Human Resources Policies

HR68 Postdoctoral Appointments

Policy Status: 


Policy Steward: 

Vice President for Human Resources

POLICY'S INITIAL DATE: November 16, 1968




To outline the University's policy on postdoctoral appointments.


Postdoctoral appointments shall:

  1. be full-time, but temporary, 48-week appointments; and
  2. be granted to appointees who recently were awarded a Ph.D. or equivalent doctorate (e.g., Sc.D, M.D., D.D.S., J.D.) in an appropriate field; and
  3. provide the appointee with training under the supervision of a senior scholar or a department; and
  4. involve substantially full-time research or scholarship; and
  5. be viewed as preparatory for a full-time academic and/or research career; and
  6. provide the appointee with the freedom to meet the expectation of publishing the results of her or his research or scholarship during the period of the appointment.


Designated titles for postdoctoral appointments at The Pennsylvania State University are Postdoctoral Fellow and Postdoctoral Scholar. The title of Postdoctoral Fellow will be used only in connection with appointments financed under a Postdoctoral Fellow Program of a granting agency outside the University. The title of Postdoctoral Scholar will be the usual designation for all other postdoctoral appointments.


Normally, the initial appointment and renewals are not longer than a six-year period at Penn State, with exceptions granted to meet specific training needs of an individual and only after careful review by the college and appropriate central administrative officer.


All postdoctoral appointments will be approved by the appropriate dean and the Office of the Vice President for Research will maintain a current inventory of all appointments.


Postdoctoral scholars and fellows should be paid at least the minimum annual salary as noted each July 1.


Postdoctoral Scholars and Fellows may enroll in an available University-sponsored health plan effective with the date of appointment. Those who enroll will contribute for an available University-sponsored health plan on the same basis and at the same rates as regular faculty and staff member contributions. Such contributions will be deducted monthly.

In addition, Postdoctoral Scholars and Fellows may enroll in the University's dental and/or vision plan.

Postdoctoral Scholars and Fellows may elect to participate in the Age-graded Life Insurance Plan and elect an amount of coverage equal to their annual stipend.

See the website at for coverage details.


When a postdoctoral scholar or fellow is unable to perform the duties of the position, the four weeks of leave provided by a 48-week appointment can be used to account for the absence. In addition, the department may be able to provide for some work to be done at home (e.g., data analysis), permitting the scholar or fellow to remain in pay status.

Leaves without pay for a reasonable period of time should be considered if they would not inhibit the applicable research project(s).

Guidance for leaves of absence can be sought from the Office of Human Resources Work/Life Office(814-865-9346).

Before a leave of absence is discussed with a foreign national scholar or fellow, the supervisor needs to contact the International Scholars Office (814-865-0423) to insure consistency with federal regulations.

See also the new parent guideline at


IBIS Forms "GFSA" for appointments, and "GRAD" for changes and reappointments, must be completed in accordance with the approval paths established by your Financial Officer. Postdoctoral Scholars and Fellows should receive an appointment letter outlining the details of their appointment.


Postdoctoral fellows or scholars should always attempt to resolve problems concerning their professional situation by discussing the matter with their supervisor.If there is a reason for the postdoctoral fellow or scholar to believe that this avenue is inappropriate, he or she may seek recourse through the department or division or program head, or from the associate or assistant dean of their college or division. The fellow or scholar may also seek advice from the college or division ombudsman.

Occasionally, there are disagreements between postdoctoral fellows/scholars and their supervisors that cannot be resolved in the administrative structure of the department, division, program or college. Such problems may involve alleged violations of academic freedom, professional ethics, and procedural fairness and consistency. There may be disagreements concerning authorship credit or intellectual property ownership. If a resolution of such problems cannot be achieved at the department, division, or program level, the following procedures are to be followed. If for some reason the proper jurisdiction is not clear, then the Vice President for Research shall decide on the appropriate procedure.

