Formatting a CV for a faculty job application

One thing I think blogs can be useful for is providing information that ideally a mentor would provide, but that, for whatever reason, doesn’t always end up being provided. Some examples from our blog include how to suggest reviewers, how to respond to reviewers, and how to review a manuscript for a journal. Here, I will focus on how to format one’s CV when applying for a faculty position. Update 8/26/16: To be clear: I write this from the perspective of a scientist at an American research university. All of my search committee experience is on searches related to ecology and evolutionary biology.

One of the most important things is to make it easy for someone who is looking over your CV to find things quickly. You can accomplish this by having clearly demarcated sections. When I was a postdoc and applying for faculty jobs for the first time, I got application materials from several people I knew who’d recently gotten jobs. I looked through all their CVs and took the elements that seemed to most effective and used those on mine. At a minimum, you want to have things split out into sections for different major aspects of your history (see more specifics on these below), and you want those sections offset in some way (bold and/or underlined and/or some other formatting that makes the section headings stand out clearly). Here are a couple of CVs (Ben Winger‘s and Cassie Stoddard‘s) that I think do a good job of this (these are also linked to below in a more specific context).

A second important thing is do not make it look like you’re padding your CV or trying to pull a fast one on people reading it. I will give specifics related to this in different sections below, but some examples include mixing “in prep” pubs in the middle of a list of published things, making it seem like you received a multi-million dollar grant when you received a small subaward, or listing grants/awards that you won based on a lottery. (And, yes, I have seen all of those things on CVs submitted by job applicants.)

What sections should you include? At the top of the first page, you should have your name, current position, and current contact info. (If you’re on the job market, having your contact phone number is a good idea, as search committee chairs often call people who are getting an interview.*)

After that, most CVs list education and employment history, including undergraduate and graduate degrees, postdoctoral training, and relevant jobs (e.g., work at an NGO, faculty position). Do not list where you went to high school (or anything else from high school). I think it’s fine to list major accomplishments from when you were an undergrad (e.g., a presentation at a national meeting).

The exact order of what to include after that varies somewhat, and there isn’t agreement in terms of whether pubs or teaching or something else should go next. (See the discussion in this comment thread for more on this topic.) Personally, I think teaching, publications, grants, and fellowships & awards should be the next four sections, but I don’t have a strong opinion about which order those four should go in. The exception is for someone applying to a teaching-oriented institution: then, I would recommend putting the teaching section first.

While I said that I think teaching, publications, grants, and fellowships & awards should be the first four sections after the bio stuff, I apparently didn’t do that when I applied for my first faculty positions. I just looked at the CV I used when I applied to Georgia Tech, and see that I had teaching way down near the bottom (in part, I think, because I did not have much in the way of teaching experience before I started my first faculty position). So, I’ll stress again that probably the most important thing is having the sections easily demarcated so that the information can be easily found, regardless of the order.

For the teaching section, you’ll want to make it clear whether you were a teaching assistant or the instructor of record; the latter will be much more impressive and jobs at teaching-intensive institutions sometimes have this as a requirement (even if unofficial) for getting an interview. You’ll also have a teaching statement where you can go through this sort of stuff (as well as your teaching philosophy), but if your CV doesn’t impress the reader, they might not look at your statements.

People sometimes also including mentoring experience in this section. I think that’s fine, though you could also include this in a separate section, especially if you have a fair amount of mentoring experience. Some people list the names of the people they have mentored and the project they worked on. Others just say the number of students they mentored. Others list the student names but not the project names. (The latter is what I do on my CV now.) I think the key would be to give enough info (succinctly!) for someone to understand your level of involvement. So, for example, you could write something like: “I have mentored 4 undergraduate students who worked in the lab, including one (Firstname Lastname) who completed an Honors Thesis under my supervision.” Then, you could include more about your mentoring of those students in a teaching statement.

You should have your publications listed in reverse chronological order (meaning your newest pubs at the top). Bold your name to make it easy for someone scanning the list to see where you are in the author string. I suggest numbering them since the committee members are likely to count them anyway. If you and someone else were “co-first” authors, you cannot switch the order of the first two. If an undergrad you mentored is a coauthor on a publication, that is worth noting.

Split your publications section into three different sections (or four, if you have non-peer reviewed pubs; see the last part of this section for more on those). Have the top section be the papers that have already appeared or that are in press. Below that, have a section for papers that are in review, listing the journal. (Update 9/1/16: In the “in review” section, I think it’s worth noting “in review” (for something in its first round of review at a journal) or “in revision” (if a revision was invited). You can put that after the journal – for example, “Ecology, in revision”.) A big question (and a source of much debate!) is whether to include manuscripts that are in prep. My opinion is that you should, but that you should only include ones where, if the person writes you to ask about it, you could send them a complete draft. I indicated that by putting “manuscripts available upon request” in parentheses after the “In preparation” heading, to try to indicate that these things really did exist. Do not list every idea you’ve ever had as an “in prep” manuscript. (I’ve seen lists that were >20 manuscripts; that just looks silly and falls into the category of looking like you are trying to pad your CV.) Again, only list it if you could send me a complete draft when I see the title on your CV, think it looks intriguing, and want to read more.

