior author for publications arising from that work.  Also, the junior faculty seeks guidance from senior faculty before taking on trainees of their own.
  • As junior faculty begin the transition to mid-career faculty, it may no longer be appropriate for their mentors to be included on their publications and their grants, as it is essential for promotion that one demonstrate independence.