University at Buffalo Crest.

Policy Information

Date Established:  12/3/2008
Date Last Revised:  6/24/2021
Category:  Academic
Responsible Office:
Postdoctoral Scholars
Responsible Executive:
Vice Provost for Academic Affairs

Policy Contents

Postdoctoral Scholars Policy

Summary

Postdoctoral study encompasses scholarship and training. This policy defines the postdoctoral scholar role and guides the appointment process.

Policy Statement

The University at Buffalo (UB, university) is committed to providing a supportive and productive training environment for our community of postdoctoral associates and postdoctoral fellows, hereinafter referred to as postdoctoral scholars. Postdoctoral scholars contribute to the academic community by enhancing the research and education programs of the university. They bring expertise, insights, and creativity that enrich the research and educational environment for all members of the university community, including graduate and undergraduate students. The university strives to provide a stimulating, positive, inclusive, and constructive experience for postdoctoral scholars by emphasizing the shared commitment and responsibility of the institution, faculty, and scholar.

Appointment of a Postdoctoral Scholar

A postdoctoral scholar’s appointment must meet the following conditions:

  • At the time of the appointment, the postdoctoral scholar must have been awarded a doctoral degree (or completed all the requirements of such) in an appropriate field, most typically within the past five years from the appointment, such as a Ph.D., M.D., Sc.D., D.D.S., J.D., Pharm.D., etc.
  • The appointment is temporary and may not exceed a period of five years; it is also contingent on satisfactory performance and existence of funding.
    • Periods that a postdoctoral scholar is on an approved leave of absence may not be counted towards the five-year period. Determinations will be made by the Postdoctoral Office on a case-by-case basis.
    • In the event that the postdoctoral activities are disrupted for a significant period of time due to unforeseen situations at the institution, such time may not be counted towards the five-year period.
    • In rare circumstances, an extension may be granted on a case-by-case basis based on performance and existence of funding. Requests for extensions must be reviewed and approved by the Postdoctoral Office.
  • The appointment is full-time. Requests for part time appointments must be reviewed and approved by the Postdoctoral Office in consultation with Human Resources.
  • The postdoctoral scholar works under the supervision of one or more faculty or principal investigator (PI) mentors.
  • The appointment may be in a clinical training program, training under the supervision of a UB-affiliated mentor.

Designated Titles

Designated titles for postdoctoral scholars are Postdoctoral Associate and Postdoctoral Fellow. A postdoctoral fellow holds a fellowship or traineeship. The fellow may receive payment through the Research Foundation (RF), the UB Foundation (UBF), a special allocation of State funds, or directly to the individual from the funding organization (i.e., Postdoctoral Fellow Direct Pay). This will be determined by the established guidelines and regulations of the assigned entity under which the fellowship is governed.

Postdoctoral associate is the usual designation for all other postdoctoral scholars that do not fall under the fellow titles.

Postdoctoral fellows and postdoctoral associates are affiliates of the institution and must comply with all UB policies and rules.

Recruitment and Hiring

All postdoctoral scholar positions must be posted through UBJobs, with the exception of those who are transferring to UB when a faculty member of another institution is hired by UB. The PI may consult with UB Human Resources and other university offices to follow best hiring practices and procedures, as well as guidance on how to achieve inclusion in hiring, education, and research.

For all postdoctoral appointments, the PI or faculty mentor must:

  • Comply with all federal, state, and sponsor guidelines
  • Confirm that the appointment has been integrated within the UB administrative system for the scholar to have access to UB resources (e.g., identification card, email address, library access)
  • Notify the Office of Postdoctoral Scholars of all postdoctoral scholars within the first month of the appointment
  • Consult with the UB Office of Immigration Services (UBIS) when recruiting and appointing international scholars to follow their established procedures and requirements for compliance with the USA immigration policies and regulations. A letter from the Office of Postdoctoral Scholars that confirms that the international scholar has been approved to hold the Postdoctoral Scholar title, as specified within this policy, must be provided to UBIS in order to initiate the consultation.

Compensation

The minimum full-time annual salaries for postdoctoral fellows are typically set by and subject to the sponsor agency guidelines. The compensation for postdoctoral associates is typically guided by the minimum salary thresholds established by New York State and applicable provisions of the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA), when not predetermined by the sponsored agency. The Postdoctoral Office will monitor such thresholds to indicate the minimum salary limit for a postdoctoral scholar.