Another common question is, if including an “in prep” section, whether you should list the target journal. I think it is good to do so but people will certainly take what you write with a grain (or entire shaker) of salt. (If you list several as in prep for Nature or Science, no one will believe you.) But it sometimes helps me to know whether you’re envisioning an ecological journal or a microbiology journal or a behavior journal or whatever.

For the section for publications that are already published (or in press), some people list the impact factor of the journal. I don’t pay much attention to that, but I also don’t get annoyed if someone does it. Most people don’t include that, though, and I would advise a mentee of mine not to include it.

Another question for this section is whether to include press coverage related to an article. I think this is good, listing it as a bullet right below the publication – again, being brief (e.g., “Covered by the BBC, National Geographic, and NPR”). Sometimes, someone has had a lot of media coverage of their work. In that case, having a separate section related to public outreach might be worthwhile; my new colleague Ben Winger does this on his CV, which I think is very well-formatted. I would recommend against including altmetrics. I think most people don’t know how to interpret them, and most people don’t include them.

One question that came via twitter was how to indicate slow research output due to having babies. I have seen people do this, and I try to take it into account. For example, when going through CVs, I keep track of things in a spreadsheet where I note the year of the PhD; I would add a note there to take into account family leave for birth of a child, eldercare, etc. However, there is no question that there are still a lot of biases against women who have children, and that it could easily trigger implicit (or even explicit) bias. So, I would recommend against it (even though it pains me to type that).

Update 8/26/16: In the comments, Matthew Holden asked about where to put non-peer-reviewed publications. Those should go in a separate section for “Other publications” or “Non-peer-reviewed publications”. If you put these in the middle of the list of regular publications, it will look like you are padding your CV. See more discussion on this in the comments.

If you’ve received any grants, you should have a separate section for grants on your CV. One thing that can be common is that grad students will have received a small amount of funding from a departmental or university source every year. Do not list each of these separately. Instead, put something like:
2010-2015: Department Research Grant Name, University Name ($3050)

If you have a collaborative grant, make it clear who the lead PI is, who the co-PIs were, what the total grant budget was, and what your portion of the budget was.

If you’ve written a grant but were senior personnel rather than a PI (usually due to institutional restrictions), sometimes people list that here with a note. I think that’s fine to do (others might disagree with this), but it is essential that you make it clear you were not a PI. I suggest putting it in a separate section with a subheading, such as “Proposals w/Lastname as Senior Personnel”. You could then put “(co-wrote with PILastname)” or “(ApplicantLastname wrote X% of proposal)” or something like that after the basic info about the grant. This CV from Haldre Rogers uses an asterisk for this purpose; it doesn’t use the subheading approach, but it’s still clear from her CV when she was not the official PI on a grant. (Drew Tyre’s CV uses a similar approach.) I also like the way of doing it shown in the tweet below. Whichever you use, make sure the formatting makes it so that a person reviewing hundreds of CVs won’t miss the note. I also want to emphasize that you should make sure at least one of your letter writers addresses the topic, noting your contributions to conceiving the project and writing the proposal.

If you have a proposal that is currently under review, that is worth including but, similar to the publications section, you want to make sure that you have it separated in a way that makes it clear that it’s pending, not funded. Again, I suggest having a subheading (e.g., “Pending proposals”).

A more recent question related to grants is whether to include that a preproposal was invited, even if the full proposal wasn’t funded. I think that you should. Getting a preproposal invited is an achievement, and shows that you have a promising idea for a project. Again, you should make sure to indicate that this was a previously invited preproposal, possibly with a different subsection. Sometimes people list the invited preproposal and then the results of the full proposal (e.g., “full proposal denied but received a ‘meritorious’ rating”).

Another related question is whether to include proposals submitted but not funded (in cases where there isn’t a preproposal) or preproposals that were submitted but not invited. I wouldn’t. If you want to indicate the breadth of agencies you could apply to, you can do that more effectively in a research statement.

Fellowships, Awards, and Other Honors
Depending on how many of these you have, you might want to split the fellowships out into a separate section. When possible, indicate the approximate amount of money that the fellowship represented. Do not include things you won based on a lottery (e.g., a travel award); this falls under the “don’t make it seem like you’re padding your CV” guideline. If you received an honorable mention for a prestigious award (e.g., for the NSF Graduate Research Fellowship), that’s definitely worth listing.

For awards, I’d give the name of the award, then the name of the group/university/society that gave the award. Sometimes, it can be worth including a very brief description, such as “given for an outstanding ecological research paper by a scientist under 40”. Otherwise, people reviewing your CV may not have a sense for whether the award you got was a small department one (which won’t make a big difference in how people view your CV) or one from a national society (which will look much more prestigious).

I would put this section after the ones listed above. Split out any invited talks from contributed talks. I think it’s worth including your contributed talks, as it helps show what meetings you go to and what you’ve talked about (which can help define what kind of scientist you are – and sometimes a department, or some people in it, are looking for a particular kind of person). Because of that, I think it is worth including talk titles, even though it makes things start to get kind of long, though I don’t feel very strongly about this. Personally, I don’t think there’s a point in including talks on which you are a coauthor. You are not going to get a job interview because you were third author on a talk at ESA.

There’s sometimes debate on twitter on whether to include presentations that were given as part of a job talk as an “invited” seminar. I think they should be – I don’t see why it’s less of an “invited” talk if people were considering offering you a job based on it!

