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Research Faculty Frequently Asked Questions

This is a large and growing category of positions at Virginia Tech. Research Faculty members are employed to promote and expedite university research activities, participate in a research traineeship, or be involved in activity other than traditional research.

The appointments are non-tenure track. Typically Research Faculty are funded on sponsored grants and contracts. The Office of the Vice President for Research and Innovation is responsible for the day-to-day oversight of this group of employees. The Commission on Research provides policy oversight.

There are 11 official Research Faculty ranks recognized by the university. They are: postdoctoral associate, research scientist, senior research scientist, research assistant professor, research associate professor, research professor, research associate, senior research associate, project associate, senior project associate, and project director.

For more information about each of the ranks please see the Research Faculty matrix of ranks.

The charts in the matrix are laid out as proposed career tracks for research associates, for research scientists/professors, and for project associates.

(Note that some ranks may be applicable in more than one track.)

The official university rank for a “postdoc” is postdoctoral associate. This rank should be used in all official correspondence and HR forms.

These positions are typically filled using a search exemption (when a qualified candidate has been identified). However, these positions can be filled through a competitive search. See below for further information on search exemptions and filling positions competitively.

In order to qualify for postdoctoral associate status, the candidate must have completed their doctoral degree no more than five years prior to the request.

A postdoctoral associate or postdoc appointment at Virginia Tech is limited to a total of four years. Additionally, search exemptions for postdoctoral associate positions may be approved for candidates who are in the process of completing their degree requirements. However, these candidates may not start the salaried position until their degree is officially awarded.

Please contact OVPRI Human Resources (1-9359) for further information.

Search exemptions may be granted under limited circumstances other than as described above for postdocs. To initiate a search exemption, the department should complete a Position Description in People Admin 7  and attach the following documents

  • Candidate's Current CV
  • Justification for the search exemption
  • Any additional relevant documents

It is sometimes necessary to review an organizational chart of the department as well. We will contact you if this is required.

If you are requesting a search exemption on the basis of the candidate being the only one possessing the unusual set of experience and skills required for the position, the ranks of research associate and project associate can’t be used. These are considered entry level ranks where a level of unique expertise has not yet been achieved and is not expected.

If you are requesting a Search Exemption on the basis of the “individual being named in the Grant” please make sure that you attach the AWARDED grant documentation.

Depending on the reason for the exemption a number of items may be included in the justification:

  • Explanation of the candidate’s unique skill set, knowledge or expertise, including how and where acquired
  • Explanation of why the exemption is necessary and/or appropriate
  • What will be the outcome of the hire?
  • What impact will the hire have on the department/research project(s)?
  • If the candidate previously worked in a significant role on the project explain the role and why it is imperative for him/her to continue work on the project
  • If the candidate is named in the research grant, explain his or her role in the project and attach a copy of the award showing where the candidate is named
  • Justification for search exemptions for dual-career hires should include the original hire’s name, rank, and department

A job description should include a detailed explanation of the project(s), the incumbent’s duties and responsibilities, and the required and preferred qualifications including the educational components.

Keep in mind that job descriptions should be applicable to any qualified candidate and should not be tailored to a specific individual’s qualifications. A job description template is available on the OVPRI-HR website.

OVPRI Human Resources and the Office for Equity and Access will work with you and your departmental PeopleAdmin administrative user to post your position. (PeopleAdmin is the University's on-line applicant tracking system.)

Searches are required for salaried appointments of ONE YEAR or greater, except in a limited number of cases warranting a search exemption, as discussed above. Employment of less than one year must be wage employment and is without benefits.

To initiate the search your departmental PeopleAdmin administrative user will need a position description, including job/skill/education requirements and other necessary information. Approvals for job postings are obtained electronically through PeopleAdmin and are routed through the following channels in order: Department head, senior management, Office of Research and Innovation, and Office for Equity and Inclusion.

Detailed information regarding faculty search procedures is available from the Office for Equity and Access.

You are required to post a position in PeopleAmin for a minimum of ten (10) calendar days. However, there are times when a longer search may be more effective.

Yes. Initial appointments of less than 12 months must be on a wage basis. This requires a completed P-14A form approved by your department head and senior management. Your departmental Banner enterer is responsible for setting up this type of appointment.

For more information please see P-14 Procedures.


These terms apply to both faculty and staff positions. Research Faculty positions are typically “restricted.” Departments must obtain advance approval for regular appointments.

Typically a “regular” position is one that is on-going, renewable, and supported by more permanent funding. A “restricted” position will have a limited duration and/or a less permanent source of funding (such as sponsored grants or contracts).

Critical differences between "restricted" and "regular" appointments are explained in detail in the faculty handbook, in section 2.3.

The department should review the criteria and expectations for regular appointments in the Policy on Regular Appointments for Research Faculty. If all criteria are met the department should submit a Request for Unit Authorization to Make Regular Appointments for Research Faculty.

Authority is given at the departmental level rather than by individual and may be approved for up to 5 years. If your request is approved we will notify you by sending you a signed copy of the request form.

Initial or original appointments for (salaried) restricted Research Faculty positions should be for at least one year and can be up to three years. Multi-year appointments are encouraged when possible.

Benefits are handled by the university's central Human Resources Office.

