Appointments as officers of research may be made to the grades defined in the University Statutes. These grades of office are organized into four categories: professional, postdoctoral, staff, and student officers of research. The first three are described here, and the fourth is discussed in Chapter VII.
Professional officers of research hold the doctorate or its professional equivalent and perform independent research in the area of their training. Depending on their seniority and grade of office, they may be principal investigators (see Chapter VI). Even when they are not, they have substantial independence in performing their responsibilities. They design and carry out experiments, analyze the data, and publish the results, either independently or as co-authors with other participants in their research programs. They set research goals or assist principal investigators in doing so, and they may participate in the development of proposals and the administration of grants.
Postdoctoral appointments provide additional training after the doctorate, or its professional equivalent, that prepares individuals for independent careers as scientists and scholars. While most postdoctoral officers are recent recipients of the doctorate, or its professional equivalent, it is also appropriate to give these appointments to individuals of greater experience who wish to retrain themselves for careers in a new discipline or specialty. Postdoctoral officers work under the guidance of a principal investigator who may be a faculty member or an officer of research. Given the purpose of the appointment, these officers normally remain at the University for a limited duration lasting no more than three years. Extensions for up to an additional two years may be made with the prior permission of the Provost.
Staff officers of research assist members of the faculty or professional officers of research in the conduct of research or a clinical program. They carry out assigned duties in the design of apparatus, the adaptation of relevant technology to the needs of a project, the conduct of specific experiments, and the analysis of data. They may also be responsible for collecting data in a clinical program and providing services to its clients. In contrast to professional officers of research, they are not involved in setting research goals, do not design overall experimental protocols, and may not have a theoretical understanding of all aspects of the project in which they are engaged. They are distinguished from technicians, who are members of the supporting staff, in that they work under only limited supervision on complex assignments that require them to exercise a high degree of initiative and independent judgment. They also generally have greater knowledge and experience in their discipline, which they use to design solutions to specific research or technical problems.
Professional Officers of Research
There are three principal grades of professional researchers:
Senior research scientists/scholars are officers whose qualifications and contributions to their fields of research are equivalent to those of a full professor. They may be appointed for full-time service for a term of up to five years, which is renewable.
Research scientists/scholars are officers whose qualifications and contributions to their fields of research are equivalent to those of an associate professor. They may be appointed for full-time service for a term of up to 12 months, which is renewable.
Associate research scientists/scholars are junior officers whose qualifications are equivalent to those of an assistant professor. They may be appointed for full-time service for a term of up to 12 months, which is renewable.
Appointments as professional officers of research may also be made, as appropriate, in a visiting or adjunct capacity:
Visiting officers of research have an affiliation with another institution from which they are temporarily on leave while working at the University on projects of common interest with members of the faculty or research staff. Appointments may be made as visiting senior research scientist/scholar, visiting research scientist/scholar, and visiting associate research scientist/scholar, in accordance with the defined qualifications of those grades. Normally, visiting officers are given titles that correspond to the ranks they hold at their home institution. Visiting appointments may be made for full- or part-time service for periods of up to one year and are renewable for up to a total of two consecutive years. Further extension of these appointments requires the prior permission of the Provost.
Adjunct officers of research are experts in special fields who are appointed for part-time service for limited terms, which are renewable, of no more than 12 months. Normally, they are engaged in research at the University while working simultaneously at the institution of their primary affiliation. Individuals without any other institutional affiliation may also be appointed as adjunct officers of research if they are participating in ongoing projects sponsored by members of the faculty or the regular research staff. Appointments may be made as adjunct senior research scientist/scholar, adjunct research scientist/scholar, and adjunct associate research scientist/ scholar, in accordance with the defined qualifications of those grades.
The President may, on the recommendation of the Provost, appoint retired officers of instruction and research who continue to participate in a program of funded research as special research scientist/scholar. Such appointments are made for a term, which is renewable, of up to 12 months for part-time service.
Postdoctoral Officers of Research
There are four grades of appointment as postdoctoral officers of research:
Postdoctoral research scientists/scholars are recent recipients of the doctorate, or its professional equivalent, who come to the University to continue their training or are individuals of greater experience who wish to retrain themselves in a new discipline or specialty. They may be appointed for full- or part-time service for a term of up to 12 months, which is renewable for up to a total period of service in any postdoctoral rank of three years. Further extensions of an appointment in this rank require the prior permission of the Provost, which is normally granted only to complete a research project. Extensions are granted on an annual basis up to a maximum of two additional years in any postdoctoral rank. Officers appointed in this rank are paid a salary through the Office of the Controller or by an affiliated hospital or institute.
Postdoctoral research fellows are recent recipients of the doctorate, or its professional equivalent, who have received awards to continue their training at the University or are individuals of greater experience who have won awards permitting them to retrain themselves in a new discipline or specialty. They may be appointed for full- or part-time service for a term of up to 12 months, which is renewable for up to a total period of service in any postdoctoral rank of three years. Further extensions of an appointment in this rank require the prior permission of the Provost, which will normally be granted only when it is required to complete a research project. Extensions are granted on an annual basis up to a maximum of two additional years in any postdoctoral rank. In contrast to postdoctoral research scientists and scholars, who are paid a salary, these officers usually receive fellowship stipends, either through the University’s Office of the Controller or directly from an external funding agency.