  1. For disagreements that are unresolved at the department or program level, a grievance process will be initiated when the postdoctoral scholar or fellow files a written grievance with the dean of his or her college. The parties to the grievance process shall be the person(s) filing the grievance and the person(s) responsible for the act or omission that gave rise to the grievance.
  2. In response to the grievance, the College Dean appoints and convenes a Hearing Committee consisting of five members. From that time until the hearing ends, the College Dean refrains from involvement in the dispute. The Hearing Committee consists of two postdoctoral scholars or fellows, two faculty members, and an administrator who will serve as chairperson. All members of the Hearing Committee will be from outside the academic department or unit in which either the postdoctoral scholar or faculty member who is involved in the grievance participates.
  3. Each party is allowed up to three disqualifications from this committee without cause.An indefinite number of disqualifications is allowed with cause, as determined by the College Dean. The College Dean makes additional appointments as necessary to fully staff the Hearing Committee.
  4. The Hearing Committee attempts to resolve the disagreement within 30 calendar days of receiving the complaint.
  5. The hearing is not public. During the hearing, either party may have present an adviser, who must be a postdoctoral scholar/fellow, faculty, or a staff member of the University.In light of the nature and spirit of the proceeding, representation by legal counsel is prohibited.
  6. The Hearing Committee may have present at the hearing such assistance as it deems necessary.
  7. The Hearing Committee is not bound by strict rules of evidence and may admit any relevant evidence.
  8. The hearing is audio recorded, and a recording of the hearing is kept though any appeal processes. The parties involved my request to listen to the tape and take written notes until it is destroyed, however, copies are not provided.
  9. The parties are afforded an opportunity to obtain necessary witnesses and documentary and other evidence. The department or program involved makes all reasonable efforts to cooperate with the committee in securing witnesses and making available documentary and other evidence.
  10. Each party has the right to confront and cross-examine all witnesses. Expenses incurred in obtaining a witness will be the responsibility of the party requesting the witness.
  11. The Hearing Committee’s findings are based solely on the hearing record. In cases where issues involve authorship, the Hearing Committee should adhere to the spirit of Policy RA13.
  12. The Hearing Committee submits its findings and recommendations in writing to the College Dean and to the parties involved. Based solely on the record of the hearing, the College Dean may endorse all, part, or none of the Hearing Committee’s recommendations. In coming to a decision, the College Dean may consult with the Vice President for Research. A written notice of the decision of the College Dean is provided to the Hearing Committee and the parties involved within three weeks of receipt by the College Dean of the Hearing Committee’s recommendations. If the College Dean does not endorse all of the findings and adopt all the recommendations of the Hearing Committee, an explanation will be included in the written notice. The decision by the College Dean shall be final, but does not preclude existing independent avenues of appeal (e.g. Faculty Rights and Responsibilities). The record of this decision, along with supporting documents, shall be submitted to the Office of General Counsel and the Vice President for Research and kept by the Vice President for Research for not less than five years from the date of the resolution of the complaint.
  13. After the final decision, all efforts should be made to reconcile the situation within the research group. In the rare case where irreconcilable differences exist even after the resolution, and where the decision is made against the faculty member, it will be the responsibility of the College Dean to find another similar position in the University for the postdoctoral fellow or scholar, and, if necessary, to provide bridge funding for this position for up to six months.


Retirement savings options available to Postdoctoral Scholars and Fellows are limited to contributions to either a Traditional or Roth Individual Retirement Account (IRA).Traditional IRAs offer the opportunity to reduce federal taxable income, subject to IRS limitations, when federal income tax returns are filed. IRA enrollment and payments options are done on an individual basis and are unrelated to University benefit programs.Traditional and Roth IRAs are available from insurance companies and mutual fund companies as well as most banks.


Policy IP02 Coauthorship of Scholarly Reports, Papers and Publications


3/29/2010 - Revised to add "Office of General Counsel".

1/1/10 - The title Senior Vice President for Research was changed to Vice President for Research.

4/8/08 - Link to new parent guideline included.

1/1/08 - Updated Insurance Benefits section.

11/2/06 - Changed Vice President for Research to Senior Vice President for Research.

September 29, 2003 - Leaves of Absence section added.

August 1, 2002 - Responsibility for Clearing Appointment section revised. Salary section revised.

July 17, 2002 - Salary section revised. Grievance Procedure section added. Tax-deferred Annuities section added.

Date Approved: 

January 1, 2010

Date Published: 

January 1, 2010

Effective Date: 

January 1, 2010