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Policy: Employment of Professional Research Staff 


Date: 01/20/11 Policy ID: HRM-033 Status: Final

Policy Type: University
   
Contact Office: Vice President for Research (Office of the)
   
Oversight Executive: Vice President for Research
   
Applies To:  Academic Division and the College at Wise.
   
Table of Contents:  Policy Statement
  1. Appointments to the Professional Research Staff
  2. Terms and Conditions of Employment
    1. Classifications of Professional Research Staff
      1. Junior Professional Research Staff
        1. Research Assistant
        2. Postdoctoral Research Associate
      2. Senior Professional Research Staff
        1. Research Scientist
        2. Senior Scientist
        3. Principal Scientist
    2. Length of Appointment
    3. Reappointment and Standards of Notice
    4. Removal for Just Cause
    5. Grievance - Eligible Complaints
    6. Resignation
    7. Salary Schedule and Salary Review
    8. Patent and Copyright Policies
  3. Leave and Benefits
Procedures
  1. Offering Employment
  2. Requesting an Extension of Employment
  3. Holding a Pre-determination Meeting
  4. Submitting a Grievance
   
Reason for Policy: 

The University is committed to hiring a diverse workforce whose knowledge, skills, and abilities support the University’s mission of teaching, research, and public service. This policy: (1) identifies the categoriesof Professional Research Staff employment and the terms and conditions associated with each; and (2) sets forth the process for such appointments.

   
Policy Summary: 
   
Definition of Terms in Statement: 

Designated Hiring Official: Persons designated to extend offers of employment on behalf of the University. The president, vice presidents and academic deans are designated hiring officials. Hiring authority may be delegated in writing by one of these individuals with the approval of the president or the appropriate vice president.

Postdoctoral Fellow: A postdoctoral appointee who, because of the source of funding (e.g., training grant, foreign government, individual fellowship, etc.), is not considered an employee of the University.

Professional Research Staff: Professional staff principally engaged in research and appointed to terms of employment at the University, including research assistants, postdoctoral research associates, research scientists, senior scientists, and principal scientists.
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Policy Statement: 

The terms and conditions of employment for Professional Research Staff are dependent upon the category of research staff under which the position falls (e.g., research assistant, senior scientist, etc.). Eligibility for leave and benefits is specific to the category of employment.  (Note: This policy does not apply to postdoctoral fellows.)
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  1. Appointments to the Professional Research Staff:
    Appointments to the Professional Research Staff are subject to and must be consistent with the provisions as set forth in this policy. Prospective personnel should be made fully aware of the terms and conditions of the proposed employment when a position is offered to them.  The appointment process, terms and conditions, and benefits applicable to Professional Research Staff are governed by this policy and not by other policies governing tenure or non-tenure track faculty, classified staff, or University staff.

Professional Research Staff positions are subject to the University’s equal employment opportunity and affirmative action statement, and EOP’s recruitment and hiring procedures

A search must be initiated through Jobs@UVa. When a search is conducted to fill a Professional Research Staff position, the search process must be completed prior to extending an offer of employment.

Upon completion of the search process, a conditional offer letter stating the terms and conditions of employment shall be extended by the designated hiring official. Only designated hiring officials may extend an offer of University employment and such offer must be consistent with this policy and made subject to continued availability of any designated funding source. Designated hiring officials should extend offers of employment using the Conditional Offer Letter for Professional Research Staff. (A template for offer letters to prospective members of the Professional Research Staff may be found on the website of the Office of the Executive Vice President and Provost.)
 
This offer is subject to satisfactory employment verification and the submission of a completed I-9 form. The employment of Professional Research Staff is governed by current and future policies as may be set by the Commonwealth of Virginia, the Rector and Visitors, the University President, Vice President, and Dean.  The conditional offer shall be approved by the appropriate dean or vice president (or his/her designee).

