SMITHSONIAN ASTROPHYSICAL OBSERVATORY
Revised August 21, 2019
Smithsonian Institution Office Memorandum 695 (Rev.) July 19, 1982 established Institution-wide guidelines and standards for Professional Accomplishment Evaluation Committees (PAEC's). That OM applied only to research and curatorial professionals.
Smithsonian Directive, (SD) 204 was issued November 30, 2006. SD204 set forth new guidelines for such review committees. The new guidelines are included in the revisions herewith.
- Purpose of PAEC
The purpose of the PAEC is to provide a collegial forum for discussion and assessment of individual scholarly accomplishments and for the systematic collection and transmittal of such information to the Director.
The PAEC evaluation does not take the place of the standard annual review required for all Smithsonian employees by the SI Directives 212 and 213 regarding Federal and Trust Fund personnel.
- Committee Oversight
The committee will be established at the unit/bureau level but as required by SD204 will be monitored by the UnderSecretary for Science to ensure compliance with SI guidelines. SAO will establish two committees: one to review the scientific accomplishments of individuals at the grades 11-13, and another to review those of individuals at the grades above grade 13.
- Committee Membership/Tenure
The Director should ensure that individuals appointed to both committees have superior professional standing and the ability to objectively evaluate the accomplishments of other professional employees.
Each Associate Director (AD) will nominate a senior scientist from his/her division for membership on the Committee that will review individuals above the grade 13 level. Each AD may also nominate another senior scientist to serve as an alternate, if the primary designee is unable to attend meetings. Every effort should be made by the AD to nominate a senior level scientist to serve on the Committee.
Each AD will nominate a higher-graded scientist from his/her division for membership on the Committee that will review individuals at the grade 11-13 levels.
Names of nominees for both Committees will be sent by AD's to the Director for approval, with an information copy to the Director of Human Resources.
The Director of Human Resources or designee will serve on both Committees as a permanent non-voting member to provide advice on personnel-related concerns and processes.
Members of each Committee will be appointed by the Director for a term not to exceed five years.
- Committee Chairperson/Responsibilities/Tenure
The Chairperson of each Committee will be designated by the Director for a term not to exceed five years.
The Chairperson is responsible for convening the Committee for meetings and for assuring that Committee members have all necessary materials prior to meetings and that PAEC evaluation packages sent to the Director for review/action are complete.
In order to protect the rights of employees to privacy, committee discussions and reports must remain confidential. At the close of each evaluation meeting, it will be the responsibility of the Chairperson to collect all copies of materials considered by the Committee. One copy will be submitted with the report to the Director; all other copies will be destroyed. The Director will provide the employee with a copy of the report for his or her records, and ensure that a copy of the PAEC review is kept on file within the unit and available for future reference.
The Chairperson may delegate some or all of these tasks to a secretary who may be assigned by the Director to assist the Committee.
- Frequency of Meetings/Coverage/Committee Responsibilities
The Committees will meet on an annual basis to conduct periodic reviews and consider all requests for grade level changes. The Director is responsible for ensuring that each Federal and Trust Fund scientist is scheduled for committee evaluation based on the following cycle:
- Grade 11: Every three years
- Grade 12: Every three years
- Grade 13: Every three years
- Grade 14: Every five years
- Grade 15: Every five years
- Senior Level Federal (SL) and Trust (IL) employees: Five years after being promoted to SL or IL; every seven years thereafter.
The review will cover the significant accomplishments and achievements of the reviewee for the previous review period. The Committee will be required to obtain outside letters of reference only when a promotion or demotion is being considered. For such possible changes in grade, the Committee, via the Chairperson, will solicit letters of recommendation from persons outside the CfA. Four letters of recommendation will be required for individuals being reviewed for promotion up to the grade 13. Five letters of recommendation will be required for individuals being reviewed for promotion above the grade 13. The letters must be from individuals external to Harvard College Observatory and Smithsonian. The relevant AD will choose two of the referees; the individual being reviewed will choose the remaining referees. The referees chosen by the AD should be well-known figures in the reviewee's field and should not be closely affiliated with the reviewee so as to provide a more independent assessment of the reviewee's accomplishments. An example of a closely-affiliated individual would be a former thesis advisor. All of the referees should be at a comparable or higher level than that of the reviewee.
