Responsibilities of Postdoctoral Fellows and Faculty Supervisors
The Harvard School of Public Health recognizes that postdoctoral research fellows are trainees working in an apprenticeship mode in preparation for a career as scientific professionals. The mentoring provided to the postdoctoral fellow by the faculty mentor is critical to the fellow’s career development and advancement.
In addition, postdoctoral fellows are generally expected to function responsibly and autonomously within the school’s complex and decentralized environment. Independent thinking and action are in fact requisite to successful careers in research.
Responsibilities of postdoctoral fellows include the following:
- Assume primary responsibility for the development of his or her research and career.
- Play an active role in seeking career and research advice, both from the faculty supervisor and from other faculty members as appropriate.
- Perform the research required by the faculty supervisor to a high standard and in accordance with all institutional and federal regulations.
- Participate in the postdoc career development and annual review process.
- Work in a collegial and cooperative manner with the faculty supervisor and other co-workers.
Responsibilities of HSPH faculty supervisors include the following:
- Ensure that mutually understood expectations and goals are in place at the outset of the postdoctoral training period. This may be best accomplished during the review of the postdoc’s initial career development plan.
- Meet regularly (for example, once a month) to establish and foster a career development plan and to assess important aspects of the postdoctoral fellow’s progress. In addition, complete the postdoc annual progress review form as part of the postdoc career development and annual review process.
- Strike a reasonable balance between the postdoctoral fellow’s responsibility to participate in research directed by the faculty supervisor and opportunities to develop scholarship reflecting the postdoctoral fellow’s own interests.
- Respect the postdoctoral fellow’s individuality, working style, and career goals and be aware that the rate of progress of postdoctoral fellows will vary.
- Maintain an atmosphere in which the postdoctoral fellow feels free to approach him/her for advice or discussion of differences.
- Encourage each postdoctoral fellow to seek advice and collaborative opportunities from other faculty members, or even to identify a second mentor, since the training experience can only benefit from a variety of perspectives.
- Promote ethical standards for conducting research, including compliance with all institutional and federal regulations.
- Accord full recognition of the postdoctoral fellow’s contributions to scholarship, including appropriate authorship of published work. (The authorship guidelines developed by Harvard Medical School, available online at http://hms.harvard.edu/content/authorship-guidelines provide guidance in this area.)
- Establish clear plans for how projects will be divided when fellows complete their training.
- Support the postdoctoral fellow’s use of the full benefits of his/her employment at HSPH, including vacation time.
Postdoctoral fellows and faculty supervisors may meet with Bernita Anderson, associate dean for faculty affairs, to resolve problems on an informal basis. HSPH also provides a formal process for the resolution of issues that may arise between a postdoctoral fellow and his/her supervisor (see grievance policy at http://www.hsph.harvard.edu/faculty-affairs/postdoctoral-research-fellows/postdoc-guidelines/grievance-procedures-for-non-faculty-academic-appointees).
Salary Levels for Postdoctoral Research Fellows
In 2009, the school formally adopted the NIH/NRSA stipend guidelines http://grants.nih.gov/grants/guide/notice-files/NOT-OD-12-033.html as the minimum salary for HSPH postdoctoral research fellows. These guidelines are based on years of postdoctoral experience. In order to offer competitive salaries, departments and PIs are encouraged to pay postdocs and other researchers as generously as they are able, beyond the NIH guidelines. Salaries for postdoctoral fellows must be adjusted annually to continue to meet the NIH guideline levels.
Grievance Procedures for Non-faculty Academic Appointees
The Harvard School of Public Health has established the following mechanism by which serious grievances brought by non-faculty academic appointees* may be resolved promptly and equitably. The following procedures should be used by non-faculty academic appointees for the resolution of grievances alleging unfair action on the part of the university administration or faculty, including discrimination on the basis of race, color, religious belief, political beliefs, sex (including sexual harassment), national or ethnic origin, handicap, age, or sexual orientation.
Informal Resolution of Grievances
A non-faculty academic appointee with a grievance should initially take the matter to one of the following people: his/her faculty supervisor/mentor, department chair, associate dean for faculty affairs, senior associate dean for academic afffairs and diversity, Longwood Campus ombudsperson, or other appropriate faculty member or administrator. If the grievance cannot be resolved satisfactorily between the non-faculty academic appointee and the initial faculty/administration contact in consultation with other interested or involved parties, the non-faculty academic appointee may, at his/her discretion, seek resolution via the formal procedure outlined below. The person investigating the grievance shall, at the request of the non-faculty academic appointee, make a written report available to the ad hoc grievance committee in the event that a resolution is not possible in the informal phase.
