Officers of research; with the exception of postdoctoral research, clinical, and residency fellows; are compensated for their services with a salary that is subject to withholding for taxes, FICA, and Medicare. Officers of research are paid in semi-monthly installments over the period in which they are rendering service, with the exception of Lamont research professors, Lamont associate research professors, and Lamont assistant research professors who provide nine months of service each year but whose salaries are spread over the full academic year.

       Appointment of an officer of research should not be made without securing funding for the entire stated term, usually for a full year at a time. Since funding for such appointments depends on external sources, if funding is unexpectedly lost, the University only guarantees the salary of senior research scientists/scholars appointed for multiple years (i.e., for more than 12 months at a time), Lamont research professors, and Lamont associate research professors. In these cases, the relevant department, school, institute, or center assumes the responsibility of paying the salary for the entire period of appointment, and no leaves for lapse of funding may be granted (see Leaves). For all other officers of research (i.e., those without multi-year appointments), the University does not guarantee funding. If it is necessary to suspend the payment of salary to any officer of research before the end of a stated term of appointment as the result of an unexpected and sudden loss of external sponsored research awards, the officer is placed on a leave for lapse of funding. Depending on the length of the officer’s continuous full-time appointment at the University in a non-instructional rank, they also may be eligible for severance (see End of Appointment).

       The salaries of officers of research depend upon their disciplines, experience, and training. Salaries are typically determined by the officer’s principal investigator except for officers with Lamont research professor titles, which are set by the Director of the Lamont-Doherty Earth Observatory with the advice of the Observatory’s associate directors. Minimum salaries for full-time officers of research are specified in the Provost’s annual salary guidelines and must be followed. Individual Faculties, institutes, and centers must ensure that salary equity is maintained. Salaries that are at or above a threshold (the review point indicated in the Provost’s annual salary guidelines); or significantly different from those of other officers of research of the same rank and unit, require written justification and approval by the appropriate chair, director, dean or executive vice president, and the Office of the Provost or of the Executive Vice President for Health and Biomedical Sciences (for the Columbia University Irving Medical Center). No oral or written offer should be extended to an officer of research until all appropriate approvals have been obtained.

       Merit increases are considered once a year in accordance with the procedures established by the Faculty or division in which the officer is serving. Promotional increases are considered concurrently with an advancement to a higher grade of office. Following annual performance reviews, principal investigators should write to continuing officers of research to inform them of the terms of their reappointments and new salaries. The reappointment letter should mention the officer’s title, the dates of the renewed appointment, and salary. With the exception of letters to the officers holding one of the Lamont research professor titles, all the letters should indicate that the salary is subject to available funding.

       Depending on the nature of the position, the duties of an officer of research may in some cases include writing new proposals for funding. In such situations, it is the responsibility of the principal investigator, department chair, director of the institute or center, or dean, as appropriate, to inform the officer of research in writing whether this activity is expected of the officer of research in the coming year. The principal investigator, chair, director, or dean, and the officer of research should discuss the expectation of time required. The effort devoted to proposal writing must be funded by departmental sources.

       The process by which officers of research are placed on the University payroll is the same as that for faculty (see Compensation). The information in the chapter of this handbook on obtaining authorization to work, nonresident noncitizens, deductions, direct deposit, and advances is also applicable to research officers.

Compensation for Teaching

       Officers of research may not be paid additional compensation for teaching unless explicitly permitted by the rules of their funding agency. When they are asked to provide instructional service, they are given additional, part-time instructional appointments (see Instructional Appointments), and their total salary is allocated between their research and instructional appointments.

       Federal regulations specify that the University may not charge government awards for the time officers of research devote to teaching or any other activity that does not directly relate to the goals of the grant or contract. To comply with this requirement, the University has implemented policies requiring grant recipients to certify their effort, and salaries paid through a grant may not subsidize teaching unless specifically allowed by the grant or authorized by the funding agency. Following these policies, when professional, staff, or postdoctoral officers of research who are supported in part or in full by government sources are asked to teach, they are placed on a partial exemption from research duties. Their salary for their research appointment is reduced to a level equal to the percentage of effort devoted to sponsored research. An amount equal to the resulting reduction is paid as their instructional salary from a non-governmental source.