Note: if you won an award for a talk or poster, make sure to put that in the “awards” section above, so it doesn’t get lost in the presentations section. Many folks will skip the contributed presentations section entirely, so would miss a note in there about an award.

Professional Service
Here, you would list department committees you’ve served on, journals you’ve been a reviewer for, and things along those lines. In terms of reviews, some people list the number of reviews they’ve done for a particular journal. That’s fine – it doesn’t hurt, in my opinion – but I don’t think it really matters either way.

Professional Societies
This is similar to the note in the “presentations” section above – it can signal what kind of scientist you view yourself as. It’s not heavily weighted, but it can be of interest. So, I suggest including it, but putting it way at the bottom.

Professional Development
Looking back at the CV I used when I applied for my first faculty position, I see that I included a “professional development” section. A key reason for this was to note that I had attended a workshop on innovative teaching and active learning. As I said above, I didn’t have a lot of teaching experience, and was hoping that this would signal that, despite that, I did care about teaching. You could also list important short courses you did here, especially if you think they might be relevant to the positions you’re applying for.

Other Professional Products
There was some discussion on twitter about how to include non-publication products like software and datasets. I think it would be fine to include major contributions in a separate section (e.g., if you developed an R package). As one example, Cassie Stoddard lists software in a separate section on her CV; I think her CV is also an excellent model for how to format a CV. But I recommend against including links to things like Genbank sequences or the Dryad/FigShare/whatever repository links for data you’ve archived. That would look like an attempt to pad one’s CV to many (probably most) reviewers.

Other topics
Someone on twitter asked about whether it would be good to include research projects that didn’t result in a publication, to show experience in a subject. I think this depends on your role in the project. If you were a hired research assistant, you could list this under “employment history”. But I don’t think it’s a big deal not to include it. (I generally haven’t included my time working as a research assistant between college and grad school on my CV, though I’m not entirely sure why.) However, if it’s your own work, I would say that you should leave it off. I think it would look weird to have entries for projects that you worked on but that haven’t worked out (or that haven’t made it to the stage of having a complete manuscript draft).

Updating CV
This is somewhat outside the subject of how to format your CV, but one thing that comes up is whether to submit an update to one’s CV. If you get a major grant, award, or have a paper accepted, yes, submit an update. If you submit a manuscript, it’s probably not worth updating.

Other thoughts
1. Once you have your CV drafted, make sure to get feedback on it, ideally from people who have experience serving on search committees. They can help you make decisions about specific things to include or not include. We did a lab meeting on CVs a few months ago and I think it was really useful.

2. I wouldn’t do a lot of tailoring of your CV for particular jobs – sometimes things that don’t seem directly related can end up helping. As an example, I’ve seen cases where some experience with policy has been helpful to a candidate, as there are a lot of students who might be interested in policy-related careers.

3. As long as you have your CV formatted well, I wouldn’t worry about how long it is. You don’t want to include unnecessary/irrelevant information, but you also shouldn’t worry about it being too long. I just looked back over the CVs for some of competitive applicants for recent searches I’ve been on and they were in the 3-7 page range. (All of those applicants were postdocs applying for their first faculty position.)

4. Finally, remember that academics have strong opinions, and they often don’t agree. So, while I think that what I wrote above would generally be accepted by many people reviewing job applications, there will be some disagreement.
Those are my thoughts on formatting your CV. I’ll be interested in hearing whether people have other tips (or disagree with some of those)! And, if you asked about something on twitter that I haven’t addressed, that just means I was having a hard time keeping track of the thread. Please ask again! And, if you have suggestions for links to publicly available, well-formatted CVs, please include those in the comments, too!


1. How North American search committees work (by Jeremy)
2. Useful links related to tenure track job searches in ecology (by me)
3. Weird and unwise things to include on your CV (by Jeremy; see comments for interesting discussion of CVs)


* As a postdoc, I decided not to answer the phone if I didn’t recognize the number, so I could prepare a little (after listening to the voicemail) before talking to the search committee chair. There were some fun moments when my phone would ring in my office and my officemate and I would excitedly start googling the area code to try to figure out which school it might be.

54 thoughts on “Formatting a CV for a faculty job application

  1. Interesting post and definitely agree with numbering publications and presenting them in reverse chronological order. One other thing I’d add is to indicate which of the publications have been peer reviewed and which have not. I use an asterisk – see:

    But I’m sure that there are other ways it can be done. I think that this is important because it’s possible to have publications in peer reviewed journals that are not in themselves peer reviewed, e.g. commentaries on recently published papers.

    • Yes, I agree that this is something that is important to note! Based on this post, you might not be surprised to hear that I have a separate subsection for this on my CV.🙂

    • Yes, I realized as I was falling asleep last night that I should have included something about pictures. As you say, they’re common in some countries but not others. They’re not standard in the US, though some applicants (from countries where they are the norm) include them.

      • Regarding German customs: I think peopled don’t care much if you apply with or without a photo. The tradition is to have a photo, but people are used to international applications coming in without a photo, not a big deal.

        What does raise some eyebrows sometimes is that US applications often come in with the letterhead / logo of their current institution. This is a no-go here (letterhead is not to be used for private purposes).