Postdoctoral clinical fellows are recent recipients of the doctorate who come to the University to gain additional clinical training after completing their residency or are individuals of greater experience who wish to change clinical specialties. They may be appointed for full- or part-time service for a term of up to 12 months, which is renewable for up to a total period of service of three years in any postdoctoral rank. Further extensions of an appointment in this rank require the prior permission of the Provost. Extensions are granted on an annual basis up to a maximum of two additional years in any postdoctoral rank. These fellows may simultaneously hold appointments as officers of instruction in the rank of assistant in clinical (department). Depending upon the source of funding, one of these appointments will be full-time and the other, part-time. When the fellow receives a stipend, the appointment as a postdoctoral clinical fellow is full-time and the assistant in clinical (department) is part-time. The reverse is true when the individual is paid a salary.
Postdoctoral residency fellows hold the doctorate of medicine, dental medicine, or dental surgery and are enrolled in programs at affiliated hospitals and institutes for the purpose of obtaining additional clinical training before embarking on independent careers as physicians and dentists. They may be appointed for part-time service for a term of up to 12 months. The appointment is renewable as long as they continue in a training program.
Staff Officers of Research
There are two grades of staff officers of research:
A senior staff associate is an officer holding a bachelor’s or higher degree who has had at least eight years of professional experience in his or her field and who is appointed for a term, which is renewable, of up to 12 months for full- or part-time service.
A staff associate is an officer holding a bachelor’s or higher degree who has had at least four years of professional experience in his or her field and who is appointed for a term, which is renewable, of up to 12 months for full- or part-time service.
The senior rank is not assigned automatically upon completion of eight years of professional experience. Other considerations, including professional accomplishments and the degree of independence and level of responsibility of one’s position, are taken into account in making an appointment at this grade.
Last Revised November 2008
Power of Appointment
The President appoints all officers of research on the advice of the Provost, with the exception of the student officers – graduate research assistants and departmental research assistants – who are appointed by the Secretary of the University.
Procedures for Appointment and Promotion
Within each Faculty, the nomination of an officer for appointment or promotion originates in the department, division, school, institute, or center in which the officer will serve and is submitted to the appropriate dean or vice president for review. For centers and institutes that do not report to a dean or vice president, this review is performed by the director. All nominations to research appointments are reviewed by the Provost, or a representative, before being forwarded to the appropriate appointing authority. In the Faculties of Dental Medicine, Medicine, Nursing, and Public Health, the Provost has delegated this responsibility to the Executive Vice President for Health and Biomedical Sciences.
Appointments as officers of research, regardless of whether they carry compensation or not, are reserved for persons who are participating actively in a formal research program of a department, school, institute, or center. The University does not offer “courtesy” appointments to scientists or scholars who wish to be affiliated with it in order to pursue research of their own. Such individuals may, instead, be eligible for the designation of visiting scientist or visiting scholar (see Chapter VIII).
Offers of positions as officers of research should be made in writing prior to the start of the appointment. The offer letter should specify the officer’s title, length of appointment, compensation, and responsibilities. It should also indicate that the appointment is contingent upon the availability of funding. Substantial changes in the terms of the appointment of an officer of research should also be communicated in writing after those changes have been approved by the appropriate chair, director, or dean. To avoid misunderstandings and the possibility of later disputes, it is desirable to ask for the officer’s acceptance by countersigning and returning the letter of appointment.
Depending on the nature of the position, the duties of an officer of research may in some cases include writing new proposals for funding. In such situations, it is the responsibility of the principal investigator, department chair, director of the institute or center, or dean, as appropriate, to inform the officer of research in writing whether this activity is expected of the officer of research in the coming year. The principal investigator, chair, director, or dean and the officer of research should discuss the expectation of time required. Effort devoted to proposal writing must be funded by departmental sources.
Professional Officers of Research
While the procedures for appointing and promoting professional officers of research differ from those for officers of instruction, the standards of appointment are no less rigorous. Moreover, while research officers participate in the research programs of the University in diverse ways, a comparability of standards among the different divisions of the University must be maintained.
The selection of an associate research scientist/scholar may be made by a principal investigator following search procedures that may differ from those employed in filling positions as assistant professors but must conform with the requirements of the University’s policies on equal opportunity and affirmative action. The chair or director of the unit in which the nominee will serve supervises the selection and approves the principal investigator’s choice before forwarding the nomination to the appropriate dean or vice president, who reviews the nomination to ensure that the candidate has the proper qualifications and the University’s policies governing affirmative action have been observed.
The procedures for nominating a research scientist/scholar, or senior research scientist/scholar if the candidate is not already a research scientist/scholar, are analogous to those leading to a request for an ad hoc tenure review. The department, division, school, institute, or center evaluates the qualifications of the candidate and formally votes to recommend the appointment to the appropriate dean or vice president. The dean or vice president conducts a second review of the proposed appointment, which includes seeking the opinion of an advisory body of faculty and/or officers of research, such as a committee on appointments or an internal ad hoc committee, and soliciting letters of evaluation from established scientists and scholars outside the University who are familiar with the candidate’s field of specialization. If the outcome of the second review is favorable, the dean or vice president submits the nomination, with a dossier of supporting materials, to the Provost for approval.
The procedures for nominating research scientists/scholars who are already at the University for promotion to senior research scientist/scholar are similar to those that the various Faculties use in considering associate professors for promotion to the rank of professor. Similarly, the selection of candidates for appointment as visiting and adjunct officers of research is modeled after the process by which the Faculties nominate visiting and adjunct officers of instruction.