       For officers of research teaching on an ongoing basis, the department or school in which the officer of research is offering instruction can commit to permanently compensating the officer for their teaching. Such compensation must be treated as a permanent increase to the individual’s base salary. The officer must receive the compensation for teaching irrespective of whether they teach a particular semester/year or not. Because of the nature of the commitment involved, the individual must receive a letter from the chair or dean of the Faculty in which they will teach outlining the course(s) they are expected to teach and the salary they will receive for teaching on an ongoing basis. The Vice President for Research Compliance, Training, and Policy and the Associate Provost for Academic Appointments can provide guidance in such situations.

       Those postdoctoral officers of research whose salaries are funded from sponsored research, including federal grants, and whose grants allow them to teach, are placed on an exemption from research duties with the amount of salary charged to the grant reduced commensurate with the effort required for teaching, and the teaching is funded by an appropriate, typically non-sponsored, source of funding. The combined effort for sponsored research and teaching may not exceed 100 percent, and the postdoctoral research scientist/scholar may not be paid additional salary for teaching over and above their postdoctoral salary. The postdoctoral research scientist/scholar should expect that teaching a course should generally require at least 25 percent of their effort during the semester. This percentage would need to be adjusted if the actual time involved in teaching is greater or less than originally expected. If the rates of pay for the postdoctoral officer’s sponsored research and teaching activities are different, the principal investigator must confer with the postdoctoral research scientist/scholar regarding the effort expended on teaching and research to ensure that the effort certification of the postdoctoral officer reasonably reflects their actual effort on both. Salary payable in connection with a sponsored project may not subsidize teaching unless specifically authorized. Find more information about the University’s effort reporting policy and process online.

       Postdoctoral research fellows may teach and receive a salary for teaching only if: (1) they obtain the approval of their principal investigator or mentor, (2) their fellowship permits teaching, and (3) they comply with the terms of their fellowship. Teaching must be on a limited part-time basis apart from the normal research or training activities and cannot interfere with normal research or training activities and detract from or prolong the fellow’s training.

       These policies and procedures also apply when the rules of non-governmental funding sources do not allow the University to pay officers from their grants or contracts for teaching. The officers are also placed on a partial exemption from research duties at a reduced salary equal to the percentage of time they devote to their research duties, with the remainder being paid on their faculty appointment from another source.

       Before offering an instructional position either orally or in writing, making a commitment to pay officers of research for teaching, and before teaching starts, the schools and departments must obtain the approval of the officers’ immediate supervisors, the chair or director of the unit in which they hold their research appointment, their dean or executive vice president, and the Office of Sponsored Projects Administration. Final approval for courses offered on the Morningside and Manhatanville campuses is given by the Office of the Provost, and for courses offered at the Irving Medical Center, the Executive Vice President for Health and Biomedical Sciences. When a full-time officer of research appointed on one campus is asked to teach on another, both the Executive Vice President and the Office of the Provost must approve the assignment.

Additional Compensation

       Due to federal regulations, full-time officers of research whose salaries are supported in full or in part from government grants and contracts are usually ineligible for extra pay for any additional service, regardless of whether it involves teaching or another activity. Officers of research should not receive bonuses or additional compensation for extra work performed or as a reward for exceptional research accomplishments. Officers of research should be rewarded for such activities through a merit increase in their annual salaries. Exceptions to these policies on additional compensation require the prior approval of the Provost.

       Other full-time officers of research may be paid additional compensation for providing additional services in limited circumstances if permitted by the rules of their funding agencies. However, in general, the extra compensation may not be paid from a government grant or contract. These services must meet an unexpected need in situations where it is not possible to find other qualified individuals to cover them. Consequently, they should not be paid for those services more than once.

