F. Research Scientists

Note:  The Research Scientist position in the FAS divisions of the Arts and Humanities and Social Science is called “Research Scholar.” The Research Scholar position is in all ways identical to the Research Scientist position, differing only in name. References to “Research Scientist” below and throughout the FAS Appointment and Promotion Handbook encompass Research Scholars as well.

(1) Description

Research Scientist appointments are made to secure the paid professional services of an individual in support of research projects directed by one or more faculty members. While Research Scientists have a modicum of independence in pursuing their research, they are, ordinarily, expected to contribute to the intellectual pursuits of the Harvard faculty member’s research program or support the needs of a core facility or research center. They may supervise other researchers. The Research Scientist and Senior Research Scientist appointments (see 13G) are part of a professional research track, not an academic track that would lead to a possible faculty appointment.

Individuals receiving this appointment will possess a doctoral degree at the time of appointment and ordinarily will have had at least five years of postdoctoral experience.

Research Scientists may not be designated as “principal investigator” or “project director” without the explicit approval of the divisional dean. They may, however, be designated as co-principal investigator on projects in which they play a major role and in which another Harvard individual with PI privileges serves as principal investigator. (Please see the “Application for the Exceptional Granting of FAS or SEAS Principal Investigator Rights” form, available on the “Forms” page of the FAS website for faculty and researchers.)

The appointment, which is contingent on funding and space, is made for five years. Feedback on performance will be provided on an annual basis. Reappointment in this rank for an additional five-year term requires review within the first six months of the fifth year, with subsequent reviews for reappointment at similar intervals thereafter. Part-time appointments or non-consecutive appointments for a fraction of a year will ordinarily count as a one-year appointment for determining eligibility for a renewal or a review date. Associate professors at Harvard may not hold an appointment at this rank for 24 months following the termination of their last faculty appointment, except during the summer months immediately following their termination (in order to allow them to fulfill commitments to their grants).

Note: Members of the FAS and University community are expected to familiarize themselves with, and conform to, Harvard policies on teaching, research, and service, as appropriate to their position. Please see Chapter 2, “FAS and University Policies,” for more information.

In keeping with Harvard University’s Intellectual Property policies (https://vpr.harvard.edu/pages/intellectual-property-policy) and other research policies, faculty and researchers are expected to sign electronically the Harvard University Participation Agreement by the start of their appointment.

(2) Salary

Research Scientists are paid at a rate commensurate with experience, in consultation with the assistant dean for faculty affairs. The minimum base salary for Research Scientists is $60,000.

(3) Appointment/Search and Promotion Review Procedures

A search is required for all external appointments to research scientist, and a promotion review is required for all internal promotions to research scientist from a Harvard position as a postdoctoral fellow or research associate. Please see the processes below.

Search Process for External Appointment to Research Scientist:

a.   Departments or principal investigators should place an advertisement in an appropriate professional journal, indicating the availability of positions in their areas. Other suggested recruitment methods include posting open positions on the department’s webpage, making direct inquiries in the service of developing a diverse pool, and consulting lists of diverse individuals, including women and minorities. Advertising copy must indicate that Harvard is “an equal opportunity employer and all qualified applicants will receive consideration for employment without regard to race, color, sex, gender identity, sexual orientation, religion, creed, national origin, ancestry, age, protected veteran status, disability, genetic information, military service, pregnancy and pregnancy-related conditions, or other protected status.” Care should be taken to avoid language that could be construed as discriminatory with regard to age.

As three recommendation letters must be obtained for all short-list candidates (and two more external letters for the finalist must later be solicited, before any offer can be made), the advertisement may indicate that candidates should submit with their application either contact information for three recommendation letters or else three recommendation letters. All recommendation letters and external letters should be from experts at the ladder faculty ranks; it may be appropriate to include highly accomplished senior researchers from corporations or research institutes, or well-established museum professionals or practicing artists.

In addition, the advertisement should request a curriculum vitae (including a list of publications) and a research statement.

Please note that print advertisements are not required for research appointments; online ads are sufficient.

b.  The P.I. should suggest, for approval by the assistant dean for faculty affairs, a three-person search committee composed of individuals at the tenure-track, tenured, or senior non-ladder faculty ranks, or at the rank of Senior Research Fellow.

c.  The committee reviews the candidates’ materials (including the three recommendation letters for all short-list candidates). In considering a possible finalist, the committee solicits two additional letters from experts external to Harvard, for a total of five letters in the final dossier. The letter soliciting external evaluations, which should first be approved by the assistant dean for faculty affairs, should include: the criteria for appointment to the research scientist position; an indication that the University will make every effort possible to keep the response confidential and will make it available only to individuals involved in the formal review process; and the deadline for receipt of responses and contact information. With the letter, the committee should include the candidate’s curriculum vitae (including a list of publications) and research statement.                    

d. After reviewing all materials, including external letters for the finalist, the committee votes on the case. After a favorable vote, the committee drafts a case statement and sends a dossier to the assistant dean for faculty affairs, for review. The dossier includes:

  • A statement describing the steps taken to identify candidates from diverse populations, including women and minorities; a description of how the leading candidate was identified; a description of how many diverse individuals applied or were considered; comparison of the candidate with other leading candidates (in particular, women and minorities), and reasons why the other leading candidates were not chosen.
  • The Departmental EEO Report displaying aggregate demographic data from the search. This report, which does not identify characteristics of individual applicants, can be retrieved through the ARIeS system.
  • The case for appointing the candidate, including a summary of the search process, a summary of the candidate’s qualifications and contributions, an explanation of how the candidate meets the criteria for research scientist, a discussion of the strengths and weaknesses of the candidate’s case as noted in the recommendation letters, external evaluations, and the internal deliberations of the search committee, and the committee’s signatures, with an indication of the primary author of the statement.
  • A curriculum vitae (including list of publications)
  • The candidate’s research statement
  • The candidate’s recommendation letters, copies of the letter soliciting external evaluations, and the external letters received.
  • Copies of all advertisements.

e.  If the appointment is granted, the offer letter is issued by the department or the P.I., cc’ing the divisional assistant dean.

f.  If the offer is accepted, the final dossier is sent to the Appointments Office via Aurora with the offer letter, and the appointment is processed in the Aurora system by the department.

Review Process for Internal Promotion to Research Scientist:

For promotion to research scientist from a Harvard position as a postdoctoral fellow or research associate, please see the steps below.

a. The P.I. should suggest, for approval by the assistant dean for faculty affairs, a three-person review committee composed of individuals at the tenure-track, tenured, or senior non-ladder faculty ranks, or at the rank of Senior Research Fellow. The P.I. should not serve as a member of the committee.

b.   The committee asks the candidate to submit a curriculum vitae (including a list of publications) and a research statement. In addition, the candidate should submit a list of experts in the field whom the department may wish to consult about the review or any experts the candidate feels should not be consulted, with an accompanying explanation. If the candidate prefers, the candidate may provide this explanatory information to the department chair. The candidate may also consult with the assistant dean.

c.  The committee reviews the candidate’s materials. These materials should include a letter from the P.I., describing what the candidate has been doing, what the impact of the candidate’s work has been, the expected length of the candidate’s project and the stability of its funding, and why it is important for the candidate to remain at Harvard rather than pursue an independent career.

In addition, five evaluative letters about the candidate must be obtained by the committee before any offer can be made. The committee takes into consideration the suggestions of the candidate (as submitted with the candidate’s materials in Step b. above), but the committee has final authority in deciding who it will ask to write letters. At least three of the five letters must be from letter-writers external to Harvard; one letter can be from the Harvard department seeking to make the appointment (or, for candidates from SEAS, this letter can be either from the SEAS area seeking to make the appointment or else from SEAS more broadly); and one letter can also be from Harvard, but must be external to (as applicable, depending on the candidate’s primary affiliation) the Faculty of Arts and Sciences or the John A. Paulson School of Engineering and Applied Sciences. All five letters should be from experts at the ladder faculty ranks; it may be appropriate to include highly accomplished senior researchers from corporations or research institutes, or well-established museum professionals or practicing artists.

The letter soliciting external evaluations, which should first be approved by the assistant dean for faculty affairs, should include: the criteria for appointment to the research scientist position; an indication that the University will make every effort possible to keep the response confidential and will make it available only to individuals involved in the formal review process; and the deadline for receipt of responses and contact information. With the letter, the committee should include the candidate’s curriculum vitae (including a list of publications) and research statement.                    

d. After reviewing all materials, including external letters for the candidate, the committee votes on the case and informs the P.I. or the department. After a favorable vote, the committee drafts a case statement and sends a dossier to the assistant dean for faculty affairs, for review. The dossier includes:

  • The case for promoting the candidate, including a summary of the candidate’s qualifications and contributions, an explanation of how the candidate meets the criteria for research scientist, a discussion of the strengths and weaknesses of the candidate’s case as noted in the external and internal evaluations and the internal deliberations of the review committee, and the committee’s signatures, with an indication of the primary author of the statement.
  • A curriculum vitae (including list of publications)
  • The candidate’s research statement
  • Copies of the letter soliciting evaluations, and the letters received.
  • Copy of the P.I.’s letter describing the candidate’s work, impact, expected project length and funding, and the rationale for the candidate continuing at Harvard.

e.  If the appointment is granted, the offer letter is issued by the P.I., who should cc the divisional assistant dean.

f.  If the offer is accepted, the final dossier is sent to the Appointments Office via Aurora with the offer letter, and the appointment is processed in the Aurora system by the department.

(4) Documentation Requirements

In a search or promotion review, the department must submit items a. and b. below to the Appointments Office in the Office for Faculty Affairs via Aurora and deliver item c. to Central Payroll.

a.  The dossier described in section 3d (of either the search process or promotion review process, as appropriate) above.

b.  1 electronic PDF copy of a research scientist offer letter/letter of agreement between the candidate and principal investigator. Please cc Roanne Bosch (roannebosch@fas.harvard.edu), the Communications and Outreach Coordinator in FAS Research Administration Services.  Roanne will assign the postdoctoral fellow any required trainings applicable to FAS/SEAS faculty and Principal Investigators named on sponsored projects.

c.  Original, completed I-9 form and any necessary payroll documents. (If the research scientist is paid as an employee, an I-9 form is required for a first appointment or after a break in service of one year or more. Note: If a valid I-9 is already on file, this is indicated in the recommendation letter.)

Departments should retain documents according to practices recommended by Harvard Archives at https://grs.harvard.edu/ (please log in).