The nomination of retired faculty and officers of research to the rank of special research scientist/scholar is initiated by a letter from the dean, vice president, or director to the Provost, or Executive Vice President for Health and Biomedical Sciences in the case of the Faculties of Dental Medicine, Medicine, Nursing, and Public Health, explaining the special circumstances that make a continuation of service beyond retirement critical to a funded research project. No commitment for an appointment to this title can be made without the approval of the Provost or the Executive Vice President for Health and Biomedical Sciences, as appropriate.
Postdoctoral Officers of Research
Since postdoctoral officers of research are appointed primarily to further their professional training and are generally associated with the University for a limited time, the responsibility for their selection is largely left to the schools, departments, institutes, and centers in which they will serve. The procedures by which they are selected vary from one department to another, depending on their proposed responsibilities, source of funding, and, in some cases, the requirements of external accrediting councils.
In most instances, individual principal investigators select the postdoctoral research scientists/scholars, subject to the review of the department chair, dean, or director of the unit in which they will be working. Postdoctoral research, clinical, and residency fellows are chosen through an open, competitive process and a comparative evaluation of the qualifications of those who apply. The actual selection may also be made by an external granting agency, subject to confirmation by the University.
In the manner of other officers of research, nominations for postdoctoral appointments are subject to the review of the appropriate dean or vice president. All postdoctoral appointments also require the approval of the Provost. In the Faculties of Dental Medicine, Medicine, Nursing, and Public Health, the Provost has delegated this responsibility to the Executive Vice President for Health and Biomedical Sciences. The review of the Provost or Executive Vice President is intended primarily to confirm that candidates have the minimum qualifications for appointment. The process by which full-time postdoctoral officers are selected may also be subject to review to ensure that it follows the policies described in the University’s Affirmative Action Plan. Information on which postdoctoral searches require prior approval may be obtained by consulting the guidelines on affirmative action clearance for academic officers, which are available on the web site of the Associate Provost for Equal Opportunity and Affirmative Action at http://eoaa.columbia.edu/recruitment/faculty.
The maximum length of appointment as a postdoctoral residency fellow is determined by the residency program in which the officer is training. Other postdoctoral officers – postdoctoral research scientist/scholar, postdoctoral research fellow, and postdoctoral clinical fellow – are normally appointed for one year at a time up to a maximum of three years of service. The Provost may authorize extensions when these postdoctoral officers need additional time in order to complete the projects on which they are working. Requests for extension require the review and approval of the appropriate department chair, dean, director, and vice president before they are submitted to the Provost. They may also require affirmative action clearance. Extensions are given for a year at a time for up to a maximum of two years. Postdoctoral research officers who require additional periods of appointment beyond two years are promoted to the rank of associate research scientist/scholar or appointed as staff officers of research in accordance with the University’s affirmative action policies.
The source of funding for a postdoctoral research officer may change during the course of their training and, in some instances, may result in their being transferred between appointments as a postdoctoral research scientist/scholar and either a postdoctoral research fellow or postdoctoral clinical fellow. The limits on the length of their appointments as a postdoctoral officer apply to the time spent in any of these three ranks. Similarly, they apply to total service as a postdoctoral officer at the University rather than to time spent in an individual department.
Additional information about postdoctoral appointments may be obtained from the Office of Postdoctoral Affairs and from the Postdoctoral Officers of Research Handbook, which is available at www.columbia.edu/cu/postdocs/.
Staff Officers of Research
Since staff officers perform diverse functions and have varying skills and educational qualifications, it is necessary to ensure that there is comparability in their responsibilities as well as in the standards used in their appointment. This is achieved through a two-step process in which the definition of the position is reviewed independently of the evaluation of the proposed appointee.
Before a department, school, institute, or center initiates a search for a new staff officer of research, or begins a review of one of its staff associates for promotion to senior staff associate, it completes a questionnaire, which may be obtained from the Office of the Provost or the Office of the Executive Vice President for Health and Biomedical Sciences. Outside of the Medical Center, the questionnaire is reviewed by the appropriate dean or vice president and forwarded, with the necessary authorization, to the Assistant Provost for Academic Appointments, who conducts a further evaluation of the job responsibilities and the proposed salary. In the Faculties of Dental Medicine, Medicine, Nursing, and Public Health, the Provost has delegated responsibility for this review to the Executive Vice President for Health and Biomedical Sciences.
Once a position has been approved, the originating unit may conduct its search. Typically, the principal investigator selects the staff officers working on his or her research projects. However, the responsibility for establishing the standards of appointment and for reviewing the qualifications of nominees rests with the various deans and vice presidents. The review of the Provost or Executive Vice President for Health and Biomedical Sciences is intended to ensure that the minimum qualifications for the position and the requirements of affirmative action have been met.
Affirmative Action Policies and Procedures
Every appointment as an officer of research must be made in accordance with the policies described in the University’s Affirmative Action Plan. In addition, before an initial full-time, compensated appointment can be made, with certain exceptions for postdoctoral officers, the Provost, or the Executive Vice President for Health and Biomedical Sciences on the Provost’s behalf, must review the procedures by which the nominee was selected and determine that they comply with the requirements of affirmative action. No one who will hold a full-time appointment that is subject to those requirements can start to work or be paid in any manner until clearance is given.
