Office of the Provost

Postdoctoral Fellows Employment Classification

Memorandum
TO: Members of the Council of Deans
FROM: James V. Maher
DATE: May 22, 2003

The employment category of “postdoc” has been a source of confusion for many years at this university and at most other research universities in the United States. We all agree with the definition that was presented by the AAU Committee on Postdoctoral Education in 1998; however, researchers satisfying this definition are currently employed at the University of Pittsburgh in a variety of different classifications, with benefits varying by classification. Last spring I appointed a small committee to investigate the employee classifications and associated benefits of postdocs at the University of Pittsburgh and to recommend how to solve any problems identified. That committee has presented its report and, after consultation with Human Resources, I am accepting their recommendations.

This new classification will provide greater equity in benefits for postdocs and will clarify the position of research associate. I attach new definitions of research associate/postdoc employee types, effective September 1st of this year, and a schedule for implementation of these new types. This is the first step in our efforts to improve the employment environment for these important researchers.
Senior Vice Chancellor Arthur S. Levine and I are appointing a new committee to consider employment policies for postdocs, i.e., persons in Employee Type A or B. Their considerations will include such things as appointment, reappointment, early termination, grievance procedures, minimum salaries, and length of tenure as postdoc.

As a major research university, the University of Pittsburgh needs to attract the highest quality young researchers as postdocs to work under the supervision of its distinguished research faculty. I believe that with these new policies and procedures in place, we will be able to offer prospective young researchers an attractive employment environment. This, coupled with the outstanding research opportunities available at our University, should enable us to recruit the best young scholars to the University of Pittsburgh.

cc: Ronald W. Frisch, Associate Vice Chancellor, Human ResourcesArthur S. Levine, Senior Vice Chancellor for the Health Sciences and Dean, School of Medicine

Sincerely,
James V. Maher

Implementation of Use of New Research Associate/Postdoc Employee Types 
Office of the Provost 
Effective September 1, 2003

  • As of September 1, 2003, no new employee will be classified in employee types Research Associate (04), Other Fellows (15) or Postdoc Non-degree (18), and no new trainee on a postdoctoral training grant will be classified in Other Trainees (14).
  • As of September 1, 2003, new employees who are appointed to engage in full-time research or scholarship and who have earned the Ph.D. degree, or equivalent, will be placed on the payroll in one of three employee types, whose definitions are attached.  They will be called Postdoctoral Associates, Postdoctoral Scholars, or Research Associates.  (Referred to as A, B, and C, respectively.)  The definition of each is attached.  The bolded sentences highlight the differences among the definitions and do not mean added emphasis.
  • The fringe rate charged for persons in A or C will be the same as the current Research Associate rate and the benefits will be the same as that of the current Research Associate (employee type 04).
  • Each person in B on a full appointment will be eligible to enroll in the medical insurance plans available to staff and faculty employees.  The dean of the school (or director of a center that does not report to a dean) is responsible for implementing a plan to pay for the University's contribution to this health insurance.
  • Persons in A and C will be issued an ID card giving them the same privileges as staff and faculty.  A person in employee type B will be issued an ID card that will permit usage of the PAT bus system and the University's libraries.  The dean of each school (or director of a center that does not report to a dean) will implement a plan to pay for the PAT bus system benefit.  Persons in B will be eligible for use of appropriate computer facilities.
  • Persons currently classified as Research Associate (04), Other Fellows (15) or Postdoc Non-degree (18) will be shifted gradually to one of the new classifications or to staff positions, as contracts and grants are renewed. 

    
Definition of New Research Associate/Postdoc Employee Types 
Office of the Provost 
Effective September 1, 2003

The following are descriptions of proposed Employee Types for those working at the University of Pittsburgh with Ph.D. degrees (or the equivalent), who are appointed to engage in full-time research or scholarship.  The responsibilities and degree of supervision of persons in these types differ from those of staff in research positions and of faculty.  Usually these appointees are funded by external grants or awards.  The bolded sentences highlight the differences among the definitions and do not mean added emphasis.

A.  Postdoctoral Associates. (Currently has been usually classified as Research Associate, type 04, 15, 18.)  The appointment involves substantially full-time research or scholarship.  It is a transitional position and is viewed as preparatory for an academic and/or research career.  The appointee is not part of a clinical training program.  The appointee: 

  • was recently awarded the Ph.D. or equivalent doctorate. 
  • works under the supervision of a faculty member. 
  • has the freedom and is expected to publish the results of his/her research or scholarship during the period of the appointment. 
  • is supported on research funds in return for duties performed to meet the goals for which the funds were awarded and is an employee of the University, paid through the University, with a fringe rate collected on the salary.

B.  Postdoctoral Scholars:  (Currently has usually been classified as employee type 14).  The appointment involves substantially full-time research or scholarship.  It is a transitional position  and is viewed as preparatory for an academic and/or research career.  The appointee is not part of a clinical training program. The appointee: 

  • was recently awarded the Ph.D. or equivalent doctorate.
  • works under the supervision of a faculty member. 
  • has the freedom and is expected to publish the results of his/her research or scholarship during the period of the appointment. 
  • is paid from a University grant that prohibits the individual from being considered an employee (as determined by Sponsored Research or other entity), or from a grant whose funding source does not permit collection of a fringe rate, or is being paid a stipend by an agency outside the University.  For example, this includes persons on training grants or postdoctoral fellowships.

C.  Research Associate:  (Currently normally classified as Research Associate, type 04.)  The appointment involves substantially full time research or scholarship.  It is a renewable appointment, and not viewed as preparation for another position.  The appointee is not part of a clinical training program. The appointee: 

  • has earned the Ph.D. or equivalent doctorate
  • works under the supervision of a faculty member. 
  • has the freedom and is expected to publish the results of his/her research or scholarship during the period of the appointment. 
  • is supported on research funds in return for duties performed to meet the goals for which the funds were awarded and is an employee of the University, paid through the University, with fringe rate collected on the salary. 
  • experience and quality of research may justify appointment or promotion to Senior Research Associate