External peer review letters

The intent of these guidelines for reviewer selection is to preserve the integrity of the process and to minimize the chance that individuals reviewing the application might question the appropriateness of one or more reviewers. Credentials of the external reviewers who provided letters should be included in the application packet on the Chair’s Report of External Reviewers form.

A minimum of four and maximum of eight external peer-review letters are required for all applications for tenure and for promotion to associate professor (Rank III) or full professor (Rank IV). For promotions within Rank 0, requirements vary depending on the nature of the appointment. For Rank 0 research faculty, no fewer than three external letters are required. For Rank 0 instructional faculty and Rank 0 faculty whose assignment is clinical, external letters may be required by the college but are not required by the university.

It is the responsibility of the department chair to obtain external peer-review letters.

These letters should be solicited under the guidelines below. The initial contact may be made via email or phone, but each reviewer should then receive a formal letter (which may be sent electronically) following a designated template.

Selection of external peer reviewers

Reviewers for tenure applications should be selected by the department chair in consultation with the dean and the tenured faculty of the department; reviewers for promotion to full professor, in consultation with the department’s full professors. The chair should allow and encourage the applicant to suggest potential reviewers.

Deans are encouraged to approve the list of potential reviewers before the reviewers are contacted. At a minimum, department chairs should submit the list of potential reviewers using the Chair’s Report of External Reviewers form. Once the external letters are received, the report form should be finalized and accompany the final packet.

The names and institutions of potential reviewers contacted are not disclosed to the applicant. In order to obtain at least the minimum number of letters required, it nearly always will be necessary to contact more than the minimum number of potential reviewers.

The department chair should contact potential reviewers before the end of the spring semester and have a full slate of reviewers lined up by the end of May. The department chair should explain to reviewers that the package will be delivered no later than August 1 and obtain a verbal commitment that the review will be completed no later than September 1.

Number of peer reviewers

It is recommended that the candidate submit a list of 5 or 6 potential reviewers. The candidate should bear in mind that half or more of the reviews will come from individuals not on the candidate’s list. The reason for this is to avoid selecting a set of reviewers that are strongly biased in favor of the candidate. Therefore, the candidate should think carefully about how many reviewers to put on the list, and who to include. For example, if the candidate lists the top 20 people in the field, the committee may have relatively few additional qualified reviewers to call upon. The candidate may also submit names of potential reviewers that the candidate feels should not be used.

Reviewer guidelines

  • Reviewers should be experts in the applicant’s area of research and should not be closely associated with the candidate for promotion.
  • Avoid reviewers that have or could reasonably be perceived to have a conflict of interest. For example, they should not be a current or former collaborator, a former graduate mentor or thesis advisor, co-authors or a former contemporary at another institution.
  • Avoid reviewers who hold a position at an institution where the candidate has earned a degree, performed postdoctoral research or had any other official appointment, regardless of whether the reviewer’s appointment at the institution overlapped with that of the candidate.
  • Do not solicit letters from more than one individual at a single institution.
  • Minimize the number of reviewers from non-U.S. universities. Researchers from non-U.S. universities often do not understand the U.S. tenure system and the importance of writing a detailed evaluation. Thus, any non-U.S. reviewers should be selected with care, with the recommendation being to limit the number to 2 or less.

External reviewers for tenure candidates

For tenure candidates, reviewers from universities must be tenured faculty, preferably full professors, in programs at institutions with a research stature that is comparable or superior to that of the University of Nevada, Reno.

  • At least half should come from institutions classified by the Carnegie Foundation as R1. Reviewers from institutions that are classified below R2 should be avoided.
  • For application for promotion to full professor, reviewers from universities must be full professors.
  • For application for promotion to associate professor, reviewers should preferably be full professors, and a majority should be full professors.
  • In certain cases, it may be appropriate to solicit reviews from individuals who are not in programs of equal or higher stature or desirable to solicit reviews from individuals who are not affiliated with academic institutions. In such cases, the department chair should explain their stature and suitability in the brief summary of the reviewers’ qualifications that is part of the application packet.