Carnegie Mellon University School of Computer Science

Guidelines for R&P Reading Committees


The purpose of the Reading Committee is to have a small group of faculty (2-3) from different areas carefully read, digest and discuss the merits of each candidate's case. In addition to considering the details of the case as it stands alone, the committee should take the opportunity to discuss how the promotion fits with the department and the whole of SCS.

One member of each committee will be a designated chair, and will be responsible for arranging the committee meetings. The meetings should be forums for gaining fairly thorough, grounded understandings of each candidate's specific contributions and position in the field and in the school.

The reading groups are not meant to inhibit the rest of the faculty from looking at all the materials of all the other cases. Rather, by setting up these groups we ensure that in-depth, informed discussion goes on before the larger official meetings and votes take place.


Individual members of department level and college level review committees expect to be able to review information that is sometimes hard to find in the documentation collected in the casebook. For example, they need a summary of the opinions given by recommenders (writers of internal/external letters) of the significance of the candidate’s research, and an assessment of the stature of the external people writing letters of recommendation. For each candidate we appoint someone from the senior faculty to chair each promotion case.  The chair leads the reading committee, becomes familiar with the case and presents the case to the department committee.  The committee analyzes the strengths and weaknesses of the case and, working with the committee chair, summarizes these in the case digest.

Responsibilities of the reading committee chair:

  1. Advise the candidate on preparation of the case
  2. Ensure the case presents the candidate’s accomplishments and contributions as clearly and objectively as possible
  3. Prepare a digest describing the case (see below)
  4. Summarize the case at the departmental review meeting, including potential areas for feedback

With respect to research and external reputation, the digest should at a minimum address three things:

  1. An unbiased summary of the candidate's research work and its significance for advancing the field,
  2. A constructively critical  review of the candidate's papers and/or systems (in the style of an annotated bibliography) pointing out their significance and contributions to the field, and
  3. A brief comment on the authors of external recommendations, describing their position and/or contribution to the field.

The digest should be on the order of 1-3 typed pages long: half a page for the personal evaluation, one page for the review of the papers and systems, and half a page commenting on the recommenders. The digest should explain anything unusual, for example by highlighting nontraditional contributions.

The digest is prepared by the chair to provide a balanced summary of the case and the reading committee’s interpretation of it; the committee is not required to make an overall recommendation. The digest does not replace the internal letters of recommendation - individual opinions of the shepherd or members of the reading committee should be expressed in a separate letter to be included elsewhere in the case. If the outcome is strongly indicated by the case, the digest will indicate that.  If among the reading committee members there are varying opinions of the merits of the case, the digest should explain all the opinions.  The presentation of the case and subsequent discussion at the department level review meeting should include consideration of any varying opinions.

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