The affirmative action policies and procedures for making appointments as officers of research both at the Medical Center and on the Morningside campus may be obtained from the web site of the Office of Equal Opportunity and Affirmative Action at http://eoaa.columbia.edu/recruitment/faculty.
Last Revised December 2016
Officers of research who are otherwise qualified may teach in an educational program of the University as long as their instructional duties do not interfere with their primary responsibilities. Instructional assignments require the written permission of the principal investigator, the approval of the appropriate chair or director, and the endorsement of the dean or vice president of both the Faculty in which the instruction will be offered and the Faculty in which the officer holds a research appointment. Since teaching may not be permitted under the terms of the officer’s grant or, in the case of postdoctoral research or clinical fellows, training program, the proposed assignment is subject to a further review by the Office of Sponsored Projects Administration. The Senior Vice Provost for Academic Administration provides the final authorization on behalf of the Provost when the officer of research holds an appointment and teaches on the Morningside campus. The Provost has delegated that responsibility to the Executive Vice President for Health and Biomedical Sciences when the officer is both appointed and teaches at the Medical Center. When an officer of research appointed on one campus is asked to teach on the other, both the Executive Vice President and the Senior Vice Provost must approve the assignment. No promises of an instructional assignment may be made until all of the necessary approvals have been obtained, nor may anyone start to teach in anticipation of those approvals.
Officers of research offering instruction are given an additional faculty appointment as lecturers or in one of the adjunct professorial ranks for the period of their teaching responsibilities. These appointments are governed by the University’s policies for part-time officers of instruction. They end with the completion of the officer’s instructional assignment.
Full-time officers of research are paid additional compensation for teaching in limited circumstances only. They may be compensated for teaching one course per term up to a maximum of two during an academic year. The two-course limit applies to all classes, regardless of whether they are for credit or not and whether they are offered during a regular term or the summer. The section of Chapter III of this Handbook on “Compensation” provides further information on the policies governing teaching by full-time non-instructional officers. Exceptions to those policies require the prior written approval of the Provost.
Last Revised November 2008
Full-time officers of research may take leaves of absence according to the policies described in this section of the Handbook. Part-time officers of research are not entitled to leaves, except as provided by the Family and Medical Leave Act of 1993 (FMLA) and the Uniformed Services Employment and Reemployment Rights Act of 1994.
A leave is generally granted with the expectation that the officer will return for at least one year to full-time service on its completion. No one is guaranteed an appointment beyond the stated term of service as a result of taking a leave, with the exception of officers who have been granted leaves for medical reasons, child care or military service, or personal leaves to care for an ill family member. The appointments of those officers are continued at least to the end of the period of the leave, if it is longer than the stated term of service.
The appointments of research officers may be terminated at the end of leaves if the officers are given written notice, with the following exceptions: Research officers on leaves for military service are reinstated in the same position or one that is equivalent in rank and salary, provided that they would not have been terminated in the absence of the leave and that they meet the legal requirements for requesting reinstatement. Similar arrangements are made for officers returning from an FMLA leave.
Leaves for officers of research are approved by the Provost on behalf of the President of the University. In the case of leaves of less than one month, the Provost has delegated this authority to the appropriate dean or vice president. The Senior Vice Provost for Academic Administration authorizes all other leaves on the Provost’s behalf.
Except as required by law, all leaves of absence also require the approval of the officer’s principal investigator, chair, director, dean, and vice president before they are submitted to the Senior Vice Provost. Except as specified below, officers of research are granted leaves according to the policies and procedures that apply to officers of instruction (see “Leaves of Absence,” in Chapter III). For information on how leaves of absence affect their participation in the University’s benefits programs, officers of research should contact a counselor in the Office of Human Resources.
Officers of research should request leaves of absence well in advance of their start so that their principal investigator and chair, director, dean, or vice president can plan for their replacement. Leaves require the necessary approvals before they can begin.
Leaves for Scholarly Purposes
Full-time senior research scientists/scholars, research scientists/scholars, and associate research scientists/scholars may take leaves of absence from their regular responsibilities to participate in research at another academic or research institution. Full-time staff officers of research may take leaves for this purpose only with the prior special permission of the Provost. Postdoctoral officers of research are not entitled to these leaves. They may, however, resign their appointments and be reappointed, at the University’s discretion, once they are ready to resume their responsibilities. Leaves for research purposes are granted for a maximum of one year and are ordinarily not renewable.
Leaves for Lapse of Funding
If it is neccessary to suspend the payment of salary during the course of a stated term of service because of a sudden and unexpected loss of funding, a full-time officer of research is placed on a leave of absence “for lapse of funding” until the end of the stated term or until funding is resumed, whichever occurs first. The leave may be extended, along with the officer’s appointment, for up to 12 months beyond the end of the stated term if the chair, director, dean, or vice president expects the officer to obtain new funding within that period and the Provost concurs. Postdoctoral research fellows (with the exception of those who are paid salary), postdoctoral clinical fellows, and postdoctoral residency fellows are not granted this type of leave because they do not receive salary through the University.
An officer of research on a leave “for lapse of funding” continues to participate in the University’s health plans and receives basic life and basic long-term disability insurance for the duration of the leave. Both the University’s and the individual’s share of the cost of these benefits is paid by the school, department, institute, or center in which the officer is serving. Elective insurance benefits – additional life insurance and optional long-term disability insurance – may be continued at the officer’s expense. Eligibility for the salary continuation plan ends with an interruption in salary, and the University ceases to contribute to the officer’s retirement account. Officers and their family members retain the right to tuition exemption during the term in which a leave for lapse of funding begins but are not granted the benefit for the remaining duration of the leave.
