Helping the Minoritized Achieve in Academic Science

When you go up for tenure, there are only a few things that are still completely in your control. Your packet is one of them. You should promote and sell yourself using your packet. This is your opportunity to make it clear how awesome you are. As with a proposal, you don’t want your audience to infer or guess that you have achieved all that you promised when they hired you. You just have to tell them. Here is some advice about your packet from a WomanOfScience who just went through it successfully. This post will only describe the research section. Teaching and Service sections will follow. Any other suggestions welcomed and encouraged!

Most important: Get some other packets as examples. Ask people who just went up within the last year. Ask people in your department in your subfield. If that doesn’t exist, ask people in other departments within your college, in a similar subfield but maybe in a different department. Try to get at least 2-3 because different people have different styles. You can pick the aspects from each that you like most and use that.

Sell your field: When your packet goes out, it might go to people who are not in your particular subfield of your discipline. Hopefully the letter writers will be right up your alley, but maybe not, depending on how big your field is, if there are even smaller sub-subfields, and how good you did at meeting others and making a network outside of campus. You will probably have to sell it to the members of your College Promotion and Tenure committee (Personnel Committee), if not your own department. Having a few sentences up front about what your subfield is called, and how you view the field is a good way to orient the readers, and get everyone on the same page – your page. This is especially important if you are in a fringe subfield that is unusual within the department or within the college.

Sell your topic: Your packet readers may not know why studying the respiratory pathway in gulf shrimp is important. Sell it! Or why block-copolymers are essential to energy harvesting. Sell it! Write it like you are talking to a scientist from a very different field at a dinner party. They are smart, but they just don’t know what you do or why. In fact, attend or host a dinner party and try out some ideas on people. Just chatting about your science is a good way to feel out what types of selling lines work and which do not. Maybe you don’t like dinner parties, but there are other opportunities to chat with scientists from different fields over lunch or whatever.

Detail what you did: Next, you need to describe what you accomplished scientifically. Discuss each project separately. Most people have 2-3 distinct projects that they made progress on during their tenure process. If you have over 5, try to lump them together. List or describe the funded grants you got for each project in the text to make it clear that you got funding. If you didn’t have funding, you can list pending proposals. Have images to illustrate your data. You should be able to reference your own papers. Try, as much as possible, to not reference papers by any other groups in the research write-up section. It is not petty; it is part of self-promotion. Do not be afraid to self-promote. You are doing it because this document is supposed to highlight your work – not another group. You are building a case for yourself and what you did, so you shouldn’t have to reference any other work outside of the introductory material. In cases where you have collaborations with other scientists, especially senior people, be very very clear about what you did. Find out beforehand from a senior person in your department about how they feel about these collaborations. Many departments think collaborating is good. Some don’t, make sure you know so you can emphasize or de-emphasize as needed.

Clearly detail all your papers in the text: This is up to you, but many packets I got from others and I used this style myself, inserted a block of citations in the middle of the text just after the paragraphs describing the work. My thoughts on this is that:

  1. It draws attention to your work, so they can’t really miss it. Plus, when you list papers in your CV, they are by date of publication, which is important, but it is just as important for people to see them listed by project or research thrust in your lab. This is how you probably think of them, so why not be explicit!
  2. It can be more detailed with annotations to highlight what the paper showed and which students of your did the work. I highlighted which students were high school, undergrads, graduate, and postdocs from my lab.
  3. I included the relevant book chapters and review articles in with this list. That gave me a list of about 4-5 per project, instead of 1-2 research papers only. It also highlighted that people in my community care about what I think, which is why they ask me to write reviews, prospectives, and chapters.

Future aspirations: The last paragraph of my research section had a five year plan for research. This is similar to what you might write for when you went up for the job. The difference is that you have a lot of experience, and you know what will work and what might be higher risk. Tenure is about to give you job security for life. It is the time to take some risks. Highlight that you are moving into a more innovative, high-risk, yet high-reward phase after securing tenure.

Are there other specific or general items that I missed? Please guest post or comment!

Comments on: "Selling Yourself with your Packet" (2)

  1. […] new course, you should describe what you did in your packet. This is similar to what you do in your research statement. Describe what you did. Use figures, including pictures of your class, if you have them. If you […]

  2. […] your tenure packet that this is standard in your field (see these posts about your tenure packet: research, teaching, service) and make sure your allies are in place (tenure tips). Yet, two papers of your […]

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