Post-Doctoral Policies

Policies and Procedures Applicable to Post-Doctoral Associates, Post-Doctoral Fellows and Research Associates

This document sets forth policies and procedures related to the appointment, roles, requirements and responsibilities of POSTDOCTORAL ASSOCIATES on the Research Foundation payroll, RESEARCH ASSOCIATES on the SUNY-state payroll at Binghamton University, and POSTDOCTORAL FELLOWS on non-salaried stipends. It does not address other appointments for individuals with a doctorate degree who are employed as visiting professor, instructor, research technician and so forth.

It is aligned with the recommendations and requirements of federal research agencies.

1. Definitions

A Binghamton University POSTDOCTORAL ASSOCIATE, RESEARCH ASSOCIATE or POSTDOCTORAL FELLOW is a trainee in residence at Binghamton University pursuing advanced research experience beyond the doctorate in preparation for an independent career.

Postdoctoral and Research Associates are appointed for a limited period of time, participate in Binghamton University research projects and are supported by external awards, fellowships or SUNY-state funds. In all cases, their appointment at Binghamton University is for the purpose of advanced research experience and/or training under the sponsorship of a Binghamton University faculty member. Postdoctoral Fellows are appointed for a limited period of time to work on their own research project and are supported by external or internal training grants or fellowships.

2. Policies and Procedures Applicable to Post-Doctoral and Research Associates

A. Appointment

Eligibility for a Postdoctoral Associate, Research Associate or Postdoctoral Fellow appointment requires an advanced degree, PhD, MD or equivalent, and is generally restricted to those who have earned that degree within the last three years. Requests for exceptions must include a written statement from the sponsoring faculty member indicating what additional training the individual will receive, and the reasons for which the exception is requested. Requests should be sent to the Postdoctoral Office in the Graduate School for review and approval by the Director of the Postdoctoral Office.

It is the responsibility of the Associate or Fellow to provide to the faculty sponsor transcripts or letter from the Registrar's Office of the appointee's doctoral institution that certify receiving the advanced degree. It is the responsibility of the faculty sponsor to judge the documentation satisfactory and maintain a copy of the transcripts or letter from the Registrar's Office, along with a copy of the offer letter that was then counter-signed in agreement by the appointee. If the appointee has completed the degree requirements but the degree has not yet been conferred, domestic appointees must provide a letter indicating this status from the Registrar's Office or equivalent of their doctoral-degree institution. Due to verification and immigration issues, this special allowance does not apply to international applicants.

In keeping with national guidelines, these postdoctoral appointments may not exceed a total of five years. This maximum includes cumulative postdoctoral research experience at Binghamton University or elsewhere. Exceptions for appointments totaling more than five years may be requested in the following circumstances:

  • Associates or Fellows who begin a second postdoctoral appointment in a new field can, upon the new faculty sponsor's request, have their total period of postdoctoral training extended to a maximum of six years.
  • Requests for extensions due to leaves of absence will be considered on a case by case basis.

All requests for such extensions must be reviewed and approved by the Postdoctoral Office in the Graduate School.

During its term, an appointment is contingent upon satisfactory performance and the existence of funding. At the end of the term and subject to the limits set forth in this policy, the appointment may be eligible for renewal, based on satisfactory performance, the existence of funding, and programmatic need.

B. Appointment Process

Postdoctoral Associate positions are normally filled by completing the Research Foundation's formal recruitment process.

Procedures that faculty should use for filling a Postdoctoral Associate position are described in detail at:

Research Associate positions are normally filled by school or department's recruitment process. Unless a school or department makes a specific request, these positions normally are not posted formally with the Office of Human Resources.

Individuals interested in applying for postdoctoral appointments should make their inquiries directly to the academic department or school in which the person is seeking appointment.

