Following are descriptions of the various academic research staff appointments. Also see Section 5.4 Procedures for Research Appointments for additional procedural information.
Senior Research Scientist, Senior Research Engineer, and Senior Research Associate are the senior positions in the campus research staff structure and for that reason have been designated academic staff positions with special status and prerogatives. Individuals holding such an appointment conduct independent investigations, with the ability to direct the work of others. They possess a demonstrated research competence equal to that of a tenured faculty member. Appointment or promotion to this rank is evidence of wide external and internal recognition of independent contribution to research in the individual's field. Such contributions may be illustrated by traditional scholarly recognition, excellence in the leadership of technical projects, or other significant research impact.
Appointments to this rank may be in an academic department or directly in a laboratory or center when there is no appropriate department of affiliation. Appointments or promotions are made on the recommendation of the department head or laboratory/center director, the cognizant senior officer, and the School council, with approval of the Academic Appointments Subgroup of the Academic Council upon the presentation of a documented case, including outside letters. If the appointment is to be made directly in an interschool or interdisciplinary laboratory/center, it should be with the approval of the laboratory/center steering committee, the School council, the cognizant senior officer, and the Academic Appointments Subgroup of the Academic Council. Appointments to this rank are subject to the affirmative action serious search procedures outlined in Section 7.1.3.
The total number of appointments to this rank is not to exceed 10 percent of the Institute's tenured faculty or 20 percent of the tenured faculty in the department of affiliation. For this purpose, the number of faculty in a given department should not include those whose research is largely conducted elsewhere. A limited number of appointments may be made in the interdepartmental laboratories/centers. Such appointments may not exceed 10 percent of the laboratory/center professional research staff plus the affiliated tenured faculty, except as provided for in Section 5.4.3 Numerical Limitations.
Appointments to this rank are within the academic staff and may be for nine months or 12 months. Nine-month appointees are eligible for the Annual Salary Plan (see Section 4.2). Appointments are of indefinite duration and are to be reviewed within every five-year period by a special departmental or laboratory/center review committee, depending on the locus of the appointment. (See Section 5.4.2 Periodic Review.) The appointees are to be apprised of the results of the review. Appointees to this rank generally are expected to raise funds to conduct research and cover their own salaries. There is a one-year notice of termination, which will not be reduced because of the reorganization or closing of the department or other academic unit to which the individuals are assigned. An appointment may be terminated for cause at any time. The funding of the one-year period of notice is the responsibility of the department or laboratory/center that is the locus of the appointment.
Incumbents are accorded principal investigator status. They receive benefits as described in Section 7.4 Benefits for Faculty and Staff Members. Those with 12-month appointments are entitled to four weeks of vacation per year. Those with 9-month appointments do not accrue vacation. Consulting privileges as defined for the Faculty are available to appointees at this rank. They must report their outside professional activities to their department head or laboratory/center director annually, as described in Section 4.4 Conflict of Interest and 4.5 Outside Professional Activities.
Postdoctoral associates come to MIT to develop their scholarly competence, working under the supervision of MIT faculty members. Appointments to this academic staff rank are of limited term and are designed for those who have recently received the doctorate. This appointment category is comparable in purpose to the postdoctoral fellow, but is distinguished by the fact that the postdoctoral associate is employed by the Institute and afforded the benefits and privileges associated with staff employment. (See Section 7.4 Benefits for Faculty and Staff Members.) Incumbents are not accorded principal investigator status and do not receive consulting privileges.
The postdoctoral associate appointment is not intended for long-term, indefinite, or career appointments or even short-term appointments where the primary goal is to advance a principal investigator's research. Appointments are made to academic departments or laboratories/centers with the approval of the department head or laboratory/center director and may require senior officer approval. Appointments are usually for not less than one term and are normally not renewed beyond a total of four years as either a postdoctoral associate or fellow. Extension for a fifth year requires approval of the cognizant dean. The senior postdoctoral associate rank is a promotional opportunity for postdoctoral associates who have completed three years of postdoctoral experience. Extension of appointment beyond a combined total of five years is only possible in extraordinary circumstances and requires approval of the cognizant dean.
Effective July 1, 2019, full-time postdoctoral associates on appointments of at least three months accrue 15 days of vacation for the first year of employment and 20 days of vacation thereafter; part-time postdoctoral associates with appointments of at least three months and at least 50-percent time accrue vacation on a pro-rated basis. Vacation accrual is subject to a cap of 40 days as described in the Employment Policy Manual Section 4.2.2.c.
Postdoctoral associates are appointed annually, with the start and end dates specified in the appointment letter. Postdocs shall be notified of non-renewal of the appointment in accordance with the following standards:
If it is necessary to terminate a postdoctoral associate before the end of their current appointment end date because of reduced funding, changes in the nature and scope of work, or for other operational reasons, an early termination may occur, but only in accordance with the standards listed above.