Full-time officers of research suffering from a disabling illness or injury are given a leave of absence for medical reasons upon submission of the appropriate documentation completed by a physician. Officers may deliver this documentation to the head of the unit in which they are working. If they wish to keep information about their illness or injury confidential, they can direct it to the Manager of the Return to Work Program in the Office of Human Resources who will advise the chair, director, dean or vice president, and the Provost on how long they will be unable to perform their normal responsibilities. In cases where a claim of disability appears questionable, the University reserves the right to have the officer seen by a physician of its own choosing before granting the leave.
During a medical leave, officers of research, with the exception of postdoctoral research and clinical fellows, receive full salary and benefits for up to six months under the University’s salary continuation plan. Starting in the seventh month, an officer who continues to be disabled is given a leave of absence without salary and is eligible for payments from the University’s insurance carrier according to the terms of the long-term disability program. Officers who are able to perform a portion of their normal responsibilities will be given a leave of absence with partial salary, which will be supplemented with prorated disability payments from the insurance carrier. Information on the long-term disability program may be obtained from the Office of Human Resources.
Full-time postdoctoral research and clinical fellows receiving stipends are not covered by either the University’s salary continuation plan or its long-term disability insurance. While the University grants medical leaves to these officers when they experience a disabling illness or injury, the continuation of the fellowship stipend depends on the rules of the granting agency. If these rules permit, the University will continue the stipend for as long as the granting agency permits.
Leaves of absence for medical reasons are granted for a maximum of one year at a time, in the manner of other leaves. The Senior Vice Provost for Academic Administration will renew a medical leave on receiving confirmation that the officer continues to be disabled.
Child Care Leaves
A full-time officer of research who is pregnant is entitled to a medical leave of absence, according to the policies described above, for the period surrounding the birth of her child during which her doctor certifies that she is unable to work. Once the disability ends, the officer may take a further leave to take care of the newborn child. If the officer does not perform any responsibilities during the leave, it is without salary. With the approval of the principal investigator, department chair or director, dean or vice president, and the Provost, the officer may alternatively continue to perform a portion of her normal responsibilities on a leave with partial salary. The total period of medical and child care leave normally may not exceed 12 months.
Male officers of research holding full-time appointments may also take full or partial leaves for up to 12 months to care for a newborn child if they are the primary care giver. Similar privileges are given to all full-time research officers who adopt a child of less than school age, or if the child is disabled or meets New York State’s legal definition of “hard-to-place,” is less than 18 at the time the leave begins.
Full-time postdoctoral and clinical fellows may take a child care leave without stipend or with partial stipend according to the policies described above if permitted by the rules of the funding agency.
Full-time officers of research, with the exception of those who are appointed in a visiting rank, may be granted leaves for public service. They are also eligible for leaves for military service to the extent required by law and may take leaves for compelling personal reasons. Part-time officers of research may also be entitled to military leaves if they meet the eligibility requirements defined by the Uniformed Services Employment and Reemployment Rights Act of 1994. For information on those requirements, officers should contact the Office of Human Resources.
Full- and part-time officers of research are entitled to leaves of absence under the Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA) of 1993 if they have been employed and paid by the University for at least 12 months immediately preceding the leave and have worked for at least 1,250 hours during that period. Any compensated employment – regardless of title and including periods on the casual payroll – counts in determining if an officer meets these requirements. Postdoctoral research and clinical fellows who receive stipends as well as postdoctoral residency fellows are not eligible for this type of leave.
Officers of research who meet those requirements may take up to 12 weeks of unpaid leave in each year to care for a newborn, newly adopted, or new foster child; to care for a seriously ill family member; or as a result of a medical disability. They may take up to 26 weeks if the leave is needed to deal with a qualifying exigency, as defined by the federal Department of Labor, arising out of the military service of a spouse, child, or parent. The University’s policies governing the leaves of absence that full-time officers of research may take for these purposes are, with the exception of certain benefits provisions, more generous than the requirements of the FMLA. Consequently, the University considers the first 12 weeks of any such leave as fulfilling the requirements of the Family and Medical Leave Act, except for leaves arising from a family member’s military service, in which case it counts the first 26 weeks.
Further information on how the Family and Medical Leave Act affects officers of research may be obtained from the web page of the Office of Human Resources at http://hr.columbia.edu/policies/fmla or by contacting one of its counselors.
Last Revised October 2012
Professional officers of research, staff officers of research, and postdoctoral research scientists/scholars are compensated for their services with a salary that is subject to withholding for taxes, FICA, and Medicare.
As a general rule, postdoctoral research and clinical fellows receive a fellowship stipend, which is not subject to withholding, rather than a salary. To qualify as a stipend, the funds must come from an external agency that has explicitly designated the payment as a fellowship or stipend. If the “fellowship” is funded from University sources, the individual is appointed as a postdoctoral research scientist or a postdoctoral research scholar (not a postdoctoral research fellow) and is paid a salary from which the University withholds for taxes. Postdoctoral residency fellows are paid by the affiliated hospitals and institutes at which they are receiving their training.