        One addition to your teaching recommendations: for faculty positions, it has become quite common to include your teaching evaluations in the CV.

      • @Florian: That’s very interesting to know about the letterhead! In the US, it’s the norm for the cover letter to be on the letterhead of the person’s current institution.

  2. Don’t list target journal for “in prep”. The published work should give a reasonable range for where you publish and the title indicates topic domain.

    I think the “I wrote the grant but couldn’t be PI” thing comes off badly and unsubstantiated. I realize some people really did write the whole grant for their PI. More commonly they *think* it was all them but it really wasn’t. This is grist for a reference letter, IMO.

    • So what should you list on your CV if you *honestly truly* conceived of and wrote the whole grant and then had to submit it under a PI’s name. because of institutional rules? (PI reviewed the penultimate draft and gave some feedback?) What if the grant fully supports only you (and not the PI)? What if you’re not sure your PI will do a good job of explaining the situation in a reference letter? What if your relationship with that PI has soured? I think it’s a bad idea to rely only on reference letters for something like this…

      • I think that statement on a CV without support from a reference letter would be not weighted very seriously. As Dm said, some people say this but it’s not really true. Unfortunately, that means any such statement is viewed skeptically. So, if the person who was the official PI isn’t writing a letter, then another letter would need to address it.

      • “What if you’re not sure your PI will do a good job of explaining the situation in a reference letter? What if your relationship with that PI has soured? ”

        Picking up on a broader issue here: if you don’t trust your PI to write a good reference letter (say, because your relationship has soured for some reason), then ideally you *really* need another reference to address the situation head-on. Because if you’re a postdoc applying for faculty positions, it looks very odd if you don’t have a reference from your current PI (well, unless you only joined your current PI’s lab a couple of months ago or something). Same goes for, say, a master’s student applying for a PhD program. It looks really odd if you don’t have a reference from your current supervisor, so if you don’t you need another reference who can address the situation. And while you can try to explain the situation yourself in your cover letter, there’s a serious risk that whatever you say won’t be believed or will be heavily discounted, since after all you have an interest in putting yourself in the best possible light.

        I know of a prospective PhD student who’d had a falling out with his master’s supervisor, so bad that he was more or less obliged to withdraw from the graduate program. So he had no reference letter from his master’s supervisor. But he had letters from the graduate program director and others explaining the situation and making clear that none of it was the student’s fault (if anything, it was to his credit for having the guts to stand up to a supervisor who wasn’t behaving appropriately). He got into a PhD program, got his PhD, and went on to professional success.

      • Hmm – guess I am at odds with my DE colleagues on CVs in general. I have seen the statement of wrote grant and submitted under PIs name more than once and have always taken at face value (as have other members of the search committee). Its not an uncommon situation for a postdoc.

        Jeremy’s broader advice about needing to address letter writer issues is good though.

  3. Just to reinforce/elaborate on the point about “in prep” publications. The *only* reason to include them is to give the reader a bit of a sense of what you’re working on now, without having to look at your research statement. The purpose is *not* to cause the reader to think “Dr. Smith has X publications now, but soon will have X+Y”. Because as Meg notes, no reader will think that. No reader of your cv gives you any “extra credit” for “in prep” publications. No, not even if you’ve also uploaded them to arXiv.

    Further, I think that once you have enough of a track record (say, you’ve been a postdoc for a couple of years), there’s no need to list in prep publications to give a sense of what you’re working on. Your track record establishes who you are and what sort of science you do.

    And as Meg said, the *only* reason to list target journals for in prep publications is to give the reader of your cv a sense of whether you see your work as ecology, or behavior, or microbiology, or what. Saying that you’re targeting Nature/Science/PNAS just makes readers roll their eyes (well, maybe unless you have a track record of publishing in those journals, but if you have such a record, listing in prep publications surely serves no purpose any more). Nobody reading your cv is the least bit impressed that you “aim high” in your choice of journal. They only care about what targets you’ve hit, not which ones you aim for.

    p.s. I used to list “in prep” publications on my cv until a few years ago when I realized it served no purpose given my track record. It wasn’t a big deal–little details of how your format your cv are not going to make a material difference to your chances of landing a job. But still, I dropped them.

    • Yes, I’ve also stopped including them, for the same reason. But for job applicants I really like to see them, for the “where are they going next” purpose – but also for another purpose. I think they give a useful picture of how someone sees publication strategy and (closely related) degree of synthetic approach. Are there eight “in prep” MSS listed, but each seems minor, incremental, or repetitive? Or just two, with broad, synthetic titles?

      • ” I think they give a useful picture of how someone sees publication strategy”

        I think I disagree with that, because they’re not an honest signal. Many cv’s I’ve seen that list target journals for in prep publications suggest a publication “strategy” of “aim way too high”. And I don’t trust the number of “in prep” mss as information about publication strategy, because I have no way to verify if those are complete drafts that will be submitted next week, or folders of data files and exploratory figures, or what.

        And if I can’t tell from your list of published papers whether you aim for lots of minor incremental papers, or few broad substantial papers, then you don’t have enough of a track record to be competitive for the job. At least not if it’s a faculty job with some expectation of research.

