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  Cornell University

The University Faculty

Office of the Dean

(Principal) Research Scientist

Principal Research Scientist
Research Scientist

Principal research scientists and research scientists are responsible for initiating new research activities; creating and managing research laboratories; seeking funding opportunities, submitting proposals, and fulfilling the terms of research grants and contracts; planning, conducting and reporting on original research; and representing their research groups externally. Persons appointed to these titles may serve routinely as principal investigators on grants and contracts. More information is available on the Office of the Vice Provost for Research website.

Principal research scientists and research scientists may be appointed in academic departments or in research centers. They are not members of the University Faculty. Research scientists and principal research scientists are non-voting members of their college or school faculty and may be given the right to vote by that faculty.

An individual may be appointed directly to the principal research scientist title or promoted from research scientist. The line of progression in these titles is limited to research scientist and principal research scientist – there is no routine expectation of promotion from senior research associate. There is no routine expectation of promotion from these titles to senior scientist.

Promotion from research scientist to principal research scientist is based on quality of achievement, productivity, national and international stature in the field, leadership of the independent research program, effectiveness with colleagues and with participants in the research program, and service to the field. Promotion is not automatic, for example after a particular number of years in title. A formal dossier review is required for promotion to principal research scientist and follows the procedures for the dossier-based appointment review.

Administrative Notes

  • These titles reflect salaried positions that are subject to affirmative action regulations. Search procedures should follow those used by a department to fill professorial positions.
  • Appointment length for principal research scientist and research scientist may be for up to five years and is renewable.
  • The differences between these titles relate to the balance in the individual’s career between promise and achievement in establishing highly successful independent research programs.
  • Principal research scientists and research scientists must hold a research Ph.D. degree (or foreign equivalent) in a field appropriate to the position. To qualify for the title, research scientists and principal research scientists also are expected to have achieved significant stature in the scholarly discipline, to have demonstrated the quality of research accomplishment appropriate to initiating independent research programs, and to have demonstrated a trajectory that promises a continued high-level achievement.
  • Principal research scientists and research scientists normally are not permitted to teach courses for credit. In the event that some teaching of courses for credit is desired by the individual and requested by the appointing department, this teaching must be consistent with the terms of their funding and must be approved by the dean (and, if different, the dean of the college responsible for the teaching). Where teaching is assigned, care must be taken not to shift teaching expense inappropriately to research grants or contracts. In no case should such an individual teach for an extended consecutive period.
  • Principal research scientists and research scientists are academic and should not be used for those whose positions are primarily administrative, even if the responsibilities include some research. Some administrative responsibilities, however, are unavoidable in creating and managing research laboratories, and this should not be interpreted to preclude appointment to these titles.
  • A dossier-based review must be conducted for initial appointment. Through an exception approved by the department chair and the dean, the dossier-based review may be conducted during the first year, with continued appointment contingent on successful review. This dossier shall include letters from confidential external referees, letters from participants in current or recent research programs, an analytical transmittal letter with report of the faculty vote, and the report of an ad hoc committee to advise the dean, who makes the ultimate decision about appointment.
  • Reappointment decisions are recommended by the department or research center and are based primarily but not exclusively on quality of performance and on the availability of work and funds. The reappointment recommendation must be reviewed at one more level of the academic reporting structure, if not more. The final decision about reappointment is made by the dean or vice provost (or designee). Negative decisions and decisions not to review for reappointment are subject to local appeals procedures.

Last Updated: August 20, 2017 at 7:17 am