While no nomination to a compensated research position should be made without securing funding for the entire stated term, a research appointment carries no obligation on the part of the University to guarantee the assigned salary, except in the case of senior research scientists/scholars appointed for more than 12 months, in which case their department, school, institute, or center guarantees the salary for the entire period. The salaries of senior research scientists/scholars appointed for 12 months or less are subject to available funding in the manner of other officers of research. If it is necessary to suspend the payment of salary to an officer of research before the end of a stated term of appointment, the officer is placed on a leave “for lapse of funding” (see “Leaves of Absence,” above).
The individual Faculties follow separate programs for determining the levels of salary appropriate to recruit and retain officers of research in their respective disciplines and for ensuring that officers with similar experience and training receive comparable salaries. These programs operate within the context of salary ranges, which are set annually by the Vice Provost for Academic Administration. These salary ranges are posted on the web site of the Vice Provost for Academic Administration at http://www.columbia.edu/cu/vpaa.
Officers of research are paid semi-monthly. Initial salaries vary according to the experience and skills of the officer. They also reflect the pattern of compensation in the officer’s discipline and the level of funding provided by the grants and contracts supporting the projects on which the officer is working. The appropriate department chair, director, dean or executive vice president, and the Vice Provost for Academic Administration should be consulted prior to making an offer of appointment if there is any question about the salary it should carry.
Merit increases are considered once a year in accordance with the procedures established by the Faculty or division in which the officer is giving service. The Provost issues annual guidelines that establish the range within which such increases may be given. Promotional increases are considered concurrently with an advancement to a higher grade of office. While salaries and salary increases are typically determined by the officer’s principal investigator, they are all subject to review by the relevant chair, director, and dean or executive vice president. Outside of the Medical Center, they also require the approval of the Vice Provost for Academic Administration.
It is the responsibility of the appropriate principal investigator or the department chair or director to inform a new officer of research of their initial salary in writing prior to the start of the appointment. Following annual performance reviews, principal investigators are also expected to write to continuing officers of research to inform them of their new salaries. An officer of research is notified of the period of appointment by a letter from the Secretary of the University. That letter, except for those officers in the Faculties of Medicine, Nursing, and Public Health, also indicates that the salary is subject to available funding.
The process by which officers of research are placed on the University payroll is the same as that described in Chapter III for faculty (see “Compensation”). The information in that chapter of the Handbook on obtaining authorization to work, nonresident aliens, deductions, direct deposit, and advances is also applicable to research officers
Full-time officers of research may receive additional compensation from the University beyond their base salary only in unusual circumstances. If permitted by the funding source and the government’s rules on salary augmentation, they may be compensated for teaching one course per term up to a maximum of two during an academic year. The two-course limit applies to all classes, regardless of whether they are for credit or not and whether they are offered during a regular term or the summer. Before making a commitment to pay full-time officers of research for teaching, the schools and departments must obtain the approval of their immediate supervisors and the chair, director, or dean/executive vice president of the units within which they are performing their primary responsibilities. The Vice Provost for Academic Administration gives the final approval for courses offered on the Morningside campus on behalf of the Provost. At the Medical Center, the Provost has delegated that responsibility to the Executive Vice President for Health and Biomedical Sciences. When an officer of research appointed on one campus is asked to teach on the other, both the Executive Vice President and the Vice Provost must approve the assignment.
Full-time officers of research may receive extra pay for other services only if
- there is no one else available who is qualified to provide the services;
- the services are performed outside of normal business hours and do not otherwise interfere with the officer’s regular responsibilities;
- the need for the officer’s services is not expected to reoccur;
- the payment is permitted by the rules of the agency that is providing the funds that support the officer’s salary; and
- the payment has the prior approval of the appropriate principal investigator, chair, or director of the unit within which the officer holds an appointment, the dean or executive vice president, and the Provost.
Requests for additional compensation paid from an externally sponsored award are allowable only in rare circumstances and must comply with the requirements of the granting agency as well as the University’s policies and government requirements on salary augmentation. Therefore, such payments also require the prior authorization of the University’s Office of Research Administration before they may be submitted to the Associate Provost for Academic Appointments or Executive Vice President for Health and Biomedical Sciences.
Before the work begins, it is the responsibility of the unit requesting the additional services to determine if the officer may be paid. No commitments to pay additional compensation to full-time officers of research may be made without the prior approval of the officer’s principal investigator, the chair or director of the unit within which the officer holds an appointment, the appropriate dean or executive vice president, the Office of Sponsored Projects Administration, and the Executive Vice President for Health and Biomedical Sciences or the Senior Vice Provost for Academic Administration. No full-time officer of research may start to work in anticipation of those approvals.
In certain instances, the University provides salary supplements and allowances for such expenses as housing, home leave, the education of dependents, and relocation to officers who are stationed overseas for extended periods, to the extent that such payments are provided for in the grants and contracts on which they are working.
Exceptions to these policies on additional compensation require the prior approval of the Provost.
Full-time officers of research earn two days of vacation for each month of appointment, up to a maximum of 23 days, during their first 20 years of full-time service and two-and-one-third days for each month, up to a maximum of 28 days, thereafter. Periods of full or partial leave are excluded in determining their vacation privileges. Vacation time may not be accumulated beyond June 30 of the year following the one in which it was earned. An officer of research may not receive pay in lieu of unused vacation except upon termination of appointment.
Postdoctoral research and clinical fellows are entitled to the same rights to vacation as other officers of research unless the provisions of the granting agency specify otherwise.
Officers who are entitled to vacations are expected to plan them in consultation with their principal investigator, chair, director, or dean to ensure that they do not interfere with the programs of their laboratory, department, school, institute, or center. They may not take vacations days that have not yet been earned.