      • Well, I can’t mount a _strong_ counterargument. You’re right they can be a dishonest signal, but that’s why I agree with Meg that they should be full drafts, available on request. Guess I should have said so. As for “then you don’t have enough of a track record” – it’s not a dichotomy. It adds information to that available from the published papers. I certainly agree that by itself, it doesn’t carry the story!

      • I had also taken the “in prep” ones off my CV, since I also think they serve no purpose at this point. But I was recently advised by a senior colleague to put them back on. So, I’ve done that, but probably will take them back off after going up for promotion to full.

    • One reason to list in prep manuscripts on a CV is in the case where you referencing among documents. For instance, if in a research statement you cite your past work (e.g., Yee et al. 2012), you can also cite in prep work for current/recent projects (e.g., Yee et al. in prep). This allows you to save space on a research statement (many are restricting applicants to 2 pages), Without the “in prep” on the CV, you’d probably feel like adding a disclaimer, like “we are presently preparing a manuscript based on the findings of this project”, to show how far along the work is. I do agree that 1-3 in prep articles is enough and listing them fulfills the trifecta of “past, present, and future” for research productivity.

    • I have an “outreach” section on my cv. As to whether it matters to search committees, I think it depends on the job. For many faculty positions, it probably doesn’t matter one way or the other. But if it’s, say, a position for which interacting with the public is part of the job (e.g., it’s part of the job for some paleontologists based at museums), then it will probably matter.

      It can also matter as one thing among many others that creates an overall impression of who you are and what you’re all about. For instance, if it’s a teaching position, and you’re someone who’s done public workshops and K-12 classroom visits, and has taken and offered pedagogical training, and has revamped a course to include a lot of active learning, etc., I think all adds up. Taken together, it creates a picture of someone who’s passionate about their subject and takes teaching really seriously.

  4. Good article. It’s also good to know when to remove stuff from a CV, especially as one progresses up the ladder. That stuff that might have been interesting when applying for post docs, might look desperate when applying for the second post doc or a job or tenure/promotion Often you reach a tipping point, where the “old” stuff becomes overshadowed by the newer stuff. CVs are never done.

    • Yes! One of the things we talked about at the lab meeting we had where we reviewed CVs was how some things will change over time. Though, as the “in prep” discussion above indicates, there can be disagreement about what changes to make!

    • I have been thinking about this re. non-invited presentations. At what point do I cut down to only listing “selected” ones? Points made above re. highlighting undergraduate presentation at national conferences and showing the areas I see my research fitting in to would be relevant here, I think. To give my own context, I am currently a postdoc applying for tenure-track positions.

      (Meg, you or others in your department should be seeing my CV and application soon!)

      • Just offhand, I’d say it’s still too early for you to cut down on listing non-invited conference presentations, maybe unless you go to a *ton* of conferences. I still list all of mine, and I’m a full prof (albeit one who only goes to 1 conference most years). But I don’t list all the details, and you don’t have to either. I just have a list of years in which I’ve presented at the ESA annual meeting (e.g., “2001-9, 2011-16: oral presentation, Ecological Society of America Annual meeting”). It’s a compact way of saying “I present at the ESA meeting most every year”, which is all anyone reading my cv really needs to know. Same thing for other meetings I attend less often (e.g., “2009, 2011: Evolution Annual Meeting”). People can get a general sense of what those talks were about by looking at my publication list. And while there are some talks I’ve given that have yet to turn into papers, nobody cares about those enough to want to know what they were about.

        Similarly, I stopped listing the titles of my invited talks many years ago. I just list the year and the venue (e.g., “2015: Michigan State University”) in a section called “Invited presentations”

        Regarding student and collaborator conference presentations on which I’m a co-author, I just list their total number, not even giving the year or the conference. “Co-author of X oral presentations and Y poster presentations by students and collaborators”.

  5. Also wanted to add that cv formatting practices vary a bit by discipline. If you just google “formatting academic cv” or similar, you’ll get many sources of advice that are geared for the humanities without saying they’re geared for the humanities. For instance, many sources will advise you to lead your cv with a statement of scholarly interests, achievements, and long-term goals. Which is conspicuously (and rightly) absent from Meg’s advice, which is aimed at scientists, particularly ecologists and evolutionary biologists. Many science faculty positions ask for separate research and teaching statements and a separate cover letter, and it’s redundant to include condensed versions of those on your cv.

    • Yes, good point. I added a preface to the post this morning explaining that I’m writing from the perspective of an American at an R1 who has been on EEB searches. I agree that it would not be good to have a summary of the research statement as part of the CV!

  6. Many thanks for putting this guide together! Another suggestion I’d add is to benchmark aspects of your track record for your career stage and discipline. This is particularly important if you are applying for a position within a large and diverse School/Institution/Company, where your selection committee members may span a range of disciplines and backgrounds. A growing body of literature on the outputs, citations & other metrics for early-, mid- and late-career scientists (e.g., Laurence et al. 2013 BioScience 63, 817-823; Swihart et al. 2016 J Wildlife Management 80, 563-572) can help with this benchmarking.

    • Can you give an example? I think maybe you’re suggesting that you should compare your publications/citations to those of others at a similar career stage. If that’s correct, I think that would look strange on a CV and would advise against it.

