Current version: April 11, 2012
Defines policies and procedures related to the appointment, roles, requirements and responsibilities of Postdoctoral Scholars at Stanford. This policy was revised and reorganized in 2012.
This document sets forth policies and procedures related to the appointment, roles, requirements and responsibilities of Postdoctoral Scholars at Stanford. For further information about Postdoctoral Scholars, contact the Assistant Dean for Postdoctoral Affairs or the Assistant Dean of Research.
See also these policy attachments:
A Stanford POSTDOCTORAL SCHOLAR is a non-matriculated trainee, in graduate student status, in residence at Stanford University pursuing advanced studies beyond the doctoral level in preparation for an independent career. Postdoctoral Scholars are appointed for a limited period of time and may participate on Stanford research projects and/or may be supported by external awards or fellowships. In all cases, their appointment at Stanford is for the purpose of advanced studies, research and training under the mentorship of a Stanford faculty member.
Postdoctoral Scholars are appointed on a full-time basis for a minimum of nine months for the primary purpose of receiving advanced research, clinical, and/or academic training at Stanford University.
In advance of the initial appointment, the terms and conditions of that appointment should be discussed and agreed upon by the Postdoctoral Scholar and the Faculty mentor(s), e.g., sponsoring faculty. This should include agreement on the anticipated length of appointment, scope of work and training goals, expectation of an annual research progress and mentoring, sources and amount of support, and possibly other details such as plans to submit fellowship applications, office space, lab and supporting equipment such as computers.
A postdoctoral appointment at Stanford brings with it certain defined benefits, including insurance and leave benefits. These defined levels of benefits may not be modified or diminished by individual agreement with the department or the faculty mentor(s)/PI.
All Postdoctoral Scholars must be registered at Stanford during every academic quarter of their appointment. Registration entails payment of a quarterly postdoctoral fee by the appointing academic department or school on behalf of the Scholar.
If a Postdoctoral Scholar wishes to take courses for credit, which are not required by Stanford, the Scholar is responsible for the payment of any tuition and additional fees.
Initial appointments are generally restricted to those who have received their Ph.D. within the last three years or their M.D. within the last six years; exceptions to this restriction are permitted in cases when the candidate has been away from research activity after a doctoral degree and wishes to start a training program.
Individuals are eligible to be in postdoctoral scholar status at Stanford for a period that does not exceed a total of four years for all combined years of institutional research training/activity, at Stanford and elsewhere. The following periods are not included in such determination:
Extensions beyond four years are possible only upon submission of a request to the Office of Postdoctoral Affairs, and where applicable, review by a Subcommittee of faculty on postdoctoral term exceptions as described below (see Section 2.G.)
All requests for such extensions must be reviewed and approved by the Assistant Dean for Postdoctoral Affairs.
Individuals interested in a postdoctoral appointment should make their inquiries directly to the appropriate academic department or faculty member. Faculty members respond to correspondence regarding possible postdoctoral research, to determine whether the area of interest is appropriate for study at Stanford, and whether there is sufficient office/laboratory space and other resources needed to support the Scholar.
The sponsoring faculty mentor initiates the offer of appointment to the Scholar, with departmental approval. A standard offer letter is generated by the department, and communicated electronically and either accepted or rejected electronically by the Scholar. Offers of appointment are contingent upon final approval by the Office of Postdoctoral Affairs. Departments wishing to appoint a Postdoctoral Scholar must follow the University’s online process and provide complete documents (including visa requests) to the Office of Postdoctoral Affairs as early as possible and no later than two weeks in advance of the proposed start date for the appointment (longer period may be required for international scholars due to visa processing).
In the case of candidates who are pursuing joint/dual MD-PhD degrees where one of the two degrees is conferred first, a postdoctoral appointment on the basis of the conferred degree is possible while the second degree is in progress if the postdoctoral training is unrelated to the ongoing degree in progress.
Individuals who hold doctoral degrees, who are enrolled in a graduate degree program at another institution, and are at Stanford to pursue research activities that are pertinent to their ongoing graduate degree in progress should be appointed as Visiting Student Researchers rather than as postdoctoral scholars.
In the case of postdoctoral appointees who are pursuing a graduate degree program at Stanford, the dual-status policy, Postdoctoral Scholars in Degree Programs (GAP 5.11), applies.
Stanford University maintains that effective and meaningful training for postdoctoral scholars requires full-time commitment by the scholar and the University. As such, postdoctoral scholars at Stanford are appointed in full-time status, or the equivalent of 100% Full Time Equivalent (FTE). Reduction in effort is not allowed in order to offset a funding shortfall, reduce the training expectations, or accommodate inadequate performance.
