NIAID Tenure and Tenure-Track Training

The primary purpose of a National Institutes of Health (NIH) fellowship is to provide time-limited research training, clinical training, and/or career development opportunities to postdoctoral scientists. At the end of the training period, the majority of fellows will leave NIH to pursue careers at institutions in the United States or abroad. More permanent positions may be available through tenure-track or tenured appointments. Opportunities for such appointments arise when research in a specific area is needed to fulfill the NIAID mission.

Researcher examines sand fly larvae. Credit: NIAID
Credit: NIAID

Tenure at NIAID consists of a permanent position and a long-term commitment of salary, personnel, and the research resources needed to conduct an independent research program within the scope of the NIAID mission. Scientists obtain tenure in one of two ways: 1) the scientist is recruited from a national search for a tenured position after compiling an extensive research record at NIH or at another institution, or 2) the scientist successfully competes for and completes a tenure-track appointment at NIH and is advanced to tenure.

Following nationwide recruitment efforts, candidates for both tenure and tenure-track positions are selected by a search committee, recommending official, and approved by the NIH deputy director of intramural research. While traditional tenure and tenure-track positions are created by the hiring laboratory, the new NIAID Clinical Tenure-Track Program will periodically conduct searches for outstanding clinical researchers who would be top candidates for the clinical tenure track and meet the mission of NIAID. Selected clinical tenure-track candidates are then matched to an NIAID laboratory.

Tenure-track investigators in basic research are given six years to establish themselves as independent scientists before being evaluated for tenure; clinical tenure-track candidates are given up to eight years. The NIAID Board of Scientific Counselors (BSC) reviews the candidate’s performance and qualifications for tenure at the midpoint of the tenure-track clock and decides whether the candidate should be continued in tenure track or advanced for accelerated tenure decision. The BSC reviews the candidate’s performance again at the completion of the tenure-track clock and decides if the candidate should be recommended for tenure.

If a candidate is recommended for tenure by the BSC and then the NIAID Promotion and Tenure Committee or by a search committee, and the Division of Intramural Research director concurs, the request is forwarded to the NIH Central Tenure Committee for approval.

The initial fellowship appointment is for a period of two to three years. This may be renewed at the request of the host laboratory, if it is mutually beneficial to do so. It is the usual policy of NIH that postdoctoral trainees should not remain at NIH for more than five years. The overall limitation is not more than eight years, regardless of appointment mechanism, unless the postdoctoral trainee is approved for a tenure-track or permanent appointment.