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Letters of Evaluation

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Letters of evaluation (also referred to as “referee letters”) are a valued component of the review process for the appointment and promotions of faculty.They are used to assess how peers and experts view an individual’s accomplishments, expertise, and impact on a field. The department or dean’s Office, depending upon the rank, solicits letters of evaluation for faculty positions, which must be written by colleagues who hold positions equivalent to or higher than the rank proposed for the appointment/promotion.

There are two types of letters of evaluation:

Arm's-length letters are from external referees who are known scholars or experts in the field and who are able to provide an objective, impartial evaluation of the candidate's accomplishments.

Arm’s-length referees may include:

  • Those who know of a faculty candidate’s reputation in the field, but have not worked with them directly.
  • Co-authors or co-investigators of large, multi-center clinical trials or consortiums where there has not been direct engagement.

Arm’s-length letters should not come from referees who:

  • Are unable to provide an impartial review of the faculty candidate for any reason.
  • Have been a supervisor, mentor or peer of the candidate during their training.
  • Have collaborated, published or shared funding with the candidate, except as noted above.

Seek advice from the OAPD if the department is uncertain whether a potential referee can be considered arm's length.

Non-arm’s-length letters are from referees who have direct knowledge of the candidate’s professional (clinical, educational, administrative and/or scholarly) activities, as for example through their service as a mentor, collaborator, or intramural colleague. These should not come from faculty in the same department as the faculty candidate.

General guidance for letters of evaluation

Specifics about the number and type of referees to be suggested by the department and the faculty candidate are indicated in the table below. Please note that letters are solicited by the department chair or the dean, depending on the rank, and the faculty candidate should NOT reach out directly to those from whom letters will be solicited.

The Referee List Template will be completed by the department. Templates for soliciting letters are available from the OAPD, and all will be asked to complete the External Referee Form.

Letters of Evaluation By Track

Investigator Track

Investigator Track Reference Letter Requirements
Rank Letter Solicited by Number to be Solicited Recommended by Department Recommended by Candidate Minimum Required with Packet
Assistant Professor Chair 3 NA 3 arm's-length or non-arm's-length 3
Associate Professor Chair 10 5 arm’s-length 5: 2 arm’s length
3 non-arm’s length
6: of which 4 arm’s length
Professor Dean 12 6 arm’s-length 6: 2 arm’s-length
4 non-arm’s-length
8: of which 6 are arm’s-length