       Before committing to additional compensation and having the officer start any work, the unit seeking additional services must first determine if the officer may be paid. Then the unit needs to obtain the approval of the officer’s immediate supervisors, the chair or director of the unit in which they hold their research appointment, the dean or executive vice president, and the Office of Sponsored Projects Administration in cases when the officer is supported by training grants. Final approval should be obtained from the Office of the Provost or of the Executive Vice President for Health and Biomedical Sciences, as appropriate.

       Part-time officers of research are usually not eligible for additional compensation. If they hold a non-salaried appointment and receive approval to provide additional services, the compensation they earn is paid as base salary.

Additional Compensation for Postdoctoral Officers of Research

       To facilitate career development experiences for postdoctoral officers of research, the University has established Guidelines for Incidental Career Development Activities for Postdoctoral Research Scientists, Scholars and Fellows. Subject to funding regulations, postdoctoral officers can occasionally take part in career development activities such as serving as guest lecturer, assisting with grading, occasionally assisting with laboratory sections, or offering other incidental teaching activity at the University, participating in technology transfer internships, or teaching in Columbia-led K-12 science programs. Note that teaching a course is not considered incidental or occasional and requires an instructional appointment (see Instructional Appointments).

       These activities must not exceed 10 hours per week or last longer than one year, and must be clearly separate and distinct from any sponsored project activity. Under such circumstances and subject to any additional restrictions as mentioned above, the postdoctoral officer may receive appropriate compensation for these career development activities. Postdoctoral officers who plan to participate in incidental career development activities must obtain required approvals using the Additional Compensation Approval Form with all required signatures prior to commencement of the intended activity, as described in the Guidelines for Incidental Career Development Activities for Postdoctoral Research Scientists, Scholars and Fellows and the online Additional Compensation Approval Form.

       Non-compensated and incidental pro bono activities are not subject to these guidelines, but the principal investigator should be informed of such activities to the extent that they occur during the work week.

       Further information may be obtained from the Office of the Vice Provost for Faculty Affairs.

Fellowship Stipends

       As a general rule, postdoctoral research and clinical fellows receive a fellowship or training grant stipend rather than a salary. This is not subject to withholding. To qualify as a stipend, the funds must come from an external agency that has explicitly designated the payment as a fellowship or stipend. It is important to clearly distinguish stipends from salary and not use the terms interchangeably since they refer to different sources of funding, and are governed by distinct IRS regulations.

       Postdoctoral residency fellows are paid by the affiliated hospitals and institutes at which they are training.


       Full-time officers of research earn two days of vacation for each month of appointment, up to a maximum of 23 days, during their first 20 years of full-time service; and 2 1/3 days for each month, up to a maximum of 28 days, thereafter. Periods of full or partial leave are excluded in determining vacation. These provisions do not apply to ranks of Lamont research professors who do not accrue vacation. Postdoctoral research and clinical fellows are entitled to the same rights to vacation as other officers of research unless the provisions of the granting agency specify otherwise.

       Officers must use their vacation by June 30 of the year after it is earned or lose that vacation time. An officer of research may not receive pay in lieu of unused vacation except upon resignation, termination, or nonrenewal of appointment. Departments and schools cannot withhold pay for unused vacation if an officer of research provides less than three months' notice of their resignation.

       Officers who are entitled to vacation are expected to consult with the appropriate principal investigator, chair, director, or dean to ensure that vacations do not interfere with the programs of their laboratory, department, school, institute, or center. They may not take vacation days that have not yet been earned, nor may they go on vacation without the necessary approvals.

       Principal investigators should work to ensure that officers of research are able to use their full allotment of vacation days in the year in which they are earned if the officers so choose. Officers who feel that they are not given that opportunity should ask their chair or director for help in resolving their disagreement with their principal investigator. If the attempt of the chair or director at mediation is unsuccessful, they may approach their dean or executive vice president or the Associate Provost for Academic Appointments for assistance.

Next Section: End of Appointment

Updated November 03, 2022