Goals of Postdoctoral Traineeship

Goals of postdoctoral traineeship are to provide advanced research training beyond the doctoral degree and to prepare individuals to follow careers that require expertise in their field. The postdoctoral experience is a unique “apprenticeship” between sponsor and scholar. Faculty sponsors help prepare postdocs for the next step in their careers.

Training and Career Development

Training is a central component of the postdoc experience. It provides the opportunity for postdoctoral fellows and associates to enhance research skills critical to pursue careers as independent investigators or other related careers. All postdoctoral scholars are expected to actively engage in both training and career development. Many federal agencies and fellowship programs require a training plan for postdoctoral scholars by the PI, which provides for the scholar development. When such is not in place, it is recommended that within the first thirty days of the appointment, the postdoctoral scholars in consultation with their faculty mentor write an Individual Development Plan (IDP). The mentor should meet with the postdoctoral scholar at regular intervals to assess progress and goals. The postdoctoral scholar should provide their mentor, at least once annually, with a progress report of their research and professional development, as well as goals for the next reporting cycle. State-funded postdoctoral scholars who hold a United University Professions (UUP) position with performance program requirements can address the progress report during their performance evaluation. The Office of Postdoctoral Scholars will also provide professional development programs to enhance the postdoctoral training and experience.

Workplace Issues

For resolution of workplace complaints and disputes, postdoctoral scholars can follow the established UB procedures and regulations. For example, some issues (e.g., sexual harassment, discriminatory allegations, misconduct) may require the direct reporting and intervention of the appropriate UB office (e.g., Equity, Diversity and Inclusion, and/or Employee Relations). They may also seek guidance from the Office of Postdoctoral Scholars on how and where to proceed.

Discontinuation of Appointment of a Postdoctoral Scholar

Discontinuation with Notice

A postdoctoral scholar may have their appointment ended at any time. It is recommended that the mentor/supervisor provide at least four weeks written notice when funding is expected to end. Less time notice (two to three weeks) could be given for failure to adhere to the required and outlined expectations of the appointment and university-wide guidelines. State-funded postdoctoral scholars covered under UUP contract would follow appropriate guidelines established under such contract.

Termination of Appointment for Cause

A postdoctoral scholar may have their appointment immediately terminated at any time if they are found to have violated the obligations specified in this or any other UB policy. Such violations include egregious actions, including scientific misconduct, stealing, sexual harassment, and inappropriate behavior. Managers and supervisors should use reasonable judgment to decide whether an employee’s action may be remedied by some form of progressive discipline (for RF appointments, see the Research Foundation Progressive Discipline Policy). Discontinuation of appointment for cause must be preceded by written notice and in consultation with the UB Employee Relations Office.

Background

The university hosts postdoctoral scholars in many different departments, schools, and centers. While the university seeks to provide postdocs with the opportunity to continue their academic and research training through on-site practice experience, many aspects of the relationship between the university and its postdocs are also that of an employer-employee relationship. Given the hybrid nature of the association between postdocs and the university, this policy provides guidance on the obligations and expectations of those involved in postdoc training.

Applicability

This policy applies to individuals with the title of Postdoctoral Associate or Postdoctoral Fellow and the faculty who supervise and mentor these individuals.

Definitions

Postdoctoral Associate

Individual holding a doctoral degree who is engaged in a defined temporary period of mentored research and/or scholarly training for the purpose of acquiring the professional skills needed to pursue a career path of their choosing. Postdoctoral associates train under the direction and supervision of faculty mentors in preparation for academic or research careers. Postdoctoral Associate and Senior Postdoctoral Associate are titles that can be used for this classification. A Senior Postdoctoral Associate would have three or more years of postdoctoral experience in the field of research or scholarly study. For the purpose of payment, the postdoctoral associate is considered an employee of the institution and receives a paycheck every two weeks through payroll, payroll taxes are withheld, and may be eligible for certain benefits consistent with the fiscal agent appointment type.

Postdoctoral Fellow

Appointment of a postdoctoral scholar when the postdoc has been awarded a fellowship or traineeship for postdoctoral study, typically by an extramural agency or intramural resources (internal university programs, university centers, or institutes), and the fellowship or traineeship is paid through an RF account, the UB Foundation, or a special allocation of state funds. A postdoctoral fellow is not considered an employee for most extramural funds and taxes are not withheld (exceptions may apply to non-resident aliens) although they may be entitled to certain benefits. The fellow is part of the UB postdoctoral community, with access to the appropriate facilities and resources to conduct scholarly work.