Formal Grievance Procedure
An aggrieved non-faculty academic appointee may request resolution of the grievance by initiating the following formal procedure.
1) A formal grievance is a complaint in writing from the non-faculty academic appointee to the associate dean for faculty affairs, asking that an ad hoc grievance committee be appointed. (In the event that the complaint is against the associate dean for faculty affairs, the written complaint is sent to the senior associate dean for academic affairs and diversity.) The written complaint should be filed within two months of the event to which it refers and should include the following, as appropriate:
a) Statement of the allegation
b) Description of the alleged facts
c) Summary of steps the grievant already has taken in an attempt to resolve the problem
d) Name/s of the person/s thought to be responsible for the alleged events
e) Other facts considered to be pertinent to the case
f) Signature of the person initiating the complaint
2) The associate dean for faculty affairs appoints an ad hoc grievance committee consisting of a representative of the Faculty Council, at least one member of the school’s administration, and a non-faculty academic appointee, normally holding the same type of appointment as the individual filing the complaint. This ad hoc grievance committee is appointed and convened as quickly as possible, normally within ten working days of receipt by the associate dean of faculty affairs of the written complaint, or sooner if immediate action is required. In all cases, confidentiality is maintained during the selection and appointment process. A quorum requires that all members be present. The associate dean for faculty affairs appoints the chairperson of the committee.
3) The ad hoc grievance committee investigates the grievance. This investigation includes, but need not be limited to:
a) Meeting/s with the person aggrieved and the person/s (or representatives of the department) grieved against.
b) Consultation with such others as the ad hoc grievance committee deems necessary to provide a thorough investigation of the grievance, including scientific ramifications or concerns, and other mitigating or extenuating circumstances that bear upon the situation.
4) The ad hoc grievance committee expeditiously considers the facts of the case and presents a written report to the senior associate dean for academic affairs and diversity. The report includes findings of facts and recommendations, if any. Every precaution is taken to ensure the confidentiality of information obtained at meetings of the ad hoc grievance committee. The committee also makes every effort to conclude the investigation promptly and to take any needed remedial action.
5) Upon receipt of the report from the ad hoc grievance committee, the senior associate dean for academic affairs and diversity may:
a) Take whatever action he feels is warranted, using the report of the ad hoc grievance committee as advisory information.
b) Return the matter to the ad hoc grievance committee for further consideration. This action returns the grievance to Step 3 of this procedure.
6) The final action of the senior associate dean for academic affairs and diversity constitutes the formal completion of the grievance procedure. The ad hoc grievance committee is then discharged. The final action is communicated to both the person aggrieved and the person/s (or department) grieved against. Once the procedure is completed, all records of the meetings of the ad hoc grievance committee and the final report of the committee remain in the possession of the associate dean for faculty affairs and are treated with appropriate confidentiality.
7) Any request for exceptions to the foregoing should be addressed to the associate dean for faculty affairs. By mutual agreement of the associate dean for faculty affairs and the non-faculty academic appointee, the stated formal procedure may be waived in favor of a procedure more appropriate to a particular circumstance.
* Non-faculty academic appointees include research scientists, research associates, research fellows, instructors, visiting scientists, and other annual appointees whose appointments are administered by the Office of Faculty Affairs.
Conflicts of Interest and Commitment
OBLIGATIONS TO HARVARD POLICY ON CONFLICTS OF INTEREST AND COMMITMENT
To ensure the integrity of the institution and its scientific enterprise, the school has explicit rules and holds implicit norms governing behavior of its appointees. With the acceptance of a non-faculty academic appointment at Harvard, you are expected to be aware of your obligations under the school’s Policy on Conflicts of Interest and Commitment. Accordingly, permission for full-time non-faculty academic appointees to undertake outside activities such as consulting must be sought from and given by the appointee’s department chair or supervisor. Further, you are required to complete and submit online disclosure forms at the beginning of each calendar year and when relevant circumstances change between reporting cycles.
To fully understand your obligations, please consult the school’s policy found at http://www.hsph.harvard.edu/faculty-affairs/outside-activities/guidelines-on-external-academic-activities-for-primary-faculty-members/. This policy is intended to serve as a guide for HSPH appointees in structuring their relationships with industry and other outside ventures in view of their academic responsibilities for teaching, research, and administrative duties.
In addition, we would like to bring to your attention the university’s guidelines on financial conflicts of interest which apply to all academic appointees. These guidelines are available online at http://www.provost.harvard.edu/policies_guidelines/Harvard_University_fCOI_policy.pdf
Postdoctoral fellows are non-faculty annual appointees. Below are links to web pages that provide information regarding personnel issues for postdocs (and other annual appointees.)