The Committees may choose to invite to the meetings a reviewee's supervisor or colleague to respond to Committee questions pertinent to the review. This invitee will have no vote on the Committees and will not sit in on Committee deliberations.
In accordance with SI guidelines, the Committee will not make specific recommendations with regard to grade level or staff assignment, but will provide analysis and conclusions as to the professional standing of the employee, the level of accomplishment, and the extent to which the professional achievements of the scientist are typical of, greater than, or less than those expected of the scientist vis-a-vis other staff members with comparable assignments and experience. The review should address the impact of the employee's work, the extent to which the employee has developed the program on which he or she works, and the innovation of the employee's contributions. The review will be thoughtful, cogent, and analytical rather than subjective. Trust and Federal employees will be evaluated by the same standards, without exception.
The Committees will submit findings to the Director in writing and will include a brief narrative summary of the professional accomplishments and standing of each scientist reviewed. The Committees should make a report of findings to the Director promptly. If the Committee conclusion is not unanimous, the report will contain both majority and minority opinions.
Role of the Department of Human Resources
In addition to serving on the Committee, the Director of Human Resources will maintain an up-to-date list of scientists and the dates they are evaluated by the PAEC. This list will be provided to the PAEC Chairpersons yearly to ensure that all scientists receive evaluations as required.
Individual Reviewee's Responsibility/Rights
In order to make the fairest possible evaluation of a scientist, the Committees need to have the most up-to-date information on the accomplishments of the individual being reviewed. Reviewees should use the guide provided by the Department of Human Resources as part of their periodic review notification package (see Appendix A) to gather appropriate material for periodic review and/or PAEC evaluation purposes.
Requests for promotion and PAEC review may be made by an individual scientist during any year of his/her periodic review cycle. Such requests should be sent to the Director via the scientist's immediate supervisor and the Division's Associate Director. Such requests should be submitted in ample time for consideration at the annual PAEC review.
Response to the Findings
A report of the results of the PAEC review should be made promptly to the Director. The Director or his designee will, within 30 working days of receiving an evaluation report, discuss the Committee's findings and conclusions with, and provide a copy of the report to the Associate Director of the individual whose work has been reviewed. The Associate Director will discuss with the individual's supervisor how the PAEC recommendations will be incorporated into the individual's annual performance plan. The Associate Director will then meet with the reviewee. Following this meeting, the individual may request to submit comments to the Director.
Reviewees should focus dossiers on the relevant review period (i.e., 3, 5 or 7 years) and should provide two (2) hard copies of the dossier to SAO HR in addition to an electronic version. The dossier should include the following material:
- Updated vita and bibliography (including titles of papers presented at conferences and workshops, with invited papers labeled as such). The bibliography should be provided via an electronic link to an ADS created file, when possible and appropriate, or another private library or Digital Objective Identifier (DOI). Instructions for ADS may be found at: https://adsabs.github.io/help/libraries/creating-libraries.
- Citation metrics - the Committee recommends the Hirsch index based on refereed publications.
- Reprints of significant articles should be provided by the journal article information or arXiv number. Only in instances of difficult-to-access journals or for chapters in books should hardcopies be included in dossier. In such instances, two hard copies should be provided.
- Grants/contracts during the review period - should include description of your role in the project (e.g., PI or Co-I) and responsibilities, the grant/contract amount, and the period of the grant/contract.
- Membership on advisory committees (internal and external).
- Refereeing activities, including pre-publication reviews of the work of other researchers and reviews of research proposals. Editorial work for professional journals and/or conference proceedings.
- Responsibility for meetings/scientific conferences.
- Educational activities; undergraduate or graduate courses taught; lectures or other public outreach efforts.
- A personal statement delineating your aims and accomplishments for the past review period, your plans for future research projects, and your professional goals.
- As appropriate for project scientists and/or scientists involved in substantial project work, a summary highlighting your scientific and technical work achievements and your role within a specific project; your level of responsibility and/or leadership of technical work within the project.
- If relevant, up to three additional important memos, photos of significant work, annotated drawings, or other information you feel is important for the committee to review.
- Talks, lectures, and other related activities need only include those during the review period. Invited talks and lectures should be listed by the title, year and location and/or meeting. Contributed talks and posters are optional for inclusion.