FAU Postdoctoral Policy

Subject:   FAU Postdoctoral Policy
Effective Date:   6/15/21
Policy Number:   10.11.1
Supersedes:   1-1-21
Responsible Authorities:   Vice President for Research
  1. BACKGROUND

    The role of the Postdoctoral Fellow is crucial to the success of Florida Atlantic University (FAU) research, scholarship, teaching and economic development programs. Furthermore, it is through a postdoctoral position that FAU contributes to the training of future independent researchers. This policy defines the FAU job profiles, outlines the responsibilities of a Postdoctoral Fellow and the supervisor/mentor, addresses the hiring eligibility, appointment terms and the performance evaluations (IDPs).

  2. PURPOSE

    This policy is designed to assist the University in its efforts to define the positions within the Postdoctoral Fellow job family, provide guidance on their responsibilities and provide metrics to assist the university in reporting the number of employees holding these positions at FAU.

  3. POLICY

    The Postdoctoral Fellow is considered a research employee hired by and reporting to FAU Colleges or Pillars. The following provides the job profile definitions within the Postdoctoral Fellow job family, the position hiring and appointment details, eligible benefits, and annual performance evaluation process.

    Job Profile Definitions

    1. Postdoctoral Fellow (Level 1)
      • Holds a full-time “Postdoctoral Fellow” position; part-time employment can be allowable under certain conditions with approval from the Office of Postdoctoral Affairs.
      • Holds a terminal degree in their discipline.
      • Fills this role for a limited time, standard appointments are up to three (3) years, with the option to renew with approval from the Postdoc Office after receipt of justification.
    2. Senior Research Fellow (Level 2)
      • Must have held a Postdoctoral Fellow (Level 1) position at FAU for a minimum of 6 months.
      • Holds a full-time “Senior Research Fellow” position; part-time employment can be allowable under certain conditions with approval from the Office of Postdoctoral Affairs.
      • Holds a terminal degree in their discipline.
      • Fills this role for a limited time, standard appointments in this job profile category are up to three (3) years. Renewals will only be granted with substantial justification to the Office of Postdoctoral Affairs.

    It is strongly recommended that a Postdoctoral Fellow in either job profile category not hold a position for more than six (6) years (Level 1 and Level 2 combined). Any extension above this timeframe requires approval by the Office for Postdoctoral Affairs.

    This policy addresses the following types of postdoctoral fellow:

    1. The first type includes Postdoctoral Fellows primarily engaged in research and scholarship who are either funded by their supervisor’s/mentor’s grant and research funding, or with support from their own training grant. These positions may have a clinical component to them. These Postdoctoral Fellows typically hold 12-month appointments.
    2. The second type combines scholarship and research with classroom teaching and pedagogical development. This type is typically a 12-month appointment. Research activities in the first two types should be focused on the development of a future academic or professional career in a primarily teaching focused position.
    3. The third type is focused on economic development. Entrepreneurial Postdoctoral Fellows prepare for a career in industry or private business. These fellows typically have developed a research idea during their graduate studies for which they envision a commercial product or application. During the first year(s), fellows will pursue their idea in a FAU affiliated research group with the head of this group acting as an academic supervisor/mentor. While they may maintain some connection with the research lab, fellows will then transition to one of FAU’s entrepreneurial programs (preferably FAU Tech Runway) for the second stage of their postdoc. There they will receive supervision/mentorship that focuses on entrepreneurism, business development and management. The primary goal for an entrepreneurial postdoc is to take laboratory research toward application and commercialization. These positions are negotiable in length based on the funding source of the supervisor/mentor.

    A postdoctoral appointee should be considered a collaborator of the faculty, and thereby co-author appropriate research outcomes; or an appointee may pursue his/her own research under the guidance of a faculty, or a combination of both.

    Responsibilities and Expectations

    Supervisor/Mentor

    The Postdoctoral Fellow should be managed by a supervisor/mentor who is a faculty member in the unit or a related unit to which the fellow has been assigned. Supervisors/Mentors are responsible for guiding, monitoring and supporting the work of the fellow. The supervisor/mentor has the responsibility of contributing to the intellectual, technical, and professional development of the fellow in a meaningful way including lending career advice. At the time of the postdoc hire, the supervisor/mentor should provide the fellow with a written document outlining assigned duties and expectations. The fellow should also be presented with a description of goals for the training program. Supervisors/Mentors are expected to communicate with the fellow on a regular basis and a formal annual performance evaluation should be conducted. See below for further information regarding the Individual Development Plan (IDP).

    Mentee (Postdoctoral/Senior Research Fellow)

    The Postdoctoral Fellow has full responsibility for actuating his/her postdoctoral training, being aware of the details entailed in the training plan, including the expectations and responsibilities set forth, as well as seek and participate in opportunities for professional development and career advice. The fellow is responsible for adhering to the expectations provided in the letter of appointment and all applicable University policies regarding research conduct.

