Revisions to Research Personnel Employment Practices

Following requests received from both Simon Fraser University faculty members and research personnel, SFU has undertaken a review phase of the university policies governing the employment of grant-funded research personnel. The review has determined that our existing policies are out-of-step with other Canadian universities and are in need of modernization. In particular, the status of research personnel as direct employees of their supervisor—rather than employees of the university—creates several issues for both the personnel and their faculty supervisors.

As a result of this review, we are proposing some significant changes to SFU policies in regards to research personnel. This includes recognition of these personnel as employees of the university, with the rights and benefits that accompany that status. We are aware that both faculty members and research personnel have a significant stake in this change.

Why act now?

  • Policies and practices are dated and set up for an earlier time at SFU
  • A growing and more complex research enterprise requires a strong reputation and support structure to maintain in a competitive position
  • Concerns about the current practices have been raised from multiple parties who are seeing trends across Canadian institutions 

What are the challenges with the existing policy?

  • Among research personnel: uncertainty about their career, inequity, lack of access to SFU supports and benefits
  • Among faculty members (principal investigators): personal risk, obligations and administrative burden of being an 'employer'
  • To the university: inability to attract research personnel, possibly impacting SFU's reputation and research output

Five 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

Activities to date

Dugan O'Neil, Associate Vice-President, Research and Sandi de Domenico, Associate Vice-President, Human Resources, hosted two town hall sessions (Fall 2018 and Winter 2019) in order to receive feedback from the community on the general direction as well as specific questions and ideas that will help shape our planning going forward. The next steps are to complete a draft revision of the R 50.03 policy and to circulate to the community for comment in Spring 2019. The remaining R 50 policies will begin the revision and consultation process in the Fall 2019. 

If you were not able to attend either of the first town hall sessions, please view the webcast of the first session.

Please also view the presentation slides

Third Town Hall:

Dugan O'Neil and Sandi de Domenico led a third town hall for consultation on Thursday, March 14, 2019. The goal of the town hall was to present further information about the Research Personnel Initiative (with a primary focus on the PDF pilot), answer questions, and receive feedback from SFU faculty members. 

If you were not able to attend this town hall, please view the webcast recording:

Please also view the presentation slides.

Current phase

The Research Personnel Initiative has now moved into Implementation Planning (Phase 2). The changes to employment practices will be implemented in a phased approach with the onboarding of Postdoctoral Fellows (Phase 3) as a pilot, targeted to begin in June 2019. 

After a period of monitoring the Postdoctoral Fellows (PDF) pilot and adjusting as necessary, planning for the onboarding of additional research personnel (Phase 4) will begin in Fall 2019.

The project team is currently working on determining the associated PDF benefits package, and will be communicating more information as it becomes available.

Post-Doctoral Fellows Q&As

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