Ethics in Research
All postdoctoral fellows on NIH training grants are required to complete the Responsible Conduct of Research training module. HSPH offers a course, HPM292 – Research Ethics – which fulfills the NIH requirement. A syllabus and information about this course can be found on-line at http://www.hsph.harvard.edu/hsc/education.html (scroll down to “About Research Ethics”). Another course that fulfills this requirement is PIH265 – Ethical Issues in International Health Research. Please contact Richard Cash for more Information about this course.
The school’s requirements are that anyone working directly with human subjects, or data or tissue that they can link back to individual subjects, MUST fulfill human subjects training requirements (or acceptable equivalents). The Human Subjects Committee’s website provides more detailed information.
Fellows are encouraged to contact the Human Subjects Committee (HSC) office at 617-432-5480 for an appointment to meet with a staff member to discuss human research activities. The HSC staff are dedicated to explaining how various rules and exceptions apply to your research. They will help you identify whether your work is exempt from review or needs approval. The HSC staff offers IRB Clinic hours (no appointment needed) on Wednesdays from 1:00 – 3:00 p.m. and Fridays from 10:00 a.m. – 12:00 p.m.. For more information about working with the HSC, please visit their website at http://www.hsph.harvard.edu/hsc.
Additional information regarding issues related to the responsible conduct of research can be found in the National Academy of Science’s publication, “On Being A Scientist” which is available online.
The International Committee of Medical Journal Editors’ publication “Uniform Requirements for Manuscripts Submitted to Biomedical Journals: Writing and Editing for Biomedical Publication” includes useful information on ethical considerations in the conduct and reporting of research.
Tax Reporting of Fellowship Income
The university’s Tax Services Office provides information on the tax issues related to fellowship (stipend) payments. Since stipendee postdoctoral fellows are not employees of the university, income taxes will not be withheld from stipends. In addition, the university’s contribution to a stipendee posdoc’s benefit plans must be treated as taxable income to the postdoc, i.e., imputed income. The expectation is that postdocs who receive a stipend will make quarterly estimated federal and state tax payments.
Role of Postdoc Fellow and Faculty Supervisor
Postdoctoral fellows come to the Harvard School of Public Health under the aegis of a variety of sponsors and programs, and these may have their own very specific requirements for both fellows and faculty members.
In general, it is assumed that postdoctoral fellows will function responsibly and autonomously within the school’s complex and decentralized environment. Independent thinking and action are in fact requisite to successful careers in research.
At the same time, the school recognizes that postdoctoral fellowships are training positions. While participation in research supervised by faculty members offers important opportunities for early productivity and publication, many postdoctoral fellows require additional help with career development from their faculty supervisors.
The school’s expectations for faculty supervisors include the following:
- That the faculty supervisor will strike a reasonable balance between the postdoctoral fellow’s responsibility to participate in research directed by the faculty supervisor and opportunities to develop scholarship reflecting the postdoctoral fellow’s own interests.
- That, if the postdoctoral fellow wishes it, the faculty supervisor will be available to meet regularly (for example, once a month) to assess important aspects of the postdoctoral fellow’s progress and career goals. The discussions might cover possible research topics; CV development and evaluation; and advice on grant writing, publication, and job possibilities.
- That the faculty supervisor will encourage each postdoctoral fellow to seek advice and collaborative opportunities from other faculty members, or even to identify an official second mentor, since the training experience can only benefit from a variety of perspectives.
- That the faculty supervisor will accord appropriate recognition of the postdoctoral fellow’s contributions to scholarship, including in the authorship of published work (for Harvard Medical School authorship guidelines, see www.hms.harvard.edu/integrity/authorship.html).
- That the faculty supervisor will support the postdoctoral fellow’s use of the full benefits of his/her employment at HSPH, including vacation time.
- That the faculty supervisor will maintain an atmosphere in which the postdoctoral fellow feels free to approach him/her for advice or discussion of differences.
- That the faculty supervisor will respect the postdoctoral fellow’s individuality, working style, and career goals, and be aware that the rate of progress of each individual postdoctoral fellow will vary.
HSPH provides a process for the resolution of serious issues (for example, sexual harassment, questions of authorship, or research ethics) that may arise between a postdoctoral fellow and his/her faculty supervisor (see Grievance Policy on this website).
For related guidelines related to the supervision of research trainees, including postdoctoral fellows, see the HSPH Faculty Handbook.
Postdoctoral Fellow Worksheet
The school’s Postdoctoral Fellow Worksheet has been created to assist postdoc fellows and their mentors in planning the postdoc’s career goals and steps to be taken toward reaching them. It is recommended that this worksheet be completed at the beginning of each year of postdoc training.