- Confidential letters from professional peers are the cornerstone of the evaluation process at Stanford and other top-tier institutions. External, independent referee letters are the mainstay of the tenure case, validating the candidate’s stature and impact in the field.
- Eight to twelve external referees and three to five internal referees are required for the tenure review.
- One or two current or former mentors or collaborators may be included in the referee list, but most of the list must consist of independent (non-mentor, non-collaborator) experts. Their letters are given far more weight than those of collaborative referees.
- Faculty members preparing for the tenure review have the opportunity to propose a limited number of referees. Taking the candidate’s recommendations into consideration, the department chair or his/her designate is responsible for compiling the full list, which is subject to approval by the Office of Academic Affairs.
- The faculty member will not know the final composition of the referee lists and must not contact anyone whom they think could be a referee during the tenure review.
- In order to obtain information from referees that is useful in evaluating the candidate for promotion, referees are asked to compare the candidate with a group of scholars (the “peer set”) consisting both of highly regarded individuals in the field who have recently obtained tenure, as well as more senior people who are setting the standard of excellence for the discipline. The peer set is proposed by the department chair (or his/her designate) and approved by the Office of Academic Affairs.
- Question: I collaborate with many groups across my field, and it might be hard to find experts who have no collaborative role with me at all, even if the role is very minor.
- Answer: The degree, nature, and frequency of the collaboration is key, and it will be important to clarify your relationship. If you were listed as co-authors on a paper from a nationwide study, that will be a different situation from closely collaborating on a project. It is not always possible to avoid having collaborators on the referee list, but you must be able to demonstrate separation from them. For example, clinical trialists will collaborate with most of the senior people in their field in the country. Transparency is the key; this is mostly a problem when it is discovered later rather than made clear at the beginning.
Sample Letter to Referees