Research Policy Handbook


Visiting Scholars

Now in Policy Details

Defines policies and procedures related to the appointment, roles, requirements and responsibilities of Visiting Scholars at Stanford. Visiting Scholar status is not applicable for matriculated students pursuing advanced degrees at other universities.

1. Overview

Members of the Professorate may invite faculty or other qualified individuals, who are employed or appointed at another institution or organization, to visit Stanford for an extended period in order to advance a collaborative research activity. These individuals are appointed into academic units and classified as Visiting Scholars.  The invitation must indicate the name of the faculty member hosting the visitor, and must be approved by the chair of the hosting Department, Program, Independent Laboratory or other academic unit.

Appointment as a Visiting Scholar differs from an appointment as Visiting Faculty in that the faculty classifications typically envision a role encompassing the normal scope of a faculty appointment, i.e., they may teach a course or graduate level seminar, and participate in graduate research (but not as a primary advisor).  A Visiting Scholar is typically appointed for research or scholarship only, and will normally not have any responsibilities for teaching Stanford classes or for advising Stanford students.  

2. Criteria for Appointment

The following are the minimum eligibility criteria for a Visiting Scholar designation at Stanford University: (Schools may establish more restrictive eligibility criteria.)

  •  the individual must be visiting from and affiliated with an outside institution or organization
  • the individual must have a doctoral degree or recognized expertise in his or her field; and
  • the individual must have a source of financial support from outside Stanford University; appointments as Visiting Scholars do not include any Stanford salary.  (Schools and departments may establish minimum levels for the outside financial support of Visiting Scholars.) Visiting Scholars are not University employees and the title may not be used for personnel or payroll purposes. Visiting Scholars do not receive regular compensation from the University.

The classification of Visiting Scholar is appropriate for faculty from other academic institutions who are invited to Stanford on an unpaid basis during a period of sabbatical at their home institution.  In addition, this classification is appropriate for the appointment of qualified personnel from industry, government or other organizations, including retirees, who wish to visit Stanford on an unpaid basis, including those whose visit is under the auspices of an Industrial Affiliate Program or other collaborative agreement.

The Visiting Scholar classification is not intended for individuals who might otherwise be considered trainees. This classification is not used to bring matriculating students from other academic institutions, nor should it be used for individuals who should be appointed as Postdoctoral Scholars. For policies and appointment procedures for Visiting Student Researchers and for Postdoctoral Scholars see the Related Items section below.

3. Duration of Appointment

Visiting Scholar appointments are usually made for up to one year and may be renewed for a second year, although shorter appointments are possible.  An extension beyond two years must be approved by the School Dean’s office and will be granted only for extraordinary and compelling reasons.

A Stanford identification card will not be issued for a Visiting Scholar whose appointment is shorter than three months (see the Related Items section below for Administrative Guide 2.4.3).

4. Appointment Procedures

The procedures described here address university requirements.  Individual schools or programs may have their own appointment process, which may involve review and approval by a dean’s office.

The inviting department, program or Independent Laboratory is responsible for ensuring that a Visiting Scholar candidate meets the criteria above and for issuing the letter of invitation. The appointment letter must:

  • identify the faculty member issuing the invitation, and the academic organization in which the Visiting Scholar will be housed
  • specify the term of the Visiting Scholar designation (that is, the dates of residency at Stanford University)
  • confirm that no salary or other financial compensation, including insurance or other health and welfare benefits, will be provided by Stanford University in conjunction with the appointment
  • provide that the Visiting Scholar must satisfy all regulatory requirements and comply with Stanford policies that apply to his or her activities while at Stanford, and
  • incorporate by reference the terms of this policy

An appointment form template for visiting scholars as well as faculty guidelines for hosting visiting scholars can be found in the Related Items section below. Contact Faculty Affairs staff in each school for a template for the Appointment Letter for unpaid visitors, encompassing all of the points above.

The appointment of a Visiting Scholar must be appropriately recorded in Stanford’s PeopleSoft non-paid personnel database.

5. Responsibilities of Host Faculty, Departments, Programs and Independent Labs

Hosting academic units should ensure that the appointment of a Visiting Scholar is justified on the basis of benefit to Stanford.

The hosting academic unit is responsible for providing space for the Visiting Scholar, and for assuring that the individual can participate as intended without undue interference with the other academic responsibilities of the host laboratory or organization. 

In addition, the department is responsible for assuring that the Visiting Scholar:

  1. receives all required university training (e.g., health and safety or other mandatory training)
  2. understands that proprietary work for his or her home organization may not be carried out in Stanford facilities during the visit. 
  3. signs the appropriate Patent and Copyright Agreement for Personnel at Stanford. (Note: If the visitor already has an intellectual property agreement with his or her employer, the visitor should sign an alternative version of the agreement, called the SU-18A.  If the visitor has not already assigned intellectual property to an employer, he or she signs the regular Stanford agreement (SU-18).  Both versions are filed electronically 
  4. complies with all university policies and external requirements related to the performance of work at Stanford.

