The answer is, unequivocally, “Yes.” The School of Medicine (SOM) recognizes that team-based, collaborative science is essential to solving an array of challenging, multifaceted health problems. In fact, as pointed out in the 2010 NIH Report, Collaboration and Team Science: A Field Guide, team science has become the “primary mode of research for many scientists and physicians.”
Inter-disciplinary and team science are highly valued by the SOM and are recognized when promotion and tenure decisions are made. According to the SOM Rules: The School of Medicine recognizes the importance of inter-disciplinary science and the need for collaboration among investigators. Therefore, as recommended by the National Academy of Science, the School of Medicine defines an “independent investigator” as one who demonstrates “independence of thought”— that is, one who has defined a problem of interest, who has chosen or developed the best strategies and approaches to address that problem and who has contributed distinct intellectual expertise.
Team science is also recognized explicitly within the SOM Promotion Matrix. This is the document that promotion and tenure review committees, including the SOM Faculty Promotions Committee, use to judge whether a faculty member has achieved “excellence” in research (or other areas). The Matrix includes the following as one example of excellence in research: Demonstration of significant independent intellectual contributions to successful research programs.
I am a team scientist. How can I document my “independent intellectual contributions to successful research programs”?
Guidance is provided in the “Investigator’s Portfolio” section of the current Guide to Building a Dossier for Promotion or Tenure.” If you are seeking promotion or tenure based on research excellence, you are required to submit a 4–6 page Research Narrative. Typically, the narrative highlights your research focus and key discoveries or insights; usually, the narrative will include an “annotated bibliography,” which explains the importance and impact of your “top” published papers. The Research Narrative is particularly important if your research is multi-disciplinary and if your publications and other accomplishments reflect the work of multi-disciplinary teams. You should use your narrative to clarify the contributions that you have made to multi-author publications and co-PI and co-investigator grants. In your narrative, be specific about your “intellectual contributions” (for example, the manner in which you defined the research objectives, led the research efforts, interpreted the results or shaped the overall research program). Ideally, your dossier will also include other supporting evidence, such as letters from the Principal Investigators or research group heads with whom you have collaborated, outlining in detail your specific contributions and the unique skills that you brought to the team. For multi-authored papers, letters from the first- or senior-authors may also provide evidence of your specific contributions. The overall objective is to convey clearly and concisely to the SOM Faculty Promotions Committee the importance, significance and broad impact of your cumulative, “independent” research contributions.