However, University policy allows appointment of postdoctoral scholars on a part-time basis in limited circumstances relating to medical and family leave, or as described in the circumstances listed below. The University understands that family- or health-related needs may warrant granting temporary reductions in effort, such as for a new parent, or in the case of trainees undergoing significant medical procedures or treatments, in accordance with the following guidelines:
If necessary, and as required by applicable federal and state medical leave laws, postdoctoral scholars may elect to request unpaid leave of absence in accordance with the leave policy described in Section 6 below. Requests for temporary reductions in effort are subject to review and approval by the Assistant Dean for Postdoctoral Affairs. Considerations include funding agency restrictions, research program needs and available resources in the lab, and applicable laws. Any reductions in effort may require a signed waiver of certain benefits and privileges.
Postdoctoral Scholars are appointed at Stanford for fixed terms, by issuance of re-appointment notifications that may total up to four years. Faculty sponsors may request an extension beyond the four-year total (see sections 2.F and 2.G, below).
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, programmatic need and continuing visa eligibility (for international Scholars). International Scholars should note that postdoctoral appointments are not guaranteed to match the length of visa eligibility.
Postdoctoral training programs at Stanford are intended to be limited in duration and to prepare postdoctoral scholars for research careers in academia and elsewhere. Consistent with this philosophy, the university sets a four-year limit on the total term of postdoctoral appointments, at Stanford and elsewhere, in an effort to facilitate such transition. Those who wish to remain in research at Stanford beyond the term limits of a postdoctoral scholar appointment should be moved, as warranted, to more appropriate classifications at the University.
In the two circumstances listed below, faculty mentors may request an exception to the term limit policy in order to extend the current appointment of a postdoctoral scholar at Stanford beyond four years of total research experience.
An administrative approval may be granted in these circumstances upon submission of supporting documentation to the Office of Postdoctoral Affairs. Examples of appropriate documentation include: award or job offer letters, rationale from the faculty sponsor outlining the details of the case, and the scholar's curriculum vitae.
Any other exceptions are rare, as described in Section 2.G, below.
In circumstances other than noted in section 2.F above, a faculty mentor may wish to request an initial appointment or an extension of an individual who has been actively researching for four years after the doctoral degree. Such cases require formal review as described below.
A fifth year of a new appointment or an extension of an existing appointment may be granted upon submission to the Office of Postdoctoral Affairs of:
Scholars who accept a second postdoctoral training position at Stanford in a new field representing a major change in research direction may receive up to six total years of training. In this circumstance, the request will be reviewed by a faculty committee. To grant approval, that committee will review the following:
Other requests for new appointments or extensions of scholars beyond a fifth year of training where none of the criteria noted above, or in Section 2.F, are met will undergo a more detailed review by the faculty committee. In the case of extensions of existing appointments, the following are required:
The committee will consider the merits of the case based on required supporting evidence:
New appointments or extensions made under the provisions of this policy may not be made for more than one year at a time, for up to a maximum of two years in total – i.e., to a maximum total of six years. The University will evaluate the nature of these extensions and the first year before granting extension for a second year.
The committee formulates a recommendation to the Vice Provost for Graduate Education in each case. The final determination is made by the Vice Provost for Graduate Education.
Stanford University appoints international Postdoctoral Scholars in a J-1 (Research Scholar) status. J-1 Scholars who are transferring from another appointment must maintain continuous active status (breaks in J-1 program eligibility are not permitted).
When appointing an international Postdoctoral Scholar, the department must request a visa through the Stanford's International Center (Bechtel). Visa requests may be approved only in conjunction with the review of an appointment request to the Office of Postdoctoral Affairs.
In the event that an international Scholar is approved for an H-1B (or other employment) visa status, those Scholar must be paid salary. See Section 4, below, and Attachment B, Policy on H-1B (and other employment visas) for Postdoctoral Scholars at Stanford University.
Postdoctoral Scholars must be supported either by Stanford grants and contracts, training grants, departmental or School fellowship funds, or external fellowships, or by a combination of these sources. Postdoctoral Scholars may not be self-supporting. Benefits for Postdoctoral Scholars are defined in Attachment D to this policy.
All Postdoctoral Scholars, regardless of their source of funding, must be paid at least the minimum level based on years of experience established annually by Stanford University at the time of the appointment, and on October 1 of each subsequent year. A school may also establish a higher minimum salary level for Postdoctoral Scholars paid within that school.
Postdoctoral scholars appointed in the School of Medicine in standard or advanced clinical training programs must be paid based on established Stanford Hospital and Clinics (SHC) Postgraduate year (PGY) levels in effect and in agreement with SHC Graduate Medical Education requirements.
