What is required to become an associate professor?
My specific area of responsibility as chairperson of the Associate Professor appointments board might seem smaller than those of the other faculty vice deans, but is central in the maintenance and development of the faculty’s competencies in teaching and research. Most obviously, I oversee the process that ensures our Associate Professors possess the basic pedagogical and scientific expertise required to act as main supervisor of PhD students in one of the faculty’s research education subjects.
When an application comes to the Associate Professor Board, our first role is to assess whether it is ready to be sent for external expert evaluation. We first evaluate whether a candidate meets the basic pedagogics requirements, including three weeks coursework in research student supervision. We then take a deep dive into the application, evaluating evidence of the candidate’s scientific independence. We look at a mix of factors, including publications, research money won, the candidate’s vision of future research, and so on. Publications definitely weigh heaviest, and especially first and last authored articles.
I need to dispel one persistent myth regarding eligibility to become docent. In no way does the oft-stated principle of “one PhD thesis worth of publications more is sufficient to become Associate Professor” apply. The University wide guidelines state: “the level and quality of the research … and independence must be considerably higher than what is required for the degree of doctor”. Before applying, applicants should have a dialogue with the head of department and other mentors (e.g. faculty Professors) about how strong the research record looks now and when it might be sufficiently strong to apply.
Every year we receive applications from candidates who are clearly key people in their departments, having taken on important work in teaching, environmental analysis or administration. However, this often slows down accumulation of the merits needed to become Associate Professor. Here I see a key role for our departments in supporting the ambitions of such candidates, by, for example, creating time in their schedules for writing those extra articles, or providing opportunities to be involved in funding proposals and research projects. Naturally, mentoring of early-career candidates on the road to docent also starts at the departmental level.
I look forward to receiving new applications for Associate Professor over the coming years, and meeting even more of you attending each term’s Associate Professor lectures; academic high water marks to be celebrated by all!
Brendan McKie, Vice Dean responsible for the work of the associate professor's board