Postdoctoral Fellow Paid Direct

An appointment is made as a fellow paid direct when the postdoc has been awarded a fellowship or traineeship for postdoctoral study by an extramural agency and the agency pays the fellowship or traineeship directly to the postdoc, rather than through the RF. Although the fellow is part of the UB postdoctoral community, with access to the appropriate facilities and resources to conduct scholarly work, they are not considered employees of the institution.

Postdoctoral Fellowship

Competitive award of financial support to an individual which provides a stipend and in some cases money for benefits coverage. Although postdoctoral fellowships may be awarded on the basis of a proposed research program, they are not awarded to accomplish a specific statement of work. Postdoctoral fellowships are awarded on a merit basis to assist a scholar in their professional training and development.

Postdoctoral Scholar

Individual with the title of Postdoctoral Associate or Postdoctoral Fellow.

Principal Investigator

UB faculty or staff member who bears responsibility for the leadership of a project, program, or activity. The PI accepts overall responsibility for directing the research, financial oversight, and compliance with relevant university policies and sponsor terms and conditions.

Responsibility

Office of Postdoctoral Scholars

  • Provide guidance for postdoctoral scholars.
  • Oversee this policy and ensure consistent application across the university.

Postdoctoral Scholars

  • Perform research responsibilities and assigned duties, as summarized in the letter of appointment and any subsequent renewals or revisions of the letter of appointment.
  • Engage in open and timely discussion with faculty mentor regarding all aspects of research progress.
  • Adhere to ethical standards in research.
  • Comply with all applicable university policies, procedures, and best practices.
  • Demonstrate collegial conduct towards coworkers and members of the research group.

Faculty Mentor

  • Facilitate postdoctoral scholar training and discharge of obligations for postdoctoral scholars.
  • Have a formal meeting with postdoctoral scholars to discuss their performance and progress at least once a year, and provide the Office of Postdoctoral Scholars with a brief statement documenting such meeting.
  • Emphasize education, promote development of independence in research, and support career advancement of the postdoctoral scholar.
  • Notify the Office of Postdoctoral Scholars within one month of any new postdoctoral scholar.

UB Human Resources

  • Determine that postdoctoral associates and fellows are classified and appointed correctly in coordination with the PI and office of Sponsored Project Services.
  • Provide administrative information and consultation to PIs related to appointment and termination of postdoctoral scholars.

Contact Information

Contact An Expert
Contact Phone Email
Office of Postdoctoral Scholars
Sandra J. Flash, Ph.D.
716-645-6872 sflash@buffalo.edu
Employee Relations 716-645-4462 putrino@buffalo.edu
Equity, Diversity and Inclusion
716-645-2266 diversity@buffalo.edu
Human Resources 716-645-7777 ub-hr@buffalo.edu
Immigration Services 716-645-2355 immgsvc@buffalo.edu

Related Information

University Links

Related Links

History

Policy Revision History
June 2021 Full review. Updated the policy to:
● Add an overarching policy statement
● Add the following details regarding the period of appointment:
   ● Periods that a postdoctoral scholar is on an approved leave of absence may not be counted towards the five-year period; determinations will be made by the Postdoctoral Office on a case-by-case basis.
   ● In the event that the postdoctoral activities are disrupted by a significant period of time due to unforseen situations at the institution, such time may not be counted towards the five-year period
   ● In rare circumstances, a one-year extension may be granted on a case-by-case basis based on performance and existence of funding; requests for extensions must be reviewed and approved by the Postdoctoral Office
● Remove appointment and extension periods
● Remove the minimum salary amount
● Remove the Leaves section
● Add the Goals of Postdoctoral Traineeship, Training and Career Development, and Background sections
● Add faculty mentors to the Applicability section
● Add a definition for Postdoctoral Fellow Paid Direct
● Clarify the definitions of Postdoctoral Associate and Postdoctoral Fellow
● Remove Appendices
December 2013 Updated for minor text changes.

Presidential Approval

Signed by President Satish K. Tripathi

Satish K. Tripathi, President

6/24/2021

Date