    The fellow is responsible for adhering to ethical standards, good laboratory practices and collegial conduct toward coworkers. In addition, compliance with all sponsors, FAU policies and procedures, including those governing biosafety, human subjects and animals, is required. Fellows are expected to actively participate in training opportunities and communicate with their supervisor/mentor on a regular basis.

    Performance Evaluation – Individual Development Plan (IDP)

    While each Postdoctoral Fellow is ultimately responsible for his/own career progression, the faculty supervisor/mentor should initiate a discussion regarding individual goals and available resources within the first 30 days of employment using the FAU IDP form as a guide. A clear research, teaching and career development agenda should be established. Once completed, the initial IDP should be uploaded into the Postdoctoral Fellow’s file in Workday by the Postdoc him/herself via the Profile View/ Personal / Documents tab / Add. Supervisors/Mentors are expected to submit a copy of the initial IDP form to the Office of Postdoctoral Affairs for record-keeping.

    It will be expected that the Postdoctoral Fellow will be evaluated annually thereafter during their anniversary month. A self-assessment action will be sent to the Postdoc Fellow via Workday. Once completed, this annual assessment will route to the faculty supervisor/mentor for written feedback, discussion, and final submission to HR. Supervisors/Mentors are encouraged to submit a copy of the IDP form or any other form of evaluation to the Office of Postdoctoral Affairs for record-keeping. A lack of a current IDP on file could impact decisions that come before the Director of Postdoctoral Affairs.

    Recruitment

    The hiring of Postdoctoral Fellows is exempt from the FAU recruitment process due to their 1) special expertise that typically has to align with that of the supervisor/mentor and 2) time-limited appointment. The established FAU recruitment process may be used if needed to recruit for a postdoctoral position.

    Eligibility

    Eligibility for appointment as a Postdoctoral Fellow requires the candidate to hold a terminal degree, e.g., Ph.D., M.D., DSW, EdD, DrPH, DNP. If the official transcript is not available, the Office of Postdoctoral Affairs and FAU HR will accept an official letter from the dean or registrar of the candidate’s academic institution that certifies all three (3) of the following points:

    1. All the required coursework and research have been completed.
    2. The final report on the doctoral thesis has been approved by the examiners.
    3. The degree will be conferred on a specific date.

    A sample degree verification letter is provided online here: https://www.fau.edu/research-admin/postdoc-affairs/files/sample-degree-verification-letter-062521.docx. FAU must receive an official copy of the transcript showing the award of the degree from the institution once it is available.

    Candidates from non-US institutions must hold advanced degrees equivalent to those awarded in US Institutions. Official verification of documentation must be received prior to the start of employment. New employees with foreign education credentials must provide a translation and equivalency from a National Association of Credential Evaluation Services (NACES) accredited independent evaluation service. Failure to provide appropriate documentation by official start date may result in loss of the employment opportunity. In no event will a Postdoctoral Fellow be appointed without the degree having been awarded.

    Hiring

    Postdoctoral Fellows will be hired into the “Postdoctoral Group” job family category in Workday with conditions and provisions outlined herein.

    The appointment of a Postdoctoral Fellow is typically a 12-month assignment, for up to three (3) years. This appointment can be extended by up to three additional years for a total of six (6) years spanning both levels of appointment. Further extensions are only granted in extreme cases with considerable justification. Upon the end date, the appointee will have no continued contractual employment relationship with the University.

    Hiring and employment is subject to all federal and state laws, university regulations, including but not limited to, the University Intellectual Property Policy, Policy on Faculty Conflict of Commitment and Conflict of Interest, Policy on Integrity in Research and Procedures for Reviewing Alleged Misconduct, and the Policy on Employment of Relatives. If applicable, postdoctoral appointees must also comply with the recommendations and requirements of the University’s compliance committees (IRB, IACUC, IBC, etc.).

    All FAU employees must be able to work in the United States and it is the responsibility of the hiring department to contact FAU’s International Student Services (ISS) Department to seek guidance and to verify the appropriate visa status is maintained while at FAU. The Office of Postdoctoral Affairs does not support immigration applications.

    Compensation

    The Office of Postdoctoral Affairs does not mandate or control salaries. The salary and duties of a Postdoctoral Fellow must meet the minimum level for an exempt employee under the Fair Labor Standards Act and any policies of Florida Atlantic University. For national trends on postdoc salaries, visit the National Postdoctoral Association website or NIH NRSA.

    Since the Postdoctoral Fellow is considered a trainee by definition and the work assigned is considered a continuation of one’s education, the Postdoctoral Fellow is not eligible for any FAU merit-based bonus payment.

    Offer Letters

    Postdoctoral Fellow appointment letter templates can be found online at http://www.fau.edu/research-admin/postdoc-affairs/policy/ . The Director of the Office for Postdoctoral Affairs is to be copied on all Postdoctoral Fellow Offer Letters. These can be emailed to: postdocaffairs@fau.edu.

    Orientation

    Postdoctoral Fellows are hired continually throughout the year. Hiring departments should confer with Human Resources for the appropriate FAU New Employee Orientation date. The Division of Research, Office of Postdoctoral Affairs will sponsor Welcome Receptions periodically throughout the year as needed.

