FAQs about P&T Letters from Collaborators

Why solicit letters from collaborators?

Given the increasing number of projects and work that includes multiple accomplished individuals, information that would be beneficial to reviewers is for collaborators to clearly and objectively articulate the candidate’s independent personal contribution to the project. The purpose is to demonstrate supportive evidence of the candidate’s extent of leadership within a collaborative relationship in a given area of scholarship or research. This may be revealed by indicators such as the extent of intellectual effort put forth from the candidate or the extent of shared workload taken on by the candidate. Solicitation of letters should represent an effort to determine the role of the candidate in joint work with collaborators (e.g. contribution to a joint research effort, proposal submissions, or division of labor on a creative scholarly project, book, or other work, etc.). Letters will usually be solicited from persons that have a real or perceived conflict of interest because they have co-authored multiple works and/or proposals with the candidate and they may also be in a senior role to the candidate (by rank or other criteria). Similarly, if a candidate has a single particularly important joint paper with a reference person, the reference may be more appropriate as a collaborator than as an external referee. The letter from collaborators should not be an attestation of the candidate’s personality or friendship, but rather a description and clear cut statement of the candidate’s personal activities, role and contribution to the project or work.

What defines a collaborator and what guidelines should be considered when soliciting a letter?

A collaborator is any potential reference (internal or external) that has a conflict of interest or perceived conflict of interest and was deemed unsuitable as an external referee/reviewer.  For example, if the candidate has a single particularly important joint paper with a reference, the reference may be more appropriately written by the reference as a collaborator than as an external referee. Generally letters should not be solicited from the candidate’s primary PhD adviser or the candidate’s primary post-doc adviser, except in cases where the candidate has continued heavy collaboration with that person once appointed at UIC as faculty member and/or for many years after joining UIC.

How many letters should be solicited?

Generally 1-3 letters should be solicited. Sometimes a candidate’s work is so highly independent that a collaborator cannot be identified. Other times, a candidate is highly collaborative but collaborates so broadly that he or she has little work with any one collaborator or coauthor and it is clear from the dossier that the candidate is a leader in his or her personal body of work.

Who is responsible for ensuring that appropriate individuals are selected?

Once the paper preparer determines that a candidate’s work is characterized by a substantial amount of collaboration, a list of collaborators (names, email addresses, and phone numbers) should be solicited from the candidate by the paper preparer. The paper preparer should then review that list in light of the candidate’s dossier and make a final determination regarding whom to contact.  Candidates should refer to these FAQs to determine who best to recommend to the paper preparer. Note that once candidates provide a list of individuals, they are NOT permitted to see which collaborators were invited or responded to the invitation and they are NOT permitted to view the letters that are retrieved.

Which letters should be included in the candidate’s application?

All letters of collaboration that were solicited by the paper preparer for the review must be included in the candidate’s file, even if the collaborator’s letter is a simple email or telephone statement of inability/unwillingness to review or if the person simply did not respond.