  7. Where would something like a “Nature Correspondence” go on a CV. I’ve seen it placed in sections called “non-peer-reviewed publications”, or in the publication section without specifying which are peer-reviewed and which are not, and in sections titled “In peer-reviewed journals” (that one had 3 sections, peer-reviewed, in peer-reviewed journals, and non-peer-reviewed). Nature correspondences and the equivalent in science are quite difficult to get accepted, but they are not peer-reviewed, and don’t contain new data or much if any analysis. I’d like to place it on the CV in a way that doesn’t over-sell or under-sell it (not exactly sure what its worth is), and especially don’t want to appear to be pulling a fast one.

    • The first possibility you list is the best; it’s totally fine. I call that section of my cv “other publications”, which I think is fine too. I have an invited Nature News & Views piece in that section, an invited interview with Rich Lenski for Plos Biology, an ESA Bulletin article, and the introduction to a Functional Ecology special feature that I helped guest-edit.

      In the publication section without any indication that it’s not peer reviewed is a blatant attempt at cv padding, and is 100% guaranteed to be spotted and seen as such. Putting a non-peer-reviewed piece in a section called “in peer-reviewed journals” is almost as blatant, and just as guaranteed to be seen through. I mean, why should anyone care that it was “in a peer reviewed journal” if it wasn’t actually peer reviewed? And if you have another section that is called “non-peer reviewed publications”, why the heck would it not contain *all* your non-peer-reviewed publications?

      There’s a fourth option: you sometimes see people put all their publications in a single section of their cv, with asterisks or other markers of what’s peer-reviewed and what’s not. Personally, I don’t like that. It may not be actively misleading, but it makes it harder for someone reading your cv to separate the wheat from the chaff. Don’t make life hard on whoever’s reading your cv! Make it easy for them to find the information they consider most important, and separate it from the information they consider less important.

      The mere fact that most submitted Nature correspondence is rejected doesn’t mean it’s going to impress any reader of your cv that yours was accepted, no matter how you list it. Such correspondence counts for little in the eyes of anyone reading your cv. You don’t want to give the impression that you think it should count for more. I mean, Journal of Improbable Research has a high rejection rate too (higher than Nature, I’ve heard), but would you expect a publication there to count even slightly in your favor?🙂

      Now may be a good time to re-up this old post on honest signals in academia. tl;dr: You pretty much cannot game the system (e.g., by padding your cv) and it’s a bad idea to try even on the most ruthlessly Machiavellian grounds:

      • That was my inclination and how it is currently listed on my CV (I actually have it in my pop-sci article section). I also thought that “in peer-reviewed journals” was absolutely ridiculous, and perhaps even worse than sticking it in the publication section. Someone could conceivably stick everything in a publications section without thinking about it, but the “in peer-reviewed journals” seems especially conniving. When a respected colleague showed me his CV with these items listed as such, I was pretty shocked.

      • “you sometimes see people put all their publications in a single section of their cv, with asterisks or other markers of what’s peer-reviewed and what’s not…..It may not be actively misleading, but it makes it harder for someone reading your cv to separate the wheat from the chaff. Don’t make life hard on whoever’s reading your cv! Make it easy for them to find the information they consider most important, and separate it from the information they consider less important.”

        As I indicated above, I use the asterisk system, so I feel a need to push back on this one Jeremy! First of all, it’s in no sense misleading (actively or passively) because it tells the reader exactly what is or is not peer reviewed.

        Secondly, what exactly is “wheat” and what’s “chaff” here? _All_ scientific communication is important and, as I’ve discussed on my blog and people like Steve Heard have discussed also, scientists must write across a range of published formats (peer reviewed and not peer reviewed, primary science, “popular” science, etc.) if they are going to communicate their ideas effectively to a wide audience. On my publication list I have peer reviewed papers that are fairly light weight and made no real (academic) impact following publication, and non peer reviewed articles that have had much more influence. But I’m proud of all of them and stand by them, and see no reason to categorise them for the (supposed) benefit of someone who reads the CV.

        In any case, in Britain at least, and given the Impact agenda promoted by the REF and the Research Councils, recruitment panels will want to see that young scientists are actively promoting their work beyond academia. That can be done in different ways (including blogging!) but articles in “popular” magazines certainly count.

        Having said all of that I’d not personally put correspondence on a CV’s list of publications, even if it was in Nature; they are just letters putting forward a point of view.

    • Excellent question! I agree that having a separate section for non-peer-reviewed publications is the way to go. I only have one of these, and have it hanging out on its own in a separate section.

      I agree with Jeremy that having a non-peer-reviewed publication in the regular publication section does not look good. In fact, this is such an important point that I will go update the post!

      • “having a non-peer-reviewed publication in the regular publication section does not look good”

        I have to disagree – what is a “regular publication”? As I said in my response to Jeremy, _all_ written scientific communication is valuable and I think we should be encouraging early career researchers to write is a range of styles and formats, for different audiences. As long as it’s made clear which are peer reviewed and which are not, does it matter that there’s just a single list?

