Post-Doctoral Fellows

On June 27, 2019 Simon Fraser University's Board of Governors approved changes to Policy R50.03 governing Postdoctoral Fellows (PDFs).  

Central to the policy change is the employment relationship of grant-funded PDFs. Under the previous version of the policy, PDFs served as employees of individual faculty members or principal investigators (PIs) rather than employees of SFU. The revisions, will see most grant-funded PDFs become employees of the University, supported by a policy that better defines the rights, roles and responsibilities of all parties. As employees of the university, eligible PDFs will qualify for benefits


In late 2017 SFU began consultation and review of the entire R50 series of university policies governing the employment of all grant-funded research personnel. The review concluded the existing policies were out-of-step with other Canadian universities and in need of modernization. 

The Research Personnel Initiative (RPI) was initiated to conduct further review and provide recommendations for the revision of all R50 policies.

What is the approach to reviewing policies

Policy review began with a recommendation to focus on the R50.03 governing Postdoctoral Fellows. The review included community consultation, as well as input from stakeholders and leadership before presentation for approval to the Board of Governors. 

Implementation of the policies and procedures represents significant change to the processes required to support the employment of research personnel. Focusing on this smaller, more homogenous community provides an opportunity to pilot the policy changes and the processes, introduce the changes to the community and adjust as necessary.

With the Board of Governors approval on June 27th, onboarding of new Postdoctoral Fellows appointments under the new policy is expected to begin in July. Planning for the transition of existing Postdoctoral Fellows from the old version to the new version of the policy is currently underway.

What are the benefits of updating the policies?

  • Recognize the valuable role and important contributions research personnel make to the university by recognizing most of them as employees, accompanied by the rights and benefits that accompany that status
  • Supports equity, diversity and inclusion in providing research opportunities particularly for women and those with families 
  • Reduce reputational risks to the university by providing support and expertise necessary for managing complex employment relationships 
  • Reduce personal risks to individual faculty members associated with being an employer

What are the benefits of updating the policies?

  • Most PDFs will become employees of the University
  • Responsibility for the policy resides with the Office of the Vice-President Research
  • Faculty Relations will assume operational responsibilities
  • Benefits will be offered to eligible PDFs, including maternity and parental benefits 

The project team is currently working to facilitate a timely transition to the new policy. More details will be coming soon. 

In the meantime, any new postdoctoral appointments should be processed using the existing processes and procedures. If there are questions  regarding the appointment process requiring immediate attention, please direct them to:

Elsa Plican 
Director, Advisory Services & HR Systems

Who is sponsoring the RPI?

This initiative is co-sponsored by Dugan O'Neil, Associate Vice-President, Research, Sandi de Domenico, Associate Vice-President, Human Resources, and Jeff Derksen, Dean and Associate Provost, Graduate and Postdoctoral Studies.

Six principles guiding policy changes

  1. Recognize contributing members of SFU’s research community
  2. Anticipate the growth and maturation of SFU’s research enterprise, and the changing needs and expectations of research personnel
  3. Re-align risk exposure and administrative burden among all parties (personnel, supervisors, SFU)
  4. Maintain the responsiveness required to continue fostering innovation
  5. Provide institutional support to members of SFU’s research community in line with SFU’s commitment to social sustainability
  6. Commitment to Equity, Diversity and Inclusion

Post-Doctoral Fellows Q&A

We would like to hear from you. Please submit your questions and/or comments below regarding the Research Personnel Initiative.