The faculty sponsor and department chair are responsible for sending an offer letter to the Postdoctoral or Research Associate, and are expected to use the appropriate (Research Foundation of SUNY or SUNY-state) sample offer letter available from the Postdoctoral Office's web site. Once the offer letter is signed and returned by the appointee, both the Postdoctoral Office in the Graduate School and Sponsored Funds Administration (if funding is administered by the Research Foundation through grants or contracts) should receive copies of the counter-signed offer letter. Then an appointment letter will be sent to the appointee from the Postdoctoral Office in the Graduate School, stating that the signed offer letter has been received and the appointment is official. The Postdoctoral Office's web site provides a sample of the appointment letter.

Approximately one month in advance of the proposed start date for the appointment, departments wishing to appoint a Postdoctoral Associate (when funding is through grants or contracts administered by the Research Foundation) should forward the employment form to the Research Foundation Payroll Office (AD 208). See details at:

or to appoint a Research Associate (when the funding is from the SUNY-state-side) to the Human Resources Office (AD-411). See details at:

Levels and Sources of Support

Associates and Fellows at Binghamton must be supported by University grants and contracts, training grants, departmental or School fellowship funds, or external fellowships, or by a combination of these sources. Associates and Fellows may not be self-employed or pay their own salaries. Associates and Fellows are normally appointed at 100% time. If an appointment is to be made for a lesser percentage, a separate statement clarifying the arrangement or describing the additional support from other sources should be included in the appointment papers. Appointments for less than 100% time need to be pre-approved by the Postdoctoral Office in the Graduate School.

All Associates, regardless of their source of funding, must be paid at least the minimum level based on years of experience. Using stipend levels for graduate and postdoctoral fellowships funded by federal agencies as a reference, the minimum full-time salary is $30,000 per year. A school may also establish a higher minimum salary level for Postdoctoral Associates paid within that school. It is suggested that Postdoctoral Associates in the biomedical sciences be paid the stipend level recommended by National Institutes of Health. The minimum salary level does not apply to employees hired before 1 April 2005. As per stateside contractual agreement of 9-1-04, if the appointment is with state funds and below $34,556, the official title will be Research Assistant (rather than Research Associate), but all of the policy for Research Associates will apply.

If the minimum level cannot be offered, then the appointment letter and forms should indicate the percent of time appointed and that the appointee is entitled to seek and perform additional University services (e.g., teaching) up to the recommended annual level of compensation.

1. Post-Doctoral Associate

Payments from Binghamton University research contracts and grants will be processed in the form of Postdoctoral Associate appointments. Appointments are not limited by the University's academic calendar, and may start and stop on any dates as established by the Research Foundation Payroll Office. Appropriate taxes will be withheld and the grant negotiated fringe benefit rate will be applied.

2. Post-Doctoral Fellow

A Postdoctoral Fellowship is a competitive award of financial support to an individual, which provides a stipend and, in some cases, pays Binghamton University fees. 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, and they do not lead to an employer-employee relationship. Postdoctoral Fellowships are awarded on a merit basis to assist a scholar in his or her professional training and development.
Stipend support may also be provided from department funds, foundation accounts, and school fellowships where available, as well as from external sources, where the financial assistance is NOT being provided as salary for work performed.

Because this is a "non-employee" position and no fringe benefits accrue, the Postdoctoral Fellow is not eligible for employee benefits.
Postdoctoral Fellow Insurance Requirement - Arrangements will be made with the campus Research Foundation Personnel/Payroll Office to enroll Research Foundation Postdoctoral Fellows on the Graduate Student insurance plan. Units will need to identify funding sources to cover the costs of the Fellow insurance that can include funding from sponsors, use of departmental and or faculty infrastructure funds and possible subvention by the Research Division.

3. Research Associate

Payments from SUNY-state funds will be processed in the form of Research Associate appointments. Appointments are not limited by the University's academic calendar, and may start and stop on any dates as established by the Human Resources Office. Appropriate taxes will be withheld and a fringe benefit rate will be applied.

