NSERC Statement of Principles

The following Statement of Principles is the subject of recent Next Wave and Postdoc Network articles; it is posted here with permission of NSERC.

Statement of Principles

Postdoctoral fellows are important members of the university community and make valuable contributions to the academic research environment. This Statement of Principles encourages universities and other research institutions to recognise these contributions and to offer the best working environment possible to their postdoctoral fellows. The document also suggests that universities establish procedures, where they do not already exist, to ensure that postdoctoral fellows are fully integrated into university policies.

  • Universities should define what constitutes a postdoctoral appointment. The definition would cover such criteria as the duration of appointment, and length of time since completion of the PhD.

  • Institutions are encouraged to ensure that university policies include postdoctoral fellows, or that there is a policy in place that explicitly pertains to postdoctoral fellows. The appendix attached to this statement is intended to provide guidelines on the type of information that is included in policies on postdoctoral fellows for those universities that do not already have such policies in place.

  • Universities should identify an office that is responsible for providing information on institutional policies and procedures to postdoctoral fellows.

  • Universities should provide written letters of appointment (or invitation) to all postdoctoral fellows. The letter would provide details on the duration of the appointment, the amount and nature of the compensation, any benefits offered, and information on the rights and responsibilities of postdoctoral fellows (or a copy of the university's policy on postdoctoral fellows).

  • Universities are encouraged to provide all postdoctoral fellows with an "orientation package" that includes a registration form for postdoctoral fellows and general information on the university. The information provided on the registration form would allow the fellow to be entered into the university's central register, and be issued with an identity card (for access to the library etc.).

  • Appendix

    Issues that should be addressed in a written policy on postdoctoral fellows:

    • the status of postdoctoral fellows at the university;

    • guidelines for eligibility for postdoctoral appointments; the institution should take into account circumstances that might delay a fellow's research career (e.g., parental responsibilities) when drawing up guidelines relating to eligibility;

    • procedures for selection and appointment of fellows;

    • duration, renewal and termination of postdoctoral appointments;

    • compensation (including a minimum stipend level);

    • benefits available (including vacation and parental leave);

    • differences between the compensation and benefits policy for fellows paid by the university and that for fellows who receive funding from external sources;

    • services offered to postdoctoral fellows (e.g., access to the library, electronic mail, child care, parking and sports facilities);

    • participation in university teaching, and compensation for this activity;

    • the inclusion of postdoctoral fellows in departmental / faculty activities (e.g., opportunities to participate on committees);

    • whether fellows may apply independently for university, industrial or other research funding;

    • intellectual property rights;

    • academic integrity;

    • ethics (e.g., policy on animal and human experimentation);

    • dispute resolution mechanisms;

    • grievance procedures;

    • immigration regulations (for foreign postdoctoral fellows);

    • career advice and job placement.

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