    • I’m kind of with Jeff on this one. The lines are blurrier than we like to pretend. Book chapters are often sent out for peer review but it is often the editor of the book or an author of another chapter in the book. Many people say book chapters should be listed in a separate section, but they are technically peer-reviewed. Similarly, I have done a few pieces for various encyclopedias of X, and even those have some peer review even though it is a light touch and unlikely to be outright rejected. And for that matter, most correspondence at Nature IS peer-reviewed rather rigorously (at least the last time I was involved)(and most other journals). And what about a news-and-views piece for Science or Nature? That is one of the few things I’ve written that isn’t peer-reviewed in any sense (heavily copyedited yes, but peer reviewed on scientific accuracy no). Yet in my promotion to full professor, the fact I had written one was taken as way more prestigious by my peer committee than a peer reviewed piece in Ecology Letters.

      And as far as wheat vs chafe, I got told by more than one person as an early career scientist not to do review papers (another category I have seen some people break out on a CV) as they weren’t as much of a contribution to science as a research article, but reflecting on my own career, that was terrible advice.

      My philosophy has been don’t misrepresent, and especially don’t mislead. And then let the reader sort things out as they wish. As you say its usually pretty obvious what is a paper, what is a book chapter, what is an encyclopedia entry, what is a correspondence, etc to the reader.

      Even as a reader of CV’s I don’t like jumping around to multiple sections of publications. A single section listed chronologically with asterisks seems to me like a good way to go (I have to confess I have never even bothered with the asterisks and nobody has ever told me they felt fooled)

      • “Yet in my promotion to full professor, the fact I had written one was taken as way more prestigious by my peer committee than a peer reviewed piece in Ecology Letters.”

        Really? Huh, interesting. I know that being invited to do one is a reliable sign that you’re well-known and prominent in your field. But I hadn’t ever heard that they counted for *that* much, even in the eyes of deans and other senior admin. I mean, I never thought the fact that I co-authored one as a grad student counted for much. And maybe it didn’t, since I was second author and probably lots of people correctly inferred that my supervisor invited me on board to help him out with it. But then again, how would I have been able to tell how much difference it made?

        “I got told by more than one person as an early career scientist not to do review papers (another category I have seen some people break out on a CV) as they weren’t as much of a contribution to science as a research article, but reflecting on my own career, that was terrible advice.”

        That is terrible advice. And weird too. I mean, back in the early 80s, Stearns’ famous “modest advice” piece included the advice to grad students that, if you could publish the review-y bits of your dissertation proposal as a critical review paper, it was a sign that your proposal was a really good idea. Or think of important review papers like Schoener 1983 and Connell 1983. I don’t think anybody read those and thought “Why are Tom Schoener and Joe Connell wasting their time writing review papers?” Or think of Dan Bolnick and his fellow grad students getting the *Mercer Award* for a review paper. Or think of Jessica Gurevitch’s pioneering meta-analyses…Review papers are like any other sort of paper–the good ones are well worth doing and advance the field substantially, the weak ones not so much. (And just for the record, I’ve never seen anyone break review papers out as a separate section on their cv.)

  8. Anecdata on whether the advice in this post was new to readers. Short version: mostly not:

    In light of the anecdata, it’s interesting that this post was so massively popular (2000+ views just on the first day) and so widely retweeted and shared on Facebook. Basically, readers are mostly *not* reading and sharing stuff because it’s new to them.

    • Er, “bits were new” is pretty much why people read DE, no? My take home message is that people are sharing *because* there’s a tidbit in there that was new to them.

      • “Er, “bits were new” is pretty much why people read DE, no?”

        I like to think they mostly read it because they’re dying to know the answer to the question “I wonder what ridiculous argument or half-baked analogy popped into Jeremy’s head today?”

        Ok, mostly justified self-deprecation aside, I still suspect that many (most?) people are sharing our advice posts because the posts are familiar–they confirm what the sharer already thinks. Saw anecdata consistent with this in RTs of Brian’s “10 commandments” post of a few days ago. Lots of RTs from people saying or implying that they were sharing the post because they already knew and agreed strongly with it.

  9. Sort of related to my reply to Jeremy, on British CVs I’d expect to see some sort of statement about “Research Impact”. This is wider, societal impact rather than academic impact; and it’s not about publishing popular articles, or blogging, or tweeting, which can be part of the strategy towards impact but is not in itself impactful – the Research Excellence Framework (REF) would describe this as “Reach”.

    So, for ecologists, it could be descriptions of how their research has been translated into active, on-the-ground changes (e,g to management of nature reserves or exploited species), or how it’s been picked up by national and international policy documents and then influenced policies on specific issues (invasive species, pollinator conservation, etc.)

    Even if these things have not yet happened, a statement about how they might happen in the future would be a good thing to include.

    One of the reasons why this is important is that departments are constantly on the look out for Research Impact Case Studies for the REF in future years and it demonstrates that you are engaged with this agenda, or at least aware of it.

  10. When listing fellowship $ amounts, do you include the full value or the take-home value? For example, I had an NSF GRF. I received a total in $90,000 in fellowship. But I also received tuition coverage, which ended up being another $30,000 or so. Include the $30,000 or not? I haven’t, in part because it would be a pain in the neck to figure out the exact amount of tuition coverage I received (also health insurance coverage… hmm). But I’ve seen CVs of other people who have reported the full benefit amount, not just the stipend. Padding or not?

    • I think the full benefit amount is valid – if somebody is paying it on your behalf because they value your research/education, it is an award. On a research grant,people include overhead/indirect and that is way less of a benefit to you than tuition.