C. Eligibility to Work Regulation I-9 Requirement

  1. Postdoctoral Associates (appointment on sponsored projects), regardless of citizenship, may not receive salary without a valid I-9 Form completed in the Research Foundation Payroll Office. A valid I-9 form is required by the Immigration Reform Control Act of 1987.
  2. Research Associates (appointment on SUNY-state projects), regardless of citizenship, may not receive salary without a valid I-9 Form completed in the Human Resources Office. A valid I-9 form is required by the Immigration Reform Control Act of 1987.
  3. Postdoctoral Fellow: Support from a sponsored fellowship or traineeship may not require an I-9 Form. Other forms may be required, particularly for international scholars.

D. State and Federal Taxation Compliance

At the time of appointment, the Research Foundation will provide advice to Postdoctoral Associates and Postdoctoral Fellows, and the Human Resources Office to Research Associates about tax implications.

3. Rights, Responsibilities, and Privileges of Post-Doctoral Associates, Post-Doctoral Fellows, Research Associates and Faculty Sponsors

A. Responsibilities of Faculty Sponsor

A faculty sponsor inviting a Postdoctoral Associate, Fellow or Research Associate to Binghamton University works with that individual to develop a plan of research, goals for the period of training, and a plan for dissemination of the research, including plans for presentation and authorship. The faculty member approves this plan, and during the term of the appointment, ensures adequate office/laboratory space and provides ongoing mentoring and guidance.

B. Responsibilities of Associates and Fellows

Postdoctoral Associates, Postdoctoral Fellows and Research Associates are expected to carry out the study or research outlined in discussions with the faculty sponsor, to communicate regularly with the faculty sponsor, and to notify the faculty sponsor of any change in plans.

Associates and Fellows are obligated to conform to the ethical standards of the University and their research discipline:

Associates and Fellows are also required to complete the Graduate School's on-line professional ethics training course.

All data and research records generated in University laboratories remain the property of the University.

C. Employee Benefits

Postdoctoral Associates (funded by grants or contracts through the Division of Research): Information about insurance benefits can be obtained by contacting the Research Foundation Personnel/Payroll Office.

Research Associates (paid by SUNY-state-side): Information about insurance benefits for can be obtained by contacting the Human Resources Office.

D. Sick and Vacation Benefits

Once appointed, information about sick and vacation time will be provided to Postdoctoral Associates by the Research Foundation and to Research Associates by the Human Resources Office. Sick and vacation time must be approved by the Associate's supervisor.

E. Required Training

All Associates and Fellows are required to complete the Graduate School's online Professional Ethics Training, within one month of employment.

All Associates and Fellows should review the definition of research misconduct and thus be clear how to avoid that:

Associates and Fellows in the Sciences & Engineering:

F. Orientation and Resources

Binghamton University provides various workshops on career and professional development for those working on or with advanced degrees.

G. Notification of Resignation

It is appropriate and professional to provide as much notice as possible if it is necessary to resign a postdoctoral appointment before the appointment ends. It is expected that the appointee will provide at least one month's notice. Upon leaving a laboratory, an Associate or Fellow has an obligation to leave all original notebooks, data and reagents in a state that will allow continuation of the project and ensures compliance with the Intellectual Property Policy, Research Foundation of SUNY Patents and Inventions Policy, Computer Software Policy and other relevant policies of the University.

H. Workplace Issues

For resolution of workplace complaints, Associates and Fellows can seek advice from the Postdoctoral Office in the Graduate School. Some issues for Postdoctoral Associates and Fellows will be handled by the Assistant Vice President for Research Administration in Sponsored Funds Administration and some issues for Research Associates will be handled by Human Resources Office.

I. Termination

For Postdoctoral and Research Associates paid by a grant or contract, the faculty sponsor is the supervisor and may terminate, or not renew, the appointment.
For Fellows, both Postdoctoral Office of the Graduate School and the fellowship sponsor determine whether the conditions of the fellowship are met. If the conditions are not met, the Postdoctoral Office of the Graduate School or fellowship sponsor may terminate, or not renew, the appointment.

This document was prepared by the Division of Research and the Graduate School. It was endorsed by the Graduate Council on 3-7-05.