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Category 2 Letters — Unbiased External Evaluations

(APP Section 3.12.c.ii)

For appointment or promotion to the ranks of Associate Professor or Professor, at least three letters must be solicited from individuals who are at an academic rank equal to or above the rank proposed for the candidate (or in an equivalent position in a non-academic institution) and who are not UMass Chan Medical School faculty members. These individuals should not have a personal and/or professional relationship with the candidate that suggests a real or perceived conflict of interest or bias in evaluating the candidate. For example, the individual should not be a personal friend or relative, a close colleague at the same or previous institution, or a past or present mentor, supervisor or collaborator (as demonstrated by co-authored papers or joint funding).

Category 2 Letter Writer Criteria

UMass Chan Medical School uses the NIH Policy on Reviewer Conflict of Interest (NOT-OD-13-010) as a guide for screening. Individuals should not be solicited for Category 2 letters if they have collaborated, co-authored, trained and/or mentored, or trained alongside the candidate within the previous three years.  Some examples include, but are not limited to:

  • co-authorship on scholarly works, including meeting abstracts and presentations (co-authorship in position papers, professional group or conference reports are accepted)
  • being named with the candidate on a current, pending, or completed funding award
  • former training program directors or mentors
  • peers in training, including but not limited to, residency, fellowship, post-doctoral training
  • other evidence of a close personal, professional or financial relationship (as identified either by the candidate or evaluator

**Please note that the ideal mix of Category 2 letters will include letters from “ideal Category 2 letter” described below

Beyond the three-year window defined by the NIH policy, potential evaluators should be viewed from the perspective of the DPAC or PAC reviewer: would the known relationship between the candidate and evaluator cause a reasonable person to question the evaluator's impartiality? Individuals who would not be considered impartial by this screening test should not be solicited for Category 2 letters. Individuals who are collaborators and/or who have a close professional relationship may, however, write Category 1 letters.

The ideal Category 2 letter is from an authority in the field who knows the candidate well enough to highlight their accomplishments and address unique aspects of their career but not someone who would be perceived as having a positive bias or conflict in evaluating the candidate. For example, Category 2 letters could be solicited from individuals:

  • who have worked with the candidate on a review panel, advisory board or committee for a public or professional organization or who have co-authorship in position papers, professional group or conference reports
  • who work in the same field, but do not currently collaborate with the candidate, and may have witnessed the candidate present at meetings or other institutions

Category 2 letters are intended to serve the purpose of establishing the candidate’s regional, national or international (based on rank and criteria) reputation. 

Responsibility for ensuring that category 2 letters meet the criteria occurs at four stages in the process:

  • the candidate, in compiling a proposed list of individuals to write letters;
  • the chair, Tan Chingfen Graduate School of Nursing Dean, or their designee, in selecting individuals and reviewing the letters received;
  • the DPAC, in reviewing the candidate’s Basic File; and
  • the Office of Faculty Affairs (OFA), in reviewing Basic Files submitted for review by school PACs.

If the chair, Tan Chingfen Graduate School of Nursing Dean or DPAC determine that the letters received for a candidate do not meet the criteria for Category 2 letters, additional letters should be solicited before formal review of the candidate. Concerns about letters raised at a later stage of the process may delay review and approval of the candidate.