Funding is not limited by the university's academic calendar, and may start and stop on the appointment start and end dates as established by the department. All financial support for Postdoctoral Scholars, whether paid as salary or as stipends, must be entered and recorded through Stanford's Graduate Financial Support (GFS) System.
Payments from Stanford research contracts and grants, or from other sources where services by the scholar are rendered in return for wages, such as on-call duty, will be processed in the form of assistantship appointments in the university's GFS system. Salary payments to Postdoctoral Scholars are made through the University Payroll Office where appropriate taxes (see Section 4.D, below) will be withheld and the negotiated fringe benefit rate will be applied.
If a Postdoctoral Scholar is receiving salary for less than 50% FTE (for example, if most of the Scholar's support is in the form of fellowship stipends, with supplemental salary), the salary will be charged the "contingent" fringe benefit rate.
A Postdoctoral Fellowship is a competitive award of financial support to an individual Postdoctoral Scholar, providing a stipend and, in some cases, Stanford registration fees or other expenses. 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, gift accounts, and school fellowships where available, as well as from training grants and other external sources, where the financial assistance is not being provided as salary for work performed.
Postdoctoral Fellowships may not be awarded to international Scholars on an H-1B (employment) visa. Individual Postdoctoral Fellowships may specify other restrictions related to citizenship. Scholars on an H-1B visa may apply for fellowship support, but, if awarded, they will not be able to accept the funding without changing their visa status.
Applications for postdoctoral fellowships are processed in the same manner as sponsored projects, i.e., applications must be routed and approved through either the Office of Sponsored Research (OSR) or, in the School of Medicine, to the Research Management Group (RMG). Applications must be accompanied by a signed Fellowship Routing Sheet (Stanford form SU-42FL), and should be submitted to either OSR or RMG at least three days before the proposal is due at the funding agency.
(A Postdoctoral Fellowship Decision Model [pdf file] has been created to help in situations where it is difficult to determine whether a source of support should be treated as a fellowship or as sponsored project funding.)
If a Postdoctoral Scholar is receiving salary for less than 50%, or is completely funded through fellowship support, the following sequence applies to determine the appropriate method of paying for the Scholar's insurance benefits:
Fellowship applications will be processed only for individuals with approved Postdoctoral appointments. If the Scholar has not yet arrived and begun the appointment, a copy of the offer letter must accompany a fellowship application.
Postdoctoral Scholars, regardless of citizenship, may not receive salary without a valid I-9 Form. A valid I-9 form is required by the Immigration Reform Control Act of 1987.
Support from a fellowship or training grant does not require an I-9 Form. Other forms may be required, particularly for international Scholars.
All Postdoctoral Scholars must have a Social Security number on file with Stanford. All funds received by Postdoctoral Scholars, except from foreign sources to non-resident aliens as noted below, are subject to U.S. federal income tax. Reimbursement for travel expenses incurred to support the Scholar's education (e.g., to attend a conference as a student) may be reportable income.
Note: Income from a foreign source going to a non-resident alien is not taxable. Income from a foreign source going to a U.S. citizen or to a resident alien is subject to U.S. tax.
Payments from Stanford research contracts and grants will be subject to withholding (a W-4 form should be filed at Payroll). This applies to Postdoctoral Scholars who are U.S. citizens and those who are resident or non-resident aliens. Foreign citizens from countries which have a tax treaty with the United States may qualify under that treaty by filing a Form 8233 prior to receipt of their first salary payment.
Stipend payments (from fellowship funds or training grants) for Postdoctoral Scholars who are US citizens or resident aliens are not subject to withholding. These Scholars will pay quarterly estimated taxes via the IRS Form 1040-ES and California Form 540-ES. Any fellowship stipends to foreign citizens (except from a foreign source going to a non-resident alien, as noted above) will be withheld for tax at the rate of 14% unless they are a qualifying resident of a country which has a tax treaty with the U.S. All non-resident aliens that qualify under such treaties must file a Form W-8 BEN with the Payroll Office prior to the first stipend payment if they wish to claim exemption.
Note that rules and policies will be modified as needed to accommodate changes in the tax laws. Contact Stanford University Payroll Office for additional information regarding taxes.
Each academic quarter, a postdoctoral registration fee will be charged by Stanford University and is paid on behalf of the Postdoctoral Scholar. This fee may be charged directly to a grant or contract from which the Scholar is being paid, or to a Fellowship supporting the Scholar. Where neither of these funding sources is available, the fee will be paid by the faculty sponsor/department in which the Scholar is appointed.