    Promotion to “Senior Research Fellow”

    After a minimum of six months as a Postdoctoral Fellow (level 1) the supervisor/mentor may consider the employee for promotion to the “Senior Research Fellow” (level 2) job profile which falls within the Postdoctoral Group Job Family.

    It is important to note that the position of “Senior Research Fellow” describes an outstanding Postdoctoral Fellow with proven experience and maturity to be responsible for his/her own lab and/or research projects and serves as a promotion for a postdoc. The Postdoctoral Promotion Checklist, a current Individual Development Plan (IDP) along with a justification letter from the supervisor/mentor must be completed and approved by the Director of Postdoctoral Affairs. These additional documents will be uploaded with the reclassification actions in Workday. Please allow at least 5 business days for approval. Discipline-specific exceptions may be made with justification and upon approval.

    The status of “Senior Research Fellow” grants the Postdoctoral Fellow PI eligibility by FAU’s Principal Investigator Eligibility policy. The individual will be supported in this position typically one (1) – three (3) years, at which point there is an expectation that the individual will seek out and transition to a new position in alignment with their individual career plan.

    Minimum requirements for promotion to “Senior Research Fellow” are:

    • Minimum six months at FAU in the Postdoctoral Fellow job profile
    • Promotion checklist and justification letter signed by supervisor/mentor, dean/director, and Director of Postdoctoral Affairs.
    • Ability and willingness of the Postdoctoral Fellow to submit and obtain external research funding as PI of a research award (non-fellowship).
    • Adequate research experience to oversee their own research program as indicated in justification letter to be ultimately approved by the Office of Postdoctoral Affairs.
    • Adequate leadership and team-building skills to lead a group of students and researchers as indicated in justification letter to be ultimately approved by the Office of Postdoctoral Affairs.

    This move will be considered a promotion and reclassification within the same Postdoctoral Group job family. Promotion requires a discussion and approval from the supervisor/mentor, the department/college/institute administration and the Office of Postdoctoral Affairs, utilizing the checklist provided in the Appendix. Benefits follow those of the postdoctoral position. This position should not be used in place of a faculty position.

    All hires and reclassifications/promotions of postdocs should follow standard FAU Human Resources policies and procedures.

    Benefits

    Postdoctoral Fellows (Level 1) are eligible for specific benefits including:

    • Health Insurance – Enrollment in a healthcare plan offered by FAU during the first sixty (60) calendar days of employment. After this initial enrollment period, employees may only enroll or make changes during the annual Open Enrollment period each fall.
    • Retirement Plans – Employees may choose between the Optional Retirement Plan (ORP) and the plans offered through the Florida Retirement System (FRS). All plans require that the employee contribute a mandatory 3% contribution.
    • Holidays – Paid Holidays when the University is officially closed.
    • Annual Leave – 80 hours of annual leave per calendar year, accrued per pay period and prorated based on hire date, which if not used, will be forfeited each year. In addition, there will be no payout of any unused annual leave at the end of the employment appointment.
    • Sick Leave – 40 hours of sick leave per calendar year, accrued per pay period and prorated based on hire date, which if not used, will be forfeited each year. In addition, there will be no payout of any unused sick leave at the end of the employment appointment.
    • All federal or state leave programs provided they meet eligibility requirements.
    • FAU’s Employee Educational Scholarship Program (EESP)

    Senior Research Fellows (Level 2) are eligible for:

    • Health Insurance – Enrollment in a healthcare plan offered by FAU during the first sixty (60) calendar days of employment. After this initial enrollment period, employees may only enroll or make changes during the annual Open Enrollment period each fall.
    • Retirement Plans – Employees may choose between the Optional Retirement Plan (ORP) and the plans offered through the Florida Retirement System (FRS). All plans require that the employee contribute a mandatory 3% contribution.
    • Holidays – Paid Holidays when the University is officially closed.
    • Annual Leave – 80 hours of annual leave per calendar year, accrued per pay period and prorated based on the promotion appointment date, which if not used, will be allowed to roll over to the following year up to a maximum of 160 hours. There will be no payout of any unused annual leave at the end of the employment appointment.
    • Sick Leave – 40 hours of sick leave per calendar year, accrued per pay period and prorated based on the promotion appointment date, which if not used, will be allowed to roll over to the following year up to a maximum 80 hours. There will be no payout of any unused sick leave at the end of the employment appointment.
    • Upon promotion, unused annual and sick leave accrued as a Postdoctoral Fellow (Level 1) will not be lost but will carry over to the Senior Research Fellow (Level 2).
    • All federal or state leave programs provided they meet eligibility requirements.
    • FAU’s Employee Educational Scholarship Program (EESP)
  4. POLICY RENEWAL DATE

    This Postdoctoral Policy will be reviewed at least once per year and updated as needed.


POLICY APPROVAL

Executed signature pages are available in the Initiating Authority Office(s)


APPENDIX

Postdoctoral Promotion to Senior Research Fellow Checklist
(Updated 1/1/2021)

Download the appendix