THE ROLE OF PATENTS AND COMMERCIALIZATION IN THE TENURE AND PROMOTION PROCESS
Texas A&M created quite a stir in May 2006 when it added commercialization considerations as a sixth factor to be taken into account when faculty are evaluated for tenure. Somewhat surprisingly, their lead has not been followed, at least publicly, by other major institutions. At a recent meeting of academic associations, it emerged in conversation that a number of institutions of higher learning have moved in this direction, but without the publicity of Texas A&M. Therefore, we conducted a sampling survey to determine: 1) if other North American universities evaluate commercialization considerations when deciding faculty tenure and, if so, 2) what were the defining characteristics of these institutions. Study findings revealed that 16 universities in the US and Canada consider patents and commercialization in tenure and promotion decisions. The majority of these institutions have research budgets under $200 million, have adopted changes to the tenure process within the last 6 years, and consider “US patents issued” a commercialization consideration priority. Surprisingly, study findings also found that a significant number of universities do not publish their tenure criteria. The application of similar studies to a wider range of North American educational institutions is encouraged to see how the trend started by these 16 universities may continue.
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