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Analysis in Brief

Analysis in Brief presents recent findings from the AAMC's data collection and research activities in a concise, easy-to-read report. Published several times a year, it addresses a wide range of topics and trends that affect medical schools and teaching hospitals.

The Redistribution of Tenure Tracks for U.S. Medical School Faculty: Basic Science Ph.D. Faculty (Part II)

Over the past decades, U.S. medical schools and their faculty have seen dramatic changes. For faculty in basic science departments, there remains an extremely competitive environment for federal research funding as well as decreased resources for education. Institutions have continually adapted to these environmental changes by refining their faculty appointment and tenure policies. This Analysis in Brief expands the scope of analysis from last month’s AIB, and presents a current snapshot of trends in the number and percentage of full-time Ph.D. faculty with appointments in basic science departments at U.S. medical schools. Results show that for these faculty, there has been a slow but steady decrease in the proportion of tenure-eligible appointments over the past three decades (from 82 percent in 1984 to 73 percent in 2014). Results also show that the decline in the proportion of tenure-eligible basic science faculty over time likely is largely a result of an ongoing shift wherein most newly hired faculty are being placed on tracks that are not eligible for tenure. For basic science Ph.D. faculty, there is not yet any evidence that the absolute numbers of tenure-eligible faculty have plateaued (as is the case with their clinical M.D. counterparts). There has actually been a very slight decrease in numbers of tenure-eligible faculty since 2011, and in 2012 the proportion of nontenure-eligible new hires exceeded the proportion of tenure-eligible new hires for the first time. These recent changes may indicate that medical schools might be decreasing the number of tenure-eligible positions that are available for basic science Ph.D. faculty, though it is much too soon to draw these conclusions with certainty.

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