To the University Community

On July 18, 1995, the University Council Committee on Research published For Comment the Report of the Ad Hoc Subcommittee on Policies for Postdoctoral Fellows and Research Associates. On the basis of response to that publication and to a review by the Provost's Council on Research, the mandated guidelines in that report were modified as appropriate. The modified mandated guidelines have been approved by the Provost, the Faculty Senate Executive Committee, and the University Council Committee on Research, and are presented Of Record in the following policy which is now in effect.

This policy represents the University's first comprehensive policy for postdoctoral associates. Efforts in drafting a section on grievance procedures will begin this year and will be published For Comment as a revision to the policy.

We would like to express our personal thanks to all who participated in the initiation and development of this important new policy.

--Stanley Chodorow, Provost
--Ralph D. Amado, Acting Vice Provost for Research

Policy for Postdoctoral Fellows in the Physical, Biological, and Health Sciences and in Engineering

Letter of Appointment

When a faculty member makes a firm offer of appointment to a postdoctoral fellow, a letter should be written to the candidate prior to commencement of duties. This letter should set forth at least the basic terms of appointment including the period of appointment (dates of appointment), the stipend level, all included benefits and a statement that the fellow's appointment is subject to all University policies, and be accompanied by a copy of the Patent Policy and the corresponding Participation Agreement. If the appointment is renewed or extended, that action should be documented by a letter, which includes the foregoing information. The candidate should be required to return a countersigned copy of each letter of appointment or renewal indicating acceptance of the terms set forth, as well as a signed Patent Policy Participation Agreement. The letters (countersigned copies) and signed agreement should be placed in a permanent file kept in the office of the appropriate Department. (If the faculty member is not affiliated with a specific department, the file may be kept in the office of the Institute or Center with which the faculty member is associated.) The letters of appointment and renewal should indicate whether the mentor has funding in hand to fulfill the terms of the appointment; if not, the letter should indicate the duration of assured funding. When the appointment is to be coterminous with external funding, research grant, contract, training grant, etc., that fact should be included in the letter of appointment, including the end date of the funding even when renewal is expected. A notice of termination should be given in writing at least three months prior to the end of appointment.

Obligations of Postdoctoral Fellows

Postdoctoral fellows have certain obligations to their mentor, the laboratory in which they are working, the Department with which they are associated, the grantor whose funds support them, and the University. These obligations include but are not limited to: (i) the conscientious discharge of their research responsibilities; (ii) conformity with ethical standards in research; (iii) compliance with good laboratory practice including the maintenance of adequate research records, and due observation of University standards regarding use of isotopes, chemicals, infectious agents, animals, and the like; (iv) observation of appropriate guidelines regarding human subjects if applicable; (v) open and timely discussion with their mentor regarding possession or distribution of materials, reagents, or records belonging to their laboratory, and any proposed disclosure of findings or techniques privately or in publications; (vi) collegial conduct towards coworkers and members of the research group; (vii) compliance with all applicable University policies. All data and research records generated in University laboratories remain the property of the University.

Proof of Doctoral Degree

Eligibility for appointment as a postdoctoral fellow requires an advanced degree, PhD, MD, or equivalent. It is the intent of the University of Pennsylvania that international fellows have advanced degrees which are equivalent to those provided in domestic institutions in order to qualify for appointment as postdoctoral fellows. It is the responsibility of the fellow to provide transcripts which certify that she/he has received her/his degree, and it is the responsibility of the mentor to be sure that this documentation is satisfactory and that it is included in the trainee's file attached to the letter of appointment. If the trainee has completed the requirements for the PhD but has not yet received her/his degree, then she/he should supply documents certifying that the thesis has been approved and indicating the date when the degree is expected to be conferred; this special exception applies only to trainees receiving their degrees from domestic institutions.

Stipend Level

Minimum stipend levels for postdoctoral fellows are to be the NIH recommended postdoctoral stipend levels.*

If these minimal levels of compensation cannot be offered, a proportional (%) appointment should be made to clearly indicate that the appointee is entitled to seek and perform additional University services (teaching, diagnostic laboratory, technical) up to the recommended annual level of compensation.

Terms of Appointment

According to current University policy, no doctoral postgraduate can serve at the University of Pennsylvania for more than five years at the status of Postdoctoral Fellow.


Postdoctoral fellows must have health insurance. Postdoctoral fellows are eligible to receive single person health insurance, as provided under a basic University of Pennsylvania Group Health Insurance Plan. This benefit should be paid as an addition to the stipend and no premium should be deducted from the stipend of the postdoctoral fellow. If the fellow elects family coverage, the difference between the single and family premium will be deducted from the fellow's stipend. If the fellow elects to waive health insurance coverage through the University, she/he must certify that she/he has alternate insurance which provides at least comparable coverage.

New Child Leave

Postdoctoral fellows are eligible to receive up to six weeks' new child leave with full pay, paid from the same source as the stipend.


A standard compendium of information should be given to each postdoctoral fellow upon arrival at the University. This compendium should include a registration form to be completed by the postdoctoral fellow, a copy of these guidelines, the Faculty Handbook, the Patent Policy, the telephone directory, parking policies, a clear statement about benefits, the current City, Commonwealth, and Federal taxation policies, sources of information within the University, explanation of the mediation services available. Preferably, periodic orientation sessions should be provided for all new postdoctoral fellows. The departments should arrange e-mail accounts for their postdoctoral fellows and for orientation necessary to use the e-mail account.

Mediation Services

It is recognized that from time to time disagreements may arise between postdoctoral fellow and mentor. Postdoctoral fellows should be clearly informed about the options which they can exercise under such circumstances. In particular, they should be made aware of services available through the office of the Ombudsman in the University and in the School of Medicine (separate office).

Application for Grants

Each school should set a policy about the rights of postdoctoral fellows to apply for grants as Principal Investigator. If the school policy permits such applications, it is suggested that there be a requirement for approval by a knowledgeable tenured faculty member as well as the usual approval by department chair and dean on the transmittal form.


*For example, in 1995 these levels were:

$19,608--from 0 to less than 12 months of prior postdoctoral experience

$20,700--from 12 to less than 24 months of prior postdoctoral experience


Volume 42 Number 30
April 30, 1996

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