Upon written acceptance of the employment offer, the hiring transaction shall be submitted through Jobs@UVa to the Office of the Executive Vice President and Provost and the following shall be maintained, by the department/unit, in the employee’s personnel file and Jobs@UVa:

    Job description
    Curriculum vitae/resume
    Copy of offer letter (signed by all parties)

Employment of aliens (non-US citizens) as Professional Research Staff must be in line with the provisions of this policy, and subject to the approval of the chair or hiring official of the department, and the dean’s office.  Also, any offers of employment are contingent upon the alien (non-citizen) being able to obtain and present the proper immigration work authorization prior to the employment start date, and satisfying I-9 requirements.  A Form I-9 (Certification of Employment Eligibility) also is required for all newly-hired Professional Research Staff.  For questions regarding Form I-9 and the employment of non-U.S. citizens, refer to the Policy on Employment Eligibility Verification (Completing Form I-9).

Students are not eligible for appointment as members of the Professional Research Staff, but must be appointed under the Wage Authorization issued by the Office of the Executive Vice President and Provost. A student is defined as an individual who has been admitted to a degree or certificate program at the University of Virginia.
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  1. Terms and Conditions of Employment:
    The terms and conditions of Professional Research Staff employment are dependent upon the category of Professional Research Staff.  Professional Research Staff fall into one of five categories: Research Assistant, Postdoctoral Research Associate, Research Scientist, Senior Scientist, and Principal Scientist.
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    1. Classifications of Professional Research Staff:
      Two classifications exist within the Professional Research Staff: Junior Professional Research Staff and Senior Professional Research Staff.
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      1. Junior Professional Research Staff
        Research Assistants and Postdoctoral Research Associates are members of the Junior Professional Research Staff.

        1. Research Assistant
          Requires a master's degree or equivalent. Research Assistants perform research duties as directed by the Principal Investigator (PI). Research Assistants should have the ability to design methodologies, follow established quality standards, analyze data, prepare written documentation, and make formal presentations. Research Assistants also should have the ability to assume leadership of subordinates.
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        2. Postdoctoral Research Associate
          Requires a doctoral degree. The postdoctoral appointment is temporary and conferred upon an individual who recently has been awarded a Ph.D. or equivalent doctorate1 and who will be involved in full-time research or scholarship. The appointment is viewed as preparatory for a full-time academic or research career, is supervised by a senior scholar, and the appointee has the freedom, and is expected to, publish the results of his/her research or scholarship during the period of the appointment.
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      2. Senior Professional Research Staff
        Research Scientists, Senior Scientists, and Principal Scientists are members of the Senior Professional Research Staff.

        1. Research Scientist
          Requires a doctoral degree or master's degree with significant experience. Research Scientists are expected to perform assigned tasks on their own initiative. In addition to a firm background in the particular field, Research Scientists should demonstrate the ability to assume leadership of small groups and work without additional supervision once objectives are defined and methods of approach are set.
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        2. Senior Scientist
          Requires a doctoral degree or equivalent in training and/or experience. Senior Scientists are expected to have sufficient experience and background to organize small research groups including Research Assistants and Research Scientists. Senior Scientists are expected to perform assigned tasks on their own initiative with minimal direction.
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        3. Principal Scientist
          Requires a doctoral degree or equivalent (in rare instances, exceptions may be granted by the appropriate vice president). Admission to this classification is usually restricted to those employees who demonstrate exceptional creative ability and thus are capable of conducting independent research. Principal Scientists participate in research programs at the level of project supervisor or higher. They are distinguished from Research Faculty in that they (1) are not expected to provide formal guidance to students or otherwise participate in the instructional program, and (2) are not considered members of the faculty.
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      In certain circumstances, members of the Professional Research Staff may serve as principal investigator (PI) on grants and contracts.  While service as PI is generally limited to elected members of the faculty, exceptions may be made in accordance with established policies and procedures.  (Refer to the policy on Grants and Contracts – Definition, Solicitation, Clearance, and Acceptance and Procedure 8-8: Request for an Individual Not Meeting Policy Criteria to Serve as a Principal Investigator).

