Research Policy Handbook


Policy and Procedures for Appointment and Promotion: Academic Staff - Research

Policy Authority

Senate of the Academic Council

Policy Contact

Now in Policy Details

Establishes Stanford policy for Academic Staff - Research (AS-R), including provisions for appointment and promotion, and Visiting AS-R. Clarification added in July 1996 regarding exception to search requirements in the case of recent Stanford doctorate or completed postdoctoral study. In Summer 2016, the designation of Research Associate was changed to Research Scientist, Research Engineer, and Research Scholar.

1. Introduction

Academic Staff - Research (AS-R) are Stanford employees hired to work on Stanford research activities as defined below. As Stanford employees, Academic Staff-Research are subject to all policies and procedures related to Stanford employment, and receive staff benefits, as applicable.

Appointments made to fulfill a teaching role may be held as a dual appointment with those of research scientist, research engineer or research scholar, or with senior appointments in these categories, when the individual is involved in both education and research activities.

2. Definitions/Roles

A. Research Scientist, Research Engineer, Research Scholar

Working in a capacity which ordinarily requires a Ph.D. or its equivalent in research skill and subject knowledge, a Research Scientist, Engineer, or Scholar is involved directly in the execution, and frequently the design, of a Principal Investigator's (PI's) research activities. Their primary purpose is to assist the PI in attaining the goals of the PI's sponsored research projects. AS-R may participate in the preparation of proposals, progress, and final reports, and may be the coauthor or sole author of research results, with agreement of the PI. Although not usually engaged in formal classroom teaching, AS-R frequently assist in the guidance of postdoctoral scholars, graduate and undergraduate students in the laboratory.

B. Senior Positions: Senior Research Scientist, Senior Research Engineer, Senior Research Scholar

Individuals whose accomplishments reflect professional achievement and recognition considerably greater than that of a Research Scientist, Research Engineer, or Research Scholar may be appointed as Senior Research Scientist, Senior Research Engineer, or Senior Research Scholar, whichever is most appropriate to the nature of the individual's work.

Note: In Spring 1990, the Faculty Senate Committee on the Professoriate changed the designation of Senior Research Associate to Senior Research Scientist, Senior Research Engineer, or Senior Research Scholar.  In Summer 2016, the designation of Research Associate was changed to Research Scientist, Research Engineer, or Research Scholar.

Senior Research Scientists, Senior Research Engineers and Senior Research Scholars may serve as Co-investigators in association with a faculty PI on those research projects (and on related applications for support) for which they carry a significant role. Designation of Co-investigator is not an entitlement; it requires the permission of the PI.

3. Procedures for Appointment

A. Selection and Search Procedures

As a general rule, an appointment to the AS-R requires a search. Searches are initiated with a written vacancy announcement, such as in relevant professional journals or other publications.

All searches must engage actively in affirmative action in the search process; steps may include contacting professional colleagues to solicit names of female and minority candidates (as well as others who would bring diversity to the academic staff) and encouraging such candidates to apply, and contacting resources such as female and minority professional organizations and journals so that such groups are alerted to the search.

The text for the announcement must be sent to the Office of the Vice Provost and Dean of Research. Advertisements and letters announcing vacancies must include a statement such as:

Stanford is an equal employment opportunity and affirmative action employer.  All qualified applicants will receive consideration for employment without regard to race, color, religion, sex, sexual orientation, gender identity, national origin, disability, protected veteran status, or any other characteristic protected by law. Stanford welcomes applications from all who would bring additional dimensions to the University's research mission.

The responsibility for affirmative action aspects of the search process rests primarily with the PI.

Exceptions to the search requirement may be permitted if the candidate: (1) has just completed their doctorate or program of postdoctoral study at Stanford and completion of all degree requirements is documented; (2) is uniquely qualified for the particular position; or (3) was previously identified by name on a written research proposal submitted by the PI to an external funding agency.