All departments are required to provide restricted Research Faculty employees Terms of Faculty Offer Reappointments prior to the end date on their original or current Terms of Faculty Offer. Reappointments can be made for one month or up to three years.

The Research Faculty ranks listed below have automatic PI Status. Any employee in one of the university's eleven (11) official Research Faculty ranks can serve as a Co-PI.

  • Research professor
  • Research associate professor
  • Research assistant professor
  • Project director
  • Senior research scientist
  • Research scientist

A PI Status Request form is not needed for anyone serving in one of the 11 Research Faculty ranks that have automatic PI Status. See FAQ #16 above for a list of those ranks.

Complete the PI Status Request Form and submit it, along with the employee’s most current CV to Kamala Upadhyaya in the Office of Sponsored Programs. You will be notified by email upon approval.

Complete the PI Status Request Form indicating that the person needs PI Status. Attach a copy of the offer letter describing what the person will be doing while affiliated, along with the CV and submit it to Kamala Upadhyaya in the Office of Sponsored Programs. You will be notified by email upon approval.

Yes, OVPRI HR has the authority to make exceptions in special situations. For official paid university employees seeking PI approval, please complete the PI Status Request Form and submit it, along with the person's most current CV, to Kamala Upadhyaya in the Office of Sponsored Programs. You will be notified by email upon approval.

Yes. Research Faculty should be evaluated during the same cycle as all other types of faculty. Supervisors, usually principal investigators, are responsible for conducting an annual evaluation for any and all Research Faculty. Annual evaluations should be in writing.

This documentation supports the request for annual merit and/or special adjustments. Giving regular and constructive feedback is essential to the development of employees, and it is the responsibility of the department head to be certain that Research Faculty are appropriately and consistently evaluated.

The annual merit cycle provides an important opportunity to review Research Faculty for appropriate promotions or other needed special adjustments for alignment, equity, or similar purposes. Reviewing the status of employees' rank and salary as part of the regular evaluation cycle ensures that these are addressed in the context of the performance and responsibilities of other similar Research Faculty. Promotions in rank and/or special salary adjustments that are recommended as part of this review and approved by the BOV. 

Exceptional requests (those that occur outside of the annual merit review process) are considered in accordance with the Guidelines for Faculty Salary AdjustmentsThe Guidelines address such situations as adjustments for increased responsibilities, change in rank following a competitive search, retention, and completion of a degree or designation/certification.

The following forms as they pertain to Research Faculty appointments must be approved by the Office of Research and Innovation:

  • Requests for Unpaid Affiliations (Form P-85)
    For Research Faculty ranks (when PI Status is also requested)
  • Requests for Departmental Approval for Regular Appointments
  • Funding changes (Form P-10) 
    For departments reporting to OVPRI at the senior management level
  • Other forms as deemed necessary by other university offices such as Human Resources, the Office of the Provost, or the Office of Sponsored Programs.

You should begin by contacting OVPRI Human Resources. There are many resources available to you including conflict resolution and mediation offered by the Office for Equity and Inclusion and faculty reconciliation offered by the provost's office. We will assist you in determining the best course of action for your situation.


OVPRI offers a variety of training opportunities on topics such as proposal development, sponsored research, research compliance, and research integrity.

Consulting activities allowable under Policy No. 13010, revised August 10, 2012, are outlined in section 2.14.1 Consulting Activities of the faculty handbook. In general, “External consulting is professional activity related to an individual’s area of expertise, where that individual generally receives compensation from a third party and is not acting as an agent of the University.”

Furthermore, “Consulting arrangements may be entered into by faculty members during periods of university employment provided that:

  • such advice is not part of their normal responsibility to the university and is not normally provided through Virginia Cooperative Extension, outreach programs, or other component of the University;
  • the work undertaken contributes to their professional development;
  • the work can be accomplished without interference with their assigned duties and does not ordinarily involve more than one day per week and does not exceed five days in any five-week period;
  • university resources and facilities are not involved (except as described below in the use of university facilities policy); and
  • written approval in advance is obtained from the faculty member’s department head or chair, and dean or senior manager."

Faculty members whose appointments are funded in whole or in part by sponsored projects may participate in consulting when consistent with their responsibilities and in compliance with federal contract compliance and state regulations. Generally, university time available for consulting is in proportion to base salary funding from non-sponsored sources. With supervisor approval, additional consulting days may be charged to annual leave.

Research faculty normally funded primarily through sponsored funding need to consider using annual leave for periods of consulting. That is, unless a department can clearly differentiate those charges applicable to base salary funding from non-sponsored sources (i.e. proposal development, teaching, etc.) and consulting time, it is recommended that annual leave be used for consulting purposes. The research faculty member is expected to discuss with their department head or supervisor the question of whether or not annual leave would be required BEFORE they seek approval for a specific consulting agreement.

Persons in the United States pursuant to nonimmigrant visa status should contact the office of International Support Services prior to engaging in any consulting activity to ensure that such activity is permitted by their nonimmigrant visa status.

Under Policy 13010, “Oversight of faculty consulting is a responsibility of the department heads or chairs and other relevant administrative officers of the university so that a reasonable and appropriate level of external activities is maintained and normal duties are not neglected.”