      It is not uncommon for members of the Professional Research Staff, particularly Postdoctoral Research Associates, to accept a relevant University teaching assignment during the term of employment.  To be eligible for such an assignment, the individual must receive a concurrent non-tenure-track faculty appointment – as a lecturer – for the duration of the teaching assignment.  The faculty appointment shall be terminated at the conclusion of the teaching assignment. (Refer to the policy on Appointment of Unpaid Faculty.)
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    2. Length of Appointment:
      All appointments subject to this policy are contingent upon available funding and may be terminated or reduced if the funding source is lost or reduced.

      Hires, initial appointments, and reappointments to the Professional Research Staff are governed by the terms noted above and by the availability of funding.  At no time is the University obligated to continue employment, beyond the specified standards for notice below, should the source of such funding (e.g., grant, contract, etc.) be terminated or reduced below the level required for the position.  If the source of funding is reduced but not eliminated, the University may, in its sole discretion, invite the member of the Professional Research Staff to continue employment at a salary level consistent with reduced funding.  Additionally, members of the Professional Research Staff do not serve with, and shall not earn, the expectation of continued employment.

      Research Assistants
      Initial appointments and reappointments to this position shall not exceed one year.  However, if at the time of reappointment, less than one year of funding is available, reappointments may be made in monthly increments.

      Postdoctoral Research Associates
      Initial appointments to this position shall not exceed one year.  However, such appointments may be renewed for an additional two, one-year increments.  If, at the time of reappointment, less than one year of funding is available, reappointments may be made in monthly increments.
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      At the end of the third year, if not sooner, departments/units shall select one of three options:

      Option 1: Allow the appointment to expire, at which point employment with the University will end;

      Option 2: Allow the appointment to expire and encourage the Postdoctoral Research Associate to consider other available employment as a Research Scientist or in an alternative University position; departmental consideration of a Postdoctoral Research Associate for such positions must follow University hiring-related search and recruitment procedures; or

      Option 3: Request an extension of the appointment, which must be approved in writing by the department/unit head and the appropriate dean/vice president (or designee).  Such requests subsequently must be reviewed and approved by the Office of the Vice President for Research.  Documentation must be provided to justify that the nature of employment continues to be training-related and that such continuation is beneficial to the Postdoctoral Research Associate and the University.  Under these circumstances, the maximum term of employment for a Postdoctoral Research Associate (including service as a postdoctoral fellow), at the University of Virginia, is five years.  Following a period of five years, Postdoctoral Research Associates either must be terminated from University employment or be employed as a Research Scientist or in an alternative University position.

      The University will consider extensions beyond five years for unique circumstances. Such requests must have the written approval of the department/unit head and the appropriate dean/vice president (or designee). Such requests subsequently must be reviewed and approved by the Office of the Executive Vice President and Provost.

      The intent of these limits on employment terms is to formalize the temporary nature and training aspects of the postdoctoral experience, while recognizing that career development varies across disciplines and, in select situations, may warrant extended periods of special training.

      Senior Professional Research Staff
      Initial appointments and reappointments to these positions may be made in increments of one to three years.  However, if at the time of reappointment, less than one year of funding is available, reappointments may be made in monthly increments.
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      Summary of Terms of Appointment:

       

      Research
      Assistants

      Postdoctoral
      Research Associates
      Senior Professionl
      Research Staff
      Initial Terms of Appointment One year One year One to three years
      Terms of Reappointment One year One year One to three years
      Maximum Term of Appointment (w/o extensions) n/a Three years n/a
      Maximum Term of Appointment (with extensions) n/a Five years2 n/a
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    3. Reappointment and Standards of Notice:
      Monitoring the progress of the Professional Research Staff is the responsibility of the supervisor of record, generally the sponsoring Principal Investigator. Performance should be evaluated annually, in writing, to ascertain that the staff member is performing the assigned duties in a highly satisfactory manner. At the end of each appointment, if the most recent evaluation is positive and satisfactory to the evaluator, and sufficient sources of funding are available, members of the Professional Research Staff are eligible for reappointment in accordance with the terms specified under “Length of Appointment” above. However, positive performance does not obligate the University to reappoint Professional Research Staff beyond the current appointment term.

