Criteria, Process, and Policy for Scientific and Research Engineering Appointments
1. Revise appointment criteria and processes and clarify expectations for promotion.
The current Appointments Review Group (ARG) criteria need some revision. ARG promotion is based on a single overarching criterion—scientific and engineering excellence—as demonstrated by substantial (1) scientific productivity, (2) leadership, (3) national and international reputation, (4) contribution to NCAR programs, (5) breadth, (6) scientific and technical service in the NCAR context, (7) broad community service, and (8) awards. We recommend more explicit recognition of some other characteristics including creativity, innovation, and scientific insight. We also recommend some clarification of the programmatic criteria (items 4, 6, and 7) in order to make them easier to understand, particularly for external referees, who, for example, often struggle with the meaning of item 6.
A uniform and standardized set of criteria should be developed by the ARG, reviewed and approved by the senior scientists and research engineers, and recommended to NCAR management. These criteria should be applied in hiring, evaluating, and promoting NCAR scientists and research engineers.
Scientists and research engineers at all levels should have easy access to clear descriptions of the promotion processes, including those within divisions and laboratories, and should receive ongoing advice regarding their progress toward meeting the qualifications for promotion. Annual performance review criteria should be closely aligned with the criteria for promotion, thereby facilitating better assessment of progress toward promotion. There should be uniform promotion/review criteria across laboratories and divisions, although the relative weighting of the criteria may vary, depending on the mission of the division/program and the job requirements of the scientist or research engineer.
More of the responsibility for promotion review should be assigned to the nominating laboratory or division, where the primary quality control is imposed. Laboratories and divisions should solicit an initial set of letters of reference for their own deliberations, assemble and review nomination packages, reach their own recommendation on whether the case should proceed to the ARG, and summarize the process, deliberations, and recommendation in writing along with their assessment of the strengths and weaknesses of the case.
The laboratory or division has full responsibility for deciding which cases will be taken forward to the ARG. Failure of a nomination at the ARG level should trigger the NCAR director to consider why the nomination failed and if quality control failed at the level of the nominating entity. The nomination packages, all solicited letters, and the written summary prepared by the laboratory or division should be forwarded without change to the ARG, which would remain authorized to solicit additional letters of reference, if necessary. ARG review would thus continue to maintain standards for the institution, but would also assess how well the standards are being maintained at the laboratory and divisional levels. NCAR management should emphasize to the laboratories/divisions that they must forward recommendations to the ARG at the appropriate time, not prematurely or so belatedly as to hold back qualified cases.
A systematic and documented review at the time of promotion from Scientist/Research Engineer I to Scientist/Research Engineer II should be instituted by the home laboratory or division, providing more formal guidance to scientists and research engineers regarding their career development. This procedure would closely mimic the pre-tenure review process at many universities.
The ARG procedures should provide for enough flexibility to allow consideration of cases out of the normal ARG cycle, including both external hires and internal promotions.