Last Revised November 2017
Appointments as officers of research may end as a result of any of the following actions: a decision not to reappoint, resignation, retirement, layoff, or dismissal.
Officers of research are guaranteed appointments for the duration of their stated terms, with certain exceptions for postdoctoral fellows. The University reserves the right to terminate the appointments of postdoctoral residency fellows if they cease to be enrolled in a training program at an affiliated hospital or institute or if the affiliation agreement between the University and the hospital or institute at which they are training ends. Similarly, the University retains the option of terminating postdoctoral research and clinical fellows if they lose their fellowships. In addition, these officers, as well as all other officers of research, may be dismissed “for cause,” as described below.
Notice of Nonrenewal
Officers of research are not entitled to a minimum period of notice of nonrenewal. However, principal investigators are responsible for informing them in advance of a decision not to renew their appointments. Department chairs, directors, and deans bear a similar responsibility in the case of officers of research in their units who are principal investigators. The Provost may require that an appointment be extended in the absence of compelling reason for giving less than three months’ notice.
Notice of nonrenewal must be given in writing. The Provost may require a department, school, institute, or center to extend a research appointment if this obligation is not met.
An officer of research who wishes to resign is expected to give notice in writing as early as possible, but in any event no less than three months before the resignation will be effective.
Consistent with current law, officers of research cannot be mandatorily retired. An officer of research may voluntarily retire after reaching age 55 if they have 10 years of full-time service by writing, as appropriate, to his or her department chair, director, dean or vice president. Retirement ordinarily occurs at the end of the officer’s stated term of appointment. However, it may take effect at an earlier date as long as the officer provides three months’ notice, in writing, of the decision to retire.
Officers of research may be appointed as special research scientists/scholars if they continue to participate in an externally funded research project after retirement. They may also continue as principal investigators of grants and contracts, but only until the first renewal date after their retirement unless they have the prior special permission of an authorized representative of the Provost (see “Principal Investigators,” in Chapter VI). With the prior permission of the department chair, director, dean or vice president, and the authorization of the Provost’s representative, they may also submit new grant proposals. At the discretion of their department chair, director, dean or vice president, they may be given laboratory and office space if they are working on a funded project. However, it may be necessary to ask them to move from the space they occupied prior to retirement.
The names of retired officers of research are included in the University Directory. They are entitled to a University ID card, retain library borrowing and computing privileges, and continue to have access to the University’s recreational facilities. If they held full-time appointments at retirement, they are entitled to certain benefits provided that they meet the age and service requirements established for those plans. If they resided in University housing at the time of retirement, their rights to continue to live in their University apartments are determined by the policies described in Chapter V of this Handbook (see “Retiree Benefits”). Retired officers should contact a counselor in the Office of Human Resources for information on their benefits. Questions regarding housing should be addressed to a representative of the Residential and Commercial Operations Department of Columbia University Facilities.
Full-time officers of research, with the exception of those appointed as postdoctoral research and clinical fellows, are eligible for severance. Part-time officers of research are not entitled to layoff allowances.
Full-time officers with less than five years’ service do not receive a layoff allowance when there is an interruption in salary, since their salaries, except for certain senior research scientists/scholars (see “Compensation,” above), are contingent on the availability of funding. They are, however, placed on a leave “for lapse of funding” without salary and may continue to participate in the University’s medical, life insurance, and long-term disability plans, at no cost to themselves, until the end of the stated term of appointment.
Once an officer holding an appointment as an associate research scientist/scholar, research scientist/scholar, senior research scientist/scholar, staff associate, or senior staff associate has accumulated five continuous years of compensated, full-time, non-instructional service, the University will provide a layoff allowance when the individual’s association with the University ends as a result of a sudden and unexpected loss of funding. Such officers may elect to receive the allowance once their salary ceases, in which case their appointments are terminated immediately. Alternatively, they may take a leave “for lapse of funding” without salary and defer receiving the allowance until the completion of the leave. Officers of research who are 55 or older and have completed 10 years of full-time service after age 45 may retire rather than have their appointments terminated and still receive severance.
The amount of the layoff allowance is graduated according to length of service. Officers who have completed five full years receive the equivalent of one month’s salary. That sum increases by a month’s salary for each additional year of service up to a maximum of six months’ salary for an officer with 10 or more years of service.
Officers receiving the layoff allowance cease to hold an appointment at the University. If they are eligible to retire, they may participate in the University’s benefits programs for retired officers according to the provisions of the individual benefits plans (see “Retiree Benefits,” in Chapter V). Other officers may continue their health coverage for themselves and their dependents for a limited period of time after the end of their appointment under the terms of federal law but cease to be eligible for other benefits. Officers who are laid off should consult with a counselor in the Office of Human Resources for further information on the continuation of their benefits.
An officer may be given the layoff allowance only once. Those who resume a compensated appointment at the University, whether full- or part-time, within 18 months of the layoff are expected to return the entire amount of the layoff allowance.
Dismissal for cause is permitted only when there is clear evidence of failure to perform professional responsibilities or personal misconduct, according to the procedures described below. They also may be dismissed for a violation of the “Rules of University Conduct” concerning demonstrations, rallies, and picketing, following a separate set of procedures (see http://facets.columbia.edu/university-regulations/rules-university-conduct). Full-time, compensated officers with more than five years of service who are dismissed for cause are not entitled to the layoff allowance.