If an appointment is for less than 50-percent time and for less than three years, notice of non-renewal is not required. The presumption is that such appointments are temporary and terminate on the specified end date unless renewed in writing.
Termination for cause may be made at any time.
If an appointment of less than one term is contemplated, a visiting appointment of the appropriate type should be used.
Postdoctoral and research fellows come to MIT with fellowship aid to develop their scholarly competence. They usually work under the supervision of MIT faculty members and use the facilities of the Institute. The postdoctoral fellow title is appropriate for those holding the doctoral degree, while research fellow should be used for those with comparable professional qualifications. Both are academic appointments.
The postdoctoral fellow appointment is not intended for long-term, indefinite, or career appointments or even short-term appointments where the primary goal is to advance a principal investigator's research. Appointments are made to academic departments or laboratories/centers with the approval of the department head or laboratory/center director and may require senior officer approval. Appointments are usually for not less than one term and are normally not renewed beyond a total of four years as either a postdoctoral associate or fellow. Extension for a fifth year requires the approval of the cognizant dean. The senior postdoctoral fellow rank is a promotional opportunity for postdoctoral fellows who have completed three years of postdoctoral experience. Extension of appointment beyond a combined total of five years is only possible in extraordinary circumstances and requires approval of the cognizant dean.
Postdoctoral and research fellows are not degree candidates. No services can be required of fellows by virtue of their appointment, and their stipends do not constitute payment of salary for services rendered to the Institute. Neither principal investigator status nor consulting privileges are available to persons holding appointments at this rank. Since fellows are not employees of the Institute, they do not participate in the MIT Retirement Plan or other staff benefits. Certain fellows are required to participate in either the Affiliate Health Program or the MIT Health Plan. (See Section 7.4.3 Affiliate Health Program.)
Funds for postdoctoral fellowships are provided from a variety of sources, including private donors, foundations, corporations, and government agencies such as the National Science Foundation and the National Institutes of Health. Because the terms and conditions of fellowships vary widely, each must be considered on an individual basis. If the terms of a specific fellowship do not preclude it, a fellow may concurrently hold a part-time appointment at the Institute.
Visiting Engineer, Visiting Scientist, and Visiting Scholar titles designate visitors working at MIT for a specified period. The specific title, always preceded by "visiting," should reflect the actual duties of the visitor. A visiting engineer, scientist, or other similarly titled appointee is primarily occupied with research. Incumbents are not accorded principal investigator status and do not normally receive consulting privileges.
Visiting appointments are categorized as “Other Academic” appointments; they may be full or part time, salaried or unsalaried. Appointments are made to academic departments or laboratories/centers with approval of the department head or laboratory/center director and the School Dean or Vice President for Research and are for a specified period of time, from one week to one year. Visiting Engineer/Scientist/Scholar appointments may be renewed with the approval of the department head or center/lab director and the School Dean or Vice President for Research. If an appointee receives a salary paid by MIT, funding responsibility resides with the appointing department or laboratory/center.
Since appointments to this rank are by definition temporary, visitors are not eligible for staff benefits, except that those with salaried appointments of 50 percent or more time and of at least three months' duration are eligible for MIT's employee health plans and the flexible spending accounts. Certain visitors are required to participate in the Affiliate Health Program (see Section 7.4.3). Consult the International Scholars Office for more information on international visitors.
Appointees to these ranks must report their outside professional activities to their department heads annually, as described in Section 4.4 Conflict of Interest and Section 4.5 Outside Professional Activities.
The academic appointment of research affiliate recognizes the status of an individual with whom the Institute wishes to acknowledge some degree of association. Research affiliates characteristically have no specific duties and are typically not in residence. Appointments to this rank are not normally intended to be of long-term or indefinite duration. Appointments are made to academic departments or laboratories/centers with approval of the department head or laboratory/center director. Appointments to this rank are without salary. Research affiliates are not employees of the Institute and do not participate in staff benefits programs.
A guest is usually a distinguished individual of considerable professional attainment to whom the Institute extends the prerogative of observing or participating informally in certain phases of its activities. Guest appointments are academic, with a term of one week to one year. The guest receives no salary from MIT and does not participate in employee benefits programs. Recommendations for the appointment of guests are initiated by department heads or research center directors through the appointment process, forwarding the request to the appropriate senior officer for approval.
The academic appointment of staff affiliate is reserved for individuals paid by Howard Hughes Medical Institute or by The Broad Institute's participating institutions (other than MIT) who work exclusively in MIT-assigned space. If a staff affiliate's work is of a research or technical nature, it is expected that their only laboratory will be at MIT. These appointments are made to academic departments or laboratories/centers with approval of the department head or laboratory/center director. Appointments to this rank are without salary. Staff affiliates are not employees of the Institute and do not participate in staff benefits programs.