A. Management of Potential Conflicts of Interest

The Visiting Scholar’s home organization may wish to make an unrestricted gift to Stanford in order to defray the costs of resources and facilities to the department that is supporting the Visiting Scholar. Such a gift needs to be made to the faculty host’s department or as a payment to an Industrial Affiliates Program. It may not be made directly to the faculty host and it must comply with all relevant gift policies, including those pertaining to conflict of interest.

The faculty host must disclose in the university’s Outside Professional Activities Certification System (OPACS) any personal financial relationship that the faculty host has with the Visiting Scholar’s home organization. Further, if that home organization is an entity with a commercial interest in the research the Visiting Scholar is carrying out at Stanford, the faculty host must disclose this potential conflict of interest in OPACS by adding the individual’s name as a participant in the research with a conflict of interest. The faculty host must assure that there is no “pipelining” of intellectual property to the visitor’s home organization, nor any early, exclusive access to research results.   The faculty host’s laboratory may not act as an “R&D arm” of the visitor’s home organization.

6. Intellectual Property Agreements

As described above, all Visiting Scholars must sign a Stanford Patent and Copyright Agreement.  An alternative to Stanford’s regular agreement has been created in the event that the Visiting Scholar has a prior obligation to another employer regarding the disclosure and assignment of intellectual property. This agreement, the SU-18A, is only applicable to unpaid visitors; it is not applicable to individuals who are appointed as faculty or staff members, graduate students or postdoctoral scholars at Stanford University.

7. Visa Requests

Upon receipt of an approved Visa Certificate Request Application Form, the Office of Foreign Scholar Services at Bechtel International Center will prepare a Stanford visa certificate (DS-2019 Form).  Departments must pick up the approved Stanford visa certificate and assure that foreign visitors receive their DS-2019 well before departure from their home country, and that they understand that they must use the DS-2019 to apply for a J-1 visa at a U.S. Consulate.

8. Privileges

Visiting Scholar status is a privilege, not a right, and an individual holds this status at the pleasure of Stanford University.  The status may be revoked at any time (even during the term of the designated status) by the University in its discretion, without the necessity of a reason.  Similarly, there is no right to a renewal of the status at the end of the term. 

Visiting Scholars are not employees or students of the University, and therefore are not entitled to Stanford compensation or other benefits available to regular staff, faculty or students (including health insurance).  The Visiting Scholar title may not be used for personnel or payroll purposes.  Departments wishing to make a special payment to a Visiting Scholar for participation in a seminar presentation or similar contribution may do so by means of a non-salary honoraria. In certain cases, a program may agree to provide a non-salary stipend for living expenses or supplemental research expenses for the Visiting Scholar.  (See Administrative Guide 5.3.6, Section 7. In the rare circumstance where a Visiting Scholar is asked to make a short-term contribution to a research effort for which salary should be paid, payment of appropriate consulting fees should be arranged.

A Visiting Scholar Identification Card will be issued to Visiting Scholars who are in residence for a minimum of three months.  Cards may be obtained by visiting the Stanford Card Office presenting the appropriate signed invitation for appointment as a Visiting Scholar for a fixed period of at least three months, and showing a valid government-issued picture ID.  More details about the Visiting Scholar Card are found in Administrative Guide Memo 2.4.3 and at the Stanford Card Office web site.

Visiting Scholars are eligible to use the following Stanford facilities and services:

  • Libraries:  Holders of Visiting Scholar Cards will have access to certain Stanford University libraries in accordance with regulations and policies governing the use of its libraries. The possession of a Visiting Scholar Card does not assure access to any particular library.  Visiting Scholars without ID cards may apply for library privileges at the Privileges Desk in Green Library.  Privileges will be granted in accordance with library policy.
  • Department of Athletics, Physical Education and Recreation (DAPER) facilities and events:  Holders of Visiting Scholar Cards have access to certain facilities and events specified by DAPER, subject to payments of established amounts, if any, for tickets and use fees.  
  • auditing University lecture courses without fee, subject to permission of the instructor  (Classes that require individual instruction and participation, such as laboratory and language courses, studio and performance courses, or creative writing courses are not authorized for auditing.)
  • campus parking privileges for a fee (arranged through Parking & Transportation Services)
  • access to off-campus housing information

Requests for Exceptions and Additional Guidance

Requests for exceptions to any of the requirements of this policy must be reviewed and approved by the school dean’s office and by the Dean of Research.  For additional guidance regarding this policy, please contact the Dean of Research office.