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Paper Co-authored by Professor Paola Sztajn Discusses Broadening Promotion and Tenure Process to Value Innovation and Entrepreneurship

Universities that want to be more inclusive and value innovation and entrepreneurship among other diverse forms of scholarly impact need to broaden their promotion and tenure criteria, according to a paper co-authored by NC State College of Education Professor Paola Sztajn, Ph.D.

Published in Science, “Innovation, Entrepreneurship, Promotion and Tenure” involved 18 authors from 14 institutions across the United States and follows the work of the Promotion and Tenure, Innovation and Entrepreneurship (PTIE) Coalition, which comprises more than 100 leaders representing 65 universities and 13 national organizations. 

The paper argues that, beyond valuing innovative and entrepreneurial efforts, universities must recognize and reward the work of faculty who invest their time in these efforts. 

“Innovation and entrepreneurship are one way to show how research-based knowledge can generate societal impact and contribute to economic development. Many faculty interested in applied research start their careers with a desire to foster positive changes in the world around us. Valuing innovation and entrepreneurship can encourage faculty to realize that contribution,” Sztajn said. “It is key that we encourage, support and promote faculty who do this work.” 

The promotion and tenure process, Sztajn said, has traditionally been focused on publications and grants.The paper discusses ways to broaden the scope of faculty promotion and tenure and expand what universities and scholars value. 

The article outlines four core elements recommended by the PTIE Coalition to initiate change that could meaningfully and inclusively account for innovation and entrepreneurship and provide a framework to reimagine other areas of scholarship in promotion and professional advancement. Recommendations include:

  • Crafting university-wide language that directly links the evaluation of faculty to the institutional mission, values and goals across multiple levels of the university. 
  • Creating innovation and entrepreneurship metrics, including subcategories like intellectual property, sponsored research and entity creation, to serve as indicator data in a narrative thesis of impact.
  • Incorporate innovation and entrepreneurship evaluation criteria into research, teaching and advising, and service categories typically evaluated for faculty promotion.
  • Process changes for supporting systemic culture change, improving transparency and addressing bias in the promotion and tenure process.

Sztajn said although universities often clearly value the multiple ways in which faculty can demonstrate the impact of their work, the culture has not yet changed in ways that reward this impact. She added that changing culture is complex and takes time, but to increase impact it will be key to examine current departmental, college, and university promotion and tenure cultures.

By expanding the scope of what is valued in the promotion and tenure process, she said the goal is to ultimately foster a more diverse professoriate. 

“I see innovation and entrepreneurship as only one part of a wider constellation of important approaches to demonstrate the impact of research that needs to be rewarded. I also include engaged scholarship, civic action, and diversity, equity and inclusion work as other important parts of this constellation,” said Sztajn, who will become interim dean of the College of Education Oct. 5. “All of these aspects of faculty work are clearly a part of NC State’s strategic plan moving forward and their value can help broaden the bar to achieve our goals.”