    • I agree with Brian–report the full award. Though if it’s a pain to calculate the value of that because the award comes with tuition remission or whatever, then I’d say just report the value that’s convenient to report. Or maybe say “$90K plus tuition”. Shouldn’t make any difference for major awards like an NSF GRF, with which most readers of your cv are likely to be familiar. If I see an NSF GRF on someone’s cv, I know what that is and think highly of it, no matter what dollar amount they quote for it, or even if they don’t quote a dollar amount at all. Plus, I doubt the precise dollar amount is usually going to differ enough between the take-home and full award for the difference to matter. Whether you say your award is a 90K award and a 120K award, well, those amounts are similar in people’s minds. I’m struggling to think of a situation in which the full value and the take-home value would differ by a sufficiently large amount to matter to anyone reading your cv. Am I overlooking some obvious case?

      • Makes sense. I just went to double-check what I do. I do “$90K plus tuition”. Glad to know that’s fine, since life’s too short for backtracking the cost of tuition many years ago…

  11. Re: noting on your cv if your paper was picked up in the media, I suggest that you *not* list as “media” any outlet that more or less indiscriminately publishes bazillions of press releases, sometimes after light editing. EurekAlert, Science Daily,, etc.–they’re all basically just press release aggregators. Getting “picked up” by them basically just says your own employer put out a press release about your work. Which is not something that belongs on your cv (not even if you’re at a small teaching institution).

  12. Pingback: How many non-peer-reviewed publications should a scientist produce? | Jeff Ollerton's Biodiversity Blog

  13. Pingback: Useful links related to tenure track job searches in ecology | Dynamic Ecology

    • Yes, I think those would be worth including (with a note to indicate that the presentation is by an undergrad you mentored)

  14. Just for curiosity: the Brazilian government funding agency CAPES keeps an on line cv basis:
    Anyone in academia in Brazil must have an on line CV there. It has some problems related to the global format, but every user knows exactly how to explore it. Researchers must keep it updated to receive grants, so it is always a good source of information on someone’s work

  15. Hi, Two questions with thoughts:

    1) I’ve never heard of “lottery” awards/ grants. I won several travel grants as a graduate student that were competitive, both at society and university level. Actually, in my society they grant only 8 or 9 every year, and most years they have dozens of applicants. I’ve heard it suggested to somehow write out “how competitive” awards or grants were – e.g. 1 of only 2 student oral presentation awards given at annual society meeting – so that committee members know more. However, I also feel like this just clutters a CV with too much information. Any thoughts about this?

    2) I’ve never put $$$ amounts on my CV (although I have received several well known fellowships and grants) and lesser known societal fellowships and awards. Do you see that as a committee member? CVs without dollar amounts? Would you discount someone who doesn’t include? I don’t know why, but to me it feels very strange to include the money, especially when everybody knows approximately how much a, e.g. GRF or a DDIG, recipient receives. It’s different if you’re Co-PI on an NSF DEB grant, but many CVs of postdocs do not have these grants yet.

    • First, a small clarification for some readers, in case any readers need one: a lottery award just means that award recipients are selected at random from among all applicants, whereas competitive awards are given to the most meritorious or deserving applicants. So winning a competitive award says something about you as an applicant, whereas winning a lottery award doesn’t. The difference isn’t to do with how many applicants there are relative to how many awards are given out.

      As an applicant, you often don’t have much ability to say how “competitive” a competitive award was. You often don’t know how many applicants there were, or what the distribution of merit was across those applicants. And even if you do know the number of applicants, it’s often a lousy measure of competitiveness. For instance, if lots of people apply who obviously have no hope of being selected on their merits (like if I was nominated for the Nobel Peace Prize), does that really make the award more “competitive” in any meaningful sense? The number of awards given is a lousy measure of “competitiveness” too. I can tell you from personal experience that there’s a major student award given by a leading scientific society at its annual meeting that often has only 2 or 3 applicants for a single award. It’s not a competitive award at all even though only one is given out each year and it’s handed out by a major scientific society. So yeah, I wouldn’t suggest trying to say on your cv how “competitive” your award was. Maybe just call that section of your cv “competitive awards”, so that readers know that they *were* competitive as opposed to lottery awards. Leave it to your reference letter writers to offer some context and explain how “competitive” award X was.

    • 1) Good question. To explain more: I have seen people list, for example, ESA Aquatic Ecology Section travel awards on their CV. I have been in charge of giving those out, and so know that those are chosen by putting names into a hat and drawing from that. (Okay, more accurately, it’s done with a digital version of that!) So, when people list that on a CV and I see it, it makes me wonder about the other awards that I don’t know as well.

      If you want to make it clear it wasn’t a lottery, I would suggest adding something like (“selected based on research abstract”) or whatever they evaluated. But, really, travel awards aren’t going to make a big difference either way.

      2) Yes, I see CVs without dollar amounts, but it makes it more likely that I will overlook something that is a major award/fellowship that I am just less familiar with. I always look for things like a GRF and DDIG, and suspect most other people reviewing applications do, too. For a GRF, I’d say it doesn’t really matter whether you list the amount, because people probably notice it either way (though having a number with a bunch of zeroes on the end does have a way of drawing attention). For a DDIG, it’s pretty standard to list the amount, and I think it would look a little odd not to have it listed (since the amount varies between awards).

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