      For all members of the Professional Research Staff, a minimum of two months notice shall be given by the University in the event of non-reappointment or when termination is due to insufficient funding. Notice of non-reappointment for reasons other than insufficient funding shall be either two months or one month for each year of service at the University, up to a maximum of six months, whichever is greater. The University shall make every reasonable effort to provide more notice if possible, regardless of the circumstance.
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    4. Removal for Just Cause:
      Members of the Professional Research Staff may be removed from employment for just cause. Individuals removed for just cause are not eligible for the standards of notice referenced above. Causes for removal include, but are not limited to: professional incompetence, unacceptable performance after due notice, unethical or unlawful conduct, misconduct that interferes with the capacity of the employee (or other employees) to perform effectively the requirements of employment, or falsification of credentials and/or experience.

      The immediate supervisor of the staff member shall prepare the materials for a pre-termination meeting and shall notify the appropriate department head.3  After such notification, the immediate supervisor shall then notify the employee and the appropriate dean or vice president, in writing, of the intent to terminate for just cause, the nature of the cause, and a summary of evidence supporting it.

      After a member of the Professional Research Staff has been notified of the intent to be terminated from employment for just cause and the nature of the cause and a summary of evidence supporting it, the appropriate dean or vice president (or his/her designee) may suspend the individual, with pay, at any time and continue the paid suspension until a final determination concerning removal has been reached.  (See procedure for “Holding a Pre-determination Meeting.”)

      If, after the pre-determination meeting, the supervisor and department head agree to recommend termination for just cause, the recommendation shall be forwarded to the appropriate dean or vice president for review and approval. 

      Within one week after a final decision to terminate or not terminate employment for just cause, the immediate supervisor shall notify, in writing, the employee, the department head, and the appropriate dean or vice president. Termination for just cause is subject to appeal by the employee through the procedure for “Submitting a Grievance” (as detailed below). The employee shall not be continued in employment or funded after termination for just cause, regardless of his/her filing a grievance.
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    5. Grievance – Eligible Complaints:
      An eligible complaint which may be grieved must arise from one of the  following:
      1. Complaint of Inappropriate Disciplinary Action – a complaint that the employee has been subjected to an inappropriate or unjustified disciplinary action in his or her employment;
      2. Complaint of Employment Contract Breach – a complaint that the University has breached the employee’s employment contract (the employee’s offer letter serves as the employment contract);
      3. Complaint of Reprisal – a complaint that the employee has been subjected to acts of reprisal in his or her employment as a result of using this procedure or being a witness for another employee using this procedure.

      (See procedure for “Submitting a Grievance.”)