A principal investigator is expected to attempt to resolve problems with the performance or behavior of an officer of research before initiating any action to suspend or dismiss. The principal investigator should meet with the officer to discuss the problems and ways of overcoming them. If the officer’s performance or behavior does not improve, he or she should be given an oral warning and then a letter that clearly describes the problems, details the actions the officer must take to remedy them, and warns that disciplinary action, up to and including dismissal, will be taken if they are not corrected within a specified period of time. Before taking any of these steps, the principal investigator should contact the office of the dean, vice president, or Provost.
To ensure that officers of research are not subjected to arbitrary or discriminatory procedures, all terminations before the end of the stated term of appointment must be approved by the appropriate chair, director, dean or vice president, and the Provost before the officer is notified, except in the case of postdoctoral residency fellows, as stated below. The Provost has delegated responsibility for reviewing requests to terminate for cause to the Senior Vice Provost for Academic Administration. An officer of research may grieve a decision of dismissal, following the procedures described later in this chapter of the Handbook (see “Grievance Procedures”). Officers who elect that option may not be terminated until the investigation of their complaints is completed, and the Provost concludes that the decision to dismiss is justified. They normally continue to receive salary until the Provost reaches a decision.
In most instances, disciplinary action against postdoctoral residency fellows is initiated by the hospitals or institutes at which they are training. Since those fellows may be terminated only after the procedures of the hospital or institute have been followed, it is neither necessary nor desirable to extend to them the protection of the University’s policies on termination and its grievance procedures. The University relies on the judgment of the hospital or institute in those cases in which the disciplinary action or termination results from misconduct in the training program. Its own policies are applicable only when the action is initiated by one of its departments.
An officer of research may be suspended but only with the prior permission of the Provost. During a suspension, the officer normally continues to receive full base salary. The Provost may make an exception to this practice, especially when the suspension is part of a disciplinary action taken against the officer.
Last Revised November 2008
The University provides several avenues of redress for officers of research who feel they have been unfairly treated. Officers of research experiencing problems with their appointment, compensation, and working conditions should talk first to their principal investigator. If the problems cannot be resolved in this manner or if they feel uncomfortable approaching their principal investigator, they may seek redress from their department chair or director, and then from the appropriate dean or vice president.
Officers may seek informal advice from the University Ombuds Officer, who will provide information and counseling on a confidential basis. With the consent of both parties, the Ombuds Officer will also attempt to mediate an informal resolution to their disagreement. Officers who believe that they have been a victim of sexual harassment or discrimination may also contact a member of the University Panel on Discrimination and Sexual Harassment for advice. These officers are not authorized to conduct formal investigations.
Officers dissatisfied with the outcome of the efforts within their department, school, institute, or center to resolve their complaints may seek a further evaluation by the Provost. The mechanism the Provost uses to conduct that review depends on the nature of the complaint.
With the exception of salary disputes, officers of research may ask the Provost for a formal hearing by a grievance committee. Any such request must be submitted in writing. Before convening a grievance committee, the Provost will have the Senior Vice Provost for Academic Administration attempt to mediate a solution. If that effort fails and the Provost concludes that there is sufficient evidence to justify a formal hearing, he or she will establish a three-member committee to investigate the officer’s grievance. The officer and the department chair, director, dean or vice president of the unit in which the officer is serving may each give the Provost nominations for one member of the committee. The Provost, on the recommendation of the first two members, selects the third, who serves as the committee’s chair. Any tenured faculty or full-time officer of research in the rank of senior research scientist/scholar or research scientist/scholar may serve as a member of a grievance committee.
The committee will have access to the records relevant to the grievance. It will interview both the complainant and the individual against whom the complaint is directed and may, at its discretion, ask other witnesses to appear before it. The committee is expected to complete its investigation as expeditiously as possible and to report its findings in writing to the Provost, who will then reach a decision on the grievance. While a grievance is under investigation, the officer normally retains a full-time appointment and normally continues to be paid his or her full base salary. The Provost may authorize exceptions to these requirements.
The Provost’s decision is final and binding on all parties. It is communicated in writing, together with a copy of the report of the grievance committee, to the officer, the principal investigator, and the appropriate vice president, dean, department chair, or director within 15 working days after the grievance committee has completed its investigation. The Provost may extend that period on determining that additional time is necessary to reach a reasoned judgment of the officer’s grievance.
An alternative mechanism exists for officers who believe that they have been the victims of discrimination or harassment. Instead of a hearing by a three-member grievance committee, those officers may have the Associate Provost for Equal Opportunity and Affirmative Action evaluate their complaints according to the policies and procedures described in the policy statement Employment Policies and Procedures on Discrimination and Harassment, which is reprinted as Appendix A and is available online at http://eoaa.columbia.edu/employment-policies.
Salary complaints involving allegations of discrimination or sexual harassment are reviewed on behalf of the Provost by the Associate Provost for Equal Opportunity and Affirmative Action. The Provost will directly adjudicate salary complaints from officers of research that do not involve allegations of discrimination or sexual harassment but only after the officers have attempted to resolve the dispute with their principal investigator, department chair or director, and dean or vice president.
The grievance mechanisms described above are available to postdoctoral residency fellows as well as other officers of research when their complaints involve an action by someone within the University. If they wish to dispute a decision by the hospital or institute at which they are training, they must utilize its grievance procedures rather than those of the University.
Last Revised February 2012