Abstract: Objective To determine the presence of a set of pre-specified traditional and non-traditional criteria used to assess scientists for promotion and tenure in faculties of biomedical sciences among universities worldwide.
Design Cross sectional study.
Setting International sample of universities.
Participants 170 randomly selected universities from the Leiden ranking of world universities list.
Main outcome measure Presence of five traditional (for example, number of publications) and seven non-traditional (for example, data sharing) criteria in guidelines for assessing assistant professors, associate professors, and professors and the granting of tenure in institutions with biomedical faculties.
Results A total of 146 institutions had faculties of biomedical sciences, and 92 had eligible guidelines available for review. Traditional criteria of peer reviewed publications, authorship order, journal impact factor, grant funding, and national or international reputation were mentioned in 95% (n=87), 37% (34), 28% (26), 67% (62), and 48% (44) of the guidelines, respectively. Conversely, among non-traditional criteria, only citations (any mention in 26%; n=24) and accommodations for employment leave (37%; 34) were relatively commonly mentioned. Mention of alternative metrics for sharing research (3%; n=3) and data sharing (1%; 1) was rare, and three criteria (publishing in open access mediums, registering research, and adhering to reporting guidelines) were not found in any guidelines reviewed. Among guidelines for assessing promotion to full professor, traditional criteria were more commonly reported than non-traditional criteria (traditional criteria 54.2%, non-traditional items 9.5%; mean difference 44.8%, 95% confidence interval 39.6% to 50.0%; P=0.001). Notable differences were observed across continents in whether guidelines were accessible (Australia 100% (6/6), North America 97% (28/29), Europe 50% (27/54), Asia 58% (29/50), South America 17% (1/6)), with more subtle differences in the use of specific criteria.
Conclusions This study shows that the evaluation of scientists emphasises traditional criteria as opposed to non-traditional criteria. This may reinforce research practices that are known to be problematic while insufficiently supporting the conduct of better quality research and open science. Institutions should consider incentivising non-traditional criteria.