      Complaints of discrimination, harassment, and/or retaliation should be filed with the Office of Equal Opportunity Programs.
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    6. Resignation:
      Professional Research Staff should tender resignations, in writing, at least one month prior to the intended date of resignation.  Resignation shall become effective upon both the receipt by the immediate supervisor, department head, and/or appropriate dean or vice president and written acceptance of the resignation. Once accepted, a resignation may not be rescinded except with the written approval of both the department head and appropriate dean or vice president.
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    7. Salary Schedule and Salary Review:
      Starting salaries typically are established in accordance with the schedule of minimum entry levels established by the Board of Visitors. Annual salary adjustments are for merit increases, and normally will be effective on the date state-funded increases are effective, unless a school elects as a policy to use anniversary dates as the date for salary increases. Salaries should be set in increments of $100.
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    8. Patent and Copyright Policies
      As a condition of employment, any person who may be engaged in University research is required to execute a patent agreement with the University in which the rights and obligations of both parties are defined.  Refer to the Office of the Vice President for Research for information regarding the University’s patent and copyright policies.
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  2. Leave & Benefits:
    Leave and benefits provided by the University to Professional Research Staff include, but are not limited to: holiday leave, annual leave, sick leave, family and personal leave, health insurance, life insurance, and retirement.  Refer to University Human Resources for information on leave and benefits relative to the specific category of employment (e.g., Research Assistant, Postdoctoral Research Associate, etc.).
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1Postdoctoral appointments are generally reserved for those individuals who have been awarded a Ph.D. or equivalent doctorate within the previous five years.  For Research Associates holding an M.D., the years spent in residency do not count towards this limitation.
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2The University will consider extensions beyond five years for unique circumstances.  Such requests must have the written approval of the department/unit head and the appropriate dean/vice president (or designee).  Such requests subsequently must be reviewed and approved by the Office of the Executive Vice President and Provost.
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3In cases where the immediate supervisor also serves as the department head, the appropriate dean or vice president (or his/her designee) shall replace the department head for the purposes of notice, approval, and/or decision making.  In cases where the immediate supervisor also serves as a dean or vice president, the appropriate executive vice president (or his/her designee) shall replace the dean or vice president for purposes of notice, approval, and/or decision making.
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Procedures: 
  1. Offering Employment:
    See Conditional Offer Letter Template for Professional Research Staff.
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  2. Requesting an Extension of Employment:
    See Request for Extension of Postdoctoral Research Associate Employment.
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  3. Holding a Pre-determination Meeting:
    A pre-determination meeting that includes the employee, the supervisor, and the department head (or his/her designee) shall be scheduled after two business days, but within one week following the employee’s receipt of notice.  This meeting is designed to give the employee an opportunity to respond to the charge and to provide additional relevant information prior to a final decision being made.  The department head (or his/her designee) shall chair the meeting. This meeting is required before a decision can be made to terminate employment for just cause. However, in cases where the employee’s attendance is considered to be a potential threat to health or safety of University personnel or property, the required participation of the employee in this meeting may be changed from being in person to offering the employee the opportunity to submit his/her position in writing provided such change is approved, in writing, by the executive vice president and provost (or his/her designee).
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  4. Submitting a Grievance:
    A member of the Professional Research Staff may present, in writing, an employment-related complaint or dispute to his/her immediate supervisor at any time during the term of employment or within five working days following receipt of a decision to terminate for just cause. In all cases, unless mutually agreed otherwise, this and each subsequent level of referral must respond to the other party within five working days. If the employee is not satisfied with the immediate supervisor’s response, he/she may present the grievance, in writing, to the appropriate department head within five working days. If not satisfied with the department head’s response, the employee may present the grievance, in writing, to the appropriate dean or vice president (or next level of authority) within five working days. The final level of referral shall be the appropriate executive vice president. If a grievance directly involves one or more of the individuals responsible for reviewing the complaint per the above procedure, then the complaint should be submitted to the next level of referral.
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Related Information: 

Office of Equal Opportunity Programs (EOP)
University Human Resources (UHR)

New Hire Orientation Guide for Research Assistants
New Hire Orientation Guide for Postdoctoral Research Associates
New Hire Orientation Guide for Faculty & Senior Professional Research Staff
Benefits for Professional Research Staff

Appointment of Unpaid Faculty
Grants and Contracts – Definition, Solicitation, Clearance, and Acceptance
Ownership Rights in Copyrightable Material
Patent Policy

Procedure 8-8: Request for an Individual Not Meeting Policy Criteria to Serve as a Principal Investigator

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Policy Background: 
   
Major Category: Human Resource Management
   
Category Cross Reference: 
   
   
Process: 
   
Next Scheduled Review: 01/20/14
   
Approved By, Date: Policy Review Committee, 11/04/10
   
Revision History: 
   
Supersedes (previous policy):  Policy on Professional Research Staff.