B. Criteria for the Appointment to Rank of Research Scientist, Research Engineer, or Research Scholar

After a candidate has been identified and selected for appointment, a recommendation for appointment form through the Faculty and Academic Staff Appointments (FASA) system must be completed, and approved by the Principal Investigator, Department Chair (or Independent Laboratory, Center or Institute Director), the cognizant School Dean, and the Vice Provost and Dean of Research to insure that:

  • the work to be performed is at the level which ordinarily would require a doctoral degree or equivalent research skill and subject knowledge
  • the qualifications of the candidate have undergone careful scrutiny
  • a serious review has been undertaken of the professional qualifications of a candidate for an AS-R position by others in the field besides the PI
  • University-wide equity is being maintained
  • a thorough affirmative action search has been conducted or, if a search was not conducted, that the requirements for an exception have been met

Recommendations along with a current Curriculum Vitae must be submitted to the Office of the Vice Provost and Dean of Research prior to the date of anticipated employment. The School Dean's or Laboratory Director's office will be notified of the approved appointment form or if further information or clarification is required prior to approval. Depending on the preference of each School, the Department or School Dean will send written confirmation to the employee indicating the terms, length of employment, identity and duration of funding sources contributing to his or her salary. A copy of this confirmation is sent to the Office of the Vice Provost and Dean of Research.

C. Criteria and Procedures for the Appointment or Promotion to the Rank of Senior Research Scientist, Senior Research Engineer or Senior Research Scholar

After a candidate has been identified and selected for appointment to a senior Academic Staff-Research position, a Recommendation for Appointment form through FASA must be completed, approved by the Principal Investigator, the Department Chair (or Independent Laboratory, Center or Institute Director), the cognizant School Dean, and the Vice Provost and Dean of Research, following the same procedure as for AS-R (described in 3.B above).

In many cases, individuals are promoted to senior positions from the ranks of Research Scientists, Research Engineers, or Research Scholars. For both appointments and promotions to senior AS-R positions, the Principal Investigator is responsible for submitting the following four items of documentation to the Department Chair for use in review of the candidate:

  1. Appointment/Promotion Form
  2. Curriculum Vitae
  3. Written evaluations from three referees outside of Stanford who are in positions to judge the professional competence of the candidate.
  4. Covering memorandum from the Principal Investigator to the Department Chair stating the justification for appointment or promotion to Senior Research Staff.

Such appointments must follow a formal review process by a departmental or Independent Laboratory, Center or Institute ad hoc appointment committee consisting of at least two Academic Council members in addition to the faculty Principal Investigator, and, if practicable, a senior member of the AS-R. The ad hoc committee shall review the documentation and prepare a written report to the Department Chair regarding the qualifications of the candidate for appointment or promotion.

Candidates for the senior position will ordinarily have completed a minimum of five years at the Research Scientist, Engineer, or Scholar rank (or will have equivalent experience). 

Some indicators which may help to evaluate the qualifications of a candidate for the rank of Senior Research Scientist, Senior Research Engineer or Senior Research Scholar are the following:

1. Professional Activities

Indications of theoretical sophistication and independent research accomplishment, including recent publications, invited presentations of papers at professional meetings, and appointment to review committees in professional societies.

2. Research Experience

The knowledge and ability associated with the rank of Senior Research Scientist, Senior Research Engineer or Senior Research Scholar is unlikely to be acquired in less than five years after completion of the Ph.D. or M.D. degree.

3. Scope of Responsibility

In addition to demonstrating depth of knowledge and theoretical understanding which surpasses that generally expected of Research Scientist, Engineer, or Scholar in the field, the candidate for Senior Research Scientist, Senior Research Engineer or Senior Research Scholar should be capable of functioning independently at an advanced level in their field under the overall direction of the Principal Investigator. Senior Research staff characteristically should have supervisory responsibility for technical staff. This might include training, guidance in problem definition, performance evaluation or recommendation on salaries, hiring and termination. They may also participate in grant administration, monitoring expenditures, and the drafting of new proposals.

4. Evaluation by Others in the Field

Candidates for the rank of Senior Research Scientist, Senior Research Engineer or Senior Research Scholar should have achieved recognition in the scientific community.

4. Compensation and Terms of Employment

A. Period of Employment

A member of the Academic Staff - Research is appointed for a fixed, renewable term of up to five years, contingent on continued programmatic need and funding. Senior Research Scientists, Senior Research Engineers or Senior Research Scholars may be appointed on either a fixed-term or a continuing basis.

Requests for reappointments of fixed-term appointments must be reviewed at the department level and approved by the School Dean's Office. A written notice of either renewal or non-renewal must be given to the employee at least 90 days in advance of the term end date. The conclusion of a fixed term does not constitute layoff nor is it accompanied by layoff benefits (see discussion below).

B. Compensation

Although not subject to salary ranges per se, salaries for Academic Staff-Research are subject to the approval of the cognizant Principal Investigator, Department Chair, School Dean and Vice Provost and Dean of Research for purposes of maintaining University-wide equity. Data indicating the distribution of Stanford salaries for each classification of AS-R are supplied to school deans and Independent Laboratory, Institute, and Center directors. This provides a framework from which to review University-wide salaries to insure parity. 

Due to the relatively uncertain nature of financial support for sponsored projects which support Academic Staff-Research members' salaries (whether on fixed terms or continuing appointments), AS-R members shall be informed of the duration of all funding sources which materially contribute to their salaries. This information must be included in the employment confirmation letter and, subsequently, made available to the AS-R member by the PI upon request.

C. Termination

An AS-R member is entitled to 30 days written notice, but not to layoff benefits or reemployment preference, when terminated for unsatisfactory performance or other just cause. In extreme cases of termination for just cause, advance notice of termination may be waived with the approval of the Office of the Vice Provost and Dean of Research.

D. Layoffs

A layoff (as opposed to end of fixed-term appointment or dismissal for just cause) occurs when a position is eliminated as a result of lack of funds or changing programmatic needs prior to the scheduled end of a fixed-term appointment or at any time during a continuing appointment. If a layoff is a result of lack of available financial support, the AS-R member must be given at least 30 days written notice. Selection of the individual(s) to be laid off is a judgment of the Principal Investigator. These individuals are eligible for layoff benefits and reemployment preference.

Occasionally, a Principal Investigator chooses to change the direction of their research activities in ways that are not commensurate with the skills or research interests of the AS-R member. When this occurs, layoff is considered on programmatic grounds, not due to lack of available financial support. In these cases, the AS-R member shall always be given at least three months written notice of layoff. They are eligible for the same layoff benefits and reemployment preferences as are applicable for other exempt staff.

E. Additional Compensation

With approval of their faculty supervisor, full-time members of the academic staff may perform a variety of services for the institution apart from those normally considered to be their own regular job duties. Academic staff members may be assigned these tasks either within their department or for another area within the University. Further, it is understood that academic staff may often be expected to work in excess of 40 hours a week. Because the foregoing situations are considered to fall within normal expectations for these staff, they would not constitute grounds for payment of additional compensation.

Academic Staff - Research may be eligible for additional compensation when, on a one-time or infrequent basis, they teach in established University programs or University-hosted conferences that: (a) clearly fall outside the boundaries of their regular responsibilities, (b) require a significant amount of time in excess of the normal work schedule and (c) normally provide additional payment to other participants. This exception does not cover appointments to teach regular University courses in degree-granting programs, in which cases salary offsets would be appropriate.

Examples for which additional compensation might be appropriate include:

  • teaching in the Continuing Studies Programs;
  • teaching in the Stanford Center for Professional Development;
  • teaching in the Vice Provost for Undergraduate Education Programs;
  • teaching in the Postgraduate Medical Education Program;
  • teaching in the Graduate School of Business Executive Education Programs;
  • teaching in a special event, such as a conference.

An academic staff member who teaches in these Stanford programs must be appointed, where relevant, through the regular appointment process of the program. Their compensation for the activity is limited by the established rates for the particular program. AS-R, employed on a full-time basis, owe their primary commitment of time and intellectual energies to the programs on which they are working. The faculty supervisor is responsible for assuring that this activity does not adversely impact that obligation.

For activities of the type described above, specific approval for additional compensation is required in advance of the service being performed. Faculty supervisor, the cognizant school Dean and the Vice Provost and Dean of Research must approve all additional compensation involving Academic Staff-Research. Failure to obtain such approval will in all likelihood result in forfeiture of payment.

5. Right, Privileges and Responsibilities

A. Academic Staff - Research Members

Academic Staff - Research members appointed for terms of six months or longer (at 50% time or more) are entitled to staff benefits available to other regular exempt staff, including vacation and sick leave accrual, with some exceptions related to layoff as outlined above and grievance process, see Academic Staff Grievance Procedure in RPH 10.2.

With approval of their faculty sponsor, members of the Academic Staff may engage in outside consulting activities.  Permission for members of the AS-R to consult, including the reasons for such permission, must be in writing, normally on a prospective basis, by the faculty principal investigator. Principles that govern outside activities and applicable conflicts of commitment and interest policies can be found at RPH 4.4.

1. Limitations of Academic Staff - Research Positions

While the highly professional nature of these positions allows PIs to delegate considerable independence and authority to members of the AS-R in support of the PI's research objectives, there are also limitations inherent in these positions. Individuals in the AS-R ranks are not members of the Academic Council; they are not eligible to act as PIs on sponsored projects (Senior Research staff may act as Co-investigators with the permission of the faculty PI, but may not serve as Co-PI); they are not eligible for sabbatical leaves nor in any way are considered to be on a tenure track. Their positions are coterminous with externally-sponsored support and programmatic need. Appointments from the AS-R to the non-tenure line or tenure-line faculty ranks at Stanford may occur, but such promotions are rare and should not be expected as part of an AS-R member's typical path at the University.

6. Visiting Academic Staff - Research

A. Definitions/ Roles

Visiting AS-R and Visiting Senior AS-R positions differ from regular AS-R ranks in that the visitor's primary purpose in coming to the University is to collaborate with the Stanford Principal Investigator on research projects of mutual interest, rather than to provide the ongoing staff assistance normally associated with regular AS-R positions. They also differ from Visiting Scholar positions, which are courtesy appointments without Stanford salary support.

B. Procedures for Appointment

Visiting AS-R or Visiting Senior AS-R appointments may be made for periods not to exceed twelve months for individuals who are permanently employed by another institution at a level at least equivalent to the AS-R at Stanford. If the individual ceases to hold a regular position elsewhere prior to or during the Stanford appointment, they are not eligible to continue as a Visiting AS-R. Rather, the person may be recommended for a regular Academic Staff-Research appointment. Formal searches for the visiting appointments are not required as Stanford does not constitute the primary employment commitment to the individual.

A recommendation for appointment of Visiting AS-R or Visiting Senior AS-R form, accompanied by a resume of the candidate and applicable visa information, must be completed through FASA and approved by the Principal Investigator, Department Chair or Independent Laboratory, Center or Institute Director, the cognizant School Dean, and the Vice Provost and Dean of Research.

C. Compensation and Terms of Employment

Stanford salary support for Visiting AS-R and Visiting Senior AS-R normally is funded from sponsored research projects, typically at a level based on the individual's salary from their home institution. In any event, minimum full-time equivalent salaries for Visiting AS-R and Senior Research staff are established annually by the Office of the Vice Provost and Dean of Research.

D. Rights, Privileges and Responsibilities

Visiting AS-R and Visiting Senior AS-R are eligible for staff benefits, including vacation and sick leave, if employed at 50% time or more for an anticipated length of six months or more. Regular staff policies for fixed-term appointments apply except that the Academic Staff Grievance Procedures, rather than the staff procedures, are applicable. University courtesies and privileges commensurate with the visitors' rank at their home institutions may be granted by the Provost on an exception basis.