Tenure systems have varied in form and function across the many disciplines and years, and their opportunities have expanded or contracted with changing economic times. Present faculty layoffs and hiring freezes have some on tenure tracks concerned they may be denied tenure, and many others who seek positions (whether or not on a tenure track) very concerned with the absence of prospects. In the medical and health sciences, new models of tenure are emerging that provide greater flexibility to both institution and scholar, and that may question the utilty of tenure as we know it.
Tenure opportunities reportedly have declined in medical research over the last 30 years (Wald, 2009). In part, medical schools may prefer to fill short-term, grant funded positions with non-tenure track researchers. In response, highly promising researchers may see better prospects in medical institutes that can guarantee financial supports between and in addition to grant funding, or offer family-oriented benefits and mentoring. Other researchers who do seek a tenure track may negotiate a few years to master a position prior to officially starting the clock and the track's specific requirements (Wald, 2009).
In other disciplines, perhaps these developments are not so novel. Social science think tanks, both those attached to universities and not, may offer impressive funding, job security, benefits, and publishing opportunities, without the hassles of a tenure track. As quoted in Wald (2009), Dr. Andrea Ladd, now working at the Cleveland Clinic, articulates, "What I really need to look at, more than whether or not there's tenure, is what the environment's going to be like."
See: Chelsea Wald, Redefining Tenure at Medical Schools, CTSciNet, March 6, 2009, available at http://sciencecareers.sciencemag.org/career_magazine/previous